The 5:2 diet. Does it work?



My life seems to mostly consist of preparing meals for 2 toddler terrorists, who would live on fish fingers at every mealtime if they could, and a carnivore husband, who would live on sausages at every mealtime if he could, so I am surrounded by temptation (who hasn’t stuffed a leftover fishfinger in their mouth when tidying up teatime – no one I tell you)

Add to that, I work from home, only 2 rooms away from my fridge, so it has been hard to lose weight.

Smallest toddler terrorist has just turned one, and my pregnancy with her was very full of custard slices and jam doughnuts so I wasn’t exactly lithe.

I signed up to Slimming World first and it was very enlightening. I didn’t want to sit in a room every week particularly so I did the online version. I think the sitting in a room bit might be quite key because while I followed the plan and printed out all the recipes, I wasn’t incredibly motivated or religious about it. But it did drag me out of my reliance on jars of sauces and readymade freezer things though, I can now make curries and jambalayas and all sorts of other things from scratch (only took me 38 years to get there). We still regularly cook most of the recipes now, although never, NEVER, with the syn free sausages or reduced fat cheese. Life is too short.

So I moved on to 5:2. It was massively popular just before I went on my first maternity leave, all the guys in my office were doing it. I tried it after the first baby and it was great, I eeked out the 500 calories that you are allowed throughout the 2 days of fasting – ate half tins of baked beans and rice cakes – and lost some weight but then when trying for second baby decided it was affecting my chances so knocked it on the head. So I dusted it off again, this time I did some more research.

I read that the longer you can go without eating anything at all the better it can be so I decided that on fast days I wouldn’t eat anything until dinner time, other than a tiny snack like some carrots. The only concession was tea, I still drank tea with milk and sugar all day. Life is too short. Then at dinner time I ate a grilled chicken (doused in Cajun seasoning) and some salad and salad cream (the Carnivore would also have a baked potato and cheese with his too). You have to drink loads of water, otherwise you get a headache. And it wasn’t that hard. The children’s teatime was a bit of a challenge but if you tell yourself its only until the next morning or have a cup of tea while they are eating (and throw their leftovers away IMMEDIATELY) you can do it. And strangely the next morning you don’t wake up starving or that desperate for breakfast. On fast days where I did eat something small early on, I found I felt much more hungry all day and resentful/cross/mean to everyone around. Interesingly, I also found I could still exercise on my fast days and it fact, running while fasting is fine. You must drink LOTS of water though.

The other main useful thing I read was that half fasts have been found to be just as effective. This works better for me, because finding 2 whole days to eat like a hermit has been very hard, so I’ve done some 5 ½ :1 ½  weeks and these have worked just as well. Just follow the same principle as normal fast days i.e. nothing during the day but have a proper dinner (and some wine) in the evening.

So far I’ve lost 2 stone or thereabouts. Not quite where I want to be and I seem to have hit a plateau recently (I’ve got down to the older fat that is a bit more stubborn I reckon) but along with the exercise regime ramping up for the triathlon, hopefully it won’t be long.


Worry Less, Exercise More

image-only-jpegMental health is now talked about so much more that is has been in the past.  Numerous celebrities have shared their personal experiences to help people relate and understand how they are feeling.  Support groups are pushing for mental illness to be treated the same as physical illnesses.  A whole industry growing around mindfulness and meditation.

But is it making a difference?  Do we feel differently about mental health, how we feel about ourselves when we’re having a mental health issue.  Do we feel more comfortable talking about it in our offices with colleagues or in the pub with friends?

Well in my personal opinion, not yet….

I definitely can’t say I represent all facets of British society or even just one whole bit of it.  I live in middle England, in a middle class neighbourhood, I’m married with two children who go to a local school and I work in an office for a global company.  But do I talk about my mental health with anyone?  Not really, I read blogs about it, I listen to radio articles about it.  But in my mind depression is something that happens to someone else that is far more serious than how I feel, anxiety is something a bit silly that I wouldn’t admit too even though I feel anxious all the time.

