WANT TO KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU FAT?
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and more beautiful than you imagined.
IF YOU’VE BOUGHT THIS BOOK, chances are that you are worried about your health and that you want to drop some kilos. And even if you don’t have much weight to lose, maybe you know that what you are eating isn’t making you feel good. (You might, for example, suffer from bloating, skin problems, insomnia or chronic constipation.) So whether it’s losing 5 kilos, 15 kilos or just being as healthy as you can be, I’m here to help you get your body to a state of peaceful balance where you’re looking great, feeling on top of the world and glowing.
Having this book in your hands is the ﬁrst step, and good on you for taking it. Maybe you’ve tried dieting before, and it hasn’t worked. Maybe you can’t get out of the habit of buying takeaway food or having that sweet after-dinner treat, even though you know that these food choices are adding to your health problems. Maybe you use food to calm you down when you feel emotional. Don’t worry – you are not alone. We’ve all been there, myself included! We all know that regularly eating junky, highly processed food brimming with sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates, artificial ﬂavours, additives, preservatives, sweeteners and dodgy fats is dangerous. And that’s not only because being overweight makes us feel bad, but because it can lead to diseases that kill us – heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, just to name a few.
Most of you know how the energy in/energy out equation works: eating too much + not exercising = weight gain. Of course, I’m not talking about eating too many veggies, here, but about the chocolate bars and biscuits, the glasses of wine, the huge serves of pasta, the restaurant meals, the extra slices of bread, and the bowls of sugary, over-processed breakfast cereals. The energy (calories/kilojoules) in these foods adds up, and if you’re not burning it off, chances are you’ll be gaining weight – and pretty quickly too – in all the places you find it hardest to shift!
What you might not know is that if you are eating too many of these bad guys, it doesn’t matter how much exercise you do. If you’re working out a lot you will build up a bit of muscle, but you’ll still carry excess weight. (I know, I’ve been there!) The body thrives on real wholefoods, not reﬁned junk. Even if you are exercising you won’t be performing at your full potential; you might think you are, but I can promise you right now that you won’t be. Yep, at the end of the day losing weight comes down to what you put in your mouth – about 80 per cent of it, in fact. Clients are amazed when I tell them that their physical exercise and ﬁtness only contribute to 20 per cent of their weight loss.
Yet it’s not quite that simple – there are other factors that influence how fast we put on weight and burn it off, including our hormones, liver function, moods and sleep, and they are all interconnected. Because I’m a nutritionist, my focus is on how food can improve health and wellbeing. I know that my 20/20 diet will strip kilos off you, but I’m also super aware that you will need to exercise regularly, sleep well, and acknowledge the mental and emotional side of your weight issues for you to keep the weight off.
Hormones are chemical messengers sent from one part of the body to another to regulate cell growth, metabolism and immune function. Most people are familiar with the sex hormones: oestrogen for girls and testosterone for blokes, but there are many more, including melatonin, dopamine, oxytocin, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), cortisol, insulin and leptin. Here are a couple that have a particular relationship to weight gain.
When we are stressed, our adrenals pump out adrenaline (the ‘fight/ ﬂight’ hormone that gets our heart going and our breathing up in readiness for action) and cortisol (the stress hormone that works on our blood sugar levels to give us energy, as well as affecting inflammatory response and immune function). Elevated cortisol levels increase tummy fat, which makes sense from a survival point of view since the fat stores around our tummies were designed to keep us alive in harsh conditions. However, most of us lead fairly sedentary lives, so while our cortisol levels get ramped up every day, we never burn the excess fat that gets stored. That’s why relaxation is so important – by lowering your stress levels you help to keep that tummy fat at bay. Getting a good night’s sleep will also help to lower cortisol levels.
