Friday 19 January 2018

Shape Up: Changing the way you eat

Kelly Osbourne on the red carpet at the Emmys
Kelly Osbourne on the red carpet at the Emmys

Damien Maher

Are you one of the many females out there who's working hard to lose weight but without success? You've probably tried weight-loss products and listened to what you should eat and how you should train. You have been eating a "balanced diet" with "everything in moderation" but you have no results to show for it.

You are not alone with the challenges you face. Debbie* came to Be Fit For Life because she needed help. Debbie had recorded everything she ate in a food diary and was training four times a week doing a mixture of exercise classes and jogging. She was frustrated that she wasn't reaping rewards.

On examination of her food diary it became apparent that she was starting the day with either breakfast cereals and skimmed milk or cereal bars. These are often marketed as a great way to start your day but in my experience that's not the case.

I explained to her that the Food Pyramid that's promoted in weight-loss clubs is not good for health as it promotes the eating of nine servings of grains a day.

Paul Stitt, a former food scientist at a major cereal manufacturer and author of the book, 'Fighting the Food Giants' described an experiment he once conducted.


Rats were used in the experiments as the physiological changes in their bodies happen at a much more rapid rate than in humans.

The rats were divided into three groups. One of them was fed a commonly eaten cereal, one group was starved and one group of rats was fed the cereal box. The conclusion showed that the rats that ate the cereal died first, the rats that were starved died second and the rats that ate the cereal box received more nutrients from the cardboard and lived the longest.

Most cereals have a high glycemic index (GI) ranging between 60-110. The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels -- the higher the index, the quicker the food converts to sugar.

Insulin is the hormone released from our pancreas after we eat. The more sugar we consume, the harder our pancreas has to work, the more insulin we produce and over time the higher your risk of diabetes.

Debbie was surprised when I explained that porridge had a glycemic index of 60, muesli 60, while other shop-bought ones have a GI of 70. When your goal is fat loss you want to be eating foods with a GI below 50.

Debbie mentioned that after she ate gluten, which is common in grains, her energy levels felt zapped, and her stomach became bloated. She said that she was not diagnosed with coeliac disease but an aunt of hers suffered from it.

Research shows that it takes on average between five and seven doctors six to 10 years to diagnose a patient as being a coeliac. But coeliac disease is the tip of the iceberg in comparison to gluten sensitivity. I showed Debbie 20 research papers linking gluten sensitivity with different autoimmune diseases like Crohn's, thyroiditis, ulcerative colitis and ADD -- attention deficit disorder -- and also the link of genetics with her aforementioned aunt.

I recommended that Debbie start the day with a protein breakfast of meat or fish and raw nuts. It is the hardest change for people to make and due to possible time constraints I recommended Debbie wait till Saturday before she implemented it.

This kind of breakfast leads to improved mental clarity, increased energy, better appetite control and reduced cravings throughout the day which aids in fat loss.


A 2011 study published in the 'Diabetes Care' journal showed that the consumption of nuts led to significant improvements in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol of type 2 diabetic patients.

It is important to note that the recommended protein meal was solid protein and not liquid in the form of a protein shakes. Shakes as meal replacements lead to increased cravings and the consumption of additional food when compared with solid protein sources.

The take-home points are that not all carbohydrates are created equal. For fat loss stick to foods whose glycemic index does not exceed 50. Change to meat and nuts or avocado at breakfast and add a side of berries for antioxidants. Take some omega 3s at the end of your meal.

Changing our routines is hard so only change one behaviour per week. It is only when you feel comfortable with the first change that you start considering the next change of behaviour. The common mistake that people make is to make too many changes all at once.

*not her real name

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