My experience with a basic 5/2 'diet'

After a long absence, I'm writing this down because (whisper it), this seems to be working, seems to be workable, and is a fairly interesting experience, where it feels like a degree of permanence could be achievable.  So hopefully this might be useful to someone who is thinking about dieting in as low an impact way as possible.


Time for Basil Exposition:

I hate diets. The diet industry is a scummy, appalling disgrace founded on making women hate themselves if they eat: pushing people away from healthy calories and in to the arms of gross, guilt ridden crap that is always helpfully held close to the tills in food shops. "Dieting" is full of tales of failure, paranoia and a sad attempt to replace deeply unhealthy sugary crap food with ersatz 'sweetener' versions, held together by guar gum infested gloop, desperately trying to persuade you that the content has the same mouthfeel as fatty cream, thus keeping you in a terrible cycle of craving sugary crap... Fat *is* a feminist issue and vested interests will keep you buying diet powders, and pills, because they *know* you will fail. You will go back to eating the crap, feel shame and guilt for doing so and neck back more of their unholy shite. It's how they make their money. Fuck them.

...and so on. I really, really don't like diets. I did a starvation diet once, when I was 16, and wanted to fit in to a size 12 dress. I had come down from size 16 a couple of depression weighted years before, and wanted people to look at my body, rather than a deformity I had at the time. It worked! I felt like shit for weeks beforehand! I ate nothing but a baked potato a day for about 3 weeks, and did no exercise, naturally. 

That was the last time I dieted. While I was a student, I was pretty slim, basically through being young and being too poor to eat. Then I discovered exercise - not team based, competitive school PE misery but competing against yourself: feeling your leg muscles pulling and stretching in delicious agony - I discovered cycling, and it felt so good, I also did 100 leg lifts every evening, and lifted cheap weights from Argos. I was in my twenties, pretty skint, not eating much and fit as a fucking fiddle. I loved it.

Then I got a full on desk job on t'internet, and over time, despite cycling, the thickening did start. I didn't really mind because I was fit, had a beloved and everything felt good. When I had the kids, I didn't cycle, (for I do think relatively reasonable reasons of not wanting to crash whilst they were gestating) and it took the weight to start hefting on in spades for me to get back to biking. 20 miles a day; starting to do charity long runs - deliciously fit. Thighs like tree trunks. Ate whatever I liked given that frankly, I needed the carbs.

Then I was dragged under a lorry. 


I haven't really been able to do sustained exercise with the exception of walking in the last three years. I do press ups against a wall, and I did, last year, try to go for doing lots of core muscle conditioning on the soft surface of the bed but too many residual problems made that impossible. I am not happy. And I was until mid-January rather large. So, mid-January, I had my weight taken for hospital type reasons, and realised that just about the only thing I had any control over in order to reduce my current level of pain was to lose weight. Without extensive exercise. Bollocks.

So here we are. It is now the end of February. I have been 5/2'ing for 6 weeks. 


Why did I choose to 5/2 over and above any other diet?

As I've said, I don't like diets. I also actually eat rather healthily and have done for a long time: I'm a fish eating vegetarian, who has a zero sugar breakfast with a mix of shredded wheat, oats and seeds/nuts with skimmed goats milk and sheep's yogurt (because I'm a middle class ponce, obviously) every day. For lunch every day, because it's easier than having to think about it, I have a leaf heavy salad with sprouted seeds, about half a carrot, 3 small tomatoes, chunks of cucumber and radish, spring onion, a tiny drizzle of olive oil & balsamic, just to get a bit of taste, and a hunk of protein. No bread or noodles, I find I don't need them. 

So why on earth would I change that? The answer is that I wouldn't. Shouldn't. It's hardly worth counting up the calories, frankly. My evening meals are very veg and pulse heavy. In some senses, I was left pondering how on earth I was putting on so much weight. I mean sure, I like a bit of dark chocolate, and I do drink wine but... well, ok, I do eat chocolate and I do drink wine. A bit. But, the basic problem I have is that I am not in my twenties. Without regular exercise, and I do not mean walking down the road for a while, my metabolic rate has hit the floor. If one can think of the 'body fitness' as a balance: with a low metabolic rate, one's calorie input must by necessity, reduce. Do anaerobic exercise: metabolic rate goes up. That's it. It's very simple. Right now, I'm looking at a metabolic rate that appears to resemble a collection of half-dead slime moulds. And there's no real forseeable time in the next 6 months when I'll be able to suddenly snap back to the equivalent of 20 miles of cycling a day. As for running... heartbreakingly, I think that's out for good. It's hateful.

