Fit24 Challenge: Unadultered tirade of opinion on nutritional advice….

Right I’ve been doing this Fit24 Challenge for three weeks. I’ve only had 3/6 of the allowed treat days. I’ve gained another kilogram. I am really, really pissed off. I’ve followed the dietary guidelines and I’ve put on weight. I’ve also been more irritable and more miserable than I normally am. These stupid guidelines for diet DO NOT work for me – in fact I say without a doubt they’ve been detrimental. I now have an extra two kilos I need to lose using my previous tried and true technique – kilojoule counting. It doesn’t help that this morning I’ve tried to have a higher protein breakfast – scrambled eggs, wholegrain toast, mushrooms and tomatoes and the egg has given me stomach cramp. I can safely say that I don’t feel hungry at 11am but then I don’t actually bloody well feel very well either.

I’m not particularly craving cakes, biscuits, lollies. In fact the only positive consolation of this diet is that if I have a dessert much more infrequently e.g. once per week then wow does it taste REALLY good. Deprivation is worthwhile just for the increased pleasure that comes from more occasional indulgence.

I just want to eat dried fruit, more fresh fruit than a measly two serves per day and jam on my wholegrain toast more regularly than once per week.

Switching to full fat has NOT been helpful; it’s been a recipe for disaster as far as I’m concerned. I have not felt more sated and the 3pm slump hasn’t gone away. I think the 3pm slump is more due to having a sedentary, seated job and lack of fresh air than diet factors. Having a brisk walk outside will probably be more valuable than listening to sugar control freaks.

My previous diet wasn’t perfect – I think  it is a lifestyle factor that is really difficult to address. This is my completely subjective assessment by the way. I’m not reading any science on it right now because I can’t be bothered – it’s my day off. I have children and I work. I come home from work and I’m bloody tired but there’s still heaps to do and children to nurture so what I really need is 40 winks but I can’t- there’s too much to do in the day still so I eat to try and take away the fatigue without sleeping.

Unfortunately the Fit24 challenge has made me feel like I want to tell everyone to F-off, don’t try and be so bloody prescriptive and limiting with what I can and can’t eat – boy am I looking forward to the end of the Fit24 challenge.

Be very wary of diet advice even if it comes via seemingly very good sources…

I am still managing to successfully avoid sugars as per the fit24 recommendations. I’ve had one “treat” day. My digestive system seems to have settled and I’m not getting as many headaches. However a reliable measurable weight loss is still non-existent. This may be due to a failure of equipment. I got on the scales for my weekly weigh in and discovered a 3 kg difference in my weight depending on whether the scales were pointing north, east, south or west! So my old scales have been retired and a new set is hired. However it does mean I don’t have much faith in the measurement although I do seem to have lost weight. The weight measurement on the old scales, if placed the same position and direction as last week’s measurement, indicate a two kilo loss.

I have been pondering one of the main ideas or evidence used as a guide for the fit24 diet. We are told to eat full fat products instead of low fat because the help us to feel more satisfied and less hungry, also that low fat products generally contain higher sugar levels.

Eating fat on the other hand is very satisfying and makes you feel full a lot quicker and for longer than eating sugar. Not only does fat taste good, we need it for proper vitamin absorption, metabolic functioning and hormone production. So don’t be afraid of fat.

But isn’t fat bad for my heart?

We’ve been brainwashed in to thinking that when we eat saturated fat, it goes straight into our bloodstream, instantly bonding to the inside of our arteries, eventually clogging them up completely. This is not the case. The link between saturated fat intake and coronary heart disease is a myth. It’s OK and a good idea to eat plenty of good sources of fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, etc), so long as your sugar intake is low. (Fit24 website, page may only be accessible to participants)

However, I haven’t noticed much of difference in how satisfied I feel with meals and when I start to feel hungry again. So I’m sceptical at the premise that fat makes us feel sated faster and I have numerous questions. How is satiation defined and measured? What is the general scientific consensus on what foods make us more sated given similar kilojoule intake? Turns out it’s quite complex! I’ve also very quickly found information on the web that directly contradicts the advice above.

