Tomato and Pepper Soup
Tomato and Pepper Soup

I haven’t been able to bring myself to say the F word since August.

It’s almost akin to admitting Failure, somehow. Or so my Feeble mind thinks. Basically, I’m on a nutrition regime aimed at losing weight, and I am sheepish about discussing it. The F word, incidentally, is Fast (what did you think it was?!).

Having had a supercharged metabolism for the good part of more than three decades, I have had to admit to myself that the pounds had glued themselves to various bits, and weren’t going to let go without a bit of persuasion. An underactive thyroid (which translates to a slower metabolism) and four months on steroids for an auto-immune condition (which translated to podge being redistributed to annoying places like my face, neck and back) didn’t help.

And it wasn’t as if I’d made no effort to lose the added poundage.

I walked 3 miles every single day of 2012, plus joined various ludicrously expensive cross-fitness and HIIT – high-intensive interval training – classes (which left me with an assortment of injuries) and lost not an ounce of weight. This year, I increased my daily walking requirement to 5 miles and bought a FitBit to track those steps, and the quality of my sleep. I may have managed to lose a pound or two over the course of several months. Not too quick, but it was progress.

Then, on a recent visit to London, my Father-in-law, like a proper dad and dad-in-law, introduced my husband and me to a good F word: The (Intermittent) Fasting Diet, aka the 5:2.

Promoted on BBC television’s Horizon program by a doctor-journo friend of his, my FIL bought into the nutrition regime, hook, line and sinker, and had managed to shift 8 pounds himself in his first two weeks on the regime. So we read the book, and were keen to try as soon as we got back home.

Why did we like the plan? It was backed by studies showing:

a) the positive effects of intermittent fasting on glucose and cholesterol levels

b) some evidence of anti-inflammatory properties

c) the fact that the weight loss involved fat rather than muscle

d) it could extend life expectancy

e) a lowering of levels of IGF-1 hormone, which allows several repair genes to be activated

f) and it seemed to work for most people who attempted it.

The last bit was especially encouraging, given my age (people seem to think I’m in my 20s, so let’s ignore what I said about ‘three decades’ above!) and hypothyroid/post-steroid past.

Now, my dieting past was a bit patchy, if not non-existent. I tried the new Weight Watchers for a week, lost 5 pounds, and got bored of counting calories (and being pontificated at during meetings).

As a former mad runner, that had been my preferred way of keeping fit in the past, but my knees have protested recently (and loudly, too).

20131015-173546.jpgThe 5:2 seemed somewhat easier and less fiddly. You eat, as per normal, for five days of the week. And incur a weekly, quite significant calorie deficit by doing a mini fast for two of those days. Women may consume 500 calories on each of those two days, and men, 600. You pick any day you like, though some regularity may help one stick with the plan longer-term. [So, yesterday was a fast day and I wasn’t in the least bit hungry all day, till about 3:00pm, when I had a slice of turkey bacon (35 cals) and an egg (70 cals). For dinner, it was homemade tomato soup (50 cals) and a stir-fry of chicken and broccoli (230 cals) and a handful of strawberries (20 cals). I also squeezed in 5 miles of walking and felt fantastic.]

So, I had joined the world of dieters and fasters, reluctantly, because:

1) as an enthusiastic cook and baker, I know it can be annoying/perplexing when people turn down home-made goodies

2) of that feeling of having failed or lost control of one’s life and weight. This is hard for control freaks!

3) doesn’t Fasting sound extreme? “So, it’s not Yom Kippur or Ramadan, and you’re fasting. What’s that about?” 

This was brought home to me yesterday when a BFF asked me to join her for a meal, and I declined (well, it was a Fast Day!).  I initially suggested we went somewhere healthy-ish because I was doing well on my health regime and wanted to get to my target weight. She dismissed me, saying, “You’ve lost enough weight; you’re going to be an anorexic!”

(Btw, I am nowhere near being anorexic. Sigh)

Aperture LibraryWell, this train refuses to be derailed! It’s been 8 weeks that I’ve been on the regime, and excluding two weeks recently when I was off sync with the 5:2 program after ear surgery, I have lost 12 pounds.  With just 7 to go! It’s incredible and I am unearthing items out of my wardrobe that I haven’t worn in two years 🙂

Yesterday, my husband thought I’d gone mad because, not only was it a fast day, right after a one-hour meeting with my kids’ principal, I went to the dentist and had three of my teeth filled in (my first ever fillings, woot!) with no painkiller. The dentist had, ahead of time, given me a Valium prescription because I’d postponed the procedure for a year out of unadulterated fear, but I didn’t use it (double woot). I felt not a thing during the procedure, and followed it with a 5-mile walk. Not sure if the events of yesterday had anything to do with the 5:2, but I was in a right kick-ass mood 😉

So, there. It’s all out now. I will leave you with the recipe for the Zesty Tomato and Pepper Soup I made yesterday. Its’ flavors sing in every way so, at 50 calories a cup, you may wish to have two. Or the whole pot 😉

Zesty Tomato Soup

  • Leek, white part only, chopped (12 cals)
  • Shallot, chopped (30 cals)
  • Red peppers, 200g worth, chopped (50 cal)
  • Strained tomatoes, 750g (180 cals)
  • Passata, 4 tbsp (80 cals)
  • Agave nectar, optional, 1/2 tbsp (30 cals)
  • Lemon, one, juice and zest
  • Cumin, 1 tsp
  • Mixed Italian herbs, dried, 1 tsp (or handful of fresh basil)
  • Filtered water, 1-2 cups, as needed
  • Chicken buillon, 1 tsp
  1. Saute the leek and shallot till fragrant
  2. Add the red peppers, stir till it wilts a little
  3. Add strained tomatoes and all other ingredients
  4. Add water judiciously and only as needed
  5. Cover the pan and simmer for 20-25 minutes
  6. Puree in processor till as smooth as you like
  7. Serve with a sprig of basil (Thai basil is used here) and dollop of yoghurt or sour cream