First I’ve got no medical training on diets and unless it works for a few others all I can say is it worked for me but no guaranties. But who are we kidding about the benefit of “medical training” on diet when we’ve regularly seen “medical advice” that turns out to be junk a few years later.
The key ingredient to any diet is to eat fewer calories than you burn through exercise. So obviously exercise is an important part of losing weight, because if you’re not doing exercise then you’re not burning the calories. However, whilst I went swimming for an hour at the weekend, I’ve hardly been out of my chair on other days.
However, the issue most people face is this: we eat more calories than we need.
But why? After all, there’s no evolutionary advantage to being fat and unfit! So why do many people still feel hungry after they have eaten more calories than they need? I’ve come to the conclusion that a large part of the reason stems from three things:
That many foods make us hungry. The really bad ones are sugary foods, particularly those with glucose and fructose (which I personally think should be outlawed or classed as drugs). This is because the small glucose & fructose molecules are extremely quick to pass through the wall of the gut and enter the blood, where they give a “sugar high” … the body then struggles to cope with the dangerous level of sugar and pumps out insulin which almost as quickly soaks up all the sugar then leaving us in a few hours, with a “sugar low” – and we get “the munchies” … the uncontrollable urge to eat more. And if that “more” is another sugary drink with glucose fructose – the roller-coaster starts again.
Despite apparently eating vast amounts of calories, we in the west are actually eating too little food. The problem is that our bodies evolved for a very active life-style, one in which we would consume vastly more calories than we do today. But the nutritional balance of food has not changed much (in some ways due to quick-grow foods it is worse) and the result is that when we consume the right number of calories to maintain a healthy weight, we are literally starving – because enough food in terms of calories is not enough food in terms of nutrients. And that is made much worse when we eat low nutrition foods because we then eat enormous numbers of calories to get the needed nutrients.
Some meat products are stuffed full with growth hormones (and anti-biotics) and whilst they make the birds and animals grow quickly, when these leak through into our bodies they will have the same effect on us (have you never wondered why kids are growing taller these days!)
Principles of dieting
All dieting (without a massive change in exercise) involves in some way eating less food. And there are two approaches to this. The first is to cut down on portion size or cut out meals, the second is to simply cut out something from our normal diet.
However, most people fail with diets and I think the reason is simple: they go from a situation where they barely consume enough nutrients that they are nutritionally starving, to one where through shear willpower they manage to deprive themselves of food (and nutrients) and then end up losing some weight but end up out of some essential nutrients so their body is then screaming at them to go on a binge to somehow get those essential nutrients.
So the key ingredient to success, is not so much cutting back on food, but cutting back on those foods with many calories and little nutritional value. That particularly means those processed high sugar foods with almost zero nutritional value we call “sweets”. It also seems to mean “starchy” or white carbs. It also means topping up our vitamin and mineral levels.
However, don’t be fooled by “vitamin books”. Food is far more complex than the vitamins we (currently) know about. Because our knowledge of vitamins and minerals is limited to those without which we either die or become so seriously ill so it’s obvious to even the most gormless medics that it’s not a normal illness – and they finally start investigating and find a nutrient deficiency. But unless it is really obvious, it must mean that many important ingredients to our diet whose lack does not immediately manifest itself as serious illness or death remain unknown. So, a broad spread vitamin and mineral supplement helps provide essential nutrients, but it’s stupid to think that we could eat a crap diet of sweets and low-nutrient junk food and expect supplements to restore our nutritional balance.
How to cut back
The way most diets that have become popular work, is by instigating some rule which ends up with us eating fewer calories. That rule could be as simple as not eating before a set time, or of never eating meat and vegetables at the same meal. It could involve liquidising the food to make it bland, or similarly no salt. It may simply be the elimination of all snacks between meals or of sugary drinks or alcohol. But any rule that is easy to follow and reduces calorie intake (whilst not decreasing exercise) will (should?) result in weight loss.
