Picky eater – will 5:2 work?

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  • I am seriously overweight. Tried dieting before – never worked! First real issue is serious back problems which really limits amount of exercise possible (which I think is a must in combination with a diet)! Vicious circle – back pain limits exercise which increases weight which causes more discomfort! I really don’t think I overeat particularly but the type of food I eat combined with a lack of exercise exacerbates the problem. Second problem is I am a REALLY picky eater (no veg or salad etc. – basically I’m a meat and potatoes person!). Most of the dietary books I’ve seen contain recipes I simply couldn’t stomach (I know it’s difficult to understand but it’s a phobia thing from childhood!). That’s why the 5:2 diet attracted me. I’ve rather go without altogether than have to eat a lot of the meals contained in diet recipes. Can the 5:2 diet work for me if I simply continue eating what I do but only do it 5 days out of 7?

    Hello and welcome to the forums. It depends on how many calories you are having on your 5 non-fast days. Check out your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) in the “how” section which explains it all. The idea of the plan is that you can eat what you like but not as much as you like on the 5 days. As for following recipes it’s easy to work out something that suits you instead. You could go for something simple such as beans on toast, egg on toast or soup, just watch how much of it you are having. Most things tell you what calories are in them so it’s easy to do.

    If you read the forums you will see that some people do lots of excercise and some don’t do any (for various reasons). The ones that don’t do any still lose weight. Perhaps the loss would be more if you could excercise but once you start seeing a loss it’s a motivator to continue.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on. Linda

    As Linds says above, it’s no barrier to 5:2 whatever your exercise ability or your preferred diet.

    Having said that though, it doesn’t sound like a very healthy diet at all and you’re probably missing some vital nutrients there. Your diet could actually be exasserbating your back problems. I’m not a nutritionist or an expert on what you should/shouldn’t consume or anything but I have heard that very starchy foods can affect the collagen in your joints. You might want to get yourself checked out to see if you’re deficient in anything. I’m not saying you HAVE TO start eating your greens or anything if it’s a psychological thing but maybe there’s another way you could get all the vital nutrients you need.

    And then there’s always hypnosis or something, if getting past your phobia is something you want to tackle.

    Haven’t calorie counted but I would say yesterday was a typical day for me (1) Two slices of buttered toast (with marmalade) – nb sometimes I have Shredded Wheat instead with semi-skimmed milk (2) A white roll with butter and two slices of beef from the deli counter for lunch (3) Braised steak with 3/4 boiled potatoes for tea. Didn’t eat much in between other than perhaps an apple or orange. Today so far I’ve had Bacon & eggs (with 2 slices of toast) for breakfast but just an apple for lunch – having steak & chips for tea tonight. Trouble is that I don’t consider this excessive eating but perhaps I’m wrong? On this website it calculated my BMI as 33.9 (which is WAY over what it should be!) and my TDEE as 2064 calories but I don’t know what this second figure is used for. If it is supposed to be the amount of calories burned off daily then don’t I just need to make sure my calorie INTAKE isn’t above this ? (and i wouldn’t have thought it was anyway so don’t understand why I continue to put ON weight!).

    TDEE is the maximum amount of calories you should be eating on a non-fast day. The count doesn’t have to be exact but I would recommend that you do do some calorie counting (use on-line calorie calculators if the packaging of your food doesn’t list calories) for the first week or so, just so you get a general idea of what is calorie rich and what isn’t.

    On a fast day you need to stick as close as you can to the 500 calories. By your current TDEE you do currently have a very small bit of leeway but sticking to 500 now will make things easier for you in the future.

    You can have a couple of hundred calories less than your TDEE on non-fastdays to try and speed up weight loss but don’t go much lower than that or you might get yourself into ‘starvation mode’ and that would be bad.

    Just doing a really quick calorie count on braised beef & steak & potatoes I can see that the beef element is not only pretty high in calories for meat (lean chicken would be a better alternative) but it’s also very high in fat (compared to the chicken too). It’s fine if you like beef to have it on 5:2 but it does seem to be the cornerstone of your diet, along with potatoes which are also pretty high in calories for a vegetable.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you go vegan or anything daft like that. You just need to actually know what your diet costs you calorie wise, so you can get to the point of just guesstimating on non-fastdays and knowing that you are under your TDEE and you can be pretty confident that you are right in your prediction.