Weight gain around the tummy can also relate to oestrogen levels. As women reach menopause (usually in their late forties or early ﬁfties), and their ovaries stop producing oestrogen, they tend to gain weight around the abdomen. Researchers think this may be because oestrogen deﬁciency interferes with the action of leptin (the hormone that controls appetite), but it might also relate to glucose intolerance. Whatever the biochemical explanation, research shows that young women who have complete hysterectomies gain weight, and that postmenopausal women on oestrogen supplements don’t accumulate as much fat around the middle. Of course, some of the extra weight is due to changes in lifestyle (women being less active due to joint pain and so on), but even active middle-aged women report that they eat the same food as before but still put on weight. Clearly, oestrogen has a key role to play in women’s weight.
This little hormone is produced by fat cells and acts on specific centres of the brain to control appetite (basically telling us that we’re full and that we don’t need to eat anymore). Since leptin is produced by fat, leptin levels tend be higher in obese people (even though you’d think that with higher levels of an appetite-reducing hormone, they wouldn’t be obese in the ﬁrst place). Researchers think that the higher leptin levels in obese people have something to do with leptin messages not actually getting through to the brain properly.
Research by scientists at Monash University has shown that the cells in our brains that control appetite are gradually damaged over time, a process that begins in our mid to late twenties. Appetite-controlling cells (POMC neurons) are progressively damaged and killed off by free radicals as we get older, so while our hunger neurons are still relaying the message that we’re hungry, the ones relaying the message that our hunger is satisﬁed become impaired.
Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron, which rush around looking to steal an electron from another molecule. Free radicals are a normal part of human body function and arise during metabolism, but others get into our bodies via environmental toxins (such as air pollution) and through the food we eat. Fried food is especially high in free radicals, because unsaturated fat (e.g. safﬂower, soy and corn oil) becomes unstable at high temperatures – yet another reason why ditching junk food makes brilliant sense. Interestingly, saturated oils such as coconut oil are more stable and therefore can be used to lightly fry food without producing free radicals.
If you are serious about losing weight and being healthy, you absolutely have to start looking after your liver. It’s your biggest internal organ and performs over 500 different jobs, including ﬁghting off infection, neutralising toxins, manufacturing proteins and hormones, controlling blood sugar and helping to clot the blood.
How well your liver is functioning also affects weight gain, particularly around the thighs and butt. Here’s how it works: the liver produces bile, which is the stuff that emulsiﬁes fats (breaks it down so that it is water-soluble), so you need your liver to be laughing in order to drop weight successfully. Limiting (if not eliminating) caffeine and alcohol can give your liver a nice rest, allowing it to focus on emulsifying fats and producing healthy hormones – essential functions for successful long-term weight loss. I often get my clients to start the day with a shot of fresh lemon juice in lukewarm water – it’s a bit like a mini liver detox, and you know what? It doesn’t taste too bad. Simply squeeze half a lemon into a smidgen of warm water (boiled and cooled – not tap water), then just drink it down all at once. This is better than drinking lemon water all day long, as the acid tends to erode your tooth enamel.
Alcohol, liver function and weight gain
When we have a glass of wine or a beer, our liver dutifully gets to work to deal with the alcohol. You see, our body considers alcohol to be a toxin (ever wonder where the word ‘intoxicated’ comes from?) and begins to metabolise it straightaway to try to minimise its effects on the brain. (Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and impairs cognitive function, emotion regulation, sensory perception and physical coordination, among other things.) This means that the rest of the food that your body is trying to metabolise gets put on the backburner i.e. is stored as fat. And because many of us like to have a vino or a beer with our dinner, having food and alcohol together not only adds calories, but it means the body won’t be burning off the energy from the food until the alcohol is dealt with. Plus, drinking alcohol before or with dinner often means we end up making stupid food choices because we’re feeling so magniﬁcent (‘Oh, what the heck, I’ll have the side of fries . . .’), so if you’re really serious about losing weight, drinking should be kept to a minimum. Remember it’s all about the A-game and keeping yourself on track. If you are going to drink, the healthiest option is vodka (made from spuds not wheat) with fresh lime, mint and soda. That’s my drink of choice when I’m having a night out on the town.
Coffee: to drink or not to drink?
