A year of 5:2, intermittent fasting

By Caitlin Kelly



A year ago I decided to give it a try — while the truly hard core consume only 500 calories two days of every week, hence the name 5:2.

Here’s my initial blog post about it.

Two days every week, I restrict my intake to 750 calories, sometimes a bit more (800 to 850), and have been doing this consistently for a year.

I can’t tell you how much weight I’ve lost because I won’t get on a scale — it would destroy all motivation if I didn’t like result!

I don’t care if I end up thin; ideally I want to eventually lose at least 30 to 40 pounds.

But friends now immediately notice the difference in my appearance, and my husband, who obviously sees me most often, and most exposed, sees it as well.


My upper body is smaller and firmer.

My face is thinner.

I’ve dropped a band and cup size for my bras.

I now see muscle definition in my calves and arms that wasn’t there, or hadn’t been as visible.

I’m also lifting weight, (30 reps for each exercise, mostly upper body), and take a 45-minute spinning class (i.e. seated bike) twice a week, emerging each time sweat-drenched. That helps suppress my appetite and burn some calories.

I only allow myself alcohol Friday through Sunday.

Fasting isn’t fun, of course! But it’s totally do-able and, after the first few weeks, you’re not ravenous on fast days, just hungry. Big difference.

If you really want to lose weight, and are prepared to make a permanent change to your health habits, this regimen might be worth trying.

I fast on Tuesdays and Thursdays, (although I shift that as needed, when traveling, for example), and friends know it, so we can still meet for a coffee, but not for a meal.

I work alone at home, (with no kids to feed as well), so it’s easy to stock our pantry and fridge with low-calorie foods and drinks, like home-made iced tea, coffee, tea, selzers, things I actually enjoy, so there’s no chance of falling off the wagon: water-packed tuna, low-calorie Wasa crackers, Babybel cheeses (80 calories each), low-fat cottage cheese, fruit, vegetables, low-calorie salad dressings, peanut butter, soup, plain yogurt.

Measuring portions, with a set of tea/tablespoons and measuring cups (and/or a kitchen scale) is essential as is, obviously, knowing calorie counts.


Fast days, de facto, allow very little room for carbs or sweets; a 15-calorie Lifesaver or a few  dried apricots or half a banana or a cup of blueberries or strawberries.


My body feels better– no more acid reflux!

I’m hoping to drop at least two dress sizes by the time I’m closer to my goal. But I’m also allowing several years to do it, not insisting on instant results.

I quickly lost a fair bit of weight a few years ago on a very, very strict diet — so much, so fast that neighbors asked my husband if I was OK. I looked amazing, but was miserable and couldn’t sustain it.

Of course, I soon regained the weight.

This has to be my new life.

Caitlin Kelly, an award-winning non-fiction author and frequent contributor to The New York Times, is a New York-based journalist. Her one-on-one webinars and individual coaching, by Skype, phone or in person, have helped writers and bloggers worldwide; details here. Contact: learntowritebetter@gmail.com.

41 thoughts on “A year of 5:2, intermittent fasting

  1. I’m inspired. You had me at dropping a bra cup and band size:). I have a few Indian friends whose parents fast regularly, similar to what you’re doing. And they look so young for their age. You may just have finally given me the nudge to try it. I’m so glad it’s working out for you!

    1. It feels good! I hated being so heavy. I’m far from thin, certainly, but definitely feel more normal now and not as annoyed by what I see in the mirror.

      It’s worth a try…it just becomes routine. I’m not someone with sufficient willpower to count every single calorie every single day — but twice a week? No problem.

      1. I’m with you. All those people who talk about being on weight watchers, etc. and how counting calories just so easy-to me, it is just one more thing to add to my to do list. But, you are allowed so few calories on those days that I bet it’s quite simple.

      2. It is easy — it’s boring and tedious! 🙂 I don’t use apps, but I bet a lot of people do, so that’s not the issue. I just don’t have the bandwidth.

  2. I have been making a permanent change to my eating habits as well but I have to weigh myself – keeps me motivated! So far, I am down by 15 and want to lose 20 more. It needs to be sustainable over the long term, so I have been experimenting with my ideal caloric intake for maintenance, exercising, etc.

    Congratulations on your body changes and continued success – it’s not easy! 🙂

    1. I will finally get on the scale again this summer at the dr’s for my checkup. It’s entirely possible I haven’t lost a pound…I suppose. Maybe only inches?!

      I refuse to focus on weight, as I’m also very muscular and always have had big thighs, even when I weighed a lot less. It’s also very difficult (ahem) at a certain age, metabolically, as you just can’t consume much without gaining…I’m trying to be much more careful, but I also really enjoy food and drink, so it’s a balance between feeling miserable and deprived and happy.

      Congrats on your progress!!

