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Newsletter 03, December 2006

This issue of the Good Diet Good Health Newsletter includes...

  1. Christmas and New Year are coming - but what about the diet?
  2. Food allergies or sensitivities and how to avoid them
  3. Visit our newsletter archive
  4. Test your knowledge
  5. Tell us what you think
  6. Your successes, requests and questions

1) Christmas and New Year are coming - but what about the diet?

The Christmas and New Year holidays are difficult times for dieters. Those of us who need to exclude certain foods from our diets for allergy or other reasons may have no choice but to stick faithfully to our permitted foods. Those of us who are watching our weight have a choice, but for many of us, that choice often amounts to an 'all or nothing' decision. Some dieters can restrict themselves to eating 'a little of everything', but that requires a lot of willpower!

For people who are particularly sensitive to carbohydrates, just a taste of the high GI, refined carbohydrate-rich foods that abound at holiday time can send blood sugar and insulin into overdrive. This can trigger cravings for more that are almost impossible to resist. Speaking personally, that way leads to disaster!

But there is another way. We can still have our favorite foods. Most holiday recipes can be converted to low GI or low carb surprisingly easily. For instance, wheatflour can be substituted by ground almonds (almond flour) or soya flour mixed with protein powder; dried fruits can be substituted by apple or rhubarb; chocolate frosting can be made with cocoa powder and cream cheese instead of icing sugar (confectioners sugar).

Low carb and low GI versions of traditional British favorites such as trifle, chocolate log, mince pies and even Christmas Pudding can be made in this way. Recipes for these can be found in the "Low Carb / Low GI Cookbook". I especially like to make these treats at holiday time because they satisfy me without triggering the hunger and cravings I would get from eating the 'real thing' - and I don't get to feel left out or deprived, either!

And for those who decide to relax their diets slightly over the holiday period, there may be no need for the usual rush of guilt about 'breaking the diet'. When we're on weight-loss diets, we're usually made to feel that we should keep to a consistent number of calories each day. It's probably part of the self-disciplined approach that has always been seen as a necessary part of dieting (the lack of which is supposedly the cause of the dieter's weight problem).

Now, I don't buy this idea that overweight means a lack of self-discipline in any case. But there is now evidence to support the notion that such 'control' might actually hinder weight loss. Eating exactly the same number of calories each day is not physiological. Our caveman ancestors feasted when food was plentiful, and fasted when it was scarce. To be able to survive, they had to have a way of storing excess energy in their bodies. We retain this ability, although it is unfortunately not always so useful to us in these days of abundant food. So having a less regular calorie intake may actually help us to lose weight. I explain more about this in "Why Can't I Lose Weight".

2) Food allergies or sensitivities and how to avoid them

Of course, people are not always on diets to lose weight. Many people need to follow a diet which excludes a certain food or group of foods, such as sufferers of food allergy or sensitivity.

Allergy of all types is on the increase. The type of allergy that causes a serious, often life-threatening reaction in those affected, such as peanut allergy, is well known. But other types of food allergy are less well understood. Causing chronic and debilitating rather than acute, life-threatening reactions, these are often referred to as food intolerances or sensitivities.

Symptoms of food sensitivities vary from person to person and can be as diverse as headaches and migraine, fatigue, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, weight problems, inability to concentrate, Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, aggressive behaviour and depression. Food sensitivities are also thought to play a part in auto-immune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

You can suffer from a sensitivity to any food, drink, additive or chemical residue, but the foods most commonly involved in food sensitivities in westernized countries are:

  • Wheat
  • Corn (maize)
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Soya

Elimination diets based on the foods Man ate in the Stone Age are often used by allergy specialists to help identify problem foods. The foods we now eat at nearly every meal (such as highly processed wheat, corn, soya and sugar) represent a very recent change to Man's diet in evolutionary terms. Our immune systems have not yet had time to adapt, and allergy-based problems are the result. Stone Age-style diets may be prescribed for a period of six months or longer in order to give the body's immune system a chance to recover by reducing chemical additives and residues and eliminating the more commonly reactive foods.

You can reduce your risk of getting food allergies / sensitivities in three main ways:

  • Eat a wide variety of healthy foods to ensure that your intake of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, essential fats and other nutrients is optimal
  • Avoid eating any particular food repeatedly, as this carries a high risk of sensitization
  • Replace the foods which are most commonly involved in food allergies / sensitivities either partially or entirely with healthy alternatives

Being prescribed a Stone Age-style diet often means being given an 'uncommon foods' list, with little or no information on how to cook these unfamiliar ingredients or make them into palatable meals. When my husband was put on a Stone Age-style diet, I had to use all my ingenuity to fashion edible meals out of his very restricted list of permitted foods. Luckily I already had plenty of experience in using 'alternative' ingredients, and was able to develop breads and other bakery and dessert recipes that he could eat. These recipes, all free of wheat, corn (maize), soya, yeast, sugar and low in additives can now be found in the "Stone Age Diet is Easy Cookbook".

3) Visit Our Newsletter Archive

Did you miss an issue? Want to review an issue you really enjoyed? Be sure to check out our newsletter archive.

4) Test Your Knowledge

Did you know that ...

  • ... the reason so many of us feel better when we sunbathe is because we probably DO feel better! Sunbathing is thought to stimulate the release of endorphins the same chemicals that make you feel better when you do vigorous exercise.
  • ... about seventy per cent of the human body is water. Drinking enough is extremely important to keep your body functioning properly. Many people fail to drink the correct amount, which is at least 64 oz (about two litres) of water per day, plus an additional 8 oz (about 250 ml) for every 25 pounds (about 11.5 kg) over your ideal weight. During hot weather, and any physically strenuous activity, you should drink even more.

5) Tell Us What You Think

Your opinions matter to us. If there is something you particularly like or don't like about our newsletter or website, please let us know.

6) Your Successes, Requests and Questions

This is your spot. Whether it's your dietary success story, a request to cover a particular topic in a future newsletter or a question you would like answered, we would love to hear from you. Please do contact us.

Here is a question we answered recently:

  • Q Can a person go into "starvation mode" by doing so much aerobic exercise (walking or skating) that they create a negative caloric intake?
  • A "Starvation mode" makes us think that it's only about what happens in the body when calorie intake is too low. But starvation mode is really only another name for the decrease in metabolic rate that is our body's response when energy intake is not high enough to balance energy expended in growth and repair, maintenance of essential functions and daily activities.

    If we are on a slimming diet, the calorie deficit that we need to create in order to lose weight is most often created by keeping calorie intake low. But a calorie deficit can also be created by keeping calorie intake high and increasing exercise. There seems no reason in principle why the body should not go into starvation mode in the latter case if the calorie deficit is great enough, just as it would in the former case. It needs to protect itself from loss of lean tissue either way.

    One interesting point related to this is that humans are designed to be physically active and as a result it may be easier to control weight at a higher level of calorie intake. In other words, creating a calorie deficit by taking in a higher level of calories and doing a reasonable amount of exercise may be a more effective method of losing weight than simply reducing calorie intake and doing little or no exercise.

    Having said this, scientific understanding of the complex hormonal processes which govern the regulation of weight remains incomplete. The good news is that interest is growing in this area of research, and hopefully many of the questions that exist about the best way to lose weight will be clarified in the next few years.

With best wishes for your continued good health

Jackie Bushell
Founder Director, Good Diet Good

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