Coffee is one of the most popular non-alcoholic beverages in the world, after water and tea. I’ve heard people call it their ‘heart starter’ – the morning cuppa revving them up to face the new day. Others must have their midafternoon coffee to get them through the energy slump that hits two hours after their carbheavy lunch. And how about those prams they make with a latte holder on the handle for the mums and dads who like their caffeine hit on the run? Coffee-drinking is such a huge part of our western culture that few people give a second thought to whether or not we should be indulging in our daily long blacks and ﬂat whites. But coffee beans contain caffeine, and caffeine is basically a drug. In fact, the humble cup of coffee raises blood pressure more effectively than any other food that humans consume. So what, exactly, does it do to our brains and bodies?
Amazingly, there have been more than 19,000 studies on caffeine and coffee in the past thirty years, and a surprising number have shown that high, long-term consumption of coffee may be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and may even reduce the risk of certain kinds of liver (hepatic) cancers. Scientists think that this may have something to do with the coffee bean being high in antioxidants.
But before you rush out to buy an espresso machine, the evidence is not clear-cut. Other studies have shown that caffeine contributes to insulin resistance, increases appetite and induces food cravings – all of which are bad news for anyone wanting to lose weight. When caffeine enters the body, the liver releases enzymes to metabolise it before it enters the bloodstream. This can temporarily muck up the liver’s glucose balancing act – increasing blood sugar and decreasing liver glycogen stores. This research, however, used pure caffeine, not coffee, and researchers think that coffee beans contain several other substances that may affect sugar metabolism, such as antioxidants, potassium and magnesium.
A major problem with the long-term coffee-drinking studies is that researchers cannot control for other variables that might inﬂuence the health of the participants, such as their diet, genetic predisposition to disease and lifestyle factors such as exercise.
For me, one of the main problems with caffeine is how addictive it is. Without getting too tangled up in the chemistry, caffeine basically increases levels of dopamine in our brains, and dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates our pleasure centres – hence our addiction. Caffeine also constricts blood vessels in the head (that’s why it’s used in some migraine medications), so when we miss our morning coffee ﬁx, the blood vessels are opened up and we get a headache. Withdrawal symptoms also include feeling tired, vague and a bit ﬂat. Some people eat extra meals and snacks to try to get rid of these unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, which is one reason why limiting or eliminating your caffeine intake may help you lose weight.
I’ve got to be straight with you, though – it’s not easy coming off coffee. The headaches, mood swings and irritability are pretty full-on. My advice would be to let your loved ones know when you’re doing it so they don’t freak out when you’re suddenly cranky!
Caffeine is also a stimulant, setting off our fight/flight hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which basically get us ready for action. Adrenaline dilates our pupils, increases the heart rate and blood pressure, slows blood ﬂow to the skin and stomach, releases sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy, and contracts our muscles. This explains why, after a big cup of coffee, we feel excited and our hands get cold, our muscles tense and our heart beats faster. Over the long-term as our bodies get used to caffeine, we requires larger amounts to get the same effects. Having our bodies in a state of hormonal emergency all day long isn’t natural, and as we saw earlier, excess cortisol makes it much harder to lose weight.
Another problem is the effect of caffeine on sleep. Depending on how quickly your body metabolises things, caffeine can stay in your body for several hours, usually it has halved in around six hours. So if you drink a strong cup of coffee with 200 mg of caffeine (the average is about 70–100 mg per cup) at four o’clock in the afternoon, you’ll still have about 100 mg in your body at 10 o’clock that night, and 50 mg still ﬂoating about at 4 a.m.
Even though you may be able to sleep, you may not be able to obtain the restful beneﬁts of deep sleep, and this is the important stuff. During deep sleep your organs regenerate, allowing you to function in an optimal state. And the next day, when you’re feeling knackered, you’ll reach for caffeine to keep you awake, and so the cycle continues.
All in all, the risks and beneﬁts of coffee are not likely to be huge if you’re a one-cup-a-day person, but if you’re drinking five or six cups a day, and having trouble losing weight, ditching (or cutting back) the caffeine should help.
