Last month, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Elly Curshen‘s new 5:2 cookbook, Fast Days and Feast Days. Elly, who runs the Pear Cafe in Bristol, is an advocate of 5:2 eating – where you eat normally for 5 days and ‘fast’ for 2 days each week. On the fast days, you get to eat 500 calories if you’re a woman, and 600 calories if you’re a man. It’s a very popular eating regime and – in theory – it’s a good way to lose weight without sacrificing eating tasty things for most of the week.
I know several people who’ve converted to 5:2 in recent years, many of whom have managed to lose a fair bit of weight. I could probably stand to lose a few pounds, so Elly’s book arrived at a pretty good time for me. I decided to give it a go. 5:2 eating works much better around my busy London lifestyle, that involves lots of eating out and baking. I figured it would give me the freedom to keep enjoying indulging while keeping my weight in check.
So, how’s it going?
Well, I’ve been doing 5:2 for a month now and so far, it’s been good. I haven’t lost very much weight – maybe 2lbs? – but there have definitely been two big benefits that I didn’t necessarily expect. For one thing, my weekly food shop costs less. Hurrah. Turns out not eating much two days a week has been good for my bank balance, as on fast days I don’t buy lunches, coffees, breakfasts, or juices.
More importantly, it’s also been really positive for how I feel about eating. I err on the side of all or nothing when it comes to food – I spend most of my time either completely on the wagon or 100% off it. Amy recently wrote a superb piece on feeling caught between body positivity and ‘clean eating’ that really resonated with me. And though I will probably always find myself caught in those extremes, 5:2 means I can do it in a structured way. I no longer feel consumed with guilt every time I have a dessert – because I know that round the corner is a fast day that will keep my weekly calorie total in the black. It’s changed my relationship with food and made me happier, which is really quite wonderful. I’m able to enjoy food more on both fast and feast days because I appreciate it more, if that makes sense.
What’s it really like?
Though many people say you can ‘eat what you like’ on your ‘feast’ days, that’s a fib. You can’t go mad and eat everything you want – because eating more than your 2000 (or 2500) daily calorie limit will mean the deficit at the end of the week gets blown to hell. Ergo, you won’t lose weight. May has been a very indulgent month for me – I’ve eaten at some fabulous places and been away three out of four weekends – but June will be the true test for the weight loss potential of 5:2 eating. I’m going to commit to 2 fast days, 4 very healthy days, and 1 feast day each week to see how I fare.
But what’s a fast day really like? Well, there’s no doubt that they are not my favourite days of each week. Though I generally cope with feeling a bit hungry, I do get headaches from time to time and I’m definitely more prone to feeling cold than on normal days. I don’t suffer from a lack of energy but I can definitely feel a bit grouchy if the mood strikes.
Some people split their calories into two roughly 250 calorie meals. I prefer to graze a bit more during the day, so I aim for two 150 calorie meals (e.g. soup) supplemented by snacks such as a punnet of strawberries (68 calories for 225g) or a WW Caramel Wafer (78 calories). Herbal tea is a godsend. As is sugar free chewing gum.
Review: Fast Days and Feast Days
So what about Elly Curshen’s new book? It’s been a really useful companion for my first foray into 5:2 eating and there are some superb recipes in there that make fast day eating fun and interesting. My particular favourite is the courgette dhal (198 calories), with you serve with a soft boiled egg. I’m also partial to the chickpea curry (143 calories) and the veg, butter bean, and smoked paprika stew (187 calories). Fast Days and Feast Days makes 5:2 seem like a happy and healthy lifestyle choice – as opposed to the slightly austere books such as The Fast Diet, that make you want to quit before you’ve even begun.
As the title suggests, the book also contains ‘feast’ recipes such as smoky sweet potato wedges with tarragon and avocado mayo, or the pumpkin and sage soup with brown butter. These recipes don’t have calories listed and they’re full of lovely ingredients like heaped teaspoons of creme fraiche and fresh slices of sourdough. It’s a book that caters to your whole week and is full of inspiration to keep your hungry spirits up.
I’d recommend Fast Days and Feast Days to anyone who’s looking to give 5:2 eating a go. It’s not suitable for everyone, so make sure you do your research before you try it!
*Disclaimer – a sample copy of Fast Days and Feast Days was sent to me for free. This is an honest review and I have not been paid or pushed to feature the book in any way.