Art Editor Sarah McGinnis has lost a stone after four months of 5:2. But how hard was it?

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Four months ago, after realising I needed to swiftly change my eating habits, I embarked on the 5:2 diet . Deciding it was high time I locked up the cream cakes, it was all about losing weight and improving my overall lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I was super fat; but at a size 14 jean it became apparent that I just wasn’t thinking about what I was shovelling into my mouth on a daily basis, and was instead believing that I could get away with consuming a ridiculous amount of chocolate whilst fooling myself that I still had a bikini-fit body. This was not the case, and after standing in front of my mirror the weekend after Christmas and New Year resembling a round pudding in my bra and knickers I decided there and then I needed to make serious changes and stick to them.

Since that day I have lost a stone. It’s not been an easy ride, that’s for sure -  and I have never had the willpower to stick to a diet for this long, or even seen the slightest result, but this diet really is doable for anyone. It is not considered to be another diet that deprives you of the food you love. It is advertised as a lifestyle, one that fits around your life - so if you have an event to attend or a social occasion you can adjust your fasting days around it. There’s never any need to miss out.

How to cope with fast days

THIS IS A BLOODY HARD DIET. I’m not going to sugar coat it in any way because for one thing, I would be lying and for another, it’s important for those considering the diet to know that it tests you. It tests your willpower, it tests you physically, and it tests your emotional state. What people don’t seem to tell you is it can make you very weak and tired, especially fasting two days in a row like I was. By the end of day two I would find even taking a shower a challenge as I had no energy, and that’s the point where you have to reevaluate what you are eating, or what nutrients you are lacking.

When I began in January I would count every minute of every day, drink so much water and green tea that I may as well have spent my day in the bathroom and discussed food in an obsessive way. You find yourself becoming hugely fixated on calories. It is a calorie-counting diet plan, yes,  but this doesn’t mean you should be eating three packets of crisps for your daily intake because you’d still be under 500. It’s a great way to really sit back and think about what you are consuming.

I started off by finding lower calorie crisps, or crackers or anything that remotely felt like a treat to munch on throughout the day. I soon realised that this was not giving me enough energy or nearly enough nutrients. The key is to find good foods that are filling and will keep your energy levels boosted for the day. Protein and vegetables are key and should be the focus of your meals. Starting my day with a bowl of berries and yoghurt, a salad for lunch, and lean meat such as turkey with steamed vegetables for dinner kept me full enough,  energised and stopped me from going stir crazy.

Find your lifeline

Fruit pastilles became my friend. I mean my BEST friend. As in, if anyone touched the emergency packet I had in the car, they were in serious, serious trouble. Having spent my first fast day casually working out that one of these beauties was only 13 calories, they became a little lifeline that kept me sane. In the early days I would get off the train and feel so sick and weak I wanted to cry – I actually think I did cry a couple of times - much to the despair of the man in the suit standing next to me. As time goes on and you learn that yes, you can cope on three small meals a day and no, you are not going to die without your little fruit pastille, I realised I didn’t even need them. I actually couldn’t tell you when I stopped being the emotional crazy woman who stood on that platform. The diet just becomes part of your weekly life and you learn to adjust and cope.

Thinking you can outsmart the diet…

Two months in, you start getting cocky. Yes, you think you can switch around your 500-calorie days, binge a bit harder on your non-fast days and re-introduce those share bars of Galaxy and pots of Pringles into your life. This is a big fat NO. Don’t be fooled. You cannot, however hard you try, outsmart the 5:2 diet. There is no room for cheating, no room for trickery and no room for lying, because at the end of the day, the only person you are lying to is yourself. If you feast like a pig you will weigh like a pig. So keep it controlled and try to stick to a routine, as it’s much easier to maintain.

The pressures and temptations of friends

That being said, keeping to a routine isn’t easy and often hard to stick to. One of the hardest things to contend with are your friends. There are bound to be those weeks where every one of your friends wants to go for coffee, lunch, dinner and cocktails and you can bet the only day they can do is your fast day. In the early days I became a recluse, hiding in my duvet munching on a salad leaf. I missed out on a lot of fun as I thought I couldn’t hack the temptation. I eventually learnt that it was possible to swap my fasting days around but I had to be very strict on my non-fast days so that I didn’t fall off the wagon, as the slightest change in routine for me meant a pile up on the scales the following Monday.

Moving forward

Not only has this diet altered my attitude towards food, it’s helped me change my attitude towards my health because two months ago I did the unimaginable… I signed up and joined a gym. I would never have dreamed of doing this before, but losing weight on a sustainable diet has made me realise that I can actually do this and improve on my fitness with it. Don’t get me wrong, I was the out-of-place, beetroot-faced loser in the corner with the ancient uncool trainers that hadn’t seen the light of day since school and the leggings and vest that really did not resemble a hot Nike ad. But it was ok because I joined with a friend, for support and encouragement - and we were going to say goodbye to our round selves and get a bikini body. However yes, the next day I did go to Nike and spend around £170 on sports clothes and a new pair of purple trainers – you have to feel inspired to run and if a new wardrobe was going to help then so be it...

So a stone lighter and still going strong, I’m not ready to give up yet. Yes I still go out with the girls and get through a good couple of bottles of wine, still munch my way through Nandos every so often, and indulge in chocolate every now and then but I am losing weight and gradually improving my health, and that is good enough for me.  Slice of cake to celebrate? Why the hell not, I’ll be back on the leaves and seeds tomorrow!