Thursday, October 22, 2009

Miracle Diet

OK, here's how to lose weight, cheer up, and enjoy your food much more than you usually do. It takes very little willpower as far as I can tell, once you understand the reasons for it.

I worked this out on my own by weaving together a vast skein of half-understood pseudo-facts and crank diets. There's no evidence to support it. It's probably wrong.

I have conducted a single poorly designed experiment on myself over a period of two years and it works a treat for me.

Here we are:

I.  Stop buying processed food.
II. Grains and potatoes count as processed foods.
III. So do sugary drinks.
IV. Fruit juice is a sugary drink.

That's about it.

Or, expressed more positively:

Eat lots of vegetables, lots of fruit, and lots of meat.
Prepare them however you like.
High-fat things like sausages, olive oil and grated cheese are fine in small quantities, but don't make them the main substance of meals.

Every time you consider the purchase of a piece of food, ask yourself "Could my distant pre-farming ancestors have found this anywhere in the quantities I'm about to eat it?"

If the answer's no, don't buy it.

You might think this is a bit extreme! I'm telling you to abstain from almost everything. Actually no. You are still allowed to eat almost everything that human beings and their ancestors have eaten right up until the invention of agriculture.
That's absolutely stacks of stuff. We are omnivores. (Everything-eaters.) The reason that it looks as though everything's off limits is because we have almost completely replaced our natural diet with a very few things we can farm, namely wheat, rice, potatoes and sugar.

We eat a monotonous diet of bland, tasteless pap which needs to be artificially flavoured before we can eat it.

Imagine what a sandwich would be like without the filling. A pizza without its toppings? Chips (french fries) without salt and vinegar?

And have you ever seen what factory made food looks like before they add the stuff that makes it edible? You need a list of flavourings and colourings as long as your arm to make it into something you'd put in your mouth voluntarily.

Once you stop eating this slurry, you'll realise that there are lots and lots of other things to eat, all of which have their own interesting flavours. Don't get me wrong. I love chips (french fries) as much as the next man. But I wouldn't go back to eating my monotonous old diet even if it was conclusively demonstrated that the new stuff was killing me and you were offering me money as well.

You don't have to be a freak about it. You don't have to stop eating in restaurants or with your friends. You don't have to be ungrateful to your Mother when she makes you your favourite pasta and baked potato rice pudding with sugar and puts a glass of fruit juice and coke next to it.

This stuff isn't poison! Just be careful with it. A mild heroin or cocaine habit won't do you any real harm. It's only when you start taking the stuff every day that you start to collapse.

Actually you can break these rules all the time once you're sensitive to what's going on. Understanding the "theory" behind them is a much better guide to what you should do.

But if you ain't into all that thinkin' stuff and just want another miracle diet to try out my four-rules-which-are-really-one-rule above are pretty good.

You should learn to be aware of what happens when you eat these things:

The processed foods (including potatoes and grains) divide into:

1. Large amounts of fast carbohydrates:

    They taste bland and need to be flavoured.
    They are really filling.
    Shortly after you eat them you feel really tired.
    Once the tiredness clears, you are hungry again.

Bad effects
    They will cause mood swings and tired-all-the-time
    They will make you fat
    They will give you diabetes

Examples: Rice, Potatoes, Bread, Pasta, Breakfast Cereals.

2. Sugary Drinks (Including Fruit Juice!!)

In large quantities, see above.
In small quantities, the problem with these things is that they provide extra calories without taking up any space in your stomach.

3. High Fat Products

Things like vegetable oils (including olive oil), cheese, sausages.

I don't have a specific problem with these, but you probably shouldn't eat big stacks of them, just because they contain very great quantities of calories, and it's not at all clear that your body knows how to react to a diet unnaturally high in fats any more than to one unnaturally high in carbs.

But using olive oil to stir fry vegetables, or putting it in a curry, or adding bits of cheese to a salad, or having a couple of sausages with something else is probably perfectly ok.

Just don't do what I used to do when I rowed a lot, and eat a whole pack of sausages at once, or a block of cheese for lunch, or drink olive oil out of the bottle.

Or, for that matter, down an entire two-litre bottle of full fat milk over the course of the morning.

Dairy products probably need a separate section.

Milk is definitely a recent, unnatural food. And there are plenty of people in the world who just can't metabolize it at all. But we in the West seem to have dealt with milk pretty well, by extending the infant mammal's ability to use milk into adulthood. It may have bad effects still, but on the other hand, it may not.

Use it in tea, use the real stuff rather than the nasty skimmed variety, but don't go mad with it. It's calories without substance.

4. Unnatural Fat Products

These are things like margarine, or any sort of spread that doesn't call itself butter.

Stuff like this is contained in just about anything you can buy that has a complicated list of ingredients.

They're basically vegetable oils that have been made into room temperature solids in fiendish chemical reactions. They're absolutely bloody everywhere.

As far as weight gain goes, see the section on fats above.

However there's increasing evidence that the old distinction between 'good' unsaturated fats and 'bad' saturated fats is completely bogus, and the killers are these semi-saturated trans-fats.

Given the chaos that the artificial high-GI carbs cause in our metabolism, I can completely buy the idea that these completely new things do something terrible too.

But that may just be me being superstitious.

2a. Beer.

Hmmm...... You probably don't want to drink too much beer if you're serious about losing weight. It's got calories but no nutritional value and it's not filling.

I don't think the GI is that high. But it's proverbially true that beer leads to more beer and more beer leads to eating even though you weren't hungry. And if that's not a recipe for overweight, what is?

But there are limits right? I love beer. Who wants to sit in and read improving books on a Friday night? I'd rather have friends and be fat than be thin and lonely any day.

Luckily kebabs are about as healthy as you can get. Lots of lovely lean lamb meat and vegetables. The only bad bit is the pitta bread. But there's not much of that. And curries themselves are fine, even though many of the extras are the devil incarnate.

But careful now! No drunken pizzas.


  1. John, no matter how much you rowed I just can't see you sucking on a bottle of olive oil.

  2. That's actually the literal truth! I like the stuff. More commonly though, I'd pour it on a plate with balsamic vinegar and dip chunks of bread in it.