Nutprococo II

Due to a cupboard shortage yesterday, I had to improvise when making my Nutprococo and what a lucky cupboard shortage that turned out to be.  Nutprococo is my go-to when I’m craving not just sweet but satisfaction too – chocolaty chewy crunchy and not too sweet. Low carb, low GI/GL and it’s paleo too if you substitute the tsp sweetener for honey;  and it’s tailored to fit into an alkaline diet too.  Whether it’s low calorie or not depends on how much you eat.

And that I am sharing my new & improved Nutprococo recipe with you is proof that I love you very very much indeed.

The Alkaline Diet Day 1 – So far, so smoothie

So I spent yesterday gathering together all the information I’d need to set myself up for the Alkaline Diet, and remembered – although I haven’t done it before, but I have read it before – that a big problem with it is the lack of consensus over which foods are alkali and which are acid.  For instance, mushrooms are rated by some ‘highly acidic’ and by others ‘mildly alkaline’.  I eat alot of mushrooms, so being human and so self-interested I’ve decided to label them ‘neutral’ so I can keep on eating lots of them.

Elle Macpherson’s passionate advocacy for the Alkaline Diet is what inspired me to try it, and yet even her writings on it are contradictory – she blogs (on Get The Gloss) that the nutritionist who put her onto the Alkaline Diet (Dr Simone Laubscher) tells her enthusiastically to eat walnuts.  Walnuts are acidic.  She says she always has organic butter and eggs in her fridge – but both are highly acidic.  She eats fish every day.  Acidic.  Of course, you’re only supposed to eat 80% acidic, but it does make it all rather confusing.

Incidentally, I’m not doing it because I adore Elle’s body – for the record, I prefer my women to have more womanly proportions.  I’m never quite clear why an example of perfect womanhood has a man’s shoulders, no hips and strangely elongated limbs.  Of course, Elle is perfectly entitled to, and should, love the body she’s in – but I do resent her example being held up to other women for us to aspire and compare ourselves to, always unfavourably.  We don’t look like that because that isn’t actually what women are supposed to look like.  And if that sounds a bit mean to Elle, well I wouldn’t say it about somebody who hadn’t chosen to put their body out there to be admired;  and hadn’t chosen to be fabulously well paid to work in an industry that is all about making women feel crap about being normal.

So the Alkaline Diet is clearly going to be a largely vegetarian diet but I’m good with that.  I’ve always preferred plant foods, which does make me wonder how I managed to Low Carb for a decade or so.  Mind you, I did say I always found it difficult.

I’ve always had a passion for vegetables, and one of the things I love about French food is that they take vegetables seriously and create culinary wonders with them, rather than just seeing them as a slightly damp chore on the side of your plate.  As the wonderful and much-missed Phil McCarthy once memorably said,

in Britain we boil our ‘veg’ to death, and then give it another 20 minutes to be on the safe side.

Curious that the British call it the very unglamorous ‘veg’, as if it was something dull and faintly unpleasant,  like cutting your toenails.  Mind you, I have to admit to feeling a certain disdain for the current use of the word ‘veggies’ – as if vegetables couldn’t be called vegetables anymore but had to be rebranded, to make them attractive to the gullible public who might then actually think they aren’t vegetables at all, but something new and cheerily appealing.  They don’t need rebranding, they just need cooking properly!

And what, with the rising cost of food and particularly meat, I’m not sure who will be able to afford to eat meat soon, but I won’t be among them. Could be we may all have to make much better friends with vegetables soon.

Anyway, from the many conflicting Acid/Alkali charts, I’ve compiled one that makes sense to me;  I’ve had a Tesco shop delivered this morning busting at the seams with nut butters, kale and almond milk;  and I am SO BORED WITH BEING FAT that I guess I’m good to go.

Wish me luck!

Elle Macpherson made me do it

So here’s a thing. A few weeks ago I read Elle talking about how TAD changed her life. It stuck in my head because Elle is 53 and so am I, so if it works on her menopausal body maybe it will on mine.

I know people rubbish the science … and yet still it has anecdotal support.

So I’m thinking maybe I should suspend my rotational diet and try the Alkaline Diet for a month. Then I can let you all know what it’s like and how effective it is.

Whadya all think???

