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Ways to lose weight - part 5. Basics

Losing weight isn't rocket science - follow these basic tips for some ideas

In the last article in this series on diet, I'll reiterate some basics

If you stick to a diet based on fresh fruit and vegetables, with as much of it eaten in as close to its natural state as you can, with small amounts of proteins such as meat, fish, nuts and cheese, and small amounts of complex carbs such as wholemeal organic bread, you will quickly become very healthy.

You will also drop weight if you're carrying an excess, and you will not be hungry while doing so, because you will eat your fill at every meal.

You will receive all the nutritional requirements your body needs, and in the correct way, rather than via vitamin supplements. And you will feel packed with energy.

If, until now, you've followed a more unhealthy diet, however, introduce your changes gradually. If you don't, you will almost certainly get diahorrhea, constipation or flatulence. These three things are enough to put anybody off a healthy diet! Your body needs time to get used to doing things properly, especially eating raw food. Remember to chew and chew and chew when you eat. 

Eating out 

Also remember - all things in moderation, including moderation. A pizza once a month won't kill you as long as you eat properly the rest of the time. Nor will a blowout at McDonald's (although you may find that its appeal certainly wanes). But don't make a habit of eating out.

Eating out used to be an occasional luxury but in today's busy times, it's become normal to eat out several times a week - indeed, some people barely eat at home at all any more. But eating out on a regular basis is a recipe for poor health and weight gain. Restaurant food may be delicious, it may be beautifully presented, but it is not designed to be nutritionally balanced - to eat properly, you must prepare your own food.

For birthdays, Christmas and special occasions such as wedding anniversaries, the DH and I eat a bang-up five-course restaurant meal that costs an arm and a leg. It is fantastic, and we look forward to each and every occasion. But we don't make a habit of it.

Do's and don'ts

*    Cut out sugar from your diet entirely. Replace it, occasionally, with honey if you have to. There is no reason to eat sugar at all - if offers no health benefits and gives us many problems from tooth decay to diabetes. Human beings are naturally programmed to desire sugar because it's a high energy food, but in nature it is a rare beast - our bodies aren't designed to eat it on a regular basis. Cutting out sugar may be a shock at first, but once you're used to it, anything with added sugar will taste unbearably sweet. The first three to six weeks are the hardest - after that, you're home free. Cutting out sugar obviously means cutting out items such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits, patisserie etc, but these are all processed foods and should be avoided anyway (again, have a piece of cake on a special occasion, such as your birthday).

*    Cut out salt. A pinch or two when you're cooking is ample. Don't put salt on the table. Even a teaspoon of salt a day (which isn't much) is seriously detrimental to your health. When you use salt, make sure it's grey sea or rock salt with no additives.

*     Treat dairy products as food, not drink. Don't have milk or yoghurt with meals, but in between meals, as a meal in themselves, in order for your digestion to work on them fully. Incidentally, it won't do you any harm to cut out milk and milk products altogether if you wish to. Milk is designed for baby animals, not adults, and human beings lose their ability to digest milk well at about the age of three, with the decline of the enzymes renin and lactase. Nor are we in any way designed to process cow's milk, which is much higher in casein than is human milk. You won't lack for calcium in cutting out milk as long as you eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables and nuts. 

Personally, I enjoy dairy, but I only eat fermented milk products such as home-made yoghurt, and hard cheeses, which are virtually lactose-free, and even these only in small quantities.  

Treat the following as poison:

artificial colouring

artificial flavouring

artificial preservatives 




This is one good reason for avoiding processed food - if you avoid it altogether, you won't have to endlessly read around the labels.


Be cautious about the following:

yeast extract

fermented foods such as soy, nuoc nam and tamari

Reduce the following:




high-fat meats such as beef and pork 

Eat modest amounts of these:

lean meats such as chicken, turkey, duck, guinea-fowl and rabbit



cheese and yogurt


Eat as much as you like of the following:



In conclusion

Remember, in the end, no-one else can eat for you. If you have a weight problem, or are not fit and healthy, look first at your diet because, fundamentally, you are what you eat.  


Ways to lose weight - part 4. Circadian rhythms

Listen to your body and learn to eat according to the phases of the day.