I function like a normal person, I look like a normal person, I work and I parent like a normal person.  But inside I’m a whirling dervish of sadness, fear, anxieties, cold dread and hot shame…

Am I alone?  I suspect not, I really hope not but I don’t know for sure.   I don’t talk to anyone else about this, my friendships are shallow and based on school or work and social interactions are for fun, parties, birthdays, holidays.  But I see and hear glimpses of it from other people, a mum casually mentioning they are on anti-depressants, a colleague disappearing from work for a few weeks due to stress,  someone laughingly mentioning how overwhelmed they are or angry that someone has given then another thing to do.

What can we do?  Well firstly I’m going to try and be more open and more honest in my social interactions from now on,  it must be a grass roots movement,  if we all mention our mental struggles just to one other person every now and then it will gradually become something more acceptable to discuss.

But mainly I’m going to share with as many people as possible that my main coping mechanism is to try and exercise every day.

This is because there are moments in a Weights class or halfway through a swimming set or when you’ve run up to the top of a hill, when everything just melts away.  It’s just you and your body working together as hard as you can.  You can feel connected to the earth or part of the water, or the strongest person in the world with all your body tingling.  It feels magical and free and such a relief to let everything go.  That feeling can stay with you all day if you are lucky, restoring your mental health or making it just a little bit better.

I would recommend it to anyone, it’s not medical, it doesn’t have to cost anything, and it can make your life better.

Run – Cycle – Swim – Walk – Pump more, Worry Less.

Worry Less Design.

Move Your Asana

Guest post from our Tri-sista-in law, Michelle about taking up Yoga.


I was about to embark on my new fitness regime after months of absence and Yoga seemed to crop up everywhere as the accompaniment to any workout; for achieving the most from your body and ultimately reaching your goals. My goal was just to get fitter but I could not deny the fact that increased flexibility could only help and maybe this could be the way to break me in gently. Flexibility has never been my strong point and as my Mum says; I am about as bendy as an ironing board…..

After hours of googling my local classes I was spoilt for choice. But it was terrifying. The thought of bringing my very unbendy body along to a class likely to be full of people able to achieve all sorts of weird positions was a real put off. Yes, they all say beginners welcome – but I really was a complete beginner who could not even touch my toes (or get anywhere near them).

Eventually I received an email reply from a local class stating that they had availability in a complete beginner’s class the next day at 0900.  I immediately accepted – that was it, I was committed and booked in. I dug out some leggings and a loose top and most importantly touched up my nail polish….

I walked in to the room – late as usual – and very flustered.  The room was light and airy with a warm wooden floor and gentle music playing. Four Yoga mats were meticulously laid out with all the associated equipment placed next to them with precision. I looked across to the front and saw the instructor, a lady, sat crossed legged on her mat and immediately noted her suitably amazing posture. I walked across to introduce myself and was immediately dismissed back to the door to remove my shoes.  Is this something you are meant to know??  Did I miss a sign??

I shamefully re-entered for the second time and chose a mat and joined in with the crossed legged seating position as we waited for the rest of the group to arrive – who much to my relief also walked in with shoes on……

During the 60 minute session, it honestly felt like we just lay around on mats, adopted a few easy poses and mostly took lots of deep breaths to uplifting softly spoken words by the instructor. It was very relaxing and my body felt at least 2 inches longer at the end. I certainly felt it was beneficial but I did not feel it had any real impact towards my fitness goals – It didn’t feel like a work out – would I return?  I was not sure.

The next morning my alarm went off and I leap out of bed – well at least my mind thought I had – my body remained.  I could not move without squealing over my aches and pains.  Crikey – it had done something, I was amazed.  How could lying down and breathing manage to work out so many muscle groups….? Safe to say I felt like I had done a 2 hour long circuit class but I actually hadn’t even broken into a sweat.

I am now hooked and extremely intrigued.  If you have never tried Yoga, give it a go – be as amazed as I am!!!!


The lane of general bewilderment

Swimming Lane Etiquette

The man touched my foot, that man touched my foot!!  I swam as fast as I could go to get to the end of the lane to let him past.  I felt humiliated at first quickly followed by a surge of rage.  Oh I’m so slow,  was I going too slow,  how dare he touch me,  why was he in my lane, why couldn’t he just be patient and wait till the end of the lane,  it would only have been a few seconds for goodness sake….

