AIDA AUSTIN: "I bet you couldn't even do a day of the 5:2 diet"

MONDAY night, and I’ve been summoned down from the cabin. It is dinner time and my husband has cooked.

I walk down the field and open the front door with heavy tread, for I already know what’s lying in wait on my plate.

My husband became a fan of salmon back in 2013, discovering it by way of the 5:2 diet, but became its greatest fan two weeks back, when he rediscovered the 5:2.

My familiarity with this fish, however, has only bred contempt.

But as someone who raised a family on the dictum, “this is not a hotel and there isn’t a menu” and recently refused to cook any 5:2-compliant meals, I can hardly complain.

“Why don’t you join me on the 5:2?” my husband says.

“I already am,” I say, lancing a chunk of salmon with my fork.

“It would be good for you,” he says.

“I’ve never had a wonky relationship with food,” I say “and I’m not about to start having one now. Besides, I’m not overweight.”

“Neither am I,” he says. 

“The 5:2 isn’t just about weight, it’s about healthy eating. Your diet could do with a clean-up,” he continues. 

“You definitely don’t eat enough greens.”

“Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent, ” I say.

“What’s that?” he says.

“A quote from Epictetus.”

“You read too much,” he says crossly.

“Not Greek philosophy,” I say, “I looked up diet quotes. I wanted to find something short and sharp I could say every time you talked about the 5:2. It has a fantastic ring to it.”

“I bet you couldn’t even do a day of the 5:2,” he says.

“Of course I could,” I scoff.

“It’s harder than it looks you know.” I look at my salmon. “Oh I can do ‘hard’, ” I say.

Tuesday 8.30am: My husband is eating porridge with no-fat milk. I’ve never been good at eating first thing in the morning so I am having my usual two cups of tea.

“You have to restrict your calorie intake for two days in a row,” he says. 

“You’re allowed 500 calories per day, I’m allowed 600. It makes sense if we do the same two hungry days together. 

"I’m on day two now, so just for this week, you can do your day one with my day two, then you’ll have to do your day two tomorrow, while I’m on a normal day.” 

“Too easy,” I scoff.

Tuesday 2pm: I am about to eat a toasted manchego, tomato, and mayonnaise sandwich, when I suddenly remember that I am on the 5:2. 

It’s Sophie’s choice: I am forced to decide between saying goodbye to either the manchego or the toast. 

Strictly speaking, it ought to be both: I’ve already wolfed half a jar of pickled beetroot while waiting for the toast to do.

4pm: My relationship with food is now wonky.

5pm: I’ve made dinner: Chicken breast, cabbage, and couscous, which I am ladling onto plates by the cooker.

“What did you eat today then?” my husband says.

“Half a millimetre of manchego cheese, one tomato, and two slices of pickled beetroot. I feel absolutely GREAT.” 

“Beetroot’s got a lot of sugar in it,” he says, “maybe you should leave off the couscous.” 

I remove couscous from my plate. Airily. And not a bit as if I feel like clubbing a seal to death at all. My back is to the table, where my husband sits. I wonder if I can tip a ladle of couscous into my mouth without him noticing.

“Feeling the pain?” he says.

“Gnok ack al,” I say, clutching the front of the cooker hard. “Too easy eh?” he says.

“Phoo weasy,” I say, bent over the sink, trying to find a way to disguise the fact that I am choking to death on couscous. “Day two tomorrow,” he says.

“Noo can nuck a fife foooo.”

Translation: “yYu can f*** the 5:2.”


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