However, as I said above, if that diet cuts back on essential nutrients, whilst many diets will work in the sense of reducing calorie intake, they may also be starving us of essential nutrients so that whilst we have the will-power we can resist eating, but if we continue long enough, eventually our bodies will be screaming out for nutrients and if the food we eat is calorie rich and nutrient poor – our bodies will force us to eat a lot of calories to bring our nutrient levels back up. [It seems from my experience that some fatty foods people often cut out in diets must contain essential nutrients without which our body screams for us to eat and so any diet is bound to fail].
I won’t go into the background except to say that for medical reasons I was on medication called “Omeprazole” which repressed acid production when taken, but which caused me intolerable problems of “bloating” and acid reflux when I stopped taking it. It really did seem I was stuck on the tablets and I was for more than a year. Then I read various forums, trying to find a way to get off the medication (which seems to me to be being handed out like sweeties by the medical profession as happened with tranquillises and that for many people once they start they find it impossible to come off).
So, the weight loss was not the original aim. Instead, the aim – according to the articles I read and one that seemed sensible advice worth trying – was to reduce the level of carbohydrates in my gut. That would reduce the “food” available for fermentation which in turn produced the gas and bloating that caused the acid reflux which was such a problem coming off Omeprazole.
Note after about 3-4 days I did start experiencing mild indigestion. This time I was expecting this because of the “rebound” of acid levels. But it was readily fixed by one or two “Rennies” – mostly at night and only for about a week.
A possible solution
The opportunity to stop taking the tablets and try a totally new diet came when I went away for a few days [changing diet in a social setting is really hard especially if it’s experimental as this was]. Stopping taking the tablets was easy, but the new diet seemed crazy. Indeed, I’d already bought the food I was going to eat (when camping) before I read about the low-carb diet. It was mostly packets of dried past meals which were entirely inappropriate for the diets.
So, I had to buy the food on the day, so the first few days I lived off salamis, various cheeses, smoked salmon, fried eggs & bacon, nuts and lettuce. Yes, I knew a lot of these were supposedly filled with calories – and I could do with losing a few 10s of pounds, but the original idea was to try to get over the period of a few weeks when coming off Omeprazole was a problem. In any case, I would be standing up all day (with modest walking), so I could afford a few extra calories that week and weight wasn’t the main reason for the diet.
When I came home I then admitted I had gone on the diet – which showed another big issue: much of my eating was socially induced. For example, I find that when my wife was away I could easily skip lunches entirely, but when I was with her, I found that she encouraged me to eat a large meal. And it was even worse when she cooked.
This is one of the big advantages of the “no carb” diet, because it’s really obvious to family that you can’t eat a lot of foods like chips, pastas, rice, bread, pastry, cakes, etc. which are high in calories and low in nutrition. Yes they were a bit surprised and I got a few comments. But as most of the time, chips/potatoes or pasta/rice is something served separately. So, most meals can be the same … the only difference is that you feel you want to find something to fill up the hole left on the plate.
But before I realised that, the first few days I’d cook Mushroom Omelets served on a plate full of salad, whilst the rest of the family had some high carb dish like piza, but eventually I worked out that rather than endlessly eating vast quantities of lettuce, the easiest thing (at least in terms of space in the fridge) was just to have coleslaw (sliced cabbage, salad cream or mayonnaise, perhaps with nuts and/or carrots or other fruits) or for a meal like curry to have mashed cauliflower as the base instead of rice (I don’t rate cauliflower as a veg on its own … but I can’t taste it with curries or chinese so it’s an excellent replacement for rice).
The strange thing is that I really don’t miss the things I’m cutting out. I don’t miss potatoes, for me rice and pasta was a flavourless base on which to put the best bits of the meal. I now realise that they were just “fillers” … fillers for the plate, fillers for active kids and fillers for my weight.
Indeed, if truth be told, I’m quite enjoying the diet as I often eating smoked salmon, lovely cheeses and strawberries … and despite eating these gorgeous foods, I’m slowly losing weight. Let’s put it this way – my wife gave me an enormous box of chocolates as a present – and I’ve still lost weight eating them! OK, I didn’t lose it as quickly whilst eating the chocolates – but in the past I’d definitely have added a few pounds.
