I bet you’ve been on a diet. Or two, or more…

What have you learned from the process? That you lose weight when on a diet? And gain weight when off a diet? I’m afraid to say, that’s pretty much all you’ll learn. And along the way, your “relationship” with food will become warped and twisted. You will not trust yourself around food. You will become pre-occupied with either restricting food, or deliberately over-eating. And you’ll blame yourself for all of this is.

My fault, not yours

I’ll start with an apology. To anyone who I imposed a calorie-counted, portion controlled diet on in my early career as an eager but naïve NHS dietitian. Predictably, the plans got followed for a while and a bit of weight was lost. But almost inevitably, my carefully crafted meal plans got abandoned. My fault. Not yours. Please accept my apology.

So diets don’t work

This is not just my personal experience. It is well known in weight science circles that the majority of people (95%) who lose weight by dieting will put all that weight back on, with many ending up heavier than before they started the diet. I rest my case. It is not in the dieting industry’s interest to let you know this. You can’t un-know it now. But you’re panicking. If you’re not on a diet, you’re off a diet. When you’re off a diet, you eat foods you “shouldn’t”, far too much of them. You feel liked you failed, again. You eventually feel so bad about yourself that you think you have no choice but to diet again. You are trapped in a cycle of DIETING, which leads to NOT DIETING, which leads to DIETING…you get the picture. Overall, you’re getting nowhere.

Enter NON-DIETING

Imagine a world where food is neither good or bad, right or wrong. Imagine that you are no more out of control around a plateful of biscuits than you are around a plateful of carrot sticks. Imagine that your favourite food gives you pleasure, not guilt. Imagine if you could taste food and decide if you actually like it instead of wondering whether it’s “allowed”. Imagine if you understood WHY you eat the way you do, and were able to improve HOW you eat. Imagine if you could learn to trust your body to guide you on hunger, fullness and satisfaction.

Stop imagining. Start making it happen. (Go back to previous page)

The countdown is on…both to Christmas and the ever popular New Year obsession with weight loss.  Through a series of quotes and proverbs, we’ll take a look at the wisdom of dieting, and build a case for a non-diet approach. 

December 1: There was only one occasion in my life when I put myself on a strict diet…and it was the most miserable afternoon I’ve ever spent (Denis Norden) 

What Denis lacks in perseverance, he makes up for in insight!

December 2: We learn from history that men never learn anything from history (Hegel)

How many times have you dieted, lost weight, regained it, but returned to that same diet even though it didn’t lead to lasting weight loss last time? Start learning from history!

December 3: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin)

Do you give up on food control in December and surrender to weight gain, telling yourself you’ll deal with it in January?  Well you could do that, or you could eat the foods you want to eat and use the principles of fullness and satisfaction to guide quantity.  Yes, this is initially difficult for those with an ‘on diet/off diet’ mentality, but try it.  What have you got to lose?!

December 4: Enough is as good as a feast (Joshua Sylvester)

Have you ever had an enormous plate of food in front of you and thought “I’m not going to let this beat me!”  The Christmas turkey is already dead.  You’ve already beaten it.  Leave the competitive eating to the Americans – no prizes for heartburn and indigestion.  

December 5: Only dead fish go with the flow (Andy Hunt) 

Do you sometimes eat mainly because that’s what others are doing? Thinking about the office biscuits, boxes of sweets, trays of crisps, buffet lunches…you’ll likely to be exposed to all of this and more in the coming weeks.  You could use the “They’re eating it, so I’ll have some too” justification.  Or you could make your own decisions to eat and stop eating.  Don’t let the actions and decisions of others influence yours. 

December 6: If you don’t control your mind, someone else will (John Allston)

Have you ever had a meal in the company of others and found yourself going against what you really wanted? For example, chose salad when you really wanted chips?  Deliberately ate a small portion? Said “No thanks” to dessert even though you would have loved one? If you change your eating habits or food choices in company, this suggests that you think there is something wrong with the way you eat.  There probably isn’t….but thinking this way might just create a problem.  

