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.

 

How and when to exercise

I will be focussing on three areas –

Stamina:  I just love to walk.  If I can’t get out to stretch my legs every day I get jittery.  However, as we menopausal women need to be careful of our cortisol – see Menopause and how it relates to weight – it’s critical to avoid over-exerting yourself and stressing your body.  I have personally found over-exercising counterproductive to weight loss.  So I never walk more than an hour a day.  I have also learned to be careful of what footwear I walk in, so now always wear a discreet pair of walking boots.  When I was struggling with my knees, I also used elasticated tubular supports every time I left the house, just to be on the safe side.  I figured that the positive of the support outweighed the negative of not strengthening the muscles surrounding my knees to the maximum – and I turned out to be right.  For now, fingers crossed, my knees are pain free.

Strengthening/Toning:  So here’s what I do:  if the day has a “U’ in it, then it’s an upper body+obliques day.  If the day has no “U” in it, then it’s a lower body+abs day.

The bright sparks amongst you will have spotted there are 4 days of the week with a “U” in it :  so on the 4th of those days, you rest.

Designating a whole day to a portion of your body means you don’t need to restrict yourself to your workout only.  Cleaning your teeth?  Do a few leg lifts.  Waiting for your bath?  Do a few oblique crunches.  The whole day is about working those areas;  so if you can’t fit a designated workout into those days, doesn’t matter too much.

You can still do a few crunches in bed if you’re ill.

I’ll have more to say about the types of exercise I find useful.

Stretching/lengthening:  a physiotherapist recently told me that the days of sudden ie (stressful to your body, and likely to cause injury) movements are drawing to a close;  and that flowing series of movements are the future.

For years, I did yoga and it was undoubtedly beneficial to my body.  However, one day I was mid-session and I suddenly realised ‘I am bored to death’.  At that point, I stopped going to classes, but I still incorporate adapted Sun Salutations into a series of stretching movements I’ve devised that work well for me.