You have to be your own pet scientist

So there’s paleo, there’s high fat, there’s low fat, very low low calorie, there’s Dukan, there’s Raw Vegan … they all promise fat loss – but they can’t all be right.

So who is?

I think they’re all a bit right and quite alot wrong.  There’s some truth in them all – which is why when perfectly applied they will all result in weight loss:  just very rarely will anyone be able to sustain it;  and if you did for years, you’d probably develop at least one serious deficiency.

Incidentally, have you noticed recently how every new diet has proclaimed ‘This isn’t a diet – it’s a lifestyle change’?  Sorry, but what is a diet but a lifestyle change involving food?

As to the ones who claim you’ll never be hungry or feel deprived if you follow the mealplans they’ve worked out for you – I have occasionally totted up the calorie counts of their daily plans, and found some to be under 1000 calories.  No hunger or deprivation? Yeah, right.

So you will be hungry and you will feel deprived – but as the Perfect Person, your diet guru, said you wouldn’t be, you’ll blame yourself for it.  You must be at fault.  Something must be wrong with you or you must be doing it wrong.  It can’t be the diet, sorry, lifestyle change.

My mother’s family is riddled with Type 2 Diabetes – it killed her father at 58, and her at 64.  My mother was treated in the era when diabetics were told to eat a low fat, high carb diet:  advice that would now make a diabetic practitioner grow pale and fall over.  It killed her.

So your GP is doing his best – he’s giving you the advice he’s been given.  But he hasn’t had time to go and research it himself.  She’s already overworked to the point of exhaustion.  She’d love to read the studies herself, but how and when?  So they just have to hope the information they’re passing on is right – but it has so often proved not to be.

GPs fed Thalidomide to pregnant mothers in the 1960s for morning sickness.

I am not, for the record, anti-science, far from it.  I would not choose to live in a world without the extraordinary scientific advances that have, for example, made it a rarity, rather than commonplace, for a parent to lose a child.  If you remember the swine flu epidemic a decade or so ago – my youngest was hit with it and believe me it was not the ‘bad cold’ some had (possibly to quell the mounting panic) dismissed it as.  I have never seen any of my children so sick and it was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.  Although he did not in the end require hospital treatment, I realised how phenomenally lucky I was to live in an era of technical advancement where emergency help would have been available to save his life should he have needed it.

We’re all doing the best we can – but GPs, doctors, scientists are human and will get it wrong sometimes.

So what should you do?

Well, you could spend years reading every scientific paper on nutrition for the last two decades – only you’d probably be dead before you finished and in a position to distil everything you’d read into a workable nutritional programme.

Come to that, unless you’re a scientist, how would you tell which experiments were well designed and run and which were ropey as hell?

You could try just looking out for the ‘take home’ of these studies reported in the media – but as my eldest son, who has a Masters Degree in Drug Design & Discovery, says – much to his fury – the way the mainstream media, and some self-proclaimed health and nutrition gurus, misrepresent scientific studies has become dangerously irresponsible.

So you cannot and will not be able to figure it out for yourself.  So don’t try.

And happily, maybe you don’t even have to.

Here’s a little experiment.  Google photos of the British aristocracy a hundred years ago.  Now these people could afford the most indulgent foods and as much of them as they wanted.  So scout those photos for the fat people.

Find any?  Isn’t that curious.  And yet, they didn’t have the benefit of the last hundred years of scientific study or diet gurus to guide them.  So what were they doing that kept them relatively slim?

Use your mind to cut through the rubbish and think.  What makes the most sense to you?  And then try that out, under certain conditions and your own scrutiny, on  your body.  What happens to the way you feel, your muscle tone and your weight if you eliminate fat from your diet?  Or if you increase protein?  Cut back on carbs?  You are your own best scientist and laboratory.  Only you can really know how food affects you.

See if you can get back to a time where you had a simpler and better relationship with food, and replicate as best you can what you did then, before it all got so messed up.

Personally I think we all know a few things, and possibly the only things we need to know – that we should eat a moderate amount of as wide a variety of foods as possible.

We are after all omnivores, and that is precisely what we were designed to do.