The complexities of swimming lane etiquette were something completely new to me, I was new at swimming front crawl properly,  only just graduated from the very pleasant breaststroke slow lanes and trying to get my speed and distance up to do Swimathon,  swim holidays and eventually triathlon.

Moving from the Slow/Medium lanes into the Fast lanes introduces you to the world of the competition swimmers, either those who swam competitively in their youth or are competing today in Masters Teams or triathlon.   So what is the etiquette, what should you worry about if you are trying a few lengths in these lanes or looking to graduate there permanently.  I can’t pretend to be an expert, but these are a few of the guidelines that I try to follow and wish that everyone else would too…

  1. When you arrive at the pool, check out the lanes, number of people in them and general speed. Just because you normally go in the fast lane doesn’t mean that you should always go in the fast lane. Sometimes these lanes are absolutely chock full and awash with thrashing limbs, in these scenarios it makes more sense to swim in the medium lanes and keep an eye on the fast lanes to see if they slow down or empty out.  It may be that all the lanes are full, in this case I would always choose the slower lane option to start with and move up later on if I can.  It’s just not worth the stress of killing yourself swimming as fast as you can to keep up.
  2. In the scenario that someone in your lane is faster than you, then let them go first and wait for them to pass.My general rule of thumb is if someone is less than a quarter of a lap behind you and gaining, it will be better for you and them if you let them pass. Pushing on regardless just means you will stress for the whole of the next length. If someone lets you pass, give them a quick thank you or a smile (prefer a thank you,   my smile midsession sometimes look more like a grimace which must be horrifying). If someone is in front of you that you need to overtake but they are not stopping (give them a lengths grace just in case they didn’t see you) then just cut of the end of that length and turn in front of them (look both ways of course). Personally I would never touch someone’s foot, if you are in that much of a hurry maybe you are in the wrong lane/session/swimming pool.
  3. If you are kicking/pulling/breast stroking/backstroking, make sure you are in a slower lane than normal. You can always move up for your fast sets later. Try and allow more of a gap than for normal lengths and graciously let people pass you.
  4. If you accidentally clobber someone with your legs or arms, and I mean clobber not just accidentally touch, then wait at the end of the lane to apologise. It happens to everyone. I’ve been smacked in the face and also kicked someone in the face before, most people are generally pretty forgiving but I have had one person shout at me after an unfortunate leg/face interaction. It happens, try not to take it personally.
  5. If you are resting in between sets, keep an eye on swimmers coming and try to stay out of the way. Don’t hog the ends, be considerate. Make it clear you are resting – I always pull my goggles up. If you are just chatting, pull your legs up on the side (or get out – chatting is for changing rooms, and coffee afterwards!).

Last but not least, and not only for the ladies, there are some of us who are extremely comfortable with their bodies and their nakedness and that is wonderful, however please spare a thought when you are changing for other people’s personal space.  Revel in your wondrous nakedness but please just don’t do it too close to me…

Love swimmers, love swimming


Adult Swimming Lessons

[I came, I swam, I conquered – for the non-Latin speakers i.e. everyone]

I could never not swim, I went to lessons when I was young and got all the badges but I was never very good and I hated putting my face in the water. (I still do, I can shower and wash my hair and not a drop will touch my face) so when there was no longer any drive to improve my swimming other than to be able to splash about on a Saturday afternoon at Fareham leisure centre with my friends then I just didn’t bother.

When I got older the only reason to swim was either when I was on holiday (and then just floating up and down was required) and the 2 times I have been pregnant where I forced myself to go because everyone told me what good exercise it was etc and when you are pregnant you’ll do anything to make sure your baby is ok although quite how or why swimming was going to do this I am still not sure.