Breakfast was a struggle. At first I started with eggs, boiled, fried, etc. but it got to be too much of a hassle. Then I started eating yoghurt. I thought that would mean I was desperately hungry by lunch – but apparently not (especially since I can nibble on anything without carbs). I thought I’d have food cravings but I still have four bags of unopened nuts which I nibble when I’m hungry bought a week ago.
Do Carbs have any nutritional value?
The question I keep wondering is do carbohydrates have any real nutritional value, and if not, and if as it appears, you don’t get hunger pangs if you stop eating them, why do we eat so much? [I keep meaning to check if there might be some B vitamins that only come from wheat]
Is it really “no carbs”
Strictly the diet is reduced sugar (but if at all possible zero glucose, fructose) except when taken as fruit or yoghurt (but read the label as some are no better than sweets), alcohol “only” at weekends and then not to excess, but I’m pretty strict and not having any of the typically “white” starching foods like potatoes, rice, pasta, pastry, bread, any pastry, biscuits & cereal. And yes, there are so called “brown” versions of these starchy foods, but what counts is the starch so whether brown or white or purple, they’re off the menu. It also means no cake or biscuits – but that’s more than made up for by as much smoked salmon or prawns as I like!
The only exceptions I might add are small quantities such as “breaded fish” (but if you are prone to acid reflux at night, then you should totally avoid all the above starchy foods in the evening. Oats are not as bad as other starchy foods, so they could be consumed in moderation (a special rule to allow haggis which is meat with oatmeal!! – but avoid late at night) In theory all root vegetables should be off the list as they store starch, but I do eat raw carrots in moderation in coleslaw. The reason for this is that it makes the food look attractive – and anything to help make raw cabbage palatable is a bonus. If you don’t like coleslaw, then perhaps peppers or cucumber. But you’re got to stop thinking about eating small amounts. Instead I eat half a cucumber at a go, a whole (small) lettuce a bag of salad.
Cereals were the oddest change. I’d grown up with the idea I had to eat cereal. I tried eating a boiled egg instead, but instead I’m now eating a fruity Yoghurt. And now I look back … I wonder whether I’ve spent all my life under the spell of the wheat industry propaganda?
In a sense, all the diet is doing, is replacing the starchy “filler” carbs that traditionally go with each of our meals with a largely leafy vegetable or salad alternative. Cauliflower works well where a food (like curry) needs a warm “foundation”, but otherwise cold salads and coleslaw have replaced the staples of potatoes and pasta. Indeed, I will sometimes just put one of the small lettuces on my plate and eat it like an apple.
And in place of sandwiches – I now consume salami type sausages, smoked Salmon, Gorgeous cheese, and salads. Indeed … I often now eat one of the small lettuce as a snack on its own.
Is it really the diet?
The only note of caution is the placebo effect! I started by saying any arbitrary rule that prevents us eating some foods will naturally cause us to lose weight … at least until we work out ways to increase our calorie intake whilst still abiding to the “rule” (e.g. making a special exception for chocolates).
So, it is quite possible that the reason I’ve been losing weight and not feeling hungry is that I’ve cut out some foods, I’m regularly weighing myself and as a result I’m just being more careful over what I eat and it is that alone that is causing the weight loss.
- Just under
78pound loss in a little over a month
- Well over an inch off my belt
- Except for one night (which was more like eating something “off”), there has been no general acid reflux.
- After the first week(s) when I took rennies whenever I felt uncomfortable I’ve been off all drugs (except alcohol & chocolates).
- As a family we almost never eat traditional “puddings” except some fruits (often from the garden) and occasionally “proper” ice-cream (made with cream – because that has real nutrients)
- We don’t eat margarine – because butter has nutrients and margarine does not
- We have plenty of NO-GLUCOSE-FRUCTOSE FULL SUGAR diluting fruit drinks. This may sound odd for a diet – but first we dilute about 10:1 and not the crazy 5:1 they suggest. And secondly (as I explain below) it’s the only way to get out of the vicious ever increasing sweetness of foods. Because whilst manufacturers can make juice super sweet by masses of artificial sweeteners – they can’t do the same with real sugar. Too much sugar and the fruit juice literally turns into jam. It is just physically impossible for the manufacturers to add more than a certain level of sugar.
