Goodbye Fit24 and Hello Mediterranean

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I managed to complete the Fit24 challenge and scored 100%. Unfortunately I didn’t lose weight – it went up and down over the course of the challenge and I’m now about back where I began. It wasn’t all bad. I can easily enjoy much less sugar in my diet and will keep a few of the elements of the challenge.  This will be keeping cakes, biscuits, desserts and ice-creams as once a week or less often treats. Jam on wholegrain toast will be back in but with a little less frequency- perhaps twice per week.

I have also decided that I need to celebrate and be more curious about food. So I’m setting off on a culinary journey.

I found “The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean” amongst the library cast offs. This fits in nicely with an article I referred to in a previous blog about the benefits of a Mediterranean type diet and the book boasts 215 healthy, vibrant and inspired recipes. I think it also ties in nicely with my childhood love of Greek mythology and Scheherazade and her Arabian nights entertainments.

The book opens with some information about mezze and a series of sauce and dip recipes.

I found some lovely eggplants so decided the first recipe I’d try would be a fairly well known dish – Roasted Eggplant dip or Baba ganoush. Ideally the eggplants are best cooked over coals or a flame but I roasted them in the oven. The garnish is tomatoes, parsley and paprika blended 3 parts to 1 with ground chilli flakes. The dip is quite a moist one but has subtle chilli kick.

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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.

                 

New challenge and an interesting experiment!

I’ve been curious and intrigued by the fat vs sugar debate that has been raging recently. However, I’ve been somewhat old fashioned in my approach to weight loss. I just count calories when I want to lose weight – this means juggling my time and priorities a bit, putting more effort into planning meals and keeping a food diary- but it invariably works. I generally don’t change the range of foods I eat at all and I stick roughly to the very retro food pyramid i.e. 4-5 serves carbohydrates, 5-7 serves of vegetables, 2-3 serves of fruit, 2-3 serves protein, 1-2 serves dairy etc.

I’ll admit to being very skeptical about low carb diets and also skeptical about the general discourse along the lines of “sugar is bad, fat is good.” I’ve got the opportunity to delve into this first hand.

In four days’ time I’m joining my work colleagues at IMAC in the Fit24 challenge. This challenge involves cutting sugar substantially out of your diet and choosing full fat options for products such as yoghurt.

So curiosity is about to kill this cat, but hopefully satisfaction will bring it back…

How well will I be able to stick to this diet which cuts out a number of my current staples such as dried fruit, brown bread and jam?

Will I lose weight without the burden of time spent keeping a food diary and calculating calories?

Will I acquire supernatural powers?

Will I lurk behind my children with a sinister gaze, salivating at their mountain of sequestered Halloween treats?

Will I suddenly sign up to the Robert Lustig fan club?

Also for those interested in who I think is the best source of information on fat vs sugar at the moment you can’t go past Dr Lisa Te Morenga and Dr Rod Jackson.