Sugar and fat: to eat or not to eat?

Butter and brown sugar

The documentary Horizon on BBC2 this week was presented by two doctors who are identical twins. Drs Alexander and Chris van Tulleken set out to test whether sugar or fat is more unhealthy. They went on different diets for a month. Alexander had a no carbohydrate diet while Chris went on an extremely low fat diet.
They both lost weight. But they discovered other things along the way. Most of the programme dealt with differences in how their bodies were functioning physically. In his article in the Daily Mail (28/1/14) Alexander van Tulleken said something very interesting, which has a lot to do with why food group elimination diets so rarely work.

“Let me tell you straight up that both of these diets were miserable. I thought I’d got the better deal: I could eat meat, fish, eggs and cheese. But take away carbohydrates and the joy goes out of meals. And remove all fruit and veg- they all have carbs- and you get constipated. Though I was never hungry, I felt slow and tired, and my breath was terrible. Chris on his low-fat diet didn’t fare much better. He never felt full, so was constantly snacking, and like me he found that all the pleasure had gone out of meals: pasta without olive oil is boring”.

When all pleasure is removed from eating, what is the point?
If you have difficult life circumstances and much of your pleasure comes from food, what chance do you have of keeping to a joyless diet?

The problem with deprivation

Our brains are hard-wired to find certain types of foods pleasurable, particularly sweet and fatty foods. Removing them from our diet has the psychological effect of us wanting them more, so we end up in a battle between wanting and denying ourselves.

There is an alternative

If we re-think the problem as one of over-consumption of food per se rather than over-consumption of particular food groups, we have the possibility of losing weight by reducing the amount we eat, while actually increasing the pleasure we get from food.

Food tastes delicious when we’re hungry

If we are overweight we have probably been ignoring or overriding hunger and fullness signals which are our body’s natural way of regulating how much to eat. If we return to tuning in to these signals produced by the stomach and gut, we can lose weight without changing what foods we eat.
When we are hungry when we start to eat, food tastes delicious. It’s an evolutionary thing. We are built that way as part of the complex system that governs our behaviour around eating. We can use this to increase pleasure while losing weight.

Here’s something you already know:
Most of the food we eat that our body doesn’t need is not that enjoyable to eat: the second half of a large meal, the snack you eat just because it’s there, the food you consume because you’re bored and so on.

And something you may have not fully realised:
When you give up eating the food you don’t really enjoy and allow yourself to get hungry before every mealtime, you eat less and enjoy what you do eat much more.

In order to do this you may need a technique to help deal with anxiety that naturally occurs around change, particularly around food and eating. Effective techniques for reducing anxiety are provided in the free “Anxiety and how to Manage It”.

There are more details on how to do this on the Appetite Doctor website together with the Appetite Pendulum, a simple scale for gauging how hungry or full you are at any particular time. Using simple rules for when to start and when to stop eating, you use hunger and fullness to guide your eating. A real alternative to conventional dieting, Appetite Retraining tackles the psychological blocks to losing weight resulting in permanent weight loss which is easy to sustain.

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