Most of us know someone who is wheat intolerant or can’t eat anything with dairy milk in it. Food intolerance is not a fad; these conditions really exist, but they often go undiagnosed because people get used to the symptoms of constant bloating, stomach discomfort, weight gain and bad skin. For them, feeling bad just becomes the norm. As soon as those foods are removed from their diets, they will often notice they become slimmer around their face and neck, but also their tummy area is much leaner as there’s no more bloating.
Notice I used the word ‘intolerance’ – a food allergy is a bit of a different ball game. Although as many as one in ten people believe they have a food allergy, only about one in 100 adults and one in twenty children (mainly younger than six) have true food allergies, where their immune system responds to a harmless substance as if it were toxic. The rest have what is known as food intolerance – an unpleasant reaction to a food that does not involve the immune system.
Symptoms of food intolerance are relatively mild compared to those of a food allergy and include nausea, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. They usually don’t occur immediately, either, and instead can begin hours or days after eating or drinking the food in question. The severity of symptoms also varies depending on the amount of the food consumed.
Lactose intolerance is one of the most common types of food intolerance. It’s where people are missing the enzyme (lactase) that is necessary for the digestion of dairy proteins. Without this enzyme they can’t break down milk sugar into simpler forms that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. After consuming dairy products such as milk or cheese, they usually experience bloating, gas, nausea and either loose stools or constipation. Some people ﬁnd yoghurt, which is partially fermented, and goat’s and sheep’s cheeses slightly easier to digest. (Note that lactose intolerance can cause symptoms very similar to irritable bowel syndrome.)
There’s a strong genetic pattern to lactose intolerance. It affects 10–15 per cent of northern and western Europeans (who have been chugging back dairy food for thousands of years) compared to 70–90 per cent of Asians, Africans and Native Americans (who have barely touched cow’s milk).
Babies are usually born with higher levels of lactase, so lactose intolerance usually only begins after the age of about two when the body begins to produce less of the enzyme. But many people don’t experience symptoms until they’re much older. A temporary lactase deﬁciency may follow gastroenteritis, especially in children.
A few people lack the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which means that when they drink even a small amount of alcohol they feel terrible, and experience intense ﬂushing of the skin, nausea, palpitations, headaches and feeling faint.
As with lactose intolerance, alcohol intolerance has a strong genetic component: it is much more common among Asian people.
Intolerance to food chemicals
Some people have reactions to salicylates or amines, which are natural chemicals found in wholefoods. Some people experience unpleasant physical reactions (headaches, migraines, rashes, dizziness) to foods such as apples, potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruits, chocolate or whole milk. However, the classiﬁcation or avoidance of foods based on botanical families bears no relationship to their chemical content and is not relevant in the management of food intolerance. This means that just because you have a reaction to tomatoes doesn’t mean you have to avoid all the other edible plants in the solanaceae or nightshade family
(i.e. potatoes, chillies, capsicum and eggplant). Also, people with food sensitivities have different sensitivity thresholds, so some will react to much smaller amounts of the food.
Some people also have adverse reactions to chemicals added to food and drinks to colour, sweeten, preserve or enhance flavour (such as sulphites, benzoates, monosodium glutamate, caffeine, aspartame and tartrazine). Intolerances to additives are difﬁcult to identify because several additives are often combined in processed foods. They’re thrown into everything from deli meats and pre-packaged meals to lollies and dried fruit, so it’s really hard to know where to begin. Ditching all processed foods is a good start, though, if you are eating whole, nutrient-dense foods and you still can’t work out what your body isn’t handling, you could seek advice from your doctor or an allergy specialist (who will also be able to test for food intolerance).
Fructose is a fruit sugar found in lots of fruits and vegetables; it’s also added to a wide variety of processed foods. Our small intestines can’t handle too much fructose, and when we ingest a stack of it (by itself), it ﬂoats around fermenting and interfering with nutrient absorption and other gut functions. It also affects the liver and therefore fat storage, so too much fructose isn’t good news for anyone who’s trying to lose weight. The good news is that the absorption of fructose improves when it is ingested with glucose, since the faster glucose uptake stimulates additional transport pathways where the fructose can be absorbed.
