'Warts & All' 5:2 Diet Guide - Part 2
When to eat, what to eat
In this lesson we’re going to dig down and work out exactly when to eat to stop you getting excessive hunger and cravings. We’re going to work out exactly how to split 800 calories throughout the day so that you feel good all day and brimming with energy.
We’re going to deal with The 3 H’s – Hunger, Headaches, Hangry – the 3 biggest hurdles to a perfect 800 day.
Let’s start with the Breakfast Hack – the perfect way to start your 800 day off right.
We all know the adage, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ and surprisingly it’s even more important on the 5:2 diet than ever.
Avoid the binge
Jane is on her first diet day of the 5:2 diet. She’s read all the rules and wakes up excited to start and finds she’s not particularly hungry at breakfast time. She reasons that she should probably skip breakfast and save her calories for later. WRONG! In the afternoon, Janes feels hungry so eats her breakfast calories then. But there seems to be a problem. She can’t stop eating. She eats a bit more because she’s got some ‘calories in hand’ from breakfast but SHE CAN’T STOP.
Do you recognise Jane’s problem? I certainly do. You think it’s about will-power. But it’s not. It’s about your body going into starvation mode and ‘taking over your brain’. But it’s simple to fix. You already know the answer. It’s eat breakfast.
But your breakfast on the 5:2 diet isn’t any old breakfast...
- late breakfast – around 10am is ideal
- high protein
- 250 calories
Let’s break that down a little. What do you actually eat? The best protein breakfast is eggs. Two eggs. Cooked any way you like. Eggs are high protein and low fat. They’re filling. They’re delicious. A large egg is 97 calories. Two eggs is comfortably under 200 cals. If you add a little butter and milk you could make perfect scrambled eggs for 250 cals. Or have boiled eggs with a cup of tea or coffee to make your 250 cals.
And if you’re on the go? I noticed in Costa the other day that they do a ‘breakfast pot’ of beans, scrambled egg and mushroom. That would be perfect.
And if you don’t like eggs – try Quark and berries or a Continental Plate – ham, cheese and tomato.
Finally, remember my exciting new concept? I’ll be introducing it at the end of the ‘Warts and all’ series. It includes the perfect 5:2 breakfast without you having to worry about cooking, prepping or calorie counting.
14 hour Overnight Fast
Having a 14 hour break from eating is also an important part of your 800 day. It’s actually as simple as no snacking the night before and eating a late breakfast. Remember the greatest chunk of your ‘fast’ is when you’re sleeping.
For 90% of you, you do the fast before your diet day, so by breakfast you’re already ticking it off your list. Don’t snack after 8pm the night before and eat breakfast at around 10am. Simple.
But what if that doesn’t fit in with your job or lifestyle?
Susan says ‘I need to be at work before 9am and I can’t possibly cook breakfast at 10. How do I make it work for me.’
Susan is one of our Early Birds and for her we turn the schedule on its head and she does her 14 hour fast at the end of her diet day. She has her breakfast as early as she needs, a light snack for lunch and dinner at about 6pm. She then does her fast overnight.
Sam works shifts and couldn’t work out how to fit in a 800 day AND a 14 hour fast.
If you’re working a shift, early, late or overnight, then arrange your diet day around your shift pattern. Have your breakfast before your shift, a light lunch or snack on shift and then your proper dinner after your shift. You will do your 14 hour fast after your dinner while you sleep.
Are you an early bird?
Do you need to eat breakfast before 8am? Do you normally eat dinner at around 5-6pm?
If you answered YES to to one or both questions, then the Early Bird schedule is going to be best for you. That means you do the fast at the END of your 800 day.
800 Day Schedule
The night before Finish eating (including all snacks) by 8pm
10am 250 cal breakfast
2pm 100 cal snack such as berries or miso soup
6pm 400 cal dinner
Extras 50 cals – Tea with milk (25 cals), Coffee with milk (25 cals)
Early Bird 800 Day Schedule
8am or earlier 250 cal breakfast
12pm 100 cal snack such as berries or miso soup
5pm 400 cal dinner
Extras 50 cals – Tea with milk (25 cals), Coffee with milk (25 cals)
6pm Finish eating (including all snacks) by 6pm
If you stick to this schedule then you’ll minimise hunger pangs and feel energised throughout the day.
The 3 H’s – Hunger, Headaches, Hangry
Will you feel hungry during your 800-calorie day? Yes probably a bit to be honest. But nothing unmanageable or difficult. The time when you are most likely to be hungry is the 2 hours before dinner. The 4pm slot.
Beating hunger is again about changing your mindset. Remember it’s only for an hour or two. And why you are doing it. Your dinner is just a couple of hours away. Try to keep busy with anything unrelated to food. Distract yourself.
If you’re still at work at this time, then lose yourself in a project or a meeting. Make sure you have your dinner planned and ready to go when you get home.
If you’ve got school age kids like me, you’ll often be out taking children to clubs around now. Being out and about is a great distraction.