December 7: Nothing is so simple that it cannot be screwed up (Anon)

“Eat less, move more”.  Simple right?  So why is it so difficult?  Because life is complicated.  People are complex.  There are no simple solutions to complex problems.

December 8: Minds are like parachutes.  They only work when open (Thomas Dewer)

Blindly following diet rules (“eat this, don’t eat that”) can seem safe and secure…initially.  But sooner or later, you’ll want to eat what YOU want to eat, not what you’re told to eat.  So you rebel, and overeat all the foods you weren’t previously allowed.  The irony is that if you paid more attention to what you wanted in the first place, you would have avoided this scenario. Open your food mind. You might be (pleasantly) surprised by what happens.

December 9: Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers (Lord Alfred Tennyson)

Experienced dieters know a thing or two about calories and portion sizes. But food wisdom is about how food makes you feel, and how your food choices affect your food actions. For example, you want a chocolate bar (200 cals), but that’s too many calories.  So you eat an apple (80cals), then a diet yoghurt (80 cals), then a rice cake (20 cals)…  No, not satisfied.  So you end up eating the chocolate bar anyway. Your knowledge led to you eating 380 cals, whereas if you had used your wisdom, you would only have eaten 200cals.  Who’s smarter now?

December 10: Ability is what you are able to do.  Motivation determines what you do.  Attitude decides how well you do it (Anon)

You have the ABILITY to lose weight. You use your unhappiness about your weight to MOTIVATE you to diet. But it is your ATTITUDE that will dictate how successful you are.  Weight loss is less about food, and more about your attitude to food. Get the attitude right, and you may find you no longer need the diet.

December 11:  Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it (George Bernard Shaw)

While there can be a safety and certainty in following diet rules, they don’t last for most people.  Food compliance is often followed by food rebellion, or eating without boundaries. Non-diet approaches to weight loss emphasise freedom to choose with no foods banned, putting you firmly in charge of your food decisions, but guided by principles of hunger, fullness and satisfaction.  You will feel liberated from diet rules, but you will also become responsible for your food decisions.  Is it for you? If you have previously lost weight and regained it following multiple diets….then yes!

December 12: You can always tell luck from ability by its duration (E.C. McKenzie)

Anyone can lose weight.  Diets exist for no other reason.  Diets help you avoid food.  But losing weight, and more importantly keeping it off, requires the ability to live with food, not avoid it.

December 13: If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst (Thomas Hardy)

Think about the way you eat when you are on a diet. Think about the way you eat when you are NOT on a diet. A non-diet approach to weight loss may not make sense to you IF you wrongly assume it resembles NOT being on a diet. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Your problems with food and the reasons you eat as you do are most evident when you are not on a diet – so this is where we start looking for solutions. The non-diet approach does not ignore your food problems. It deals with them.

December 14: When all think alike, no-one is thinking (Walter Lippman)

You like being part of a group.  The moral support, the incentive to attend, the craic..

Surrounding yourself with like-minded people means our thoughts and behaviours will be considered normal.  But what if these thoughts and behaviours are not helpful to you in achieving your goals?  Weight loss groups probably ‘work’ for some (although the evidence is mounting for their ineffectiveness for the majority).  Obsessing over weekly weights, weighing food, counting calories/points/syns, starving yourself in the days before your weigh-in, over-eating immediately after your weigh in – just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. Choose your herd wisely.

December 15: “Arrival fallacy” –the false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness (Tal Ben-Sahar)

You tell yourself you will be really happy and life will be so much better when you are lighter, thinner, smaller…While a diet can change your body weight,  it won’t address the eating complexities that contributed to your weight in the first place. You lose weight, but you don’t lose the problems, so your control over your weight is fragile and liable to break at any given time. This is not going to make you happy. Focus on sorting out your food problems, and the weight loss will come.