“Satiating power”

Some foods can more easily contribute to the feeling of fullness (satiety) than others, and this is referred to as their “satiating power”. The calorie-counting tables, used widely by slimmers and the weight conscious, do not necessarily reflect this satiating power and studies examining the effects of foods on “feelings of fullness” can be helpful. In one study of 38 common foods, both men and women subjects consumed foods with equal calorie contents and their feelings of fullness were recorded every 15 minutes for 2 hours. Highest satiating power was found with high levels of protein, dietary fibre and water and low satiating power was related to higher fat foods. Fruit and vegetables-especially boiled potatoes-proved to have high satiating values, whereas bakery products like cakes, croissants and biscuits were the least satiating foods. Protein-rich foods (fish, meat, baked beans, lentils and eggs) and carbohydrate-rich foods (pasta, rice, wholegrain breads and cereals) were among the most satiating foods. (European Food Information Council)

Neither of these websites cite the scientific studies for this advice. I’m immediately disappointed because that was one thing I loved about Weight Watchers – they provided links to much of the scientific research that underpins their programme and advice.

I also found a whole book dedicated to satiation published in 2013 which also has zombies in it. It’s way more than I want to read right now but I did find a bit more on nutrient types and satiety…

Experimental studies have revealed that macronutrients exert different ‘satiating potencies’: the satiety effect of proteins is often said to be greater than that of carbohydrates, which in turn is higher than the potency of dietary fat. Other influences, such as the physical state (liquid or solid) of energy sources, have been suggested as factors in the intensity and duration of satiety responses, as well as characteristics of individual consumers such as body-weight status, affective or cognitive traits, and genetic predispositions. (Satiation, Satiety and the Control of Food Intake: Theory and Practice)

This coupled with my personal observations means I’m still sceptical about the fit24 claims around fat. I’m happy to maintain the sugar moratorium but I’m still going to be very careful about the amount of fat I consume. I’ll be aiming to use fibre, protein and eating with less haste as a path to satisfaction rather than fat.

Also a practical tip: I’ve found having a supply of low sugar and relatively low fat vegetable based dips and hummus really valuable for snacking in the absence of muesli bars and dried fruit. They are a great way of adding bit of a zing and variety to carrot, celery, capsicum, cucumber sticks and wholegrain crackers. I made this one from scratch based on a recipe from a 1990, Community Aid Abroad Vegetarian Cookbook:

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2 medium sized eggplants, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, juice of 1 lime, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, handful of chopped parsley (mix of Italian flat leaf and curly), 1/3 cup cooked chick peas, salt and pepper.

I baked the eggplants whole on baking paper and gave them a light covering of olive oil before popping them in the oven for 30 mins at 180 degrees C. Then I cut the top with the leafy bit off and peeled most of the skin off. I ate some of the peeled skin and scraped and sucked as much flesh off the rest of the peeled skin as I could before putting it in the compost bin. Washed hands. Then I put the eggplant flesh and all the other ingredients in a blender and whizzed till smooth. The dip was good for a couple of days in the fridge – didn’t last long enough to judge its use by beyond that.

                 

First week impressions of the Fit24 Challenge

(Warning contains references to digestive systems processes and “malfunctions”)

I’ve been part of a team doing a Fit24 Challenge for almost a week; it started on Saturday, 1st November 2014. There are three components to the challenge. The first is diet, the second is sleep and the third is exercise.

The diet is one that minimises free sugars, the little tykes of the carbohydrate family such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. They generally have their own line in the nutritional label. For the duration of the diet I need to eat foods with less than 10 grams of sugar per 100g i.e. it contains less than 10% sugar.

