Sustainable diet: The Five and Two

So…I’m trying a new approach to eating. Notice I didn’t say “dieting.” I’ve been successful at dieting a few times in my life. But each time I’ve concentrated on losing weight by “dieting,” I’ve been frustrated. I think that was less tied to giving up foods I love, more about disliking the process. I like food and I like eating. I’m a strange creature who actually enjoys going to the grocery and doing the shopping. One of my abiding interests is reading and searching for recipes. I read cookbooks and food sites like some people read novels. The process of counting every bite, or weighing food, or ordering food from a nutrition company all seem to sap the joy right out of the experience. I believe food is far too important in every way to turn it into an irritant.

I’ve been thinking about synthesizing the rules of healthy eating, the joys of eating, and smart eating, and trying to create a sustainable plan to follow. Here’s what I’m doing:

I like fruits and veggies, and it’s easy to eat a lot of those throughout my week. It’s more difficult to give up breads, sweets, and the ooey-gooey. These I find particularly appealing. The truth is, I never met a carb I didn’t like. Seems unlikely I’ll change at this point. But I can limit, if I can’t stop. So I’m doing the smart thing Monday through Friday. High protein, low carb, no sweets. I’ve found a protein fruit drink I’m enjoying, and I’m learning new smoothie recipes. Salads are great. I haven’t given up my morning coffee, but I’ve been good about everything else.

But weekends are back to normal. I can enjoy a burger and fries, or homemade bread, or mashed potatoes with dinner, or whatever, topped off with a little sweet treat. The key is portion control, always my friend. Years ago I realized I could eat small amounts of a dish…half a sandwich, a small bowl of soup, small servings of entrees… and be satisfied. Part of it is a mind game, and the rest is will power. That’s the best tip I have for long term weight management. As long as you’re eating a reasonably balanced choice of foods, I honestly believe weight control is more about quantity than anything else. And no snacking between meals or late at night. Sorry, but eating several small meals a day doesn’t really work for me…it just keeps me focused on food if I’m eating something every couple of hours. After dinner dishes are done, the kitchen is closed for business.

So, to sum up:

  1. High protein, low carb Monday through Friday.
  2. Portion control at all times.
  3. Eat what you want on the weekend, but limit serving size.
  4. Be honest with yourself, don’t sneak treats or bend the rules if you’re eating out during the week.
  5. Work out during the week. Whatever you can do is better than doing nothing.
  6. Drink water, hot or cold unsweetened tea, and protein shakes to stay hydrated and satisfied.
  7. Eat fresh and homemade as much as possible…salads, fruits, and non-processed foods.

A great rule of thumb for avoiding processed foods…if you stick to buying foods that your grandmother would have recognized as food, you’ll be ok. Standard advice: shop the outer aisles of the grocery.

Cut sodas. If you do drink a soda, don’t choose diet. Better to have sugar than an artificial substance. I feel the same about butter and margarine. Don’t get me started on that topic: it’s butter or nothing in my kitchen.

I can do a “diet” that only lasts five days at a time. Then, just when I’m really craving chocolate, or dying to try a new recipe from Pinterest, I can give in to that temptation for a couple of days. Sweet! I don’t feel too deprived, and I tend to bake and cook less during the week anyway. The weekend is when I really get into the kitchen, when we go out to dinner, or have friends over. With this system, I don’t have to impose restrictions on myself or anyone else…everything is on the menu if it’s the weekend! All I need to know is the day of the week.

This approach is mostly about being careful and thoughtful, but not rigid. It is definitely not vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or designed to address medical diet or nutrition issues, like diabetes. (That’s my disclaimer, by the way. No medical advice here, just some good old-fashioned food strategy.) One more suggestion, there’s a great free app that can help you manage your food choices. My Fitness Pal is a digital calorie counter and food diary. It can also track exercise. You can download the app for iPhone and Android phones and monitor your daily food choices and goals. Easy and no fees attached!