December 16: Labels are for bottles (Smirnoff)

You eat.  Is it a snack?  Is it a meal?  Does it matter? Apparently yes.  A study gave two groups of people the same food (a pasta dish).  One group was told it was a meal.  The other group was told it was a snack.  Both groups ate exactly the same amount.  Both groups were then given bowls of sweets and savoury foods, and the amount they ate was measured.  The group who were told the pasta dish was a snack ate more sweets and savoury foods afterwards. Other common food labels are “good”, “bad”, “healthy”, “unhealthy” – the problem is that, as the study above demonstrates, labelling food affects our eating decisions, and most often in a negative way. Food is food.  Ditch the labels.

December 17: A lot of our problems are created by our solutions (Paul Watzlawick)

You start off a little overweight.  You go on a diet.  You lose weight, but regain more.  This cycle repeats a few times – and you end up heavier than you were before you started. Your solution (dieting) contributed to a bigger problem. If you look back now and wish you were the weight you were when you first thought you were overweight, the weight you were before your first diet, then the need for a better solution is clear.

December 18: You’ll know when a relationship is right for you.  It will enhance your life, not complicate your life (Brigitte Nicole)

When on a diet, do you become preoccupied with, maybe even obsessive about, food or constantly have food on your mind? When the diet stops, do you deliberately overeat while mentally beating yourself up? Does this sound like a good food relationship to you? Make food work for you, not against you. Food can, and should, be a pleasure, not a problem.

December 19: Insanity…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result (Albert Einstein)

Or doing the same DIET over and over again and expecting a different result.

December 20: If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  Then quit.  No use being a damn fool about it (W.C. Fields)

How many times have you done the same thing to lose weight, but ultimately regained it?  Hard to say it worked.  Half a solution that doesn’t last is no better than no solution.  Quit what doesn’t work.  Try something else.

December 21: Strategy is better than strength (Nigeria)

You may frequently have summoned the strength to start a diet.  You have probably displayed enormous willpower in avoiding foods you would have loved to eat.  Your strength is not in question.  But add in life’s pressures and strains and even the strongest can fall.  You need strategies to manage food, not just strength to avoid food

December 22: The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it (George Orwell)

I shouldn’t eat it.  But I want to.  I’m not allowed it.  But it’s my favourite thing.  It’s so unhealthy.  But it’s delicious.  It’s so high calorie.  I DON’T CARE…gobble gobble.  Game over.  Diet over. Enter a war with food, and eventually you lose. Anyone for a peace treaty?

December 23: He who breaks a resolution is a weakling.  He who makes one is a fool (FM Knowles)

Start your diet on 1st January….how long does it usually last?
Play it smarter this year.  Ditch the diet resolution.  Sort out your food problems once and for all.

December 24: Many your troubles in the coming year be as short-lived as your resolutions (E. C. McKenzie)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.



 

Your children depend on you to provide food to keep them healthy. The ideal position is to provide a varied diet of good nutritional quality, while limiting less nutritious foods.  Easy, right?

With childhood obesity in the media spotlight, what is the best way to try to ensure this happens? Is it better to take full control of food decisions? Or is there a case for allowing your child to have some food independence?

Parent Feeding Style – What’s yours?

You’re making spaghetti bolognese for dinner – do you:

A. Make it. Serve it. Expect your child to finish it. If they don’t, there will be a consequence (strict, or “authoritarian” style)

B. Tell your child you’re making spaghetti bolognese. Ask if they want the meat sauce mixed through the spaghetti or served separately. Ask how hungry they are and much they feel like. Then leave them to it. They either finish it or they don’t (flexible, “authoritative” style)

C. Cook some nuggets and frozen pizza as well because your child grumbled about having to eat spaghetti bolognese. Sure they have to eat something (soft, “permissive” style)

D. Change your mind. You can’t be bothered cooking at all. The kids can grab themselves a slice of toast (“negligent” style)

If you normally go for C. or D., these permissive and negligent parent feeding styles are consistently associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity.

What about A. the strict approach (authoritarian) or B. the flexible approach (authoritative)?

