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!

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!

My weight and diet history

I was a slender child, adolescent and adult.  At some times, as a young woman in my early twenties, I was too thin – 5.7″ tall and at one point 8st 4lbs.  I know this, because a doctor weighed me (I didn’t own scales at that point) and said to me with concern, “You aren’t dieting are you?’  I was delighted.  Clearly, I was Admirably Thin.

However, since my first pregnancy when I was 27 I’ve been a binge eater – or probably, more accurately, since going on my first ever diet to lose the pregnancy weight.  Still, despite that, and despite two more pregnancies which involved 4 stone gains each time, I’ve maintained a good weight (dress size 10/12) for most of my adult life.

With a few notable exceptions, that is – for instance, when my Mum died in 2003 from complications of the Type 2 Diabetes that riddles her/my family.  I just started eating and I could not stop, and I didn’t want to.  I saw myself getting fatter and I loved it and I carried on eating and I did it gleefully.  My Mum was fat – 5.4” tall and a size 18.  When I reached a size 18 myself I loved it.  I loved being the same size as my Mum.  I kept on gorging and in surprisingly little time I had outgrown a size 18.  When I had to try on my first size 20 it was suddenly no longer fun.  Suddenly it was horrible and I hated it.  I realised that I had been trying to eat myself into a size 18 to be the Mum I had lost.

After that, I turned it around and lost that 6 stone.  Having done a massive amount of research into nutrition, biology, hormones and exercise to try to understand what was happening to my Mum and might happen to myself, I decided to go against the Low Fat mantra that was still dominant then, and eat Low Carb.  To be honest, I always found Low Carb tough – but it worked and kept me slender.

And I stayed that way for a decade – until I passed 50 and I started gorging again.  This time I don’t know why, but I gained 3 stone in 6 months.  Suddenly horrified by what I had done, I pulled myself up short, went low calorie (1000 calories daily) and lost 42lbs.  Back to normal.  Phew.

And then the weirdest thing happened almost immediately I regained my normal weight in May 2017 – I yawned one evening and the disk in my jaw joint slipped, and in so doing damaged the trigeminal nerve behind it.

It sounds nasty, painful and frightening and it was.  I’ve been off work sick ever since  as my job is in Special Educational Needs in the English Department of a Secondary School;  and essentially, my job is talking which this particular injury makes impossible to do for extended periods. Over the months, the amount I can talk has improved but I was warned that full recovery would take a very long time.

For the nerve pain I was put on 2 drugs notorious for causing weight gain – Gabapentin and Pregabalin.  I had to give up caffeine – which I adored – and nicotine in the form of the e-cigarette with which I had given up smoking two years before.  I’ve been teetotal for over a decade, ever since alcoholism killed my brilliant but self-destructive eldest brother at the age of 46.  So what was I going to do for comfort and pleasure now but start eating again?  And I did.  And regained 42lbs.

I’ve lost weight then through low fat, low carb and low calorie diets:  but they’re all tough and all of them could have negative health implications – and anyway, my body simply no longer responds as it used to.  So ths time, I want to find a new way to lose weight that is tailored specifically to the needs and workings of my menopausal body;  is as healthy as possible and takes in as wide a variety of foods as possible;  and is sufficiently pleasurable that my life feels enhanced by it, rather than over.

The Holy Grail of menopausal weight loss indeed!  But you know what?  I believe it is possible if we can just understand these new bodies of ours’.

You must 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.

You must be compassionate to yourself about this

I insist.  I absolutely insist, and this is why –

A few years ago I was stood at a bus stop outside Debenhams, waiting for a bus that seemed reluctant to come.  Faintly irritated and very bored, just for something to do I turned the other way;  and found I was standing in front of a cupcake three times my size.  Moist and sweet, it was designed to entice me into their cafe.  I looked around and realised they were everywhere – the adverts designed to lure me into eating far more than I needed to.  It was 8 o’clock in the morning and already I was under bombardment, and it would carry on all day until the moment I closed my eyes to go to sleep that night.

We live in a world where an incomprehensible amout of money is spent on persuading us to over-indulge – but that when we do, and get fat, sneers at and humiliates us as spineless pigs.  No wonder we and our bodies are confused as hell and no longer have any idea what to do for the best.

