Monthly Archives: August 2015

The 5:2 Intermittent Feasting Diet: Pig Out, Stay Happy!

IMG_3536Here’s my take on healthy eating: 5 days a week, eat a healthy diet. 2 days a week eat whatever you like! Seriously – ice cream, pizza, donuts, sausages, chocolate and whipped cream are all ok on this diet, as long as you eat them on your ‘feast’ days.

The 5:2 diet, which is a form of Intermittent Fasting, means eating only 500 calories on fast days, two days per week. This was shown to promote weight loss and good health, on Horizon (Eat, Fast, Live Longer 2012-13). Rather than a twice weekly deprivation, Intermittent Feasting promotes twice weekly devoted indulgence.

There have been no studies done as to whether Intermittent Feasting helps you live longer, because I only came up with it last month. I present it, not as a model healthy diet, but as an alternative to an unhealthy diet. For those like me, who go through periods of healthy eating but then slide easily into a piece of cake per day, this diet could well be a sustainable idea for eating healthier. It’s certainly a good way to stay happy.

I came up with the idea of Intermittent Feasting after watching world record breaking competitive eater Furious Pete on YouTube. Despite consuming vast amounts of food at once, one day per week for his eating videos, he eats healthily the rest of the week, keeps fit and stays trim. I wondered if this principle (toned down) could work for me, a hardened sugar addict. I repeatedly give up sugar, usually only lasting a few weeks before cracking, and then quickly slide back to a cake per day, or worse, a dessert with every meal. I wondered what would happen if I simply decided I could have as much sugar as I wanted, 2 days a week? No wait! What if I could have as much of any food I wanted, 2 days a week.

After only a month, the results have been very interesting and very positive.

IMG_3305When’s the last time you really ate as much treat food as you really wanted? On this diet, if you’re someone who always wants a second donut, why not eat three? Chances are, you’ll finally have your fill and not want any more for a while. What’s more, if you only get to eat this food twice a week, you’ll want to really enjoy it. No more mindless munching – get the most out of every bite. I’ve loved playing out my food fantasies one day at a time, and once fulfilled, they fade. At this point, I personally can’t imagine wanting fried chicken or pizza ever again.

I haven’t found it hard to stick to healthy food on my other five days. It’s easy to say no to a cookie on a Tuesday, if you know you’ve got a special fry up followed by chocolate fudge cake to look forward to on Wednesday. I’ve only been at it a month, but so far I do seem to be losing weight, probably because overall I’m eating fewer cakes and sausages.

My feast days are Saturday and Wednesday, but they are moveable (as long as they are not consecutive – I tried this and it made me feel rubbish). I moved one to a Sunday for a friend’s birthday party, because I wanted to be able to join in by eating party food and cake. This is another advantage – I can maintain a healthy diet without being derailed by a social engagement. Previously I’d eat healthy for a few weeks, then be fed a cream tea at a friend’s house, remember how much I love jam and completely give up on the diet because I couldn’t accept a future in which I didn’t eat jam. With my new diet it’s different. Because I know I can have jam again in a few days time, it’s easy to keep eating healthy.

“Wait a minute,” I hear you cry, “aren’t you just living for those two days? Doesn’t having Feast Days make you want to eat that food every day?”

IMG_3398Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Unhealthy food, especially sugary stuff, tends to cause a blood-sugar roller coaster, which doesn’t feel pleasant. Even though I like the taste of junk food, alternating healthy days and Feast Days has shown me just how much better my moods are on the days I eat healthily. Only Intermittent Feasting has given me this insight, since previously I’d eat healthy for a few weeks, forget how bad I used to feel eating junk food and go back to it. Then I’d forget how good I used to feel eating healthy, and so lack the motivation to try again.

My ideas for feasts are getting less extreme because I’m getting more and more turned off by the prospect of sending my blood-sugar haywire. At first, I was eating Frosties for breakfast, a chinese buffet lunch and whole cake for dinner, but now have settled into choosing one big meal with dessert.

