AIDA AUSTIN: "I think I might get an early night, cut the fasting day short"

WEDNESDAY evening, home, and it would seem my husband has just discovered the 5:2 diet. 

“It’s being promoted as the key to sustained weight loss and longevity,” he says, unwrapping two salmon fillets at furious speed.

I look at him hard. His eyes are round with marvel, and his zeal so absolutely fresh, it’s as if he’s forgotten that he’s told me this before — back in 2013, when he discovered the 5:2 diet properly, as in for the first time.

“So you’re back on that thing again,” I say, as he hacks at a cabbage chip, chop. “What thing?”

“You know what thing,” I say, “the 5:2 diet. Intermittent fasting, good for getting rid of all the things you don’t have, like high blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and extra weight.”

“Ah but this is totally different,” he says, chip, chop.

“Last time I didn’t do the two fasting days consecutively.” “Technically, this is not a discovery,” I say, “this is a rediscovery.”

“It’s supposed to protect the brain from ageing,” he says, without any sign at all of déjà vu, “it improves memory and all sorts.”

“And technically, this is not education,” I say, “this is re-education, which I don’t need because I remember it all from 2013.”

“They’re saying now, that it reboots the immune system.”

“Can you imagine,” I say, with great severity, “how annoying it would have been for the Spanish court if every time Christopher Columbus went on a voyage, he came back and tried to pretend it was his first?”

But he just hurls his cabbage into a pan. “The Spanish court would have have looked at him funny,” I continue. “But last time, I cheated a bit on the fasting days,” he says.

“That’s like Columbus saying, ‘but last voyage, I took a short-cut’.”

“It’s a different version I’m doing now,” he insists. “OK Christopher,” I say, and look at him funny.

Thursday: In the kitchen, fasting day 1. My husband is standing by the cooker, making dinner.

“It’ll be ready soon,” he says.

“Fish,” I say, sniffing, “at 4.45? I had lunch in town at 3.”

“What did you have?” he says, looking terribly, terribly sad. “Egg mayonnaise sandwiches.”

“Where?” he says accusingly.

“Scannells,” I say, “It was delicious. With the little pot of pickled cucumbers and homemade coleslaw. I was tempted by the chowder but decided it would have felt like too much of a treat for a weekday. Nice to save that for a Saturday, I think.”

He stares into a pan of water with sweet potato in it, which would boil instantly, if intense staring was an agent for such a thing.

“Stop talking about food,” he says.

9.30pm. I carry a plate into the sitting room. “What you got there?” my husband says.

“Toast, butter and Marmite,” I say. He watches me eat a few mouthfuls.

“Can you stop looking at me as if I’m eating a kitten?” I say.

“I think I might get an early night,” he says, “cut the fasting day short.”

“This is the same old 5:2,” I say, “looking at me as if I’m eating a kitten, early nights — all I’m waiting for now is for you to say…”

“Say what?” he says, as I stop abruptly. “I’ll tell you when you say it,” I say, “which you will.”

For back in 2013, I did not call it the “I’ve Only Had a F*****g Banana All Day Diet” for nothing.

“No, seriously, wait for me to say what?” he says, marching upstairs, “god, you are the most annoying person I have ever known.”

Friday, fasting day 2: My husband, two friends and I are looking at the menu in a wine bar.

Our friends order: one tea, one coffee; they are doing the “Grain Brain” diet. Like the 5:2, it is supposed to improve learning and memory function.

“So whose idea is this diet then?” I ask.

“A doctor’s,” they say, “he wrote a book. All about feeding the brain.”

“What’s his name?” I say but neither can remember. “So what you having?” I ask my husband.

“I think I’ll go for the nachos,” he says.

“Nachos?” I say, “but isn’t this fasting day two?”

“Christ,” he says, looking feverish, “Give me a break. I’ve only had a f*****g banana” all day.”


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