People with fructose malabsorption are unable to properly digest foods that have an unbalanced fructose/glucose load, and may also have trouble digesting fructans, which are long-chain fructose molecules (commonly found in wheat). (Note that fructose malabsorption is different to hereditary fructose intolerance, which is a potentially life-threatening illness.) It’s estimated that up to 70 per cent of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have fructose malabsorption.
The most common symptoms of fructose malabsorption are:
- bloating (from fermentation in the small and large intestine)
- diarrhoea and/or constipation
- gas (flatulence)
- stomach pain (as a result of muscle spasms, the intensity of which can vary from mild and chronic to acute but erratic)
- vomiting (if great quantities are consumed)
- depression (possibly caused by decreased tryptophan, folic acid and zinc).
Other symptoms include:
- aching eyes
- vagueness, fuzzy thinking
- apple, pear, watermelon, honeydew melon
- exotic fruit (guava, nashi, lychee, mango, pawpaw, papaya, quince, star fruit)
- dried fruit (apples, currants, dates, ﬁgs, pears, prunes, raisins, sultanas)
- fortified wine
- foods containing added sugars, such as agave nectar, some corn syrup and fruit juice concentrate
- onion, leek, shallot, spring onion and garlic
- asparagus, artichoke, eggplant, green capsicum
The following foods are known to contribute to fructose malabsorption symptoms because they have a higher fructose–glucose ratio:
To treat fructose malabsorption, it’s not necessary to remove every single source of fructose from your diet. Cutting them right down and bumping up your intake of fruit and veggies with more glucose than sucrose will help (e.g. bananas, stone fruits, berries, citrus and sweet potato).
Handling food intolerance
Some people have no idea that the foods they are eating are creating a small storm in their digestive systems, contributing to a lack of energy, queasiness, low mood and generally feeling ‘not quite right’.
The best test for food intolerance is to try an elimination diet. This means you completely remove the food from your diet, see if your symptoms improve and then reintroduce the food. If your symptoms return, you are likely to be intolerant. If your symptoms are more extreme (such as explosive diarrhoea), you should see your doctor to rule out other causes (such as IBS). Lactose intolerance can be tested for more thoroughly using a lactose tolerance test, a hydrogen breath test and a stool acidity test. Your doctor can arrange these and other food intolerance tests if necessary.
One of the best bits about my 20/20 diet is that by eliminating wheat, dairy, sugar, legumes and processed foods (with all their additives), you will be able to see whether these have been causing problems. After the ﬁrst few weeks, you can try to reintroduce them one by one, and you will soon see if you have a reaction to specific foods.
The trick is to listen to your body – to observe how you feel after you’ve ingested these kinds of foods. You’ll soon be able to gauge what you can’t tolerate.
Allergies are an overreaction of the body’s immune system to a speciﬁc part of a food, usually a protein. The most common food allergens are in eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts and tree nuts (especially cashew nuts). Less common triggers include sesame, soy, shellfish and wheat.
Symptoms of food allergy typically include hives (urticaria), swelling around the mouth, and vomiting, usually within thirty minutes of eating a food. Other symptoms include a runny or blocked nose, stomach pains, or diarrhoea. The most severe, life-threatening reaction involves the breathing and circulatory systems and is known as anaphylaxis.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include any of the following:
- difficult/noisy breathing
- swelling of the tongue
- swelling/tightness in the throat
- difficulty talking/hoarse voice
- wheeze or persistent cough
- dizziness (loss of consciousness and/or collapse)
- becoming pale and floppy (young children)
A food allergy can develop at any age, but is most common in young children up to the age of ﬁve. Even young babies can develop symptoms of food allergy. The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) says that in Australia, hospital admissions for anaphylaxis due to food allergy in children under four have increased ﬁvefold over the last decade (they have doubled in the US and the UK); research is underway to try to understand this rapid increase.