Saved

So sometimes the Gabapentin + Pregabalin – the medication I’m on for my TMD & Trigeminal Neuralgia (and what a lovely couple they make!) – knocks me sideways.  I’ve been very proactive in reducing and adjusting my medications – with my GP’s consent – to the minimum, to maximise my ability to function, even where that means I live with a level of discomfort;  but sometimes, all the same, the meds just come whooshing in from the side and take me with them.

Yesterday was such a day;  and amongst other things on those days, my body shuts my brain out of the loop and becomes a hound in pursuit of sweet things, I suspect because my poor body is looking for a stimulant to drag me above the muddy waters of medication-induced-confusion.

Happily the day was saved by a batch of Nutprococo I’d made earlier in the freezer;  and I’m soooo glad I did, because today I don’t have a food hangover and I dare step on the scales.

Result!

Defatting: The Principles (and why your body will always win in the end)

So, Defatting: this is the diet I’ve worked out for myself – and yes, I am calling it a diet.  I find the current fad for insisting ‘it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!’ somewhat disingenous.  The lifestyle change they’re talking about is changing your nutrition and exercise to lose weight.  Isn’t that just a diet?  Spades and spades, please honey.

Over the years, I have tried pretty much every diet, sorry ‘lifestyle change’, going and for family reasons I’ve done a great deal of research into nutrition, human biology and exercise;  so I’ve sat and thought, and explored and distilled everything I have read and learned and experienced into one nutritional programme – this diet is intended to induce fat loss and exchange a healthy amount of it for muscle.  The look and feel I’m aiming for with my body is long,  lean and lithe.  I want to love my body again.

I’m not going to try to justify here any choice I make with science, because science is doing its best but doesn’t yet know everything;  and for every ‘expert’ using science to prove it’s day another will be using it to prove that it’s night.  I am far from anti-science (my eldest is in fact a Scientist and through his eyes I’ve come to see the world in new and dazzling ways):  but I am anti-people-twisting-science-to-their-own-ends.  I make no claims to be a medical or nutritional expert, just an informed layperson wanting to take back my own errant body.

So.  The Principles of Defatting.  It goes like this –

On Day 1, I eat a starch-based diet – we’re talking buckwheat, pulses, fruit and both starchy and non-starchy vegetables, with some protein.  This is the day I’ll fit in a low-glycemic sugar hit.  I’ll be generous but not stupid with the amount of food I take in, while being a little careful of the Easy Extras it’s too simple to blow a diet with, such as Butter On Everything.  If you need to give it a calorie count, let’s call it 1500 calories.

On Day 2, I eat a high protein, high fat, low carb diet.  I’ll have a bit of fun with fat.  I’ll be melting some butter on those vegetables.  If I was a vegetarian, it’d be a day for tofu rather than pulses.  Carbs will be limited to non-starchy vegetables.  If you need to think calories, let’s think 2000.

On Day 3, I eat as little as it takes to fuel me for the day without my being hungry.  This will mean limited protein, limited fat and alot of vegetables, with a protein-enhanced fruit smoothie.  If you have to give this a calorie count, 1200 should do it.

I’ll be repeating this cycle twice a week – and on the spare day inbetween the two cycles I’ll pick whichever day I most feel like doing.

I’ve worked out these principles because I know elimiination diets are tough and in the end I’ll crack, and will fling myself right off that diet wagon, with catastrophic results – so I’m planning to take in as wide a range of foods as possible, so I’m not missing or craving anything.  I also feel instinctively that’s the best way to keep myself healthy, and now that I’m moving into this stage of my life I think that’s more vital than ever.  If my body is to escape the commonplace vagaries of ageing, it needs all the help it can get!

I am not imposing any Carb Curfews because in my experience it makes no difference whatsoever when I eat what.

I think completely eliminating all forms of sugar is highly desirable and totally unrealistic – see my blog post To sweeten or not to sweeten – so I’m introducing sweetness with 85% dark chocolate (I’m a massive fan of the Co-op’s own), low glycemic fruits like berries and sweet dark cherries (both of which I buy frozen),  the very occasional use of Clark’s Carob Fruit Syrup and Whole Earth’s Sweet Granules With Stevia.  Powdered Carob may also make a very occasional appearance.  Again, see the above post for more information as to why I decided on these particular things.

