Thursday 22 February 2018

Weighing up the diets that might work for you

Lucinda O'Sullivan looks at some of the different options out there for shedding those extra pounds

Lucinda O'Sullivan

ONE of these fine days, when the last of the tinsel has been packed away, very many of us are going to try and put our New Year's resolution into operation and, for very many of us, that resolution is to lose weight.

Some will say I'm a right one to be talking about diets being a non-too-slim food critic. Well, on the other hand, perhaps because, being a food critic and, like many chefs too close to good food all of the time, I really understand the difficulties of shedding those extra pounds. So, unlike those skinny dieticians and weight club leaders, I am not going to tell you virtuously that shedding the fat is easy because it is not. For me the diagnosis is a combination of not enough exercise, too much time spent sitting on my backside in front of a computer writing about food, long hours driving around the country -- and carbs in quick-fix sandwiches!

There are a couple of factors that all diets have in common as far as I am concerned: First, they all work -- if you stick to them! Secondly, they are all a bore and misery!

For me, I find a high-protein, no wheat or white carb, regime works best, coupled with the treadmill when I go on it seriously. I am not hungry as such on this regime but yet never get the same feeling of fullness and satisfaction as having eaten a tonne of spuds or a bowl of rice. On the other hand, you don't have the sluggish feeling associated with white carbs.

Being an all-or-nothing person, I am never happy with one spud or a tablespoon of rice -- I find it better to just cut them out altogether and then, strangely enough, the desire recedes. Another element I just have to have in my life are spices and flavour, so I will sprinkle everything with chilli, cumin, turmeric, ginger or all together. Tandoori pastes are great -- slather them on chicken breasts and roast away and all senses are satisfied.

The first three days of the diet are the worst but if I get that far I am generally on the road . . . for a while anyway.

You have to be in good form to start a diet because if you are tired, overworked or stressed, the first thing you do is reach for that great big tuna and egg roll or other carbohydrate fix. A lot of people seem to think too that you can eat as much as you wish of gluten-free products but that is not the case.

Rachel Clancy, of the Magpie Inn and Tuckbox Diner in Dalkey, has worked in the food industry for all of her working life and understands the pressures and difficulties of long hours working around food and the stresses of business. She has recently lost 21lbs over two months.

"I set up the Magpie Inn in September 2011 and the Tuckbox just before Christmas. I have been literally working seven days a week. I took one weekend off in 2013, went to Carlingford and had a great time!" says Rachel.

"When you get home from work at 4am, breakfast tends to be hit and miss -- and, as the day goes on, you may pick at a few chips here and there, eating all the wrong things at the wrong times, or not getting to eat at all until very late at night, at which time eating ice cream is easier than eating dinner.

"The Magpie Inn is a great little business, but it hasn't been all plain sailing. Also, when you work these kinds of hours and are constantly exhausted and under pressure, you don't tend to get out for a walk or have any kind of exercise. Pilates classes are kind of out the window."

A couple of months ago, Rachel decided to take her diet in hand. "I call it my 'green things' diet! It basically means I eat a lot of vegetables. You can make soup and eat plates of broccoli or cauliflower, but you have to eat high quality protein as well.

"In the morning, I would have a boiled egg with broccoli or maybe an omelette with mushrooms or asparagus. For lunch it would be a chicken salad and for dinner I would have some nice fish and lots of vegetables.

"Over the years, I've taken a few things from diets that work for me. The first week is very hard and you won't be running any marathons but after that you feel great. One of the things I have really found is that if you cut wheat and sugar out of your diet, you will lose lots of weight. Clear your house out of processed foods. Loads of fresh meat, vegetables and fruit is the answer."

James Statham is also in the food business but he is providing pre-prepared frozen meals for people on the popular Paleo Diet.

He started his Paleo Meal Deliveries in August 2012, which he was doing initially on a part-time basis. He says it only really "got up and running in the past six months". He is now doing this full time and has found that most of his customers are people who are "very busy who perhaps don't have the time to shop and cook healthily every day".

There are various meal plans with weekly and monthly subscriptions covering lunch and dinner, breakfast and dinner for five or seven days a week which can be delivered to you or picked up from a collection point.

So, if you are going to take the plunge, here is an overview of popular diets -- but do check with your doctor before you embark on any of them.

The premise of the Paleo diet is based on "everyday, modern foods that mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter gatherer ancestors". This includes a higher protein intake; lower carbohydrate intake and lower glycemic index; higher fibre intake of non starchy vegetables; moderate to higher fat intake dominated by monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with balanced Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats; higher potassium and lower sodium intake.

So, you eat grass-produced meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds, oils including olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado and coconut. You cut cereal grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined vegetable oils.

The Dukan diet, as set out by Pierre Dukan, is a slimming diet structured in four phases -- Attack, Cruise, Consolidation and Stabilisation.

The Attack phase consists of pure protein and creates a kick-start to the diet. During this phase, you can eat 68 high protein foods and proponents say you can expect to lose between 2-8lbs in as many days. Oat bran is advised daily to avoid constipation and 20 minutes' exercise advocated.

The new Atkins diet is high protein and there are four phases -- Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss, Pre-maintenance and Maintenance.

Each phase is slightly less strict than the one before. The two main objectives of the Induction phase, which you generally stay on for two weeks, are: "to switch your body from burning primarily carbohydrates (in the form of glucose) to burning primarily fat (including your body fat) for energy" and "to jump-start weight loss".

During this period, you'll initially consume "only 20 grams of net carbs per day which are mainly vegetables low in carbs but rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients, including fibre".

The Fast Diet has become popular in the past year and is based on a book by Michael Mosley. The principle is that you eat normally for five days and fast or diet for two days a week, cutting your normal calorie intake for those two days to one-quarter of your normal level. This means that, say, on a Monday and a Thursday, you will eat 500 calories if you are a woman, or 600 if you are a man.

WeightWatchers has meetings all over the country. The joining fee is €20 and you pay €10 weekly meeting fees after that or you can get the diet kit at home for €86.

WeightWatchers doesn't count calories but assigns different foods a ProPoint value -- some foods having a higher value than others -- and you are allowed a certain number of ProPoints per day. You are weighed in each week and you can choose whether or not to stay for the class pep talk.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. If you see a slightly slimmer me by March you'll know I stuck to something -- if not you'll know I just fell off the wagon!

Irish Independent

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