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!

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!

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.

Wagons, cliffs, crevices & whips

So I could list any number of reasons why, but the fact remains that yesterday I fell off the diet wagon, tumbled down a cliff and plunged into a deep crevice.  This morning finds me pulling myself back up and out, feeling snowflake-fragile and with a sickening food hangover.  I know that self-loathing is lurking in the shadows just out of sight, and that the instant I turn my back it will pounce and whip me bloody.

Today’s page in my inspirational flipboard (see my post You must be your own best diet buddy) is

‘Stop all and any behaviours that hurt you’

which today I will remind myself means not only refraining from eating and drinking things that will make me feel rubbish, but also refraining from whipping myself bloody with self-loathing.

 

To weigh or not to weigh

For every expert who says that weighing yourself frequently is detrimental there will be an expert who says that weighing yourself often is beneficial.

The very sweet Joe Wicks calls the scales ‘the sad step’, which made me laugh out loud and for which I like him very much.  He has a point.

Also, it isn’t just weight I’m looking to lose – I want to lose fat but not muscle;  so the scales alone will not be the measure by which I judge my success.

But personally, I find weighing myself daily keeps me on track and boosts me when I see that what I’m doing is working.  It’s also going to be an important marker for my being able to tell  whether certain foods or behaviours are beneficial or detrimental to my efforts.

Of course, there are the days when my weight stubbornly refuses to drop, which is upsetting and has sometimes caused me to go ‘oh f*ck it!’ and go binge eat everything appealing in my kitchen – and sometimes to scour my very patient youngest’s bedroom too.

He’s agreed that while I’m trying to lose weight he’s happy not to have cereal or bread in the house, because those are the two things that in the middle of the night I can find myself half asleep and gorging until I have a barrel for a belly.  How fabulous of him is that?

Anyway, to weight or not to weigh – it’s a very personal choice, but I will be weighing myself daily.

Menopause and how it relates to weight

I will be adding to this, but for now –

Cortisol, in case you don’t know, is pumped into your bloodstream when your body believes you to be under threat.  While that’s great in the short term, it’s not great if the production of cortisol becomes commonplace.  Because cortisol doesn’t know what the nature of the threat it is, it acts in a few ways to protect you – one of which is to lay down fat, particularly around your belly, in case the threat is famine.

Oestrogen regulates the production of cortisol – unfortunately then, as our oestrogen declines through menopause we are less able to control our cortisol and it more easily becomes a visitor to our bloodstream.

So how to control cortisol?  Well, endurance athletes take Vitamin C to combat the effects of the cortisol produced by their extreme exertions.  So that might be worth looking into.  Relaxation and anti-stress strategies certainly can’t do you any harm.

Our hormones are just generally out of whack at the moment;  so I’ll come back with more information on which I’ll be grounding my Defatting.