The evidence in a nutshell

Common behaviours associated with a strict, authoritarian approach are:

  • restricting foods (usually those considered ‘bad’)
  • pressuring to eat certain foods (usually those considered ‘good’)
  • using food as a reward (for example for good behaviour)
  • using food as a punishment or bribe (“you’re not getting a biscuit if you don’t finish your dinner”)

While all of these behaviours are very well intentioned, do they have the effect you want?

What impact does this approach have on your child’s long term relationship with food?

Unfortunately, evidence suggests that the strict parent feeding style may be counter-productive and is actually associated with an increased risk of obesity.

Restricting food:

  • Gives it ‘forbidden fruit’ status and makes children want it more
  • Makes your child less willing to try a wide variety of other foods
  • Plants the seed of some foods being ‘bad’ and others being ‘good’, which can persist in unhelpful ways into adulthood

Pressuring to eat food:

  • Fails to take in to consideration your child’s food preferences, likes and dislikes
  • Leads to future avoidance of that food

Using food as a reward or comfort:

  • Increases desire for that food
  • Is habit forming and likely to persist into adulthood
  • Associates with-holding of that food as being punishment

Using food as a punishment or bribe:

  • Can lead to overeating of the withheld foods when the opportunity arises (eg at parties or grandparents)
  • Associates provision of that food with being a reward.

All in all, a strict approach can do more harm than good. The irony is, well-intentioned parents with the highest degree of concern over their child’s weight are most likely to adopt the strict approach.

So this leaves the flexible, authoritative approach.

Give your child space to make decisions about what to choose and how much to eat, but under your watchful guiding eye. You will have to reduce control and increase trust. How?

Practical tips to getting flexible!

  • Have a wide range of foods available and let your child decide what they want.
  • Don’t label foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Fruit is fruit, chocolate is chocolate.
  • Give your child mini food responsibilities – ask them what they feel like eating, and give them options. This will teach them independent food decision making.
  • Lead by example – let your child hear you say things like “I’ve had enough”, “I don’t feel like one right now”.
  • Include them in shopping decisions – “What type of fruit and vegetables would you like me to buy this week?”
  • When serving meals ask “How hungry are you?”

Don’t expect to get it right every time – your best guide is your child’s response. Have faith and let them surprise you!

Start from within

There is no doubt that navigating our current food environment is a minefield. But, if you want your child to grow up to be independent and confident in their food decisions, the training starts now.

If your child is overweight, NHS Choices website suggests “Be a good role model”. If your child is not yet overweight, but you have concerns about their eating, this remains sound advice.

To build your child’s healthy ‘relationship’ with food, you need to know how to be around food yourself. The role of food in your life, and how you use (or abuse) food will almost certainly have been influenced by how your food intake was managed as a child, and even by your adult experiences of dieting and weight control.

There are many parallels between the strict, authoritarian approach and today’s omnipresent adult dieting industry.

Evidence informs us it does little to help with childhood obesity – it has limited impact on adult obesity too.

Dieting experiences can diminish our ability to trust and conduct ourselves around food, yet we have responsibility for coaching our children. You may need to start by looking at your own relationship with food.

In time, you can learn to be a food and nutrition mentor, not a food dictator – and watch your child grow up comfortable around food and confident in their ability to manage it.

You know what happens when you look for love in all the wrong places – but what else are you looking for in all the wrong places?

The dieting industry continues to expand (pun intended).

There is only one reason you would choose to drink Slimfast, join Slimming World or Weight Watchers, start Lighter Life etc etc etc.

To lose weight.

And you will.

Just probably not for very long.

WHY??

Because you’re looking for a solution to your weight problem in the wrong place.

Settle in for a story…

One dark night, Nasrudin is looking for something next to a lamp post in the street. A friend is going by and asks what he’s doing.

Nasrudin replies, “I’m looking for my key”

The friend decides to help and searches the ground under the lamp post.

Half an hour later the friend asks, “Are you sure you dropped your key here?”

Nasrudin replies, “Oh no, I lost it inside my house, in my bedroom.”

The friend screams, “Why in hell’s name, are we searching here?”

Nasrudin smiles and says, “There’s much more light here.”

