If you want to weigh less, you’ll notice that encouragement to go on a diet can be found everywhere – TV, magazines, banners, endless adverts for food products. Here’s a reminder of why dieting is only a good idea if you’re intent on eventually weighing more after a short-term loss.
The people who say, “Eat less, exercise more” will tell you diets must work because of the law of thermodynamics. Energy in equals energy out. As a scientist I know the law is true and very useful for engines in a stable state. As a nutrition coach I know that it’s not useful as an approach to weight loss. Your body is not an engine in a stable state, it’s wonderfully responsive and designed to keep you alive in times of food shortage. It will hang onto all the fat it can, but break down lean tissue and shut down your metabolism to eke out the little food it’s getting. Have you ever heard that a pound of fat contains about 3500kCal, so you can lose a pound of fat a week by reducing your calorie intake by 500 kCal a day? No. When you restrict your energy intake you end up with less energy. That doesn’t feel good.
Way back in 1917, an experiment showed that calorie controlled diets have this weight loss / weight gain effect. It isn’t your fault – the diet does it. Later experiments confirmed the result and the diet industry has been cashing in on the cycle ever since. Deprivation will almost always (98%) lead to you weighing more in the long term. Jon Gabriel was on the dieting roller coaster gaining more each time until he reached almost 30st and realised he had try something different. He decided to concentrate on nourishing his body and lost nearly 16st without dieting. You can read his story here. Now he’s one of the world’s nutrition heros. Check out this delicious ‘pizza’.
I was delighted to see the sugar tax announced in the budget. Official acknowledgement of the problem is a welcome step in the right direction. Manufacturers love sugar; every one of the 10 thousand taste buds in your tongue and palate, has special receptors for sweetness soit’s very ‘moreish’ (addictive). They won‘t want to lose their huge profits so they’ll do everything they can to convince us tokeep buying. Hopefully a higher price will push people towards water instead.
What happens when we consume sugar? Sucrose is a 2 part molecule made of glucose and fructose. 80% of the glucose part will be distributed round your body to be used for energy. If your body isn’t using energy, insulin mops up the glucose to store it as fat. The other 20% goes to your liver to be safely stored as glycogen. 100% of the fructose goes to your liver, the only organ that can process it, where it will mostly be turned into fat. When you eat whole fruit, the fibre changes the way the fructose is metabolised.So glucose without exercise is a problem butfructose without fibre is worse.
That’s why I’m disappointed that fruit juice drinks are exempt from the tax. Bought juice doesn’t contain as much goodness as you’d hope but has loads of fructose(one glass might = four fruits).
Eating a couple of pieces of whole fruit a day is fine.
Might we seeincreased use of artificial sweeteners? People mistakenly believe that low-cal drinks help weight loss but they don’t. When we eat sugar, our brain recognises the sweet taste and our body gets ready to store fat. When we eat artificial sweeteners, our body expects sugar and gets ready to store fat. When the sugar doesn’t arrive, our brain is confused and we get cravings to eat something. So we take in more food and we mess up the delicate signalling system our body uses to tell us when to stop eating.
For more on the science and the history of how we ended up consuming so much sweet stuff, watch Robert Lustig’s ‘Sugar, The Bitter Truth‘ on YouTube.
Still from video ‘Sugar, The Bitter Truth’ Robert Lustig (the lbs refer to the weight gain from drinking one daily for a year).
Spring is nearly here and doesn’t it lift your spirits to see flowers appear? Some of you will be making preparations to grow this year’s vegetables. It’s wonderful to eat them fresh the same day you picked them when all the vitamins and enzymes are at their maximum. Not everyone has a garden or allotment but something we can all do is sprout seeds and beans on the kitchen worktop.
You’ll need some sprouting trays with slots in (buy from a health food shop or on line), thenchoose what to grow. Mung beans and green lentils are readily available in most supermarkets, very easy to sprout and only take 3 days to grow. Alfalfa seeds are my favourite but few shops stock them so I buy them on line. Then there are radish seeds which have a real flavour kick, chickpeas, broccoli seeds which are high in sulforaphane (being studied for potential cancer protective effects) and lots more.
Mung and Alfalfa
Soak your seeds/beans in a glass of water for 4-8h depending on their size. Rinse and put into your trays in an even layer about one seed/bean thick. Each morning and evening, rinse the sprouts thoroughly under running water, then tip the trays to drain away any excess so that the sprouts are not sitting in water. When they’re ready, harvest them with a fork; they’ll keep in the fridge in a container for a few days. Give your trays a thorough clean with a brush and they’re ready to start growing the next batch. (Step-by-step sprouting video under my superfood series.)
Eat sprouts raw so that you keep the goodness. They’re good on salad or with breakfast or as a snack.
At every point in history, people perceive the things they do as normal, including what they eat. Socially, we have evolved to fit in with‘what everybody does‘.In these modern times, we also align our behaviour to the images and messages with which the media constantly bombard us.
Some years ago, there was a successful advertising campaign to convince people that sugar was an aid to dieting – “eat a biscuit before lunch or an ice cream”! It seems ridiculous to us now but people bought into it then. The current trend is fat avoidance which we’ll no doubt look back on with disbelief. The sad truth is that experts in marketing can change what we think so that we’ll change what we buy.
Breakfast cereal arrived in the UK in 1900 and gained popularity in 1930 but even as recently as the 1950s and 60s, breakfast would have been cooked eggs, fish or meat. Ready meals were limited to Vesta chicken supreme with boil in the bag rice which I recall with misery cooking on a primus stove while camping but would never have eaten at home. Takeaways meant fish and chips carried home wrapped in newspaper. Nowadays people think it’s normal to order by ‘phone and have any variety of fast food delivered to their door.
What’s really normal? For millions of years we were hunter gatherers eating only meat and low-glycemic index plants. Farmingstarted around 10,000 years ago increasing consumption of grains.Intensive farming, processed food and chemical additivesburgeoned after WWII.This is the blink of an eye in human history.We have not evolved to the modern diet; our bodies still want natural meat, fish and veg.
Top tip: Eat real food – that’s what’s normal for humans.
I’ve just come across this article from Dr David Morris (NHS GP). He’s writing about dietary approaches to diabetes and insulin resistance and covers the problems with excess sugar (including starch) in the modern diet.
On the day followingKing George V’s Silver Jubilee celebrations on 6th May 1935, George Orwell took a break from writing A Clergyman’s Daughter to type a letter to his friend and one-time romantic interest, Brenda Salkeld. Amongst Orwell’s usual topics of discussion (politics, literature, and low-culture) the author outlined what he described as a “wonderful” ox-kidney stew.
Remembering his late friend, the poet Paul Potts recalled Orwell as possessing “the same atittude to bulbble and squeak as a Frenchman to Camembert. I’ll swear he valued tea and roast beef above the OM and the Nobel Prize.” Throughout his life, Orwell hada great fondness forfood and drink, and one needn’t venture too deeply into his work before emerging with evidence of this occupation. In bothDown and Out in Paris and LondonandThe Road to Wigan Pierhe noted the “appalling” diet of bread, margarine and sugared tea that the…