    I was relieved to see you mention apples & oranges, so at least you’re getting some fruit nutrients but fruit is a more costly (calorie wise) option than most veg (potatoes not included), so I’d still recommend trying to find anothr way to get extra nutrients or trying to tackle your phobias.

    Good luck.

    Hi and welcome to the forum 🙂

    As you say you are in a vicious circle – back problems so little exercise = too much weight so more back problems.

    You seem aware of your problems, but don’t know how to resolve them, and are aware that things will only get worse unless YOU change something.
    You don’t mention your age.
    As Tracey says your diet doesn’t look very healthy at all. Where do you get your vitamins?
    Your ‘normal’ diet as you have described it seems to be mostly carbohydrates, fat and some protein. This regime usually leads to Type 2 Diabetes I believe.
    Maybe your doctor could help to sort out your phobia so you can improve your diet.
    Have you read the book?
    Most of us tend to think of 5:2 as a way of life rather than a diet, and have found it is so flexible we can fit it into our normal lives with little problem ……. but you do have to commit yourself to it for results.
    My only exercise is walking, usually about 4 miles when I can, and I have lost weight. Others do more, we are all different and you will find some form of exercise to suit you (swimming is good when you have back problems).

    I too am a picky eater – I pick at anything (sausages, cheese, crisps are high on my list 😛 ) and that is how I put on weight!
    Take heart because if you do decide to try IF you will probably find that your tastes change too and a carrot can taste better than a potato.
    Good luck and keep posting and reading for motivation, which has to come from inside you, and support which comes from all our fasting friends.

    ihateveg – sorry it’s only just occurred to me that you didn’t list any drinks in your intake either? Unless all you are drinking is unsweetened, black tea or coffee, plain water or other completely calorie free drinks then you need to count those calories too.

    Looking at your intake for day 1 and having no idea how heavy the steak was, or how big the potatoes or bread roll were or how calorie rich the bread was or how much marmalade & butter you used I would say your best case scenario for that day would be about 1500-1600 calories but you do need to do the weighing and measuring and calorie counting to know for sure I’m afraid. Worst case scenario for all of those foods and yes, you could be well over 2000 calories, especially with drinks & any sauces as well.

    Sorry – forgot about fluids! I typically have a cup of tea three times a day (semi skimmed, no sugar) and have a glass of orange (squash or fresh) to take to bed . I sometimes have a single glass or wine once a week (don’t drink otherwise). I was rather hoping not to get into weighing portions of food if possible as that just starts becoming an eating turn-off and takes over your life!. I was rather hoping to carry on eating roughly what I currently do but start by fasting for two days a week to see if that helps as this is the easiest to manage initially. I know it’s unhealthy! – that’s another issue – but I want to tackle weight loss first.

    Sorry @tracyj but I have to contradict you.. you will NOT put your body into ‘starvation mode’. This is misleading …you would have to eat well below your BMR every day for a very long time to do anything like that.

    I seldom eat up to my TDEE and continue to lose weight at a healthy rate.

    Having said that – I agree with your other comments re the beef, poatoes etc. Bacon too is high in calories and fat and the foods listed could easily push intake much higher than 2000 cals/day.

    I would also add that orange squash and orange juice are high in calories and also in sugar. Are your chips fried? If so, that’s another load of calories – even oven chips are quite high in calories.

    I would suggest that you need to look carefully at the amounts you eat and also the way these are cooked so that you don’t have to change your menus too much and therefore make your food so you don’t enjoy it.

    Hi sylvestra, yes I know that the optimum for weight loss is somewhere between the BMR and the TDEE on non-fastdays but I was trying not to cloud the issue as ihateveg was having trouble getting their head around TDEE, so I didn’t think throwing another acronym in there would be helpful. Roughly speaking 200 calories under your TDEE shouldn’t get anywhere near your BMR, so I thought that was safe easy to understand advice. Sorry if it was misleading to others.