Since Nasrudin allegedly lived in the 13th century, he probably wasn’t too troubled by our modern day “obesity crisis” (and I’m not sure he would have had a street light either, but let’s not get distracted from the point).

Nevertheless, his ‘wise fool’ story beautifully highlights the futility of using diets to deal with your weight problems.

Advertising and marketing keep the spotlight shining brightly on multiple ‘solutions’ to your weight problem.  But your struggles with food don’t happen under the spotlight.  They happen in private.

You won’t find what you’re looking for if you’re looking in all the wrong places.

Start looking in the right places – see Diet Dilemmas eBook

With Easter around the corner, and chocolate flying off the shelves, how many of you are packing your bags for your next guilt trip?

Picture the scene: 1 cake, 2 people.

Person 1 sees cake. Considers if they want some. Eats cake. The end.

Person 2 sees calories, fat, temptation, a test, a challenge, a risk. They feel in dangerous territory but they eat some cake. They’re not paying attention to whether the cake is delicious or not because the main thought in their head is:

I SHOULDN’T BE EATING THIS

But they have started now so they may as well carry on. They decide they will not eat cake again for a long time so it’s OK if they overeat it now. They can diet harder tomorrow.

So they continue to eat, still not really paying attention to the cake enjoyment because the niggling thought of doing something ‘bad’ lingers, and this grows into:

GUILT

The damage is done now, they have lost the battle with the cake, and surrender to eating it with abandon.

If only that was the end of the story. Feeling guilty about their actions (eating cake) is bad enough. But then this happens:

SHAME

They feel bad about themselves and decide they must be greedy, weak, lacking in willpower, a failure….and the scene is set for unhelpful eating for the rest of the day, maybe even the rest of the week or longer.

Brought down by a piece of cake

How can the same situation result in such a different outcome?

A study published in the journal Appetite in 2013 took a stereotypical ‘forbidden’ food item (chocolate cake) and compared ‘guilt’ eaters with ‘celebration’ eaters.

Those who attached guilt to eating had:

  • lower levels of perceived food control, and
  • were less successful at losing weight

than those who associated the food with celebration.

It all boils down to your ‘relationship’ with food, how you view food, and how you make decisions about what to eat and when to stop eating.

These are all changeable / modifiable factors, and working to improve how you feel about, and manage, food will have a major impact on how you feel about your food choices, which will go on to affect how much of it you eat.

The irony…

Many people can suffer from food guilt for many different reasons, but chronic dieters appear to be particularly susceptible because dieting mentalities are one reason for experiencing food guilt.

The point of dieting is to lose weight, but if people who diet suffer from food guilt, this can make keeping weight off very difficult.

If you feel guilty while eating, this is a warning signal, your head sending you a mental distress call, alerting you to a problem that needs to be fixed. Something has broken down in terms of your relationship with that food, a problem with how you view that food.

Add to that the fact that feeling this way often leads to ongoing eating and it becomes crystal clear that food guilt is a useless, pointless and destructive emotion.

What this DOESN’T mean

So what we eat and how much we eat is irrelevant as long as we don’t feel guilty about it? NO, NO and NO. You can’t eat your body weight in chocolate as long as you do it in the name of celebration. If only it was that simple.

Saying ‘Don’t feel guilty’ is not enough.

Food guilt is not healthy but telling yourself “I’m going to eat this and not feel guilty” is likely to be as effective as telling a baby to stop crying.

Thoughts, feelings and emotions cannot be switched on and off. Some are warning signs – food guilt is one of these. You need to take food guilt back to its roots, find its source, question the accuracy of your view, and see the problem for what it is – the problem is NOT food, the problem is NOT you, the problem is whatever has distorted your view of food.

How can I fight food guilt?