The only possible answer then is to eat less. Global evidence of paranoid and obsessive calorie counting is not great, and eating some kind of pathetic mess of a meal whilst my family eat something delicious and healthy but over the predefined number of calories was definitely not an option. Setting unrealistic expectations in terms of how much one is going to lose, over which timeframe has never worked for me, and I suspect, many millions of other failed, frustrated people. Is it better to attempt something which is more of a lifestyle change - in the true sense of the word 'diet', than a Diet?

I chose the 5/2 after an extensive search on t'internet for negatives. I didn't want to know the positives. I wanted to know whether you end up with bad breath, no energy, fainting, muscle cramps, vitamin deficiency... and the answer is that whilst the jury is out, part of the reason it is is that they can't really find anything bad to say about it. Huh. A friend of mine has been doing it, quite assiduously, whilst also going from being a non-runner to a half-marathoner. She's doing really well, over the course of the last year and a half, has two kids and a family life. I'm not really seeing any down sides here...It also works for vegetarian types, unlike the more extreme zero carb options.


Run down on how I've been doing it

1) No calorie counting. None. 

2) No weighing. Only going by which clothes I'm fitting in to.

3) No goals. This was started as an experiment, with the idea of a permanent lifestyle change for the sake of my broken physiology. A goal for the wrong reasons means the possibility of slippage.

Those are the basic premises. Now here is the functional implementation:

Fast Days: Monday and Thursday. By my reckoning, Monday's already a crap day. Me making it marginally more frustrating won't actually make it feel any worse! There may be something wrong with that logic. Thursday was chosen such that I didn't have to do any fasting over the weekend and therefore disrupt family meals, and also, yay! Curries on Fridays! There's no way you're going to take my legume based curry away from me. Not. A. Chance. Or my end-of-the-week glass/es of wine.

Eating on Fast Days: 

  1. Breakfast - unchanged. 
  2. Lunch: content unchanged, pushed to as late as possible (2pm-ish)
  3. Zero snacks.
  4. Lots of Green tea (the tea happens every day anyway so no big change there)
  5. No tea / supper 

Er, that's it really. Nothing too complicated. You can remind yourself of my quite healthy breakfast and lunch by reading higher up.


So how's it been going?

Well, cautiously, I think it's going ok. I'm doing a mindfulness meditation course at the moment so I find the periods of actually feeling hungry quite interesting, rather than horrible. Frankly, going in to 'normal' days, I do feel hungry. That is where the discipline really needs to kick in. Not hoovering snacks to make up for that slight gnaw in the belly. However, the other knock on effect is that I think, though I have no evidence for this, that my stomach has shrunk a bit. I don't seem to want to eat as much food. Even on normal days. The desire not to undo all the hard work has also meant I am cutting down a little on those avoidable but delicious carbs. Yes, I am still having dark chocolate but the frequency seems to have slipped to 'occasionally'. I even didn't have my usual Wednesday night few glasses of rosé last week and I don't think I will tonight. But, if I do, I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

Here's the other thing too. I think this can be a permanent change. I can't see any reason why I would want to go back to the other system (ie: eating whatever I want, when I want). Even if I can eventually get to go to a gym, it is useful, philosophically, to feel hungry. Feel what it is to not have eaten. It certainly makes things cheaper, and I would hope, once we're out of a currently skint phase, I will be able to give some money monthly to the local Food Bank and homeless hostel. It feels like a good quid pro quo. 

I can't pretend that I do not have in the back of my mind the general evidence around fasting and better body function over a longer lifespan, but in my particular instance, if I can take the weight load off my back and hip, that will make my enjoyment of what life there is immeasurably better than it is right now. Add in the gym (I'm told Tai Chi is the way to go for my particular disfunctional self) and... who knows. 

How much have I lost? Well, given that I have not weighed myself I don't know, but this week I got in to a pair of trousers I haven't been able to wear for about 2 years. Trousers I bought from Marks at xmas which were a bit tight are now a bit too loose around the waist. They don't fall down, not quite yet. My new-old tighter trousers are a little tight right now but I will enjoy the sensation of them getting looser. Over time. There is no pressure here. 

Just for you, I will weigh myself at some point. Easter? I would like there to be a nice change. The kind of change that makes me say "Really? Blimey!". It makes me annoyed that one celebrates losing weight as if in and of itself it is good, and better, where for me, being super-fit, enjoying my body and eating a healthy diet but-and-also-cake-thank-you was my happy place. But you know - realism strikes. That balance has to be achieved. No exercise = low to dead metabolism. When you have no choice, you eat less. That's it.