So my fantasy foods are slowly getting healthier. Then guess what? Yesterday was supposed to be my Feast Day, but I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t feel like it today either. Can’t think of anything outrageous for tomorrow, I’m just looking forward to my porridge. I imagine that in time, I’m unlikely to want as many as two feast days a week. I never thought I’d ever turn down cake because I didn’t feel like eating it. What an unexpected result.

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Interesting Parenting Idea To Teach Kids About Money / My non-mis-spent youth

Pocket_money_640x360-600x360My parents did a very unusual thing when I was 12. They decided they were going to give me an allowance, but it was a different kind of allowance. Instead of giving me a certain amount of money to buy what I liked with, they sat down and worked out exactly how much money they were currently spending on me, and then gave me that money on the first of each month. This didn’t include groceries or family meals out, school clothes or textbooks, but it did include other clothing, recreational books, magazines, movies, art materials, school lunch money and school bus fare.

Amazingly, as a 12 year old I took to this idea straightaway and began to budget. I never had a month in which I ran out of money, probably because I took my parents totally at face value. It was implied that the allowance would be taken from me if I failed to buy the essentials with it. I didn’t want that to happen, because I knew that if I could get that stuff cheaper than my parents could, I would have more money to spend on what I really wanted.

One reason this worked so well was that my parents were quite inefficient with money. Before they gave me an allowance they used to buy my non-school clothes quickly on a busy Saturday, without shopping around. They were also hooked consumerists, and insisted on replacing things more often than I thought necessary. With a bit of thought, it would be easy to get things cheaper, and spend the extra money on sweets.

The first thing I did was shop around for clothes. I was amazed to find that a t-shirt in M&S cost the same as a Red Dwarf T-shirt mail ordered from leaflet in the back of the video. No contest! I bought a few of those (too big so I wouldn’t grow out of them) and wore them to death. I refused to replace them when they got holey from tree climbing. This bothered my mother but she kept quiet. I used the cash saved to buy books, magazines and art materials. An instant winner – now I had clothes I really loved, and money left over for entertainment!

Soon it became like a game – the more aspects of my spending I could cut down on, the more I’d have left for what was important to me. False economy quickly showed itself too. My first t-shirt purchase had taught me that buying something that lasted two years instead of one, meant I could spend twice as much on pens. It also meant I took really good care of my stuff to make it last longer.

A few years later I had discovered charity shops, and was making my own clothes with my mother’s sewing machine. I suspected that my parents would cut the allowance if they noticed me skipping lunch to save money, so I never tried that. Instead I started secretly cycling an old beat-up bike to school, leaving the house after my parents so they wouldn’t notice. Yet I was still being given bus fare!

I used some of the extra money to maintain the bike, but now I was saving up for musical instruments. In retrospect, I my parents must have realised I was ripping them off at this point, but kept quiet. Why? Because it was a win-win situation. They were giving me bus fare even though I cycled to school, but at least I wasn’t pestering them to buy me musical instruments, or in fact, to buy me anything at all. Overall, they were still making a saving, whilst teaching me important lessons about budgeting. My parents showed restraint by never making a judgement on what I bought, even when at times, I wasted money on tat. They just let me learn the lessons.

I still got Christmas and birthday presents of course, but because of this scheme, for my entire teenage-hood, my parents and I didn’t argue about money. Not only that – my allowance never raised and I never asked for it to be. By the time I finished school it was the same as it had been when I was 12, even though by that time I was also using it to buy school clothes, and for days out to Oxford and London.

Over the years I have hugely underestimated the value of this leap of faith my parents took, letting a 12year old handle money in this way. By the time I left home I was excellent with money. During university I watched my friends splurge on nights out and then struggle to pay bills. But I’d having already had 6 years of practice taking care of the essentials before buying the fun stuff.

I’ve often wondered what made me conceive of the £0 Challenge which I took in 2014, and hugely added value to my life. In a sense, I was refreshing and deepening the ideas that I learned about as a teenager. My parents hadn’t needed to be good with money to teach me about it – their allowance idea was all the teaching I’d needed. I’m not saying every parent should try this – maybe I was an unusual kid… but it’s worth a thought…

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