    And yes, fruit juice is shockingly high in calories actually – I remember that being one of my biggest surprises when I started paying closer attention to these things.

    ihateveg – you don’t need to calorie count forever but you don’t seem to know, at the moment, what your intake is. As you’ve seen, noone else can really do it for you without knowing weights & measurements and exactly what your brands contain, so you do need to do it yourself for a week or 2, just so you have a rough idea what you’re taking in on non-fastdays. If your TDEE was much higher than 2000 (which mine was when I started, although I had no idea at the time) then just cutting down to 500 calories 2 days a week would have a massive effect on your weight just on its own. However, you’re too small (TDEE wise) to get away with that really. You NEED to know, at least roughly, what you are consuming on non-fastdays or it just wont work for you. Especially if exercise isn’t much of an option for you and especially if you’re going to be sticking to the stodgy diet.

    I agree with the other suggestions that for a week or two you’ll to calculate the calories of what you are actually eating so that you know if it’s in the right calorie range.

    I’m not suggestion that you always have to do this, but that you need to do it for at least a week (if not two) and accurately weigh what you’re eating so that you’re getting the calculations right. Yes it’s tedious, and yes if you had to do it all the time it might be annoying enough to put you off. But it is essential for you to know the reality of what you’re eating so that you can adjust if if you need to.

    The reason is that of you’re eating 600 extra each day for the other 5 days then that will be the roughly 3000 calories you’re not eating on the 2 fasting days. Therefore you may stop gaining weight, but you’re not likely to lose it.

    Many thanks to everyone who has replied so far. I need to look into this 5:2 diet more closely as (from from watching the Horizon episode and talking to a relative) I was under the impression that it was the fasting days that made the difference and that you could eat normally on the other 5 days. This was what appealed to me as I didn’t want to start having to calorie count and weigh food/count potatoes etc!. On the basis that (simple maths) not eating at all on 2 days should reduce my weekly intake by 28% and given my body has had two separate days to ‘recover’ I was hoping that would start to shift some weight with no other changes (nb my weight is not increasing but not decreasing either – it is fairly stable). Obviously this estimate requires I dont over compensate by eating more on the non-fast days but I think I have the willpower to manage this. I agree I probably need to try to calorie count for a few days just to identify the real problem areas calorie wise although this isn’t as simple as it requires knowing portion size etc and some sites don’t carry all the foodstuffs so you end up guessing! I had to try a couple of sites and I still didn’t find ‘griddled egg’ for example (yesterdays breakfast) so I ended up selecting fried egg-no fat as the closest! Still, as an exercise today I listed EVERYTHING I ate/drunk yesterday (while it is fresh in my mind) and used a ‘nutracheck’ website to work out the calories (If anyone knows a better site I’d like to know!). This gave me a figure of 1200 calories for yesterday and I don’t think that was an exceptional day! I’ll do it again for the next few days to see what I average out at but I was surprised I only got 1200 which is below the 2000 limit.

    Have a read of some of the posts on the other forums and the FAQ – you will get loads of encouragement and ideas.

    It’s always hard starting something new and getting your head round it but once you have and you have started losing weight you will be glad you did. You will also find that once you have done a few fasts you will be more aware of what you are eating anyway and more likely to think about what you are eating on the non-fast days. It doesn’t always mean counting calories but it does depend what you mean by eating normally. As Arla says if you are eating over your TDEE on the other 5 days you may just not gain any more weight but seeing as you want to lose some you need to look at what you are eating on those days too.

    Personally, I know that I need to look at my portion sizes and stop the snacking – because I can’t stop at”just one” – and make healthier choices.

    Aha! Right, with a TDEE of 2000 and a bit, your BMR (the lowest level of calories you should be taking on any given day – not including fastdays)is probably more than 1200 (I’ve just done mine, which is not much different to your TDEE and my BMR came out at 1400)? Check your numbers & see. The BMR number is the absolute minimum calories you should be taking in on your ‘normal’ days and if you are regularly going under that figure (as sylvestra pointed out above) you will be hitting ‘starvation mode’ and your body will be hanging on to its fat stores rather than allowing a fast day to do what it does and convert the fat to energy or muscle.