Since guilt stems from doing something you think you shouldn’t have done, eating without guilt requires you to:

  • Question where that thought came from
  • Stop making food decisions based on what you think you should eat, and start thinking more about what you actually feel like and want. Reclaim your right to make your own decisions about food.
  • Stop labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
  • Abandon hard and fast food rules, and replace with boundaries (for example, move away from “I’m on a diet so I’m not allowed cake” or “I’m not on a diet so I can eat as much cake as I can”, and move towards “I will eat some cake if I decide I want some, and I will only continue to eat it if it is delicious and stop when I am satisfied” – yes, you can learn how to do this!)
  • Use more helpful cues to guide your eating – hunger, fullness, food pleasure and satisfaction are the major players here.

Celebrate

If you have a history of food guilt it’s not going to just disappear. But you can get help to understand and manage it, and in time learn how to celebrate food.

There’s only one reason to eat chocolate – pure food pleasure. If you’re eating with guilt, you’re missing:

  • the pleasure, and,
  • the opportunity to make your own decision about when to stop

Appropriate enjoyment of any food should never be followed by inappropriate overeating as a punishment for enjoying it. Food guilt is a weapon that has no place at the table.

I’m not a fan of diets. And until I came across a book by Dena Harris “Does this collar make my butt look big?” I was unaware that cats also experienced the same pitfalls.  As recounted through feline eyes, Dena explores the crazy world of dieting.  In honour of World Book Day 2018, here are some of the best bits.

First steps

The first step in any diet is to shift into a full-fledged panic the day before the diet officially begins and eat everything in sight.

Harness your motivation

  • My motivation for losing weight is:
    • I want to rock out a belly ring
    • Swimsuit season is upon us
    • REVENGE
    • To be healthy. Just kidding. It’s the belly ring, bikini, and REVENGE.
  • Find a diet buddy. Give him a paw smack whenever you stray from your diet, as he’s obviously not doing his job.
  • Use motivational notes and reminders. Hang a “Hot Kitty” calendar nearby to remind you what you want to look like.

What cat diet to choose?

South Beach Diet

The diet starts out with lots of restrictions, but the rules are simple: Don’t eat anything that tastes good. However, if you eat something that tastes like processed cardboard, you’re permitted unlimited quantities.

Blood Group Diet

The benefit is that once you know your blood type, you can eat accordingly, and the weight will drop off like a Pomeranian tossed off a bridge.

Paleo Diet

Listen to your body. You may skip meals if you’re not hungry. (We’ve never known this to happen).

Zone diet

Each meal to consist of 30% fat, 30% protein, and 40% carbs. This is all well and good, except cats can’t count. And even if we could, we’d count something much more interesting than carbs.

Cleansing

You may become convinced you’re starving. Should this occur, lie down, take deep breath, then call for Chinese takeout.

Exercise

Hold off urinating for as long as possible, then make a mad dash for the litter box. Feel the burn.

Dealing with saboteurs

Confront those who don’t want you to change. And by “confront” we mean show them your butt.

Other top tips…in no particular order

Too little sleep can make you fat. Aim for at least twenty-two hours a day.

Track how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10. Any time you go above a 1, eat immediately, before fatigue and hallucinations set in.

Don’t skip the most important meal of the day, which would be…..You know what? To be safe, don’t skip any of them.

Whether you succeed or fail on this particular plan, we suggest you go ahead and tell everyone you’ve lost weight. Others will be impressed, thinking you have willpower they don’t, and will go and order a ten-taco special and gain twelve pounds, making you appear more svelte.

Enjoy the occasional cheat day and eat whatever you want. We suggest scheduling cheat days on days that end with a ‘y’.

Buy a low fat cookbook. Now shred it. Admit it – that felt good.

Don’t give up! Unless it’s hard. Or you’re tired. Or really hungry. Or it’s a Tuesday.

Do not reward yourself with food. You are not a dog.

Conclusion

Treat your diet the same way as you treat doorbells, vets, and Aunt Dorothy’s Doberman – get yourself the hell out of there.

Thanks goodness the cat came to its senses. Respect.

Remission (im)possible?

In Northern Ireland, over 71,000 people have Type 2 diabetes (Public Health Agency, 2015). There are likely to be many more as yet undiagnosed cases. Type 2 diabetes is characterised by high blood glucose levels, which will cause future health problems if left untreated.