Update some 2 and a bit years later: Do you know, I am still doing it? It's an amazing discipline. I'd forgotten that I've got a really wide rib cage and hips, meaning that my clothes size is settling, and can't go any lower despite a generalised slimness. I've found that the hard far accumulated in the belly region is taking a long time to shift. A looong time. Partly because I refuse to go on a nuts diet (that's not the point) and partly simply because it took years of hard eating to get there! I have a nice 'pouch' of skin left over from my pregnancy collagen stretching but that doesn't worry me, and I go to the gym too now. I enjoy some delicious dark chocolate occasionally on my normal days; I've cut down the amount I drink which has also had a large effect. The point is: I'm very healthy, I haven't starved and have continued to up-health my life and downsize my body calmly and gently whilst not doing myself any harm. I cannot forsee a time when I stop doing 5/2, and can only keep recommending doing a calorie-free, stress-free version, as described above. Good luck! I tell you what else too - it really helps my digestion. I think the body seems to thrive on having breaks from eating. I have no medical, only personal evidence but it certainly feels that way.

A screwed up view of 'gayness'

The sub-editors chose a wonderful headline for this: "The day I decided to stop being gay". Which if it is a representation of the article is a miserable statement to make, falling right in to the hands of the religious right. Y'see, it's abnormal! See? Even gay men want to not be gay!

Sigh. When asked, I will wax vitriolic about the lack of understanding  - or rather, public acceptance by all 'communities' involved that sexual behaviour seems to be represented in terms of a continuum with two extremes, which are entirely heterosexual, and entirely homosexual - with most people milling about in the middle, moving up and down the line depending on times in their lives, or the people that they meet.

So this article in fact describes a man who:

-Made the mistake of labeling himself, as if he was only 'allowed' to fancy one sex, thus precluding the possibility that he might in fact fancy people rather than sexes

-Suddenly one day had a moment of lucid realisation that he missed, and desired the unconditional and uncomplicated love between a parent and their child

...neither of which add up to anyone 'stopping' being gay. The only reason I mention this article at all is because I remain sad that there are barely any visible role models who are confidently bi-sexual. Indeed, anyone who genuinely is bi-sexual tends to talk it down, given that the word is generally associated with a louche, sexualised "screw anything that moves" lifestyle. Robert Downey Junior seems to be the only 'mainstream' personality who seems relatively happy to talk about it.

Understanding that you don't fancy an individual gender but that you fancy 'People' is horrifically confusing as a child/young adult. I remember genuinely being in love with friends who were girls, without realising what was going on, whilst still pursuing teenage shags with appropriate blokes. I wish the mainstream media would approach things in less black and white terms. Love anyone, love everyone! Although, my advice would be not to attempt the latter all at once.

Very interesting infographic - no wait, come back

Here, have a look at this:

 image from

None of this is shocking or extraordinary necessarily. Women communicate verbally a large amount. It's not a big surprise that once the interweb had been dragged far enough from its coder roots, everyday women would find the communication tools extraordinarily useful.

What surprises me a little is the stat for "Digg". It makes me smile wryly because I *never* use Digg. It would never even occur to me to use it, and it's hard to put a finger on exactly why. I've always rationalised it (in as much as I have spent any more than about three minutes in total rationalising the decision "shall I use Digg? No) as being because it's just too er... much. All I want to do is keep bookmarks and share them. I can't be bothered with all this extra faff. People always lump Digg in with Delicious and, as someone with enormous brand loyalty to Delicious (purely through longevity really) I get a bit annoyed when people lump them together. So why is it such a masculine tool? Could it be that the points system angle is not one that appeals to women, who more often would like to positively share information? I'm unwittingly part of a visible demographic trend! How could I be this predictable?

I'd love to talk to the Digg guys and ask them - why is Digg masculine where Delicious is not? I'm not suggesting Delicious is feminine, by the way - there's room for a third way behind the A not A Dichotomy ;). Bebo meanwhile is, I think it would be ok to argue, fairly feminine. It is very cute - cute almost to the point of being Korean.

All very intriguing.

This came via a Read Write Web piece, by the way: "25 Mind blowing Social Media Infographics" which has a bunch of other useful stuff for industry folk to... er bookmark on Delicious for future ref.

Faces in everyday things. Why?

Matt Jones has posted a great discussion piece on Berg London: "Humanising data" in which he discusses design solutions which are in sympathy with the point that mysteriously, faces appear to surround us, created seemingly magically from the everyday.

I chipped in with a few thoughts in a post, given that I was mulling over this very thing as I returned home the other day. The conclusion I came to was this. Here's what a typical baby development site says about the development of sight in the newborn:

"At first your baby can't focus farther than 8 to 15 inches away — just far enough to make out the face of the person holding him. He can detect light, shapes, and movement beyond that, but it's all pretty blurry right now. Appropriately enough, your face is the most fascinating thing to your baby at this age (followed by high-contrast patterns such as a checkerboard), so be sure to give him plenty of up-close time.