    Far from over-eating, as I had earlier thought you might be. If your calculation for yesterday is correct and it is representative of your ‘normal’ diet – you are UNDER-eating. You need to aim for between your BMR number and your TDEE number on non-fastdays and 500 calories on fastdays and accept that, as you’ve been in ‘starvation mode’ it may take a while for your body to get used to getting what it needs regularly for a change.

    It might actually be best for you to forget about the 5:2 for a couple of weeks and concentrate on getting used to getting your ‘normal’ eating up to between the 2 numbers (BMR & TDEE) consistantly first. Once you’re sure you can maintain that on non-fastdays, you could then introduce the 2 fastdays again.

    Eating normally on the other days isn’t the same as overeating those 5 days, and it’s easy to underestimate portion sizes. I’m not saying that you are but it is easily done without intending to.

    If you really don’t want to have to think about what you’re eating on the non-fast days, the ADF (alternate day fast) sounds more like the ticket. I haven’t looked to far into it cos fasting every second day just isn’t going to fit into my life as easily. (and isn’t ADF zero calories on fast days)

    arla – ADF (the version discussed in Michael’s documentary anyway) is 500 calories one day, whatever (& it turned out probably however much too) you want the next continuously.

    Sounds like a pain in the backside for most people to fit into their lives to me.

    arla – I watched Dr. Krista Varady talk about ADF on the breakfast news yesterday morning and she talked about 500 cals for the day to be taken as one meal – either lunch or dinner (although I read somewhere else that she would also suggest 100 cals for a snack and the other 400 cals for the lunch or dinner). Having started 5:2 at new year and lost 3lb to date I think it is a fantastic regime. I also think there is nothing wrong with swapping between 5:2 and ADF if you find it fits in with your individual plans for any one week. For example, I did 5:2 the first week but only managed 6:1 last week. I fasted on Monday this week and am doing it again today and will also do it Friday meaning 4:3 – which is what the ADF looks like. So I don’t think we need to get hung up on sticking rigidly to 5:2 or 4:3 – it’s whatever works best for the individual any one week.

    I am loving this regime – not only for the weight loss, but psychologically I can easily keep off the wine and subsequent snacks on a fast day. I now feel better mentally that I am getting on top of my ‘too frequent’ drinking habit. Knowing that my liver and other organs are getting a rest and the opportunity to heal is a huge relief to me. As time goes on, I believe I will find it easier to avoid alcohol on non-fasting days as well – aiming for a goal of having a moderate amount of alcohol on weekends – if the occasion warrants it.

    I’d be interested to hear if anyone else is finding the fasting regime beneficial in tackling alcohol volume issues.

    Finally – can anyone tell me when weighing a banana – are the calories counted with skin or without? Thanks.

    TraceyJ Just looked at my BMR and it says 1657. I hadn’t looked at this number before as I didn’t know what it meant! Your comment about having to eat at least this number of calories is interesting and I hadn’t thought about my body ‘hanging on’ to it’s fat stores but this does now make some sense! A bit weird if I actually have to start eating a little bit more to start losing weight! If this is correct it does mean I need to pay closer attention to calories to get the balance right ie between 1657 and 2000 calories/day. Your suggestion about delaying 5:2 makes perfect sense as I probably need to get this balance sorted out first.

    Good plan ihateveg, I know it will be a pain to calorie count for you but it is important to be eating between that range on a ‘normal’ day and it sounds like you may not have been doing any ‘normal’ days (calorie wise) for a long time.

    Training your body to be used to getting the calories it needs is the first step, then 5:2 later.

    ….and if you can face it…. sorting out the nutrients and getting some food choices that are actually good for you and will help your body rather than hinder it can be a bit further down the road.

    Good luck.

