How to 5:2 your life (with thanks to Nigella)

From exercise to shopping, here's all the ways we can embrace a slimmed-down way of thinking post-lockdown

Nigella Lawson is going on the '5:2' diet - but with her social life 
Nigella Lawson is going on the '5:2' diet - but with her social life  Credit: Charles Birchmore/ BBC

Nigella, you may have seen, has hit on something we’ve all been feeling to a greater or lesser degree: a certain reluctance to see people. “I’m going on a diet, the 5:2,” she wrote, “only with people, rather than food.” For the time being she’ll meet up with friends twice a week, and keep to herself for the other five days, because that feels manageable after the social drought of the past few months.

Lockdown deprived us of our friends, dinners, parties, meeting up for coffee and lunch, everything that makes life fun. But now that we are free to socialise (subject to the rules) it’s a bit like that old Smack The Pony sketch when the married lovers discover they are, after all, both available, and instantly lose all interest.

We’re just not as enthusiastic as we thought we’d be. We love our chums. We long to see them face to face. But we also don’t want to go back to the old routines: the dinner that doesn’t kick off until 9pm with the 30-minute drive at either end. The Friday night party with the weird ‘welcome’ cocktail that floors you for the rest of the weekend.

During lockdown we’ve discovered the benefits of a slower pace. We don’t want to rush around any more (imagine running for a cab to get to the next place faster; it’s suddenly quite hard to picture). We’re less greedy, more discriminating, happier to make do with less. And this slimmed down, 5:2 way of thinking doesn’t just apply to our social lives. We’re going 5:2 in lots of different ways:


Before the lockdown shopping was – we see with hindsight – a compulsion bordering on madness. Not a day went by that we didn’t find an excuse to nip to the bookshop, the posh vegetable shop, or Zara. Every other week we’d buy a really useful top, a moleskin notebook, maybe a silicone poached egg nest. During lockdown plenty of shopping was done, and some of it was quite mad (my friend ordered a calligraphy set) but the point is we worked our way through it, and now you couldn’t pay us to shop, unless it’s an early visit to an airy garden centre. In the 5:2 scheme we will shop two times a week, one of those online, and the other five days we won’t even think about it.

TV watching

Very much a 5:5 habit during lockdown (the whole period has felt like a long haul flight with twice as many meals as normal, a lot of disturbed sleep, the occasional jag of ‘This Is It’ anxiety, and back-to-back films). Honestly, there is nothing left that we haven’t seen, with the possible exception of Will Ferrell’s new Eurovision Song Contest comedy (which we started and will not be finishing). Henceforth it’s Monday nights (Talking Heads) and one other, maybe Sunday. Plenty.


Doing this the other way around: 2 off, 5 on. Because we have got used to doing a bit more and must not stop now as we’re also used to full-fat Greek yoghurt for breakfast (new thing).


At the start of all this we predicted we’d never return to texting instead of calling, and when we called it would always be FaceTime. Not the case. Zoom burnout has put paid to all that and we’re almost back to where we started, which is 5: 2 rules. Two calls for every five texts… that’s if you’re lucky.

Forward planning

At this point, pre-Covid, we’d have started thinking about the big birthday in November, and Christmas. Now we’re all in the “let’s see nearer the time” camp. For every 5 plans you would have made in 2019 you’re making 2 in 2020 and you’re making those weeks, not months, ahead. This is 5:2 living at its finest. Nothing has to be perfect, we’ll take it as it comes. Long may it continue.