The obesity epidemic. You would have had to have been living under a rock not to know about it. But in the world of food blogging, it’s almost like the white elephant in the room. No one really talks about it.
While we gush over our latest favourite ice cream recipe or the simplest way to make a frittata, we remain silent when it comes to the biggest challenge that pretty much every food lover faces: How to enjoy all the delicious things that the world of has to offer AND maintain a slender waistline.
I often get asked, especially when I used to design chocolate biscuits for a living, how I manage to stay slim, given the nature of my work. Usually I just smile and shrug and tell them that I’m into running. And that seems to keep them happy. But the thing is I used to struggle with my weight, just like everybody else.
As a food lover, I’ve always found nutrition both fascinating and confusing. Even though I studied two basic nutrition subjects at university (and got distinctions in both!) I’ve struggled to understand the conflicting messages we’ve all been given over the years.
So I always have an ear out when a new diet book comes out. I’ve waded my way through Skinny Bitch, French Women Don’t Get Fat and even Atkins essentials. And I’ve always ended up disappointed. But late last year when I read The Paleo Solution and gave it a go, I felt I was heading in the right direction.
While I didn’t actually lose weight, as I blogged about last year, my waistline became a little more slender – exactly what I was hoping for. But I was missing my lentils and chickpeas and beans so I’d decided to add these back along with dairy.
Then as luck would have it, my Christmas reading included a copy of Tim Ferriss’ latest book The 4-Hour Body. After devouring the section on 15 minute female orgasms, I headed straight to the Slow-Carb Diet chapter.
Tim isn’t afraid of making big claims (his first book was called The 4-Hour Work Week). And here he promised how to lose 20 pounds (about 10kg) in 30 days, without exercise.
And the results? In the three weeks over Christmas and New Years, eating and drinking my way to Ireland and back I not only lost 1kg, my waistline decreased by 5cm (2in)! Happy days.
Since then I’ve been reading up on Gary Taubes brilliant book, Why We Get Fat. The lessons I’ve been learning from both Ferriss and Tabues are consistent with what I’ve been seeing in myself. It’s really exciting stuff and it’s working. So I’ve decided to run a class at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School to not only help you understand how you can Reclaim Your Waistline, but how you can cook yourself simple healthy meals as well.
But that’s not for a few weeks so today I wanted to share some of the key principles to get you started.
7 simple ways to enjoy your food and loose weight
1. don’t try to eat less
The whole idea of eating less and stopping before you’re full is a double edged sword. Not only does it make you more likely to binge between meals, it also causes your metabolism to slow down. Think of it as when you eat less, your body adjusts to having less food available by decreasing your metabolism, ie decreasing the amount of food it needs. Not a good idea.
Listen to your body. Eat until you are full.
2. don’t exercise to excess
Gary Taubes cites many studies on rats to prove that exercise doesn’t make us thin. But I prefer to think about my own experience. When I was training to run a marathon, I’d expected one of the side effects would be losing weight. But I didn’t. My body adjusted to me running 90km a week by giving me an enormous appetite.
While some exercise vs no exercise can help with weight loss, the benefits don’t increase the more you exercise. Our bodies adjust our appetites to suit our level of activity.
I’m not saying don’t exercise. There are a heap of other benefits. Apart from exercise being fun it’s also great for your mental health. Just don’t expect crazy amounts of exercise to make you slimmer. And by the same token, don’t beat yourself up about not exercising if you want to lose weight. It’s more important to focus on changing your diet.
3. manage your insulin
Of all the tips, this is the most important to understand.
The way Gary Tabues describes it is something like this: Imagine you have a fuel guage on a car and there’s Full on the right and Empty on the left with a needle that shows you where you’re at. Now if you imagine the fuel source in your body you replace the FULL with STORING FAT and the EMPTY with BURNING FAT. The needle can only point in one direction at a time.
When we eat carbohydrates, like bread and pasta our bodies release insulin which makes the needle point to Full (Storing Fat). This insulin is in our system means we are in fat storing mode. But when the insulin subsides, the needle shifts over to Empty (Burning Fat) and we start burning our fat cells. Yay!
So too many carbohydrates = too much insulin = fat bodies.
Of course it’s not that simple. Some people are naturally more sensitive to insulin than others. This means that for the same amount of carbohydrate, the less sensitive people produce more insulin and so spend more time in Storing Fat mode (one of the reasons why some people are more likely to put on weight). Also as we age, we become less sensitive to insulin (hello middle-aged spread).
The other complication is that not all carbohydrates cause the same amount of insulin to be produced. You may have heard of the Glycemic Index (GI). This is a measurement of how much insulin different foods stimulate in our bodies over time. In effect how fattening they are.
But GI can be difficult to understand. And it’s not fun having to look up tables all the time to see what we should and shouldn’t be eating.
Tim Ferriss’ Slow-Carb Diet approach makes the most sense to me: Rule #1 of this way of eating is to avoid all white carbohydrates and any carbohydrate that can be white. This pretty much means no grains (including whole grains), flours or sugar. He also stipulates avoiding fruit (except for tomato & avocado) because of its high fructose (sugar) content.
He does encourage lots of lentils and beans because even though they contain carbs, they are low GI due to their high protein and fibre contents. And LOTS of veggies (except for the high carb ones, sorry baby, no potatoes) which help provide us with the fibre and all the wonderful antioxidants and vitamins we need.
So to reclaim your waistline you just need to manage your carb intake. Simple. And if you’re a little freaked about the thought of no bread or pasta, skip down to point number 6. All is not lost!
4. don’t be afraid of fat
We need fat to live. Whenever we decrease fat in our diets we tend to replace it with carbohydrates which stimulate insulin production and promote the storage of fat. Don’t be afraid of saturated fat either. As Gary Taubes reports in Why We Get Fat, ‘Trials like the Women’s Health Initiative find that eating less fat and less saturated fat have no beneficial effect (at least for women)’.
5.eat eggs for breakfast
Tim Ferriss advocates making sure you eat a high protein breakfast and eggs are one of the easiest and most normal ways to do it. Lentils are also great. The main reason is that protein in the morning increases your resting metabolism by about 20%. It also decreases water retention and decreases your impulse to snack on carbs.
6. have a cheat day every week
This is one of my favourite Tim Ferriss suggestions. Nominate one day a week where you’re free to eat as much as you want of whatever you like. The main benefit here is psychological. It stops you feeling deprived and decreases the risk of bingeing randomly. It also helps give your metabolism a boost (see point 1.)
After years of always trying not to over indulge, it’s truly liberating to have a day going crazy in the name of your waistline. But even better, you feel so crap afterwards, it makes you appreciate how good you feel the rest of the week. It’s also great because every time you have a craving during the week, you can add it to the list of things to eat on your cheat day – a much better result than a permanent No.
7.drink LOTs of water
OK, so this one isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone. Water is needed to help your liver function at its best to maximise fat loss. It also helps you feel fuller.
like to learn more?
I’m going to be running a class called Reclaim Your Waistline in February over at The Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. For more information CLICK HERE.
video version of the recipe
Keen to reclaim Your waistline?
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