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!

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.

You must never ever go to bed hungry

If you go to bed hungry, you will not sleep properly and if you do not sleep properly, the next day your body will be pumping out cortisol which will store fat.  Further, the exhausted body wants sweet and starchy – and you will be too exhausted to fight it.  You will give in.  You will eat that crap.  And the you will hate yourself.  Again.

Going to bed hungry is an arcane and cruel punishment the bullying parent used to impose on children.

It is certainly not a thing a grown woman should be doing.  If you are hungry at bedtime, have a snack – regardless of whether you have exceeded the calorie or carb restriction you’ve imposed on yourself.

Please.

Carb Curfews

I’ve often seen books that say, for instance, ‘no carbs after 5pm’, and heard many experts espouse similar rules.

I’ve also read a study which says you are most sensitive to carbs in the morning, and so more likely to lay down fat from them eaten then – so it actually makes sense to eat them in the evening when your body can handle them in ways that are less damaging to your fat loss efforts.

I’ve tried eating carbs at all times of day – and find the time I’ve eaten them makes no difference at all to my weight.

If I find that changes during this Defatting experiment, I’ll alert you.

Calories (oh bloody hell)

So do calories count?

My own feeling, after years of research, and experimentation on myself, is that they have a role to play, but not the decisive one – I’ve found Glycemic Load/Index to be far more important.  What I’ve put into my body has turned out to be a much better determiner of whether or not I lose weight than how much.

When my Mum died in 2003 my research turned me to a low carb diet.  A nutritionist friend was horrified (this was when Low Fat was still the Gold Standard of nutrition) and said it was incredibly dangerous;  she also insisted that the only reason I was losing weight on low carb was because in cutting out carbs I was cutting out a whole food group, and therefore alot of calories (remember that rather stupid argument?).  So we called up a calorie counter and entered into it what I ate in a normal day – it totalled 2,300 calories, and yet I was losing 2 or 3lbs every week.  My nutritionist friend was irritated, bewildered and had no answer.

As an experiment a few months ago, I ate 1,600 meticulously counted calories a day of low glycemic foods (with starch in the form of pulses, sweet potato and buckwheat playing a big role) and walked for at least an hour every day, which brought my net calories in total to about 1,350.  I did this religiously for 3 weeks.  I didn’t lose a single pound.

I was recently reading James Duigan’s Blueprint for Health – I rather like him because, despite the exclusive gym which only the elite can afford, I think he is sincere and sensible – what’s more, seeing as he is the man who Hugh Grant credits with making him ‘look dazzling in his panties’ I’m going to listen to him.  I’ll quote what he has to say in Blueprint for Health in response to the question ‘Do calories count?’ His answer – ‘No.’  That’s pretty unequivocal.  He then goes onto explain why not, and he makes a good argument.

I did lose alot of weight fast on a very low calorie diet last year, but I’ve regained it all. Take a look at this photo of Michael Fassbender in the film ‘Hunger’, for which he lost almost 3 stone to play Bobby Sands –

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Yes, that really is Michael Fassbender.  In an interview with the Telegraph, he revealed how he lost the weight –

Fassbender underwent medical checks throughout, and after meeting with a nutritionist, he settled on a diet of berries, nuts and sardines, eating 900 calories a day for the first five weeks until his weight levelled, forcing him to cut down still further. He skipped, did yoga, and walked four and a half miles a day.

However  –

When the film wrapped, the first thing that Fassbender ate was sushi. ‘I was stuffed,’ he recalls. ‘And I was freezing, because my body wasn’t used to handling food. That was really interesting. And then the weight went on really quickly. In maybe two weeks, I was only about three kilos less than what I’d normally be.’

He regained two and a half stone in two weeks!!!

If you deprive your body too much, it will adjust its functioning and when it comes into contact with food it will lay that fat down quicker than you can say ‘900 calories’.

I’ve also noticed that when I cut down on calories, I eliminate foods which I know to be healthy because there are lower calorie options:  for instance, salmon and mackerel slip off the menu.  Beef bourguignon becomes a distant memory.  I stop adding avocado to a salad.  And even as I’m doing it, instinct tells me it’s not right.

So the take home on calories – on balance, I think it’s a bad idea to count them;  so I’m not going to use them as a measure of my diet.

And yes, I am going to call it a diet!