So I avoided it. Then my sisters started swimming together on Sunday mornings and going for lovely breakfasts without me, then they went on a swim trek holiday together and secretly I felt a bit jealous but not enough to actually go swimming and then we decided to do this Triathlon. So here I am effectively a non-swimmer, about to sign up to swim 2.5k in open water. Apparently you can do breaststroke…..! But if I am going to do it I want to freestyle, which is what the serious people do.

This is where adult swim lessons have come in. We, all three, have signed up, the sisters to “improve their techniques” (bastards) and me to learn to put my face in the water and to do something other than breaststroke.

It was fairly terrifying to start, there are 8 of us of varying abilities (a couple of non-swimmers like me, some middle people and a couple of super fast people) and one teacher, we generally get a lane each (which is absolute bliss, I hate lane etiquette, it makes me so anxious) and it is in a pool that belongs to a local private school so quiet and lovely and clean.

The teacher had me swim freestyle for a length while she watched me (I didn’t make it a whole length) and then we did some beginner drills to practice kicking, arms and breathing with various floats. I discovered I can breathe much better on one side than the other (is this true of everyone??) and that I have been panic swimming up to now i.e. swimming as fast as I can while holding my breath until I can’t hold it any longer then swallowing loads of water. Once I had a pull buoy between my legs and could just focus on my arms I realised that it was ok to swim slowly and breathe whenever I wanted to. Obvious right? Apparently not for me. By the end of the session I could swim a length of freestyle and not collapse at the end of it.

By the end of session 2 I could swim 2 lengths, my technique is still terrible but I feel like I have made a massive breakthrough. I am actually looking forward to swimming! We worked out that by the time of the Swimathon in April, if my improvement continues exponentially (!), I might actually be able to make it the 50 lengths I have signed up to do….Its a start.

Shifting the lb’s

So we’d come up with the crazy plan and staggered home in a Gin fuelled haze with loud and slightly obnoxious promises to meet for our first swim session IN MORNING ‘KAY? AWRIGHT.  LOVE YOU etc etc
And we did. At least we were there in body.
The 2 swimming sisters cracked out the swim training programme they have been following and 3rd sister cried her way a little bit up and down the slow lane
 At breakfast after the swim we catalogued the following specific challenges applying variously to one or all of us:
Weight problems preventing running. Drinking problems. Serious work stress problem (exacerbating drinking problem). Thyroid condition. Post pregnancy lack of fitness. Various children ranging in ages from 17 years to 9 months (they don’t specifically challenge our abilities to compete in a triathlon but they are a challenge, ok don’t argue).
Then we need to get onto the actual building up of fitness and ability to swim, cycle and run…..
It’s a long game tho so we are going to pick these challenges off one by one, and what the hell we’re probably going to blog about it as well.
First issue, shift some lb’s, we’re each trying a different approach – some we’ve been doing before the start of this challenge as well:
  1. slimming world
  2. 5:2 w/a bit slimming world thrown in
  3. elimination diet w/a bit of slimming world thrown in
Aim is to lose a pound a week and we’re nothing without a spreadsheet, we’ve got a shared google doc running with a fancy chart showing actual v target.
As you can see, success so far has been good to middling. Give us another month and we’ll give you some concrete figures.
To be continued

Tri Sistas

It all started one night in a Gin bar in Winchester….

Three sisters, putting the world to rights over various random brands of Gin and even more random Tonics. Conversation veered towards the celebration of our respective 40th and 50th birthdays – a barn dance? a holiday in the caribbean?

Somehow, somehow….in the fog of Gin, we decided that such things are boring and mundane, we will DO SOMETHING EPIC! Something so far out of our comfort zones and current skill sets that these age milestones will quiver and recede in its EPIC-ness.

And we decided to start training for a Triathlon. To be undertaken in on or around our milestone birthdays.

One sister is a master swimmer, another a journeyman swimmer, the last can just about do a length of front crawl without drowning.

One sister owns a bike, although probably not the right kind of bike (to be determined). The other two do not.

Two sisters run, although one much slower than the other. The third sister used to run but had to put a pin in it while a pin was put in her hip (not quite the exact medical diagnosis but the pin analogy works better, excuse the artistic licence).

And we all drink too much.

We have some challenges ahead.