    Hi Seagull I used to ‘have to have’ a glass or three every night–checking in my fridge there is a half bottle of beautiful Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc–it’s been that way since Dec 16th and a velvety bottle of Deutz bubbles not opened—in fact I have had two half glasses of wine out at social occasions–over the last 3 months.
    All this without thinking “I’m giving up alcohol”–your post made me go to the fridge !! and also in my subconscious I had read about the rebound effect on the liver and how…but that information (like smoking is bad) wasnt why I quit. I believe it is the changes to my body That 5:2 brought about. My success story is have shifted 6 kgs in 3 months (having tried to do that for 20 years )and the $30-40 I am saving every week is going towards buying some very snazzy new clothes.
    Good advice TJ–The more we read the why’s and how’s the more our chances of success.

    Hi Doublehappy, thanks for your comments – very encouraging indeed. I guess it’s about breaking old habits and making new habits. This eating regime is certainly helping as I am determined not to go over or waste any of my precious 500 cals on fast days.

    Hi ihateveg,

    Some things that might help if you really don’t want to weigh things
    1. Meat portion is about the size of your hand
    2. Potato/rice/pasta also the size of your hand
    3. Rest of the plate = veg!
    4. If you like juice, get a smaller glass
    5. Get a smaller plate for meals and don’t overfill it

    Now, I know you don’t like veg but you are an adult and it’s time to grow up if you’re serious about your health. I don’t want to be mean but maybe you need to hear it straight.

    Different ways of cooking make a huge impact to the taste of vegetables and there is such a huge range I am sure you can find some that you can tolerate and eventually grow to like. Maybe you haven’t tasted veggies cooked properly, I agree that there is nothing worse than overcooked greens.

    Have you tried zucchini/courgette in the oven? What about roasted carrots? Most people like red capsicum/pepper because it is sweeter. Putting parmesan on brocolli make a nice change. Also carrot/celery/cucumber/red pepper with dips/hummous could get you used to the taste and then you could take the dip away? Boiled veg is much nicer with a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper.

    If you make the effort to try vegetables your palate will adjust to the change but you need to really commit and eat something you think you don’t like every day or every second day to start.

    The mind is a powerful thing but ultimately you control it to make changes in your life.

    Hi MrsCiv. Sorry – but eating veg is simply not going to happen as this is a really deep pyschological issue from childhood and several attempts over many, many years have not worked. Saying ‘grow up’ is just not helpful at all I’m afraid. This is the main reason for looking at a diet that doesn’t involve radical changes to the types of food I eat. I KNOW my diet is not balanced but I want to sort out the weight issue and I thought 5:2 might help. Based on previous posts I have started calorie counting and this has indicated I am averaging between 1200 and 1350 calories a day. My BMR is 1657 and TDEE is around 2000. The explanation on this website states that BMR is the amount of calories burnt DOING NOTHING so although my lifstyle is sedantary this suggests I am burning over 1700 a day ie approximately 400 more than I consume! This makes no sense unless my metabolism shot and is converting calories to fat (starvation mode?) hence the lack of weight loss. The eating healthily is another matter altogether!

    Hi ihateveg, sorry I think I got hold of the wrong end of the stick on my earlier posts. I thought you were over eating where it looks like you might not be eating enough on your non-fast days. Perhaps you need more meat and potatoes on non-fast days to increase your calories.

    I agree that if you can’t eat veg (for whatever reason) you just have to concentrate on finding something that works for you. Like I said before, just stick to something simple. Have you tried only eating once a day? I started by dividing the calories up during the day and then decided to see if I could go all day without. I can, with just tea, water etc and then have about 400 cals at dinner time with a bit left over for a snack later. Linda

    Sorry to hear you are having these challenges ihateveg, it sounds like your body is pretty stressed–would it help to go to a nutritonist to get on the right track?.
    My other thought is that we have been sold a big myth that fat makes us fat, whereas it seems that our bodies need the good fats, so we don’t go into survival mode. Whereas sugars are really the enemy—it may pay to research the impact of sugar, and to find all it’s hidden forms, for example it seems that fruit after lunch is not a good idea. juices contain lots of sugar, even bread. I was pretty stunned to find out how much sugar in my favourite wine.
    Re the vegies: indian recipes are pretty good at disguising vegies
    all the best in your search for a solution

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