If you decide to try a five and two diet, let me know how it’s going. I joke sometimes that I’m going to do my “air and water” routine…heavy on the air, light on the water. But the truth is, I need just a wee bit more to chew on. I think this one will work for me. And in a few months, I’ll let you know how I’m doing. So far I’ve lost two pounds, don’t feel frustrated, and I’m optimistic that my willpower can hold out. Here’s hoping, anyway!


  • glchoate
    April 3, 2013, 8:32 am  Reply

    Hi Sheila. Thank you for sharing Do let us know how it’s going.

    You sound like you might have read French Women Don’t Get Fat? I enjoyed that book especially since it helped me get rid of some guilt I had associated with food because I felt I should cut certain foods out and kept failing. Mireille Guiliano especially stresses walking for exercise. I believe the harder exercises make people want to eat like a horse! I don’t drink wine like she suggests, but I do drink the honey/vinegar mixture, a little heavier on the honey to make it tolerable! I’m sure you’re familiar with the vinegar tricks 🙂

    Good luck with all your goals!

    • April 3, 2013, 9:36 pm

      Hey, thanks for stopping by!
      I haven’t read the book you mention…I remember reading about it when it came out, and yes, I do agree with the general philosophy. I also like walking. I was never a runner. I drink a little wine, not much. Rob and I have tried the vinegar and honey mix, and we try to do it regularly. Don’t always get it in when we travel. But every little bit helps!
      Thanks for the good wishes…I need to make myself accountable so I’ll follow my plan, that’s the trick! ~ Sheila

  • Doug
    April 3, 2013, 8:45 am  Reply

    I’m guessing the opposite 2 and 5 plan works just as well??;-)

    • April 3, 2013, 9:31 pm

      I only wish! Well, maybe if you spend a lot of time working out. Sadly, that isn’t my style! So I’ll be sticking with my plan 🙂 ~ Sheila

  • April 3, 2013, 10:56 am  Reply

    Sounds like great advice. I’m pretty fortunate: once the weather’s nice enough for me to walk 30-45 minutes (almost) every morning, I don’t have to watch every mouthful. Everything in moderation!

    • April 3, 2013, 9:30 pm

      I wish we had consistently nice weather! We do get beautiful days, but often, even when the sun is out, it’s on the chilly side. I love to walk, especially with a buddy. So fun to talk and visit, and before you know it, you’re done. I walk the indoor track at the rec center, but that’s not quite as charming as your area! ~ Sheila

  • April 3, 2013, 3:11 pm  Reply

    I mostly do this as well — I eat prettly simply and consistently during the week + exercise then as well. Weekends are all about time with the Hubbs and we go out, get waited on and enjoy OR stay in and cook and enjoy 🙂 Now that the weather’s clearing up I can walk outside again soon – yay! You make some great points here, and I thank you for the reminders 🙂


    • April 3, 2013, 9:27 pm

      I know from the recipes you post you’re a great cook! That’s the hardest part for me…I really love playing with food! But I’ve managed to hold on to my size so far…well, some parts are a little less perky than in my previous life 🙂 But my weight has been stable enough…just feeling like I need to be more disciplined as I’m past the 5-0 point now and can’t afford to ignore the pull of gravity! So this is mostly my public encouragement to myself to be strong and stick with my goals! ~ Sheila

      • April 4, 2013, 2:51 am

        it’s great stuff you’re sharing and sensible!! I do better on high protein anyways and now that I’ve cut out wheat I no longer have low blood sugar issues – none. Bam – gone! Thank you for encouraging all of us and offering up such good info in a friendly/helpful way 🙂 MJ

  • April 5, 2013, 5:46 am  Reply

    There’s so much truth to what you wrote here, Sheila. I’ve been trying to also “diet” but I am really struggling sustaining it and with portion control. Sugar and carb are my biggest weaknesses. I love baking and also can’t resist mountain of rice for my regular meals. How I wish I can be like those women who can live on carrots and celery sticks. 😉

  • April 8, 2013, 2:33 pm  Reply

    I’ve been working out. I figured I would add the exercise first and then start attacking the food intake. Your plan looks very reasonable. I may adopt it too!

  • April 20, 2013, 6:51 pm  Reply

    sounds like a plan…and a reasonable one…good luck…

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