Add to that we are no longer so young, have passed through menopause (see my post Menopause and how it relates to weight for more on that) and our bodies will react ever more hungrily to what we take in, we really are between a jagged rock and a very hard place.

So be compassionate to yourself about all this.  You can come through, you can win (because it is, in its way, a war:   but not You -v- Your Body, rather You & Your Body  -v- The Rest of the World) and you and your body can play nice again.  However, you’re going to have to start trusting in and loving yourself and your body again in order to do it.

And just to help you along, and get you past the idea that you are heavier now because you’re lazy and greedy where other people are strong and disciplined, I’m posting some photos to illustrate my point.

I hesitate ever to fat shame anybody, and if it were a member of the public who had never chosen to draw attention to themselves, I wouldn’t dream of it.  However, this is a supermodel who made a fortune in the 1980s and 90s flaunting herself in front of cameras;  and as a byproduct of collaborating in the illusion of Perfection, making us all feel like something that wouldn’t even have the right to stick to the bottom of her shoe.

So here is Linda Evangelista, firstly with Naomi Campbell back in the day;  and then more recently –

Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelistalinda-evangelista-out-and-about-in-new-york-04-27-2016_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

linda-evangelista-nearly-unrecognizable-out-the-west-village-april-2016-10So you see, it can happen to the best of us.  Take heart.

Instant Cherry Pie

I do this with frozen sweet dark cherries – my favourites are Tesco or Sainsbury’s own (I’m afraid not Asda’s morello cherries, they aren’t sweet enough) – and my nuts of choice are almonds.  Experiment with ingredients and amounts – these are simply the amounts I like – you may prefer more nut, less fruit.  If you want to make it extra luxurious, pour some cream over it.  Or creme fraiche, if you’re me.  If you strongly feel the need to sweeten the cherries then do.  Personally, I don’t.


Ingredients

Defrost 200g frozen cherries for 90 seconds in a microwave.  Pulse 75g almonds in a food processor until the consistency of crumble.  Sweeten cherries if required – personally I don’t.  if you’re going to I’d recommend Whole Earth Sweet Granules with Stevia, which for me has a convincing taste without an unpleasant aftertaste or blood sugar spike.  Gently stir cherries and pour over the almonds.  Add cream if you’d like, or creme fraiche if you were me and eating dairy.

Stuffed Chestnut Mushrooms

If you’re feeling flush and can find them, try this with mini Portobello mushrooms.  Chestnut mushrooms are a little cheaper and much easier to find.

All mushrooms release alot of water when cooked, and I find this ruins the stuffing in them;  so the preparatory grilling of the mushrooms is my way around that.  Experiment with the stuffing – the lime juice might not be to everyone’s taste, but I love it.  Use this recipe as a base for what pleases you.  I have these for breakfast – the night before I grill the mushrooms and make the filling.  The next morning I stuff the mushrooms and cook them.  They are surprisingly filling and easily do me until lunch – or even 4 o’clock or so if that’s how it has to be.


 

Destalk 250g chestnut mushrooms, and turn them so the gills are facing down, place them on a rack over a container that will catch the water they release, and grill them for 5 or 10 minutes, depending on your grill.  The tops will begin to wrinkle as the water is released.  Place them gill side down on paper towel until you’re ready to stuff (and be astonished at how much water they’ll still put out!)

Meanwhile, finely chop the stalks, melt a sliver of butter in a small frying pan and fry the stalks until they stop putting out steam, which takes about five minutes on a low-medium heat.  Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Then add the juice of half a lime, a heaped dessertspoon of tahinia heaped dessertspoon of a seed mix (sunflowers, pumpkin seeds, linseeds – whatever you choose;  pine nuts are good if you’re feeling wealthy);  a heaped dessertspoon of nutritional yeast (Sainsbury stocks it, otherwise Holland & Barrett or most health stores, alternatively online);  2 finely chopped sundried tomatoes;  a handful of basil leaves finely chopped.  Combine ingredients, and this makes the stuffing.

If you want to eat immediately, stuff the mushroom cups and cook on 200°C for 15 minutes.  Alternatively, refrigerate the cups (still on paper towel) and stuffing separately until ready to eat.

This recipe is adapted from the delicious Ella Woodward/Mills.