atkins diet

Diet – are we obsessing over it for the right reasons?

Are we a diet-obsessed population or are we just simply looking for and trying out the best ways to improve our health, our body image and our confidence?

I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks, diet-wise. With the circles of friends I move in on Facebook, mostly ladies interested in fitness, you can guarantee that the subject of diet comes up on a daily basis. In some way we are all looking for the answer to the eternal question,

“How can I look & feel better about myself?”

Although I think that is the question most people seek the answer to, having recently experienced my mum having a stroke and ending up on a ward full of people in the same predicament, being tended to by over-weight nurses who seemingly don’t make the connection between diet and stroke, I think the question that I am asking myself more and more is not the previous, somewhat superficial question but one more along the lines of,

“How can I best nourish myself so I look & feel great AND am healthy from the inside out, so I have the best chance of avoiding major illness as I age?”

A bit more of a mouthful but that’s pretty much what I’m aiming towards now.

Two weeks ago, right before my mum had a stroke, I was ‘lured’ (well, I decided to give it a try of my own accord actually!) into trying out a ‘ketogenic’ diet, which, for those who are not in the know (most people I imagine!) is said to be a type of fat-busting diet where you eat a high amount of fats and protein with minimal carbohydrates during the week then at weekends you have lots of carbs, some protein but low amounts of fat. The purpose of the alternating cycle of carbs/no carbs is to fuel your body back up and give your metabolism a kick for the next week of having virtually no carbs and therefore less readily-available energy, so the idea is that your body will have to rob its own fat stores to keep us going with. Bodybuilders use this technique to drop body fat, and the popular ‘Atkins Diet’ is based around the weekday technique of high fat, high protein, low carb to trick the body into eating up its own fat for energy, going into a state of so-called ‘ketosis’. Effectively you’re peeing out excess fat at this stage. What a thought!

I did this ketogenic diet for a grand total of… (drum roll)… 2 days!!! To be honest I wanted to try it because a group of girls I know were also doing it and some had good results from it. In those 2 days I did have a weight loss (not necessarily FAT loss, I didn’t measure) of just under 1 pound but it was other things I noticed from it that I was more interested in. For a start, the combination of eating protein + fat with only green vegetables meant that I had NO abdominal bloating, which I sometimes get when I eat protein + starchy carbs in the same meal. But the second thing that this type of diet is famed for is… constipation!!! And after 2 days I could already tell that this was where I was headed. Things were NOT moving as they should be, and to boot, I felt a few twinges of IBS pain in my lower gut, signalling that things were sat stagnating for too long. So that was the end of my keto diet trial. I know it works for some but it’s definitely not for me – I’m not trying to mimic a body builder, I’m not remotely interested in competing in bikini or figure competitions, so why do this? I gave it a try and then gave it up. The main concern for me was the amount of fat I was consuming, and not all of it had to be the healthy variety either. Even though I know the theory behind how your body uses the extra fat you’re feeding it and it makes sense, I worry about the longer term effects of a high fat diet such as this. And secondly, I’m 5 foot 2 and 7 stone 10 (108 lbs), I don’t NEED to lose weight by using unsustainable ‘diets’. I think we all want our body to look that little bit better, more toned, less puffy, however you put it, but I want it to be done in a safe and sure way. Health comes first.

And so after my mum returned from hospital and I had a little more time on my hands, I started reading a book I’d ordered the week before, Kimberley Snyder’s “Beauty Detox Solution”. For those of you not familiar with Kimberley, she is all about a natural diet, her aims are for us to ‘glow’ with beauty from the inside out, and she goes into great details of how we might achieve this by changing both WHAT we put in our mouths and the ORDER in which we put things in. And I was glad to read that one of her diet ‘rules’ is not to mix protein with starchy carbs in the same meal. Hurrah! I had already found that this was a thing I wanted to try more in my previous week’s diet experiment. In fact it’s a well known principle if you read up on the subject ‘food combining’, I just didn’t realize it was for me before now. She also advocates eating some greens before every meal, such as a leafy salad or some celery sticks etc. The theory behind this is that you provide your body with the most easily digestible foods first, so that they start to be digested before the ‘heavier’ food of your meal. Also, the greens contain lots of fibre, which not only ease the way through your digestive system for your other foods, but also line the stomach so that food is processed more slowly, giving you less chance of an insulin spike and maximum chance of obtaining all the nutrients from your food. She has lots of other principles she lives her life by (diet-wise), too many to go into details of all of them here.  But what I have taken from her book up to now (I’ve not finished reading yet) is that I can easily up my vegetable intake, and therefore my vitamin & mineral and fibre intake, by adding some greens before my meals. So, my first step towards this has been to have a green smoothie before my breakfast porridge. And today, 3 days in, I can report that I’m having a ‘thin day’, i.e. my tummy feels flatter. I also feel I have a little more energy rather than the morning slump I sometimes feel. So the green smoothies are here to stay, along with a few other changes I’m trying, in order to reach that goal of not only looking good but cleansing my body from the inside out, to give myself the best chance of a healthy future.

To get you started with the green smoothies, here my Easy Tasty Clean “Get Going Green Smoothie”,  which is the perfect introduction to green smoothies for those who want to being with something a little sweeter:

  • 500ml / 2 cups cold, filtered water
  • 120g / 4oz baby spinach leaves
  • 1 apple, cored, e.g. Golden Delicious
  • 1 pear, cored, e.g. Conference
  • 1 banana
  • Juice and insides of a lime

The above will make 3 portions, which can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. Each portion contains 72 calories, 1g protein, 16g carbohydrates, 0.3g fat (0g saturated).

Once you’ve got to grips with the idea and taste of the sweeter green smoothies, you can start to replace some of the fruit with more vegetables, various salad leaves, roots such as ginger and even herbs like coriander (cilantro) and parsley. There’s no limit, only your imagination!

So, getting to the point of today’s post… I think people, women especially, are always interested to hear about the latest diet, the results people reportedly get from it and the excitement that they too may be able to lose a few pounds by trying it, but what matters most is that whatever we put into our mouths, it should contribute towards our overall health & beauty, and not detract from it. Diet should be a lifelong healthy choice, not today’s fad or an everlong obsession. Be interested in your diet for the right reasons, not always just because you might ‘look good’ if you eat this or that. If you’re dying on the inside, it’s not going to look good for your health in years to come, and then it really won’t matter that you looked fab in 2012.

Keep it healthy, keep it real!