In this penultimate article on diet, I'll look at circadian rhythms and how they affect you

To make life easy on your digestion, you shouldn't snack all day, but nor should you overload your system with only large meals. It's better to eat four or five small meals a day rather than three big ones. Many people benefit from a light breakfast, something to snack on at about 11.00, a main meal at lunch, a booster at about 4.00pm, and an early but light evening meal. That way, you're eating larger portions when you need them most. The way of eating outlined below follows the programme in the book Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond, which is full of pseudo-scientific gibberish, but also offers some sound principles on nutrition.


From rising till noon, I find the best thing to eat is raw fruit and freshly-squeezed fruit juices, as much as you like. If you want to eat a lot of fruit, invest in a juicer - it's the most useful thing you'll ever buy.  Juice from a juicer is completely different from bought juice (which in any case is processed - even the freshly squeezed stuff is pasturised). It's thick and frothy and should be sipped like a soup.

When you juice your fruit, eat the pulp too but peel and deseed as necessary (there are also one or two pulps I don't personally eat, such as kiwi and blackberries, because of the seeds). Nature designed fruit to be eaten whole, not juice-only - having only the juice gives you a sugar rush and packed calories without fibre, which is not a good move.


If you're munchy at 11, eat a banana or some dried fruit. I am often astounded at the number of women who won't eat a banana because it's 'high in calories' but then starve themselves all day and down half a bottle of wine in the evening (not exactly a calorie-free option). A banana contains about 90 calories, and an apple about 50 - and the effort of eating the thing is going to burn up quite a lot of those calories anyway. 


5    At lunchtime (preferably at 12.30 or so), eat your main meal and base it on vegetables. A big salad, or a stir-fry is ideal, and you should be able to find a salad box no matter where you work. Concentrate on vegetables with a high water content such as sweet peppers, tomatoes and courgettes (all technically fruits, of course). Place as many different colours on your plate as you can manage - colour is a quick guide to different vitamins and minerals. No dessert. If you're desperate for something sweet, eat a spoon of pure unfiltered honey, or a cube of crystallised ginger afterwards, but try to wean yourself off the sweeties.


6    Mid-afternoon, say at 4.00, make time for a snack if you want one. If you like complex carbs, now's a good time to eat them, but keep the amount small. A small slice of wholemeal toast is good, or a baked potato with a little butter or yoghurt. If you prefer to avoid complex carbs, a handful of raw nuts (chew them to death), or a banana, or a small handful of dates or other dried fruit are all good snacks. If you enjoy dairy products, a bowl of yoghurt or a small plate of cheese will also work. Having a snack at this time will get you through the afternoon nicely - you don't need much, just about a saucerful.


7    Try to finish your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed. (I go to bed at 11.00, so I cook at 7.00 and finish by 8.00.) This means you've  already digested for three hours or so before you lie down to sleep, so your food should have passed from your stomach into the small intestines. You'll get a better night's sleep for it. 

Make your evening meal smaller than the meal you had at lunchtime but now is the best time of day to have protein. Have as many grams of protein as you weigh in kilos (I weigh 52 kilos, so I can have 52g of protein, which isn't much). You may need more protein if you're weight training or very physically active, but most of us eat WAY more than the recommended daily amount and your body can't use it - it just excretes it, placing a demand on your kidneys.

Your protein might be cheese or nuts, or meat or fish, but some people feel it's better to keep it to one kind rather than mixing proteins (so no slivered almonds on your fish...). And dieticians will always tell you to favour fish rather than meat, and lean meats such as chicken over fatty meats such as pork.

With your protein, have vegetables, not starches - if you mix proteins and carbs, it's more taxing to your digestion. No dessert.

If you're hungry before bed, eat a piece of fruit - this will pass from your stomach in about 30 minutes (45 or so for a banana), so it won't impede your sleep.  

Tomorrow: final part, diet basics.  

Ways to lose weight - part 3. Drinks

Drinking is something a lot of people do very badly. Not enough water and too much alcohol are the main culprits

In part three of this series of article on weight loss and healthy eating, I'll look at drinks.