The Sweet Rule though is this – no sweetness at all on a high fat/high protein day.  This is because, as you probably know by now, sugar stimulates the production of insulin.  Insulin is necessary for fat storage.  Without the presence of insulin, fat cannot be stored.  So on days when you’re stimulating insulin, you don’t want to offer it unlimited calories to drag out of your bloodstream to the nearest fat cell for storage.  I have no scientific study to state that it’s a good idea to keep high levels of insulin away from high levels of calorie, but it makes sense to me and can’t do any harm.

I think those high protein/high fat days are, though, especially important to we menopausal women, because we will now be losing muscle at an increased rate and we do not want to exacerbate that.

I am also very wary of a low calorie diet as a menopausal woman for the same reason – that your calorie-deprived body will feast on your muscle as well as your fat;  and because my hormones are already all out of whack;  and I don’t want to distress my body –  and I believe depriving my body of the energy it needs to function too brutally, too often or for too long will do that.  Remember, we no longer have oestrogen to control our cortisol – see my post on Menopause and how it relates to weight – so we want to keep our bodies calm and happy.

The calorie argument is, I think, pretty much discredited anyway and on its last legs – see my post Calories (Oh bloody hell) for my reasons for saying this – so while I think 2 or 3 lowcal days a week might generate some weight loss, I don’t want it to be my main weight loss strategy.  I know from research and personal experience that a body deprived of sufficient calories for too long will rebel and prevent further weight loss.

I included starch days because they’re great fun – sweetish, stodgyish and comfortably filling.  They’re also great for gut health and the role of the gut in fat gain and loss is increasingly being revealed as pivotal.  If you haven’t read Giuila Enders’s ‘Gut’ yet, I would recommend you do and quick – it’s fascinating and charming at the same time, a rare thing in a science book.

As to exercise –  I personally have never found that exercise enhances my weight loss.  In fact, I’ve found if I overdo it the exact opposite happens – my body refuses to release weight.  There are good reasons for this, which I’ve discussed in How and when to exercise.  So  I will be exercising – as in still walking daily but for no more than an hour;  and doing rhythmic stretching sequences followed by muscle toning with light weights – but this will be for my mental and physical health, not as a calorie-burning strategy.  However, I do want to rebuild and maintain muscle to protect my skeleto-muscular frame, because we are coming into an era in our lives when it can so easily be damaged, leading to chronic conditions and their attendant pain.  When she was only a little older than I am now, my mother had to have both her knees replaced.  Ouch!

As muscle also burns more calories than fat, it may also be that rebuilding muscle speeds my metabolism back up, burning more calories and generally keeping my body humming happily.

So those are all the reasons I put together Defatting in the form I have.  We are omnivores, meant to take in as wide a variety of foods as possible.   My body talks to me when I don’t feed it properly, in the form of cravings and if I don’t listen and comply healthily, it will eventually force me into extreme action and I will binge again.

Frankly, you will never beat your body.  Your body will win every time.  If you’ve ever been strictly Low Carbing and found yourself, suddenly, with a Mars Bar in your hand, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

 

Warm & Fragrant Moroccan Chicken

This has such a rich, complex mesh of flavours – fragrant, warm, spicy – but all of them delicious.  This is definitely on my All Time Top Ten favourite dishes.    

If you want to Paleo it, then exclude the chickpeas;  if you want to LowCarb it, then exclude the raisins and if you’re feeling particularly determined, the chickpeas too;  if you want to LowCal it, then go easy on the oil and de-skin the chicken thighs.

This does great on my Starch days.


 

In a wide frying pan, using a tablespoon or three of oil (I prefer rapeseed) and a moderate heat, brown 12 chicken thighs (I prefer to keep them on the bone, but de-skin them first);  this should take between 5 and 10 minutes.  Depending on the width of your frying pan, and if you prefer, brown them in batches – just ensure you’ve returned all the chicken to the pan for the next stage.

Add to the pan 1 onion, sliced and 2 garlic cloves, crushed.  On a low heat, stir together for 5 minutes.  Now add 1 tbsp rose harissa (if you can’t get that, then harissa will do);  a good pinch of saffron (if you’re feeling flush);  1 tsp salt;  1 cinammon stick (or 1/2 tsp cinammon if you don’t have any to hand) and a good few grinds of black pepper.  Add to this 600ml chicken stock, bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add 75g raisins and 2 x 410g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.  Remove cinammon stick.

Serve alone or with couscous or flatbread.