Nutritional label

Larger, complex carbohydrates such as those in wholegrain bread, oats, beans and rice are fine I think. We are also urged not to restrict fat so cheese, full fat yoghurt etc are encouraged. Nuts, in moderation, are recommended as snacks. Spreads such as peanut butter and avocado are to replace jams. Dried fruit is also out (lip wobble, Mwaaahaaa haaaa sob, sob) – fresh fruit is ok but only up to 2 serves per day.

The guidelines around bread and pasta are a bit confusing. Neither of these common foods feature in the “what’s in, what’s out” guide which is an A3 poster with pictures of what is in and a text list of what is out. Coconut milk gets a tick, cream gets a tick, cheese gets a tick along with vegetables, salads, nuts, peanut butter, rice. Alcohol, cakes, biscuits, ice-cream, jam, sugar, sugary cereals such as Nutrigrain, low fat products, dried fruit etc are out. Bread and pasta don’t feature in either list and this is strange given they are likely to be common in people’s current diets. There is just one sentence on the website “Sugar is what we call a fast carbohydrate. Things like bread and pasta are also fast carbohydrates” but no comment that I could find about whether or not we can eat them as part of the challenge. Oddly there are no guidelines on potato chips either but I won’t partake.

The reduction in free sugars is similar to that recommended in a recent comment piece in “The Lancet” by Jim Mann, Rachael McLean, Murray Skeaff , Lisa Te Morenga but they recommend being vigilant about fat content in your diet as well i.e. that it is 30% or less.

During the month we are allowed 6 treat days where the rules can be dropped.

So to emphasize; this isn’t a low carbohydrate, high protein and high fat diet. Things like tabouli, a steaming serve of rice, porridge and home cooked wholegrain bread bring me too much joy in consumption for me to ever consider cutting them out. They fill a need that extends beyond their nutritional value.

The snack I’m currently munching on is some lettuce, grated carrot, thinly sliced red capsicum wrapped in a tortilla spread thinly with avocado, peanut butter, a squeeze of lime, salt & pepper. I was pleasantly surprised given it was a totally unplanned, “what IS there in the fridge that I can eat, given that the weekly shopping day isn’t till tomorrow”.

So far I have been able to keep to the diet. However I have noticed a couple of changes. I’ve been thirstier and I am feeling more frequently light headed or have a mild headache and a psyche of dissatisfaction. I haven’t noticed a difference at all in how often I feel hungry.

With respect to snacks -there’s more time needed on food prep with chopping of carrots, celery, capsicum etc. instead of just washing or peeling a piece of fruit.

By far the worst problem is that my digestive system feels more like I’m hosting a railway siding and a hot air balloon rather than an autobahn. However this may just be because I’ve changed the suite of things that I eat and some re-adjustment is necessary. I’m eating more pulses, almonds and cheese than I normally would. One of the foods featured on the in-list was soy milk. So I decided to substitute full fat whole soy milk for my normal low fat milk. According to my friend this can cause flatulence.

I did a quick Google scholar search and wow yes there are a range of peer reviewed papers on efforts of scientists to reduce the flatulence inducing properties of soy milk. Someone has even done a review on flatulence. My recommendation after a quick reconnaissance of the literature is that if you must have soy milk and don’t want gastric distress then use the more processed ones. Otherwise my friend recommends protein enriched rice milk.

Let’s move on…

I’ve been successful with the exercise recommendations. I’ve done at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This isn’t a huge change in my routine though.

Sleep has probably been the biggest challenge and the one I feel I have least control over. There were 2 nights out of 7 that I didn’t get the recommended 7 hours. The problem isn’t falling asleep – it is waking in the early hours and being unable to get back to sleep at all or for a couple of hours. The recommended strategy for dealing with this on the fit24 website is writing problems down and parking them however I didn’t have any outstanding worrisome issues that I could write down and put aside. I just couldn’t drift off to sleep again easily.

Unfortunately…

I haven’t lost any weight yet. By this time using my usual strategy I would have lost at least one kilo. In fact I’ve gained a kilo. I’m hoping this is a temporary glitch. There are three more weeks to go.