It’s approximately a year ago that I began a new diet and on this first anniversary I thought I’d share the results with you. So if you are fed up to the back teeth with the US election please read on…
Some background first: I first put on flab in my mid-teens. My mother put this down to an excessive intake of fizzy drinks (sodas) and soon had me drinking ‘diet’ varieties; while these didn’t make me lose weight one could argue that I didn’t get any flabbier. By the time I reached University age I weighed-in at 58 kilos (9st 2lb in old money) and was selected to cox for the rowing team. But despite weighing the same as a super featherweight boxer – my physical appearance looked far from athletic – I was somehow skinny and flabby at the same time. How could this be? I was practising sports six days a week! My high consumption of beer seemed like the obvious culprit.
Then I truly began to pile on the pounds when I graduated from University when I was introduced to “liquid lunches” and eating whole, extra-large, Deep Pan, tell-em-Phil-sent-ya pizzas. I quickly filled out to 65 kilos and then in my late twenties, when I began to start earning real money and socialising heavily after work, I hit 82 kilos (13 stone) and really started to look fat, and sweaty, all over. Ironically though, I didn’t feel overly unfit – I walked everywhere – a pedometer showed I was averaging about 8 kilometres a day. So I supposed an intake of too many calories and my youthful metabolism taking a hike were to blame.
I cut down on beer, ate smaller portions, did more exercise and got down to something less life-threatening, the 75 kilo region, for the best part of my thirties. But it wasn’t the weight that concerned me – as surely 10 years of carrying children too and fro had resulted in some muscle mass being added to my frame – right? No matter how much exercise I did, nor how many calories I counted, nor how much beer I cut out, nor how much weight I lost – I still looked flabby. Conventional weight-loss wisdom was proving ineffectual in my fight against fat. I knew something else was going on – but there seemed to be no explanation.
So I started listening to my body, to coin a dumb phrase, and started to make some dietary adjustments. First on the list to be cut out was cows milk. I stumbled across an article which suggested that cows milk could cause constipation and sleeping problems – and I can confirm that these two issues were resolved directly after giving it up. I hadn’t realised I had a problem sleeping and pooping (TMI?) until this point – but this became obvious once the offending foodstuff was removed from my diet.
However it was the French paradox which provided me with the first big clue to the solution to fighting the fat – i.e. that conventional wisdom could not explain why saturated fats did not seem to have any adverse health effects on French consumers. The second big clue was the discovery that certain French friends, who said they “faissent beaucoup d’attention au pain.” seemed to be remarkably slim. So – I searched for “giving up bread” on the internet, to see what it would throw out at me, and it came back with a site entitled “Mark’s Daily Apple.”
This website is run by Mark Sisson – a former marathon runner/biology student who’s conceived what he calls the Primal Blueprint for healthy living. Far from being a fad diet – Sisson’s blueprint is a philosophy for life based upon mankind’s genetic past. In short, Sisson argues that man developed over hundreds of thousands of years through living off the land – therefore our bodies are not adapted to modern foods. The human body is mainly comprised of fat and protein – these two elements therefore should be regarded as our most basic dietary needs.
It’s not about giving up carbs – as Sisson says you’ll find carbs in just about every vegetable there is – rather, it’s about keeping away from processed foods, sugars and toxins. The key offender appears to be cereal grains. Ever since the late nineteen fifties we have been consuming cereals in massive quantities in the belief that they are somehow good for us. Sisson’s science debunks this myth – going as far as to prove that they are in fact actively bad for us! Top of the list of foods to cut out then is bread – followed by anything made with flour, such as pizza, pasta, cakes, biscuits etc.
Although I have not followed Sisson’s philosophy to the letter, my beer intake providing the occasional two-steps-back, my body fat is rapidly disappearing. My weight now fluctuates around the 69-70 kilo mark and I feel fitter than at any other time in my life. My body fat is now proportionally comparable to the amount I was carrying when I was a teenager – Sisson suggests that this fat just may never come off as it was put on during a key development period – but all that blubber that went on post university has long gone. I look thinner, leaner and healthier than I did 12 months ago and there’s even a hint of a six-pack now under what I used to refer to as my belly.
What I’ve learnt from Sisson is that governments and health advisory bodies that advocate low-calorie/high-fibre diets for healthy living are just plain wrong, still relying on flawed data from decades past.
It seems the only way to be sure that what you’re eating is good for you is to do your own research – thanks be to the internet.