1 month
At birth your baby didn't know how to use his eyes in tandem, so they may have wandered randomly or even crossed now and then. This month or next, he'll be able to consistently focus both eyes and track a moving object. A rattle passed in front of his face will often transfix him as he explores this newfound ability. He may also enjoy playing eyes-to-eyes with you: With your face very close to his, move your head slowly from side to side, with your eyes and his eyes locked."

Mothers' faces and bodies are optimised to accommodate their new offspring's limited vision capacity. Dark eyebrows, dark eye centres with white surrounds, dark lips and nostril holes and also importantly, dark nipple circles for feeding (ok, that's not a face, but there are two of them. not sure how relevant that is but still). 

Put simply, it appears to me that the proliferation of faux faces around us in everyday design is asa direct result of this first visual stimulus. We are pre-programmed to fall in love with the human face - the Mother's face. It is the first source of comfort, safety and reassurance for us.  I don't think it is an enormous stretch of the imagination to suppose that this formative experience has an *enormous* effect on our growing intellects, and my suggestion therefore is not only do we seek out these faces, either consciously or otherwise, as consumers but we do also as creators. The face: stylised, unwittingly introduced, or confidently asserted represents something so fundamental to our visual sensibilities that we  are as drawn to it as we would be any comfort blanket. The face - the Mother's face is the original security and reassurance device.

What I'm missing in this epic thesis is any theoretical discussion or reference to back it up. I can't begin to assume that this thought is in any way unique and new. So anyone got anything interesting they would like to cite?

Here are some faces, for your enjoyment:

Faces in places

There are faces everywhere

Hello, little fella!

I saw a face! I did! In a house!

Nora's review of my talk at Interesting09

"Why didn't you say any jokes?"

A post about Arthur Jefferson will make its way to these pages in the next couple of days when I have the time to write it. The rest of the weekend just gone was spent tidying the house to continue the route to dust free living, sewing up James' trousers and all sorts.

I think I can say that it went "Ok" - which for a first time in front of an audience (except for times when you're unprepped, which I don't really count) in so long I'm actually having difficulty remembering when I last did it (if I have done it at all since leaving school) I'm guessing can't be bad. (Unless the people who politely told me it was good were all mortified and couldn't think of anything else to say! Argh - heh).

But anyway, here's an oddity. I met 2 people at my friend Kevin's 40th birthday drinks on Wednesday, and they turned out to be doing Interesting talks on Saturday. That is almost ridiculous. One was Dan Maier, who did an hilarious and quite amazing talk on Sir Francis Galton and the other was Leila Johnston, who was completely lovely on Wednesday night, and whose brilliantly nerd-friendly book, "The Enemy of Chaos" has just come out, published by a very small press, so it's worthwhile everyone telling everyone that the book exists, via their blogs, in case the publicity department can't afford to PR it that extensively. What were the chances of that happening? Well, fairly high, realistically.

What with looking after Nora and having to leave early, I missed quite a bit (still, missed less than last year, so it's a steady improvement), but for me, the real highlight of the day was the astonishing talk given by Josie Fraser about girls' magazines in the 1970's. So far so Bunty, right? How wrong can you be! It turns out that Pat Mills did an awesome job of trying to create a kind of female readership equivalent to 1950's apocalyptic science fiction magazines for boys in the magazine "Jinty" before going off to 2000AD. The covers were *incredible*. Here's Josie's post about the talk. I am in complete awe, and am left wishing I could find all the ex-Jinty readers and finding out the profound effects reading this crazy stuff must have had on its audience! Hopefully an Ebay search for "Jinty" will allow me to snap them up, I'm desperate to read these now!

Oh, yes, I forgot to say a thing. It occurred to me part way through the day that there were an awful lot of women doing talks. And I mean really cool women, too (not including myself, obviously). If you look down Roo's list, it's not just that there were a ton of women speaking, but that many of the topics women were discussing were predicated on having a particular female geekiness. If you had an all male conference, can you imagine anyone coming up with "Ponies I have loved, real or imagined". Completely and utterly wonderful to be in an eclectic, lovely atmosphere where anything genuinely interesting was welcome. More like this please. More more more ladies with horses and whacko sci-fi girls' magazines.


Preternaturally knackered.

Beginning in earnest tomorrow.

By the way, I heard today that "Ernest" was a Victorian slang word for "gay". Which puts a whole new spin on "The Importance of Being Earnest" doesn't it. Oscar was king of wags.