      1. Very true. I love to eat and drink too, and living in the Okanagan Valley with its great restaurants and wine has been pretty hard on the waistline, even though lots of walking and hiking happened. Like you, my metabolism has changed a lot (frankly, the only change it’s made is to get slower) and I had to think about how to balance my love of food and wine with exercise and intake in a manner that works over the long haul.

        I’m glad you have found something that works. 🙂

      2. It’s really annoying to have to limit our intake of things that we enjoy so much. This is the only thing I can think of that I can tolerate, and have to, for a long time.

  3. this is inspirational, and i really like your slow and steady approach. this works for most things in life. like you, i can get results by extreme methods, but they don’t last, and neither do i. your approach is much better.

    1. Thanks.

      I could be a lot thinner if I were more disciplined on “feast” days but I also want to enjoy my life. If I starve myself and eat only low-calorie foods all the time, I lose one of my life’s greatest pleasures — great food and drink. I figure, it took me a decade to put on this much weight, so it’s not likely to just drop off fast because I want it to! 🙂

  4. rwholley

    I’m so glad you shared! I remember your initial post and was wondering if you kept it up. I have a lifetime of 30-40 lb ups and downs and have never been able to stay at the low end for long. I alternate between “I should love myself the way I am” and “I’m a fat pig, do something!” Like you, I have a lot of muscle and am big framed. I’m tempted to follow your lead….

    1. It’s really difficult to shed a lot of weight — everything I’ve read suggests why. But I do know some of it is GONE — I can feel it, and it feels good. I have arthritic knees (right knee esp.) and every lb. on your joints = 4 lbs of pressure. That alone is a huge motivator for me, because it keeps me out of the operating room a while longer.

      It’s well worth trying — BUT the first few weeks are a challenge as your body goes..WHAT?! You will feel tired. It’s also VERY VERY helpful to do a lot of cardio (do the reading on this) as it releases chemicals within the body that help suppress appetite — it makes the whole thing much easier to sustain.

      What is fascinating (and a little sad) is to realize how very little food we really need — I work out now (for an hour) on fast days as well. That’s a big insight once you cut so much out.

      1. Tell me about it.
        BTW, I just got back from the ballet (got there a little late, but still saw the majority of the show). I had a lot of thoughts, too many to leave in a comment. I think I’ll definitely check out a few more ballets. There are definitely a few in the upcoming season that I’d pay money to go see. It’s definitely something I can see myself becoming a bigger fan of.

      2. Okay, I’ll give you some of them. The theater had so much gold and design work, I felt like I was back in Paris. There was a pretty diverse crowd of people, all ages and backgrounds, most formally dressed (and a few rude ones who checked their phones during performances or even brought babies in! Seriously, who does that?). And between all the beauty and technique, two things stood out to me the most: one is that ballet dancers and silent film actors both have to rely on movement and expression to really get the story across. With no words, it’s even more important to be able to act without words than it is in a silent movie. And I have to say, they did a good job in the show.
        The other was what I found myself calling “extensions of moments:” because they’re not using dialogue and telling the story entirely through dance and expression, some moments that felt shorter in the play because of dialogue were extended in the ballet. Like before Mercutio and Tybalt fight, there’s an entire dance in the Market Square, which goes on for five whole minutes. Another thing was when Juliet drank the poison: in the play, that’s a pretty short moment. She says a few lines, drinks, and goes into her 24-hour sleep. In the ballet, she actually spends a few minutes deliberating on whether to go through with the plan, moving around the stage conveying to us her indecision. She only goes through with it when she sees the ghosts of Mercrutio and Tybalt, as if to remind her if she doesn’t, she’ll have to continue being part of the feud that killed them and kept her from marrying Romeo in the open. I’m not sure how that got added into the story, but it shows how they lengthen the ballet in order to make up for the lack of dialogue that would normally lengthen out a play.
        There, those are my main thoughts.

      3. This is so cool. It’s truly one of my favorite ballets — so I am SO glad you saw it, and enjoyed it!

        I studied ballet for years and used to review it for a newspaper. There’s a lot to take and to appreciate!

      4. That would be fun! Jose was there last year photo editing a golf tournament — and he really liked Columbus, enough that he suggested we go out there for a visit.

      5. Ah Paris. Good times, good times. I would love to go again.
        Speaking of which, the theater I went to today (and which BalletMet does most of its productions) is styled on the inside to look like a Paris theater. Everything intricately carved or patterned, a lot is done in gold trim or faux gold trim. I kept expecting the Phantom of the Opera to pop out and be like, “Christine, I looooove you-oo!”

  5. So interesting to read a longer piece on this, as you’ve been telling me about your experience with this behind the scenes for months now! Very glad it’s a useful and positive system for you!

  6. Like you, I won’t get on a scales – it’s not a measure of much anyway, not all weight is created equal. I’m working on being stronger, and my body shape can just take care of itself – which it is. Indoor trampoline and weights… some months in and very pleased with the results.

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