Red Lentil Dal 2

Never do the grocery shopping when you’re hungry. It’s a golden rule, an axiom, a given.

I was very hungry this afternoon when I grabbed a trolley to navigate the aisles at my local supermarket. At 2pm the only food I’d ingested all day was a milky espresso, and even that was an indulgence.

Famine day

I’m observing the 5:2 approach to eating at the moment, pending the return of a more modest waistline.

There are disturbing new humps and bumps altering my profile lately.

Fatty deposits have inverted my once pear-shaped rear into a saggy, top-heavy apple and a dimpled flesh-scape now cascades from my shoulders to elbows.

This body may be on the wrong side of childbirth but it’s too soon for long sleeves and a caftan. There’s a closet full of beautiful clothes upstairs and I want to wear them.

The rules

The 5:2 feast and famine pattern restricts me to 500 calories for two days while allowing me to eat with abandon on the other five.

I’ve followed it before and achieved a healthy weight for the first time since I started working in an office 25 years ago.

A disciplined eating plan gave me more energy, better skin and and an almost-pert bum for over a year.

But I got cocky and distracted and began to write, spending more time sitting down and less time planning healthy meals, and the fat is back.


Since climbing back on the bandwagon three weeks ago the famine days have been easy to navigate. In fact, I almost welcome them.

Being hungry is such an unusual state for me.

At worst mildly distracting, generally an empty stomach brings with it a mental lightness and increased focus. There’s something cathartic about letting go of food, of not being bound by mealtime rhythms.

I’ve had to research the calorie content of different foods and I plan meals on Mondays and Thursdays thoughtfully, but otherwise fasting doesn’t interfere with my day.

Shop with a plan

As for the flat white coffee I made myself at midday, that was a bad choice. I shouldn’t have wasted calories on something so insubstantial.

But I did yoga this morning and the cafe next door taunted me with its grinder and steamer, its fresh coffee aroma assaulting senses heightened through pranayama.

I was tired, too, after another late night tinkering.

So I shopped with a caffeine buzz but no list.

Instead I wandered aimlessly past tables piled high with hot cross buns and easter chocolates, dodging frozen chips and ice-cream and mini dim sims and ignoring the deli with its soft cheeses and salamis before stopping, giddy, to consult Safari.


Tempted to type “what can I eat for 400 calories?”, instead I managed the question “lentils recipe?”.

I credit the coffee for this inspired interrogation.

From across the equator, Nigella Lawson and the New York Times rescued me with a recipe for a low-cal, high-flavour, immensely satisfying dal.

Tonight, after throwing together a sloppy one-dish, vegetable and pre-cooked-chook mess for the family, I made a pile of curried pulses for me.

So even if your bottom is still a lovely shape, or you don’t care what fruit you resemble, consider this fast-day supper as an alternative to the standard mid-week pasta. Here’s the recipe. Enjoy.

Angela Bensted Bw 1x1
Angela Bensted is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.
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