If you’re at home, try to go out for a walk, or lose yourself in a good book or TV programme.
Hunger vs Cravings
When I asked you what your #1 diet struggle was, the most common response was related to evenings – snacking, junk food and alcohol all featured highly.
Are you like Harry who says, ‘Evening boredom brings on comfort eating.’
Or Natalie, ‘I eat well through the day but end up snacking in the evening. Chocolate and crisps!’
We are going to take this slowly as this is probably the most important mindset shift of all.
First of all, let me say that I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Many times I have drifted into the kitchen and had a biscuit, that leads to another biscuit… I always feel that my dinner is not complete without something sweet to finish off.
I’m going to remind you (and me!) that the strict no eating in the evening rule applies only on 2 days a week. That’s not so bad is it? Yes you’ll have cravings. Possibly fancy a glass of wine or a nice cold beer. But you need to think about what you’ve already achieved that day. Why throw it away now? And also think about what you’re trying to achieve. It’s about having strength and motivation to stay away from the treats for just a couple of hours, 2 days a week.
After eating a 400 calorie dinner, you definitely won’t be hungry in the evenings. Repeat this mantra to yourself again and again and again “It’s not hunger. It’s cravings. It’s not hunger. It’s cravings.”
What about alcohol?
Are you like Sharon, who says, ‘Staying away from wine can be a challenge – and if I have a glass, I drink the bottle…’
You should steer clear of alcoholic drinks on 800 days. Apart from adding extra calories, an alcoholic drink will affect will-power and your ability to avoid extra calories. Remember it’s only 2 days, you’re free to do what you want on the other 5 days.
My top tips for shaking it up and not thinking about food in the evening are as follows:
Take up a hobby – anything will do, something you do at home or go out to, as long as there’s no food or drink involved. I’ve just joined a choir.
Watch a movie – go to the cinema or put a movie on the TV. A movie is longer than a TV programme and if you are enjoying it, you won’t be thinking about food.
Go for a swim – exercise is generally not a great idea on a fast day, but some gentle swimming is very distracting and no one is eating at the poolside.
Have a hot drink – fruit tea has no calories. I really like a peppermint tea.
And finally, a bit of sensible advice from Dee, ‘I make myself a black tea or glass of water, ring a friend and take my mind off it. When I wake up the next day, I’m no more hungry than normal.’
A common annoying side effect, especially when just starting out on the 5:2 diet is a headache on your 800 day. This makes the day harder. Your cravings increase with a headache and you feel bad and can’t concentrate on anything. I would say that almost all diet day headaches are caused by mucking around with your caffeine intake. How do we fix that? Don’t mess around with your caffeine intake.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get caffeine without adding calories. Black tea, black coffee, diet coke, green tea…
Remember that if you’re having a late breakfast, you can’t have tea or coffee with milk until that time. This is quite late if you’re used to an early morning cuppa.
I like to have a green tea first thing, then have a cup of tea with my breakfast as normal. And I can still have a lovely cup of coffee at around 11. Remember you can have two cups of tea or coffee made with milk on a 800 day.
If you don’t have a caffeine problem, you are better than me! You get 50 extra calories for a little treat.
Do you get ‘hangry’?
Hangry means getting angry because you’re hungry. When I did the 5:2 diet in the ‘bad old days’, when the 5:2 diet days had only 500 calories, I found I was forever ‘hangry’ and dreaded Monday mornings coming round again. It’s why I gave up the 5:2 diet for 3 years.
The good news is that with the New 5:2 and 800 calorie diet days, this feeling is much reduced. With only 500 calories to play with, you often didn’t eat much until the evening. By the afternoon you could be climbing the walls with hunger.
The New 5:2 is different. Your filling protein breakfast makes a huge difference. You never ever get that hungry.
If you’ve made it this far… well done. We’re almost at the end of this epic lesson and hopefully the 800 calorie day that goes with it.
I’ve gone one final sleep hack to finish off the day.
Most people get an early night on a 800 day. But some of us struggle to get to sleep because we’re starting to feel hungry again. If this is a problem for you then a little bit of hot milk could be the answer. The lactose is a carbohydrate that will help you sleep. You only need a small amount, a quarter of a cup, 25 calories. You’ll need to skip 25 calories earlier in the day to accommodate it but it’s well worth it.
And so to bed…
You’ll wake up the next day brimming with energy and no hungrier than normal. I promise.
How do you split your 800 days throughout the week? What do you eat on the other days? We’ll cover that (in detail) on the next page with a structure to plan out your best week.
The next page is coming very (very) soon
Good – I’ve set up a direct line to my personal priority inbox.
I will reply personally to every email.
I've had some great questions in so far, like this one from Kim,
The only real difference is upping the calories from 500 to 800 on a diet day. This is also the advice recently recommended by Michael Mosley.
The new advice is for people who struggle with just 500 cals.
New research has shown that weight-loss is similar with 800 cals to 500 cals per day but many people find they can go back to the 5:2 diet with the new rules.