I try not to eat foods that will provoke inflammation in my body. My food philosophy means that I avoid refined sugars and starch most of the time, so that’s no sweets, cakes, biscuits or in fact anything made from grains. This includes many foods that in our society are considered staple foods and that are often marketed as being an essential part of a ‘healthy, balanced diet’, bread, pasta, rice and oats (no porridge for breakfast).
I also want to avoid the processed vegetable oils that are often added to packaged foods that can act to promote inflammation in our body. This leaves me with fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and eggs to eat as well as nuts and seeds. Food that is unrefined and unprocessed.
There are lots of books, magazines and TV programmes available at this time of year when we are all coming off the back of an overindulgent Christmas and feeling the motivation from our New Years resolutions to lose weight and become healthier.
I’ve been watching Tom Kerridge on his TV show working with overweight people whom he is teaching to cook and eat in such a way as to lose weight. He is using a simple low calorie method, substituting higher calorie foods (including some that I would consider very healthy like certain types of oils and fats) for lower calorie alternatives and using these ingredients in tasty recipes to tempt the participants of the show to cook from scratch with real ingredients rather than reaching for convenience foods which are often higher in calories. If he can get them to expend more calories than they are eating then they should lose weight. It’s a simple equation.
The way I choose to eat is premised on a different belief about how the different types of food we eat impact on our bodies. To put it very simply, and apologies to anyone reading this who has an in depth knowledge of human physiology, the theory goes something like this;
When we eat sugar or starchy carbohydrates (cereals, rice, oats, pasta, potatoes, etc..) our body produces the hormone insulin to help process the sugar. When insulin is produced our body is prevented from burning fat for energy (fat metabolism) because it has easily available sugar to use. The body uses as much of the available sugar as it needs and then stores any extra away as fat.
As long as we are not eating too much of these sugary starches this is not a problem from a weight (or fat) management point of view. Problems arise when we are not burning off all of the sugar through activity and exercise and have left over sugars to store as fat.
If fat loss (usually the goal in weight loss attempts) is your goal then avoiding the insulin production that switches off your body’s ability to burn fat for energy can be a very successful method of achieving it. To avoid insulin production all you have to do is avoid the foods that provoke it, sugars and starches.
Now, I am one of those ‘lucky’ people. I have a genetic make up that means I can eat mostly whatever I like and I don’t gain much weight, I am naturally slim. But if I do eat lots of sugar and grains then I can go from my regular weight of 10st.2lbs (65kg) to over 11st. in not much more than a week. Is this fat storage? I don’t think so. I think it is evidence of my body retaining fluid, becoming swollen in response to consuming foods that inflame and irritate my body. I will feel bloated and uncomfortable, tired and lethargic. It’s not the way I want to feel so I don’t do it (often). When I go back to my normal eating habits I lose that additional weight in a week or so, it’s just fluid I think.
I sometimes talk to my patients about food and I’ve noticed a wide range of views and beliefs on the subject. It’s a very sensitive subject for many of us as our beliefs stem from early life experiences, likes and dislikes. The way we eat is intimately related to our emotional state. I know for instance that I use the foods I really like as rewards. My instinct is to get to the end of a tough day and binge on comforting foods as a treat. It’s a complex business trying to understand our relationships with food and I am not an expert.
I therefore am not seeking to recommend my way of eating to you but simply want to share with you what I do and why I do it. If it is not right for you then that’s ok with me. If you take anything at all away from what I show you to use as part of your own food philosophy then that’s great but I am not interested in judging others for their food choices. I certainly have my own views about what is healthy and what’s not but also acknowledge that we are individuals and what’s healthy for my metabolism (see above) may not be right for yours.
Eating based on how it makes you feel is not a bad way to go and certainly if you try something that makes you feel terrible I would stop and take a different approach.
Anyway, I am going to share some recipes, make some videos and offer more thoughts on my own eating habits. I have a small weight management goal myself for this year. I am cycling an event called Mallorca 312 at the end of April. This is a ride of 312Km in one day starting in the North of the island, going over the big mountain range in the North West, down almost to Palma and then back up through the middle of the island to get back to Alcudia. It’s going to be a long day in the saddle and the lighter I am the less energy I will have to expend hauling myself over the mountains, and if I can adapt my body to efficiently burn fat for energy I become much less reliant on continually refuelling with carbohydrates to make it through the journey.
I’ll tell you more about the training for the 312 over the next few posts but for now I want to answer one of the most frequent questions people ask me about my food philosophy, “What do you have for breakfast?”
Here is a short video with the answer.