Globally, over 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight at diagnosis. It is widely accepted that increasing levels of obesity increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, managing weight is going to reduce your risk of developing diabetes.

But what if I already have Type 2 diabetes? Can it be reversed?

An on-going clinical trial called DiRECT (Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial) released preliminary results before Christmas, with impressive results.

Participants were recruited within 6 years of diagnosis, and all were overweight. They followed an 800 calorie diet of specially formulated soups and shakes for 8 to 20 weeks.

The study found that 86% of participants who lost ≥15kg (2st 5lbs) achieved remission (that is, blood glucose levels could be maintained at healthy levels without the use of medication).

Does this mean that I have a high chance of achieving remission?

Maybe. That’s not the conviction you might want but it seems probable that remission is most likely in the early years post diagnosis, and provided a significant weight loss is achieved.

It is important to be clear that the participants achieved remission, not cure. It remains to be seen how long the remission state lasts. It would seem plausible that if weight loss was the key to achieving remission, then keeping weight off will be a key strategy in staying in remission. However, this also highlights that taking action to lose weight to prevent Type 2 diabetes may be a safer bet.

Could a low calorie diet help me?

If you are affected by diabetes and want help determining if a low calorie diet may be suitable for you, contact me for a no-obligation conversation about the pros and cons of this approach. Do not attempt a low calorie diet independently, especially if you are using tablets or insulin to manage your Type 2 diabetes, or other medications such as blood pressure tablets.

Further information

The study is not yet complete so this dietary approach to achieving remission is NOT currently available on the NHS. Get more information at https://blogs.diabetes.org.uk.

Preparation or deprivation?

Lent has been hijacked. By dieters. It’s not surprising – forgoing food for 40 days is a guaranteed way to lose weight (although I’m not sure that was Jesus’s motivation).

Deprivation is at the heart of both Lent and dieting. Despite it also being about preparation and reflection, for those with a weight loss agenda, the focus is mainly on the deprivation aspect of Lent. You commit to ‘give up’ your usual vices like sugar in tea, biscuits and sweets (while secretly hoping you’ll be lighter by the end of it) and disregard preparation for the aftermath. Another job half done. But a least you’ll get to feel virtuous for a few weeks.

If you do observe Lent, with even a slight weight loss agenda, how about doing it differently this year by focusing more on the preparation and reflection side. Ditch the deprivation. Give up on giving up.

Instead of stopping doing something, try to start doing something that will complement your weight loss agenda. And you never know, it might stick…..

So here goes, 40 days, 40 suggestions. Choose only one, choose a different one every day….or give up sweets again! Your call.

What are you going to do for Lent?