There is no treatment for food allergies. Management consists of avoiding the allergen completely. Adults and children at risk of anaphylaxis usually carry an EpiPen or Anapan (a shot of adrenaline) with them, and have an anaphylaxis action plan that they draw up in consultation with their doctor. Fortunately, deaths from food allergy are super rare here in Australia. Most children who are allergic to cow’s milk, soy, wheat or eggs will be able to tolerate these foods by the time they reach school age, and often before. By contrast, allergic reactions to peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and seafood persist in about 75 per cent of children affected. When food allergy develops for the first time in adulthood, it usually persists. The bottom line is, if you have an allergy to a speciﬁc food, just stay away from it. There are so many more amazing foods out there for you to enjoy.
Ten years ago, most people had never heard of coeliac disease, but these days it’s quite well known. It’s not a food allergy, but a genetically inherited autoimmune disease that affects the function of the liver, the digestive system and other organs. In people with coeliac disease, the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats), causing small bowel damage, which in turn reduces nutrient absorption and causes gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms. About one in 100 Australians have the disease, but it’s estimated that many more are yet to be diagnosed. The most common symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, lack of appetite, anaemia, weight loss, muscle wasting, gastrointestinal distress, anxiety, delayed onset of puberty (for child sufferers) and foul, frothy or ﬂoating stools. Long-term symptoms for undiagnosed sufferers include osteoporosis, anaemia, miscarriage, intestinal cancers and liver disease. Co-morbidities include Type 1 diabetes and arthritis.
It’s important to mention that loads of people are intolerant to wheat and that just because you’re reacting to wheat, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have coeliac disease. You may well be fine with other grains.
When it comes to weight loss it might seem weird that I’m talking about moods. But think about it: when you’re stressed out, or feeling low, chances are you’ll crave something sweet to pep you up. Scientists have long studied the connection between food and moods, and they have discovered that for many of us, food (and particularly sugar) is literally an addiction, and until we get our ﬁx of sugary or fatty foods, we will be lethargic, ﬂat or irritable.
Brain-imaging studies show that foods high in fat and sugar actually work like narcotics, stimulating the release of the body’s own opioids and increasing levels of the pleasure neurotransmitter, dopamine. This is why we feel high after a sugar hit, and why we crave it when our blood sugar levels return to normal. Other research has shown that obese people have fewer dopamine receptors, making them more likely to crave substances that boost dopamine.
Some people are so seriously addicted to sugary, fatty foods that, like drug addicts or alcoholics, they are unable to quit their ‘habit’, despite extreme social and personal consequences. You only have to go for a walk in a local shopping centre and see the queues of obese people at fast-food outlets to see this in action. Another frightening parallel between food and drug addiction is that people develop a tolerance to sugar, and need more of it to feel satisﬁed. Also, after an initial period of enjoying the food, the sugar addict no longer consumes it to feel good but to feel normal.
Now, if you suspect you might be addicted to sugar, don’t panic. You are not alone. I was addicted to it, despite having a pretty healthy lifestyle overall. Seriously, I’d been known to sit down and consume close to a week’s worth of calories in one sitting – to the point of feeling sick! Discovering that it was a physical thing, rather than me being weak or pathetic, made me feel more empowered. And that’s what really kickstarted the whole 20/20 diet. Like me, once you get through the ﬁrst couple of weeks without sugar, your tastebuds will begin to change so that you can truly taste the natural sweetness in everything – to the point that carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato will seem really sweet.
But to get through those ﬁrst couple of weeks, you will need to take an honest look at what drives your sugar addiction. Like all addictions, overeating has a strong emotional link. In fact, the connection between mood and weight gain is sometimes called ‘emotional eating’, where we use food (or drink) to try to soothe or suppress feelings such as fear, anger, anxiety or grief, or to distract us from dealing with an uncomfortable, feral or just plain painful situation. While some people eat less in the face of strong emotions (especially the persistent low mood associated with depression), others turn to impulsive or binge eating – chomping whatever comes to hand without feeling hungry or without even enjoying it (this is the addict at work). And because eating makes us feel ‘better’ (that’s the dopamine connection), we do it again and again, to the point that it becomes an automatic, unconscious response to emotional distress.