Added Advice: Train yourself out of “SUPER-SWEET” and
AVOID LOW-CALORIE FOODS AND DRINKS.
Many years ago, I realised that if I ate a lot of sweet things, that anything “normally” sweet became tasteless. Eating sweet things was a vicious cycle: because once you started eating a lot of sweet things, normally sweet things just don’t taste good enough and the only things that will then sate your palate for “sweet” was super-sweet foods.
Indeed, if you really want the ultimate luxury food – just go a couple of months totally avoiding anything sweet – and then that first mouthful of something “ordinary sweet” is the sweetest nectar that anyone can experience.
So, for most of my life, I’ve not dieted at all because I trained myself out of “sweet”. But one of the massive problems here is the use of artificial sweeteners which now seem to be in many food stuffs – and there is really no effective limit to how sweet they can make food. The result is that food is becoming sweeter and sweeter and … when you do eat food with real calorie rich sugar in, you’re now so desensitised to it that you need masses and masses of sugar to get the same “hit” of sweetness and so you’ll start putting on the pounds whenever you eat anything with real sugar.
So to diet you should: AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. That’s right! Avoid “Diet” foods, because almost invariably, they may be low calorie – but they make up for it by being super sweet. That trains your tongue to grave super sweet foods, that becomes a vicious cycle meaning you will never be satisfied with food that is just “ordinary” (i.e. low calorie) again.
Ways manufacturers pass off sugar in foods as “healthy”.
One of the tricks of food manufacturers these days is to keep pumping up the sweetness levels of our food – and thereby directly and indirectly our calorie intake (as we become habituated to sweet foods). So as a consumer, you’ve now got to be very careful to regularly check the labelling, not only to avoid the potential killers of added** Glucose & fructose but also of the level of sugars in many things that we might think are “safe”.
That means many foods we once thought of as “healthy” like yoghurts are now potential killers by increasing our sweet tooth which in turn leads directly or indirectly to higher sugar intake and diabetes and also to higher calorie intake and the problems of being overweight:-
- Many yogurts and related “drinks” are little better than eating chocolate bars because they contain masses of sugar (and no doubt there will also be artificial sweeteners).
- Through constant breeding and no doubt various other tricks, even ordinary fruit is becoming more and more sweet – some “fruits” are now so sweet that they are literally like eating sweets. And even if they aren’t already, eventually they will be so loaded with calories that they’ll be little better than eating chocolate bars.
- Most fruit juices – are just a way of concentrating sugar – whilst still looking “healthy”.
- Many other foods like ham – now have large amounts of added sugar.
**Fructose is present in many fruits. But it is much less of a problem in fruit than in juices or when added to food, because it is trapped in the fruit “mush”. So it takes time to get out of the food in your stomach into your bloodstream. And so, even though fruit does contain these smaller molecular size sugars, because they are part of the fruit, when taken in reasonable amounts fruit does not produce the same “sugar hit” and so is not such a problem.
What the best way to exercise? – let your food do it for you!
As a general rule, if you are eating meats that sit around all day and get fat – they contain all the right things for them to speedily put on the pounds and so if you eat them – you’ll also speedily put on the pounds. If however, you eat food that walks around all day and takes a bit more time to grow – then because it is doing exercise – you don’t have to do as much yourself to keep the pounds off!
I’d like to say that means we can buy any “free range” food like chicken and let the chickens do the exercise for us – and that would be true a few years ago. But farmers have now bread chickens with the motivation to exercise of a fat slob. So give them an open door to the outside – and many will just sit there like the slob they’ve been bred to be. And that’s what you’ll become if you eat too much of them.
