Over the past few years, the 5:2 diet has become increasingly popular, and Bristol cafe owner and Instylewriter Elly Curshen, known to her thousands of Instagram followers as Elly Pear, is a strong advocate.
“It’s the dream way of eating for people who work in food and love food. It means that you eat 500 calories twice a week, and the rest of the time eat whatever you like – and I’ve really tested this theory to the max.”
The 5:2 diet is based on the principle of intermittent fasting. As well as helping people lose weight, there is evidence suggest that fasting can increase your lifespan and protect against conditions such as dementia.
Elly, who owns The Pear Cafe on Upper York Street in St Paul’s, is releasing her debut recipe book, Fast Days and Feast Days, based on her experiences of the diet, after she was approached by publishers.
“I’ve been doing the 5:2 for two and a half years now, and there aren’t any other books out there which are doing what I’m doing. I really wanted to make a book that represented that whole week, and that’s what it is all about.”
The book, which will be released in April 2016, will have a collection of 100 recipes for both fast days and feast days, as well as tips on shopping locally, stocking your fridge well and avoiding waste.
When Elly began the 5:2 diet, after being inspired by two friends who also work in food, she started instagramming. Photographing what she eats on fast days under the hashtag #fastdayideas, she has 14,500 followers.
“The hashtag became this clear picture, as you’d start seeing that some people were like- ‘oh, I was really hungry and I had two slices of toast and that was it.’ You can eat bread on a fast day if you want to, but as far as I’m concerned it’s such a waste of your calories, it’s so calorific but you don’t get much bang for your buck.”
So what tips would she give to anyone trying the diet?
“Definitely cook from scratch. Absolutely. Because the thing is, if you do that you’re learning about why things are calorific or not. For example, in one tablespoon of oil, there’s the same amount of calories as in, like, a whole packet of prawns from Marks and Spencer and all of the stir fry veg.”
“This word wellness means nothing. It’s basically people beating themselves up with so many rules in what they should and shouldn’t be eating”
She also suggests getting organised, using the freezer, batch cooking when you can, and buying digital scales and measuring spoons makes the diet easier and more accurate.
Elly has been working in food since she was 17, when she gained a job working front of house for a restaurant in Cambridge.
“I’ve worked in food and I’ve cooked professionally for over 10 years. It’s where I feel most at home, it’s what I’m good at and what I enjoy. There’s nothing else that I want to do.’”
Her experience in the industry has made her pretty sceptical about recent wellness trends and food bloggers – many of whom have few qualifications and make bold claims about food.
“This word wellness means nothing. It’s basically people beating themselves up with so many rules in what they should and shouldn’t be eating, and making themselves miserable.
“If you want to read more about this then look at Hadley Freeman’s article for The Guardian, she wrote a really amazing expose about the wellness industry. It is an article that needed to be written, and she wrote it brilliantly.”
Elly is a big fan of the food Bristol has to offer, and admits that Bell’s Diner, conveniently close to where she lives in Montpelier, is her favourite place to eat out. “It is absolutely my favourite, I go there a lot! It has a Spanishy, North Africany sort of vibe, with really seasonal, beautiful produce. It’s heaven.”
Original piece written during my two weeks at Bristol 247: http://www.bristol247.com/channel/food-drink/news/food/fast-days-and-feast-days