The problem is that once we’ve overeaten, we feel really bad (especially when we are trying to lose weight), which leads to a vicious cycle: emotions trigger overeating, we feel terrible about overeating, which leads us to overeat again.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the odd little treat here and there, but using food to deal with emotions is a vicious cycle of addiction that will only lead to a lifetime of weight and health issues. As naff as this sounds, writing things down really does help, even if you press the delete button or rip up the paper afterwards. At least you’re facing your problem, and that’s the ﬁrst step to moving past it. Music is a goodie, too. Listening to a favo song can automatically shift your focus and your mood. Talking to someone helps, too, and it’s up to you whether that’s just a mate, or a counsellor.
The reality is, if you want to make a change then it’s going to be hard, and I mean really hard, so sign up for it knowing that you’ll really struggle some days and others will be easier. Breaking old habits takes commitment, but it can be done. For example, you can take a different route home from work so that you’re not tempted to buy a sugary drink or snack from that shop you always go to. Even better, be a little organised and carry an apple or a handful of nuts in your bag so that you have no excuse to reach for a rubbish snack. If you do fall off the wagon, get back on, and know that tomorrow is a fresh start.
In Chapter 2, I give you a list of ‘mood foods’ that provide important nutrients known to assist with neural connectivity, which helps you to regulate your emotions. There is also a stack of research out there to show that exercise, meditation and yoga are brilliant for helping with anxiety and depression. However, if you are eating healthy food, getting enough exercise and rest, but still feel depressed, it is really important to seek help. By depressed I don’t mean feeling low for a day or two, or even being negative and irritable for a few days, but feeling an overwhelming blackness that seeps into every area of your life. Here’s a list of the common symptoms of depression:
- inability to experience pleasure from things you used to love doing
- insomnia (trouble falling asleep, waking often and early) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- persistent pessimistic and negative thoughts
- marked changes in mood such as increased levels of irritability, anger or anxiety
- lack of energy and feeling fatigued
- impaired concentration and memory
- reduced sex drive
- marked ﬂuctuations in appetite and weight
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
I’m not an expert in this area, but I know that if you have been experiencing two or three of these symptoms for more than two weeks, then you really need to talk to your doctor and get a bit of extra help. Your doctor will be able to suggest the kind of treatment that will work best for you. But whatever you do, please don’t soldier on and try to ignore it because you think you’re weak, as that’s when things can get really serious. It takes loads of courage to ask for help, and when you do you’ll ﬁnd there are heaps of people out there who really can help.
After recovering from an eating disorder I had for over ten years, I was struggling to ﬁnd a balance in my life when it came to nutrition and exercise – I always felt something was missing. Meeting Lola Berry for consultations, and following the plan she put me on, has changed my life. I feel healthier, my skin is glowing, my body shape is changing and I’m much happier. Lola has equipped me with the skills and knowledge I need to make better choices when it comes to food. She has taught me what to eat and how to maintain a healthier lifestyle for the long term by incorporating exercise and good nutrition into my daily schedule. I’m now passionate about nutrition, enjoying eating real foods in their natural form and my body is responding in a positive way. Lola’s approach to nutrition and life is truly inspiring!
Sleep is key to overall health and weight loss. If you don’t get enough uninterrupted sleep, you’ll ﬁnd you’re much more likely to be tempted by snacks and sweet foods. This is because your metabolism slows down to try to conserve energy so that you can get through the much longer day, and that slow-down in turn triggers the release of cortisol, which, as we saw earlier, boosts your appetite. Lack of sleep also leads to lower levels of leptin (the hormone that tells your body you’re full) in the brain, leaving you susceptible to overeating. That, combined with the fact that you’re awake for longer hours, means you tend to reach for the snacks.
We need to be aiming for around eight hours sleep per night – if we get much less than that, the body is running on raised levels of cortisol and the tummy weight will be much harder to shift! If you aim to hit the sack around 10 p.m. most nights you’ll be laughing!
Excerpted from The 20/20 Diet by Lola Berry. Copyright © 2012 by Lola Berry.
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