Fortunately, however, it takes longer & is more expensive to breed larger animals like cows, pigs, etc. and farmers only started keeping them in “fat slob pens” relatively recently (at least in Scotland). But the general principle applies: if the animals you eat have been exercising and eating a good diet – then they may cost more to buy because that exercise burns up the calories – but the benefit is that you won’t then pile on the pounds as quick. And that then means you’ll be able to eat more of the luxury foods that you like without pounding an exercise machine day in day out.
And finally – never trust diet advice – it’s all likely a fad
If anyone ever says “this diet works” – never believe them! OK, I’ve got good reasons to believe there are scientifically sound reasons why I’ve been losing weight – but it might also be the placebo effect – and in a few months time I might have put it all on again.
However – even if it is the placebo effect – if it worked for me it might work for you – and the only reason I’m posting this is just in case it really does work (whatever the reason) and perhaps it will help someone else.
And really finally – any sensible approach to dieting must include regular exercise. However, the problem with losing weight by enhanced levels of exercise is that if we go on a special regime to lose weight – we’ll put it back on when we stop. So yes – aim for example to walk one or two miles a day at a fast pace (which I’ve not done today – so yes I’m a hypocrite) – but even if I had the motivation to do six hours intensive exercise to lose weight – without tackling the underlying issues of nutrient starvation and excessive calorie intake for “normal” life – it will just pile back on. Indeed, by getting used to large meals whilst exercising – it could make it far more difficult to cut down the calories when the motivation for enhanced levels of exercise disappears.
Before I forget Warning! – YOU MUST DRINK MORE WATER!
I forgot to mention that when I started on the diet I began eating a lot more protein and consequently I needed to drink much more water than usual to retain a “healthy colour” of Urine.
I didn’t start the diet to lose weight, indeed given the enormous box of chocolates and the amount of food I love (prawns, rich cheese, smoked salmon, nuts, salamis) I wouldn’t have expected to lose weight. But I have and I’ve done so without feeling hungry as I have on the few previous attempts to lose weight. And instead of giving up the really nice food because they are high in fats like nuts, salamis and cheeses, if anything I’m now eating more of them. Nor have I significantly increased exercise.
The reason I think this is working as a weight loss program, is because I am eating those fats. And it’s my belief that somewhere in that list of rich foods is some essential nutrient (not in the vitamin mineral tablets) without which I get massively hungry. And unless I eat it, at some point my body is so screaming for food that I go nuts and start binging.
Also the acid reflux which is why I started taking Omeprazole has gone. Indeed, perversely I’m now starting to eat a lot of things I’ve previously avoided like some onions.
It’s also pretty easy to for example swap potatoes for coleslaw, rice for mashed cauliflower.
The other thing I’m noticing is that food now tastes better. I’ve not been cutting down the sugar – but without the starchy foods – things now taste sweeter.
Downsides: I’ve got an unworn pair of extra large trousers. I’m regretting throwing away my old belt because I’ve now run out of holes. I’ve got a bag of old clothes I nearly threw away (but hid) which I will now be able to wear again (much to my wife’s disgust given their age). And I keep thinking that someone’s turned down the gravity level. I’ve also been eating so many of my favourite foods – that I’m a little sick of them now.
Plans: It all really depends what my body tells me it wants. I cut out almost all the starchy carbs without really feeling hungry – and filled the “bulk” with masses of lettuce and cabbage cucumber etc. I’ve been eating more food that I like without feeling guilty. I’m a little concerned there may be something vital like a vitamin in the starchy foods, so I’m keeping up the full-range vitamin-mineral supplements (almost) daily & trying to eat fruit (though unlike previous diets – I’m not grabbing something every time I pass but instead I’m having to remember to eat fruit).
This all seems to fit my idea that by eating the fatty foods instead of carbs I’m getting a far better nutritional balance which is staving off hunger.
My expectation is that if I lose enough weight (or I do a lot of exercise), that sooner or later the temptation to eat starchy carbs will go beyond control and I’m hoping that then by eating “starchy carbs” sensibly I will stabilise my weight to something sustainable.