  1. Every time you use an escalator, excuse yourself past people whose legs have temporarily stopped working and keep moving!
  2. If you feel bad or guilty after eating something, your head is trying to alert you to something important (for example, a ‘broken diet rule’). These thoughts and feelings are warning signs of an unhelpful relationship with food. Monitor your thoughts and feelings around food.
  3. Stop labelling food as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ if you know from experience that this can negatively affect your food decisions. Food is food is food.
  4. Referring to some foods as ‘treats’ elevates their importance. Crisps are crisps, chocolate is chocolate, and ideally should have no more significance than an apple. Try to be neutral with all food.
  5. Have a cup of tea or coffee…on it’s own. This is not about giving up biscuits, but about challenging habits.
  6. Pay attention to your hunger and fullness levels. If you recognise you are full before your plate is empty, practise leaving the rest.
  7. Observe how often you eat that has nothing to do with hunger. Start to think about what drives this eating (eg boredom, comfort, tiredness). This will give you clues about the areas to work on to help manage your weight.
  8. Eat with minimal distractions – move away from the computer, stop checking social media and turn off the TV over dinner. Pay attention to your food and you might find yourself enjoying it.
  9. If you know you have a habit of eating due to boredom, choose a non-food activity to pass the time.
  10. Choose food based on what you know you want and will enjoy, instead of eating what you feel you should eat (diet products….looking at you).
  11. Find a fun activity to do – trampolining, aerial yoga, table tennis. It doesn’t matter what, just do it and enjoy.
  12. Try a fruit, vegetable or other food you’ve never tasted before.
  13. Cook a vegetarian meal – plant based eating is all the rage these days.
  14. Think about the purpose scales serve in your life. Decide not to weigh yourself if they often make you feel bad about yourself. Make your food choices based on what you want to eat, guided by hunger and fullness, not based on a number on the scales.
  15. Question things that don’t make sense such as “You’re not losing weight because you’re not eating enough”. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t accept it as fact.
  16. For all the foods you eat today, but especially ‘diet’ foods or snack foods…slow down and TASTE…..do you really like them that much? Be fussy!
  17. Aim to eat food that satisfies. Satisfaction is more important than simply not being hungry. Being satisfied will help you to eat less.
  18. Tackle ‘comfort eating’. If you ‘comfort eat’, you’re definitely eating, but are you getting comfort? At best, you’re getting a temporary distraction from the real problem. Think of options that will deal with the problem.
  19. Sleep, sleep, sleep – lack of sleep is known to affect hormones involved in appetite regulation. If you notice that you eat more, or make different choices, when you are tired – get more sleep.
  20. Stop comparing yourself to others. You may see people around you eat more than you, but this observation does not help you in any way, and more likely makes you feel worse. DON’T. DO. IT.
  21. Start noticing how your food choices make you feel physically – neutral, energised, lethargic, sluggish, bloated. Choose to eat food that make you feel good.
  22. When you see food, do you see calories, ‘points’, ‘syns’, fat content, sugar content…..? This is the science end. But eating well is an art. Knowledge is only helpful if you are skilful at managing it. Practise art.
  23. Stop self blame. If you have dieted repeatedly…and ‘failed’…you most likely blame yourself but has the diet got something to answer for? Think about the foods you struggle with, get help to deal with those, and don’t repeat old dieting mistakes.
  24. Make a decision to eat for health not dieting. So avocados, nuts, cheese…back on the menu (if you like them), and enough of the diet yoghurts, rice cakes and low fat everything (unless you happen to really love them. Really?)
  25. Use your taste buds…if something looks good, but doesn’t taste great, don’t eat it.
  26. Exercise – choose something you enjoy and makes you feel good, and do it for those reasons. Keep weight loss out of it.
  27. Drink……enough to keep your pee pale.
  28. Sit less….or do some chair based exercises while you sit.
  29. Eat like you respect yourself.
  30. Tell people your boundaries. If you don’t want them to comment on your food choices or weight, tell them.
  31. Batch cook when you get the chance – cook once, eat more than once.
  32. Look at the ingredients lists of foods. If it reads like a science experiment or has multiple ingredients not immediately recognisable as food, do you want to eat it?
  33. Stop allowing packet size to dictate how much you eat. If you often eat until packets are empty, then you are not making independent food decisions – the food manufacturers are pulling the strings.
  34. Don’t get caught out having nothing to eat. Fill the freezer – frozen vegetables, fruit, fish, meats, oven chips – so you always have a back-up plan.
  35. Ditch the euphemisms. For example “I’m trying to be good”. If eating well is so hard you have to ‘try to be good’ then you are either eating foods you’re not really enjoying or denying yourself foods you really enjoy (or both). Does this sound like a helpful long term plan?
  36. Eat publicly. If you eat less when in company compared to when you are alone, then you are concerned about how others might judge your eating. But by eating privately, you are judging yourself.
  37. Stop choosing arbitrary days to start dieting (Monday seems to be popular!). You can respect your hunger, fullness and satisfaction NOW!
  38. Don’t let technology take over either your decision making or your common sense. For example, if you’re using an app to count calories, it might advise you to eat less or eat more. Your app does not know when you are hungry, satisfied or full. You do.
  39. Don’t let other people affect your food decision making. Be independent. Focus on what you want.
  40. Read self help material. Might as well start with Diet Dilemmas book!

40 days, 40 suggestions. Pitching preparation. Ditching deprivation.