Thought for food
Let’s hear it for the five key ingredients of a feel-good diet
If you are as dedicated a dieter as I am, you must have noticed how the food orthodoxy changes on us every few years, leaving us thoroughly confused as to what we should (or should not) eat to lose weight.
First, it is that carbs are good. Then, it is that carbs are bad. And now, it is that only a certain kind of carb (the refined kind that leads to a spike in sugar levels) is implicated in weight gain. One diet regimen tells us not to mix carbohydrates with protein on pain of death. Another insists that we need a judicious mix of both. One school of thought has it that milk is the elixir of human life; another insists that it is toxic to anyone above the age of five.
In other words, one man’s meat becomes the same man’s poison if we give it enough time.
I don’t know about you, but this sort of blurry indecision makes me quite dizzy (and not just from the hunger induced by my latest master-cleanse). After all, what is the point of dietary rules if they are going to be reversed every few years as medical science changes its mind yet again on what is good or bad for us?
My way of coping with this is to simply wade through all the information floating around and zero in on the tips that suit me best – and then stick to them through thick and thin (sometimes quite literally). And for the benefit of my fellow-dieters these are the five favourite elements of the weight-loss regimen that I have drawn up for myself.
Ah, coffee. Now, how could you possibly go through the day without its enticing aroma to keep you awake and interested? I know I couldn’t. I need a caffeine fix to jolt me into consciousness in the morning – and another in the evening when I am beginning to flag. And just to be on the safe side, a couple of shots in between.
Now for the good news. Recent medical research suggests that coffee increases your resting metabolic rate – which means that you burn off fat more easily (and are half as likely to develop diabetes). So, the number of cups of coffee you drink is directly related to the number of calories your burn off. Time to invest in a good espresso machine, don’t you think?
2) Red wine
First up, the bad news. You aren’t allowed to guzzle a full bottle over the course of the evening. Only a couple of glasses are allowed if you want to reap the health benefits of the antioxidant flavonoid phenolics that red wine contains. How exactly does this work? Well, a substance called resveratrol, contained in grape skins and seeds, increases the good HDL cholesterol and prevents blood clotting and plaque prevention in arteries and thus contributes to your cardio-vascular health.
So, why not just eat grapes, you ask? Now, where would be the fun in that?
This one comes with a rider. You have to choose a dark chocolate which has a cocoa content that is higher than its sugar content. And limit yourself to a couple of squares instead of wolfing down the entire bar. But if you stick to these rules, your body will benefit from the antioxidants that cocoa contains, which reduce degeneration of aortic arteries and help shift fat deposits. In layman’s terms, this means that a judicious amount of chocolate actually helps in metabolising fat and turning it into energy (or so, at least, I would like to believe).
If you truly want to lose weight, then don’t lose any sleep over it. Recent studies have shown that dieters who cut back on sleep while trying to lose weight had 55 per cent less fat loss compared to those who clocked up 8.5 hours of shut-eye. This is because sleep deprivation causes the body to release higher amounts of something called ghrelin. And increased ghrelin levels stimulate hunger and food intake, so that you find it more difficult to stick to your diet and eat more than your otherwise would. They also reduce energy expenditure (so whatever you eat doesn’t metabolise as easily) and thereby promote retention of fat.
In other words, if you sleep less while on a diet you will eat more and your body will store what you eat as fat instead of using it up as energy. So make sure you get a good night’s sleep if you want to lose weight.
Laugh more; weigh less (especially around the midriff). Okay, I exaggerate but only a little. Laughter does have an effect on our weight, albeit in a roundabout way. If you are happy and contented, the level of such stress hormones as cortisol and epinephrine in your body remains low. And that’s a darn good thing because increased levels of cortisol are directly related to fat deposition in the abdominal area – the so-called ‘toxic fat’ that is related to heart disease and an increased risk of strokes.
So, to sum up: being on my kind of regimen means sleeping for 8.5 hours; waking up to a nice, steaming cup (or two) of coffee; snacking on dark chocolate; drinking red wine; and laughing as long and hard as you can.
Now, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Try it. You may or may not lose weight. But you will be a much happier person at the end of the day.