In 1990 I decided to become vegetarian. Well to be accurate Pescetarian – I continued to eat some fish and shell fish. My reasons were mostly because I had become more and more uncomfortable about cooking and eating meat and I disliked the whole idea of killing animals. I also had become very active in the new age movement at the time and the environmental cost of meat production simply did not make sense. It was long before even the thought of eating meat was distasteful and I have never been tempted to eat meat since.
However I did start to put on weight and I have continued to battle with my weight now for 25 years. When I changed gender and began taking hormone replacement therapy it got worse. I have tried the weight watchers diet, the lemon diet, the grapefruit diet, the 5: 2 diet, the Mediterranean diet. the Beverley Hills diet, the cabbage soup diet, an Ayurvedic Diet, the Atkins diet (really challenging if you are vegetarian), the Paul McKenna Diet, the Think Thin diet – and many more I have now forgotten.
In that time the one diet that did work was Sure Slim – This is a very complex and also very expensive diet based on metabolic typing, Low Gi, Low Fat, low carb and personal food preferences. The diet involves blood tests, and an in-depth interview followed by regular weekly then bi weekly consultations. Every meal has to be meticulously weighed with ingredients selected from a quite restricted list. I lost about 4 stone in six months – and then put most of it back on in the net six months.
Every year since then I have resolved to lose the weight again and every year I give up after a few months and the weight returns. The problem is that I had stick to a complex diet even to maintain my weight and that made it almost impossible to eat out, or tuck into a buffet, or grab something to eat when on the road, or go to a dinner party.
I am sure most of you reading this article will have had similar experiences – and the older we get the more difficult it seems to be to lose weight and maintain good health.
However I am not giving up and I have recently begun looking in more detail at the Low carb Low Gi diets to see if I can find a way to simplify this process and find a more acceptable longer term diet that will work.
There are a few books that have contributed over the past decade to my growing understanding of diet. Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Low Carb Diet is excellent – though you need to enjoy eggs and tofu to follow that diet in the first 14 days. That said she is one of the leading experts on vegetarian food and her explanations of the basis of the diet have really helped me to understand better the principles of the sure slim diet that worked.
Chris Woollams The Rainbow Diet is primarily about how to beat cancer by eating more healthily with a version of the Mediterranean Diet. But if you can beat cancer by changing your diet it's the same process and the same diet to beat heart problems and diabetes and put you on the road to Perfect Health. The book has really helped me to understand how nutrition and the body works and what our diet can do to make it go wrong or make to work better. Why my doctor has not read this book I do not know.
Finally a book I came across over 20 years ago which is now out of print but available second hand is The Food Addicts Diet by Tish Hayton. In helping her son overcome a huge problem with allergies to many foods, Tish came to the conclusion that many of us are suffering from food addiction and the foods we are addicted to are wheat, potato, milk and sugar. When I first read it I did not want to believe it even though I knew it made sense. These four foods are the basis of all convenience foods. Between them they account for about 80% of everything we eat.
Putting everything I have read from these and many other books together I am beginning to understand why one diet worked, and why I then put all the weight back on. I am beginning to understand how to simplify my diet so that I can lose weight and keep it off. I have not managed to do it yet – but what I am doing is to record all my progress and will be writing further articles about my journey towards achieving perfect health.
My problem has been an addiction to foods that encourage my body to store fat. They are the reason why diets fail because as soon as we come off a diet we inevitably return to the foods that encourage us to store fat.
The food industry also knows this but they benefit so much from this food addiction that they are not prepared to even try to tackle the problem. Instead we have been conned and lied to for decades. We have been convinced that the villain is Fats. So we are all obsessed with low fat foods and diet drinks which are loaded with sugar substitutes like Aspartame.
But it's not the fats in the food that are stored as fat in the body – it is carbohydrates – particularly simple carbohydrates from grains and sugars. It's not just wheat and sugar. Our bodies need glucose for energy which comes from carbohydrates – any excess carbs are converted to fat as a reserve for times when we don't have enough. In the past this was quite often – but now in the west we simply don't get that hungry.
No matter how much you cut down on food, if you give the body more carbs than it needs it will store the excess and it will not burn the fat. The only way to get your body to burn fat is to starve it of carbs. Cut grain, sugar and even starchy vegetables.
I have been eating a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables for years thinking that would help me lose weight but it does not. Many fruit and vegetables are high in carbohydrates.
So the first step in losing weight and keeping it off is to tackle the number one villain – SUGAR – wherever that comes from. Sugar, honey, fruit, corn syrup, maple syrup etc. Sugar is sugar – it is quickly separated into glucose. So my first piece of advice in tackling weight gain and making a permanent change to your diet is that you have to lose your sweet tooth.
The more you restrict your sugar intake, the less you will crave it until eventually you will find sugar sickly. It is not going to be easy but if you value your health and want to get to a good long term comfortable weight, your enemy will be sugar and it has to go.