Drinking is something a lot of people do very badly. Not enough water and too much alcohol are the main culprits, as are treating items such as milkshakes or smoothies as if they were drinks, when actually they're foods. This is a ridiculously easy way to pack on a lot of pounds, so here are some tips for healthy drinking.  

1    Cut out the booze. There are hundreds of calories in it and alcohol does you no favours. Yes, some wines have good antioxidants, but so does grape juice.

However, we are what we are, and a couple of times a week a small glass of wine with a meal won't kill you - but make it small. If you have a tendency to fill your glass, which you shouldn't (you're meant to use the air space), stick to a sherry glass instead of a wine glass. My Victorian wine glass is tiny, but the average pub measure has crept up from 125ml to 175ml to 250ml in the past ten years, with some white wine glasses now holding over 360ml - no wonder there are now calls for cutbacks in the interests of public health: the UK is becoming a nation of alcoholics. 

Personally, I'd generally avoid beer and cider, and I'd avoid spirits altogether. It's hard to drink a small amount of beer or cider, and pure spirits are nothing but bad. Again, however, one beer on a Friday night won't kill you. 

2   If drinking is a big part of your social life, think about getting some new friends. OK, I'm kidding, but just as fat friends make you fat, drunk friends make you drunk. The average age of patients at the famous Priory clinic has dropped from 45 to 35 and under, inside the past decade, and reseachers say these patients are mainly social drinkers with no real background problems - it's simply that boozing has become a way of life in the UK.

If you want to cut down your alcohol consumption or cut it out but you're worried about peer pressure, try the following:

* Switch to mineral water and a slice of lemon - it looks exactly like a G&T and no-one will nag you.  

* Try non-alcoholic beer. It's pretty rubbish, and not good for your health, but as an interim measure, it may get you off the real stuff.

* Red or white grape juice looks the same in a glass as red or white wine.

* Try doing things in the evening that don't necessarily involve drinking - watching a film, going bowling, going to the gym, going for a walk.  Meeting your mates down the pub every night is a recipe for disaster. 

3    Don't drink fizzy drinks (soda), including Coke, Pepsi, Tab, bitter lemon and all the rest of this filthy tribe. Packed with aspartame and other carcinogens, this stuff is pure poison. If you like the fizz, wean yourself off it with a flavoured water such as lemon or lime Perrier, then onto plain fizzy water, then onto non-fizzy water.  

4    Drink your drinks at room temperature, not ice cold or piping hot. Why shock your digestion in this way? You might think that a cold glass of water is more refreshing, but in fact you'll drink more, and more easily, if you take your fluids at room temperature.  

5    Drink only a few fluid ounces with meals - just enough to moisten your food and no more. Don't swill your food down with liquids - it impedes your digestion. Also, if you can, don't drink for 20-30 minutes before a meal, nor a couple of hours afterwards. Allow your digestive juices to do their job properly without being diluted.  

5    Cut out the caffeine. Here's where I fall down, because I drink one cup of black filter coffee a day, for breakfast, and I LOVE it. But that's that. For the most part, if you want a pick-me-up, instead of caffeine you should stick to herb teas (proper, single ones such as camomile or peppermint, not made-up versions such as Red Zinger).  Roobios is quite good too, if you like it (I don't), while white and green tea are much lower in caffeine than black tea, and are packed with antioxidants. But don't keep falling back on caffeinated drinks out of habit - if you're thirsty, drink water, and if you need a mid-afternoon boost, eat instead of drinking.

6    Drink water. And I'll repeat that. Drink water. It is one of the best favours you can do for yourself. If your skin is dry, if you have a headache, if you're tired mid-afternoon, if you have a sore throat, if you're  constipated, more than likely dehydration is the cause. Don't rely on thirst alone - it's a poor indicator, but if you are thirsty, don't ignore it - your body wants water so give it what it needs. Keep bottles by your bedside, on your desk, where you cook, by your armchair...

As a rough guide, you need to drink half as many fluid ounces a day as you weigh in pounds - I weigh 122 pounds, so I drink about 60floz (three pints) a day. You don't need to go overboard on this if you're eating a lot of fruit and vegetables, because they already have a high water content, but if you're taking in alcohol or caffeine, you need to drink more to make up for it.

Tomorrow: the phases of the day and how to eat accordingly