This article was first published in January 2017. Amended and updated January 2018.
Hey-ho it's January and most of us notice a few lbs have crept on. On every TV channel programmes focus on the unfavourite topic of weight and dieting. It might be you've made a New Year's Resolution to give-up a particular food, alcohol or "to go on a diet"; I've heard we're more likely to fail if we use that phrase. Rather we should think of it as a life-style change to ensure that the yo-yo weight-loss / weight-gain cycle is broken. Ho-hum...
Although I'm lucky to now be at my mid-range BMI (that's a measure of health), as I come from a line of short overweight-women that hasn't always been the case. In fact, at 17, I joined my Mum and Gran at Weight-Watchers on a weekly basis. I try to keep abreast of this emotive and confusing subject for my own and professional interest but it's hard to pick out good, research-based information. Of course, I am by no means a nutritionist or dietician, but it is nice to be able to help point people in an informed direction. However, as a coach and a hypnotherapist, where my skills lie is to support, motivate and help with habit change. Through a variety of techniques and NLP activities, you open up a new way of being; building a new neural pathway that helps move you from the "I want" to the "I am" as you move along your journey to success.
So, if weight-management is your target I thought you might like help sifting through all that is being thrown at you about "dieting" as the year starts. You might like to know about a book called "The Diet Myth - The Real Science Behind What We Eat" by Professor Tim Spector (2015). More recent articles and TV programmes are bringing the same information to our attention, making the ideas more mainstream. The book draws on science and tells us why the balance in our microbiome (our gut microbes) and its interaction with our body plays a crucial part in our weight. Spector rejects diet fads embracing food diversity for a healthy gut and healthy body. He favours a Mediterranean diet which he lists as predominantly fish/vegetables/beans/lentils and fruit and enthuses about extra virgin olive oil, blue cheese and natural yoghurt. As usual he advocates exercise which will lift your spirits, stress-bust and burn calories. Of course, some people find it easy to maintain a healthy weight without knowing how important their gut microbes are. Perhaps though it can be a key contribution to YOUR success?
Like Spector's book, Channel 4's "Food Unwrapped" Diet Special January 2018 also emphasised the importance of having diverse gut bacteria. Their reporter visited the healthy Hanzi People in Tanzania because they are healthy and have no malnutrition. They have 40% more bacteria in their guts than most of us in UK and a greater diversity, living on a diet containing honey comb (with bee grubs 'n all), a very fibrous root vegetable and a fruit which is extremely rich in Vitamin C. The programme went on to say that we can simulate this by including Jerusalem artichokes and chicory (red and green, preferably raw with a regular intake a few times a week) - see photos below - along with raw garlic, onions, seaweed, wheat, oats, and fish (mentioning mackerel). Essentially these are rich in prebiotics which promote the good bacteria that are already in our guts. Another pointer was the use of the spice cumin to aid fat reduction. They said more clinical research is required but it is thought to burn fat. And for curry fans like me, a Chicken Korma made with a low-calorie recipe got the the thumbs up as it contained a range of other particularly valuable spices in weight-management such as turmeric (which stops fat re-growth after weight-loss), ginger (which helps you feel satisfied after eating), cinnamon (which helps control blood sugar), and chilli (which increases metabolism).
The trend of juicing fruit/veg raises an alarm for Spector, as it removes the fibre which carries fat from the body. Processed foods are a no-no because the body does not handle the added chemicals well. That strikes a huge amount of food off the list, such as, preserved meats (e.g. sausages, ham, salami). Foods with a long shelf life (e.g. cakes, biscuits, butter-like spreads) are off the menu too as they contain worrying hydrogenated fats. Fructose (the sugar present in fruit) is to be watched - indeed I noticed my large glass of supermarket-bought orange juice this morning contained 26% of my daily recommended sugar intake! Counter-intuitively, low-calorie diet foods and fizzy drinks laden with artificial sweetener are a non-starter as your brain does not evolved to know how to digest these. Spector recommends sticking to white meat, such as chicken, for the most-part, although it seems an occasional steak and glass of red wine are allowed. He considers dietary supplements potentially very harmful. The good news is he is less concerned by calorie counting, the bad news is he'd like a sample of your stool! The book is an accessible read and highly recommended, particularly if you've tried "the usual" and are a bit stuck.
Channel 4's programme "Food Unwrapped - The Diet Special", aired in January 2017, also provided information along the same lines as Spector's book. It challenged the Government's Eat-Well guidelines to cut-out fat and, rather, made a plea to cut-out foods containing sugar. In order to do that we need to be aware that "carbohydrates" can mean starch or/and sugar and it is only by looking at the packaging's small print that you can discern which are present and the percentages. Most people do however know that starch and sugar are extremely different nutritionally. The programme warned to be wary of those so-called "healthy" breakfast cereals. They also mentioned that there's evidence to support intermittent fasting as it has been shown to improve metabolism, so if you like skipping breakfast then here's your invitation to do so. They looked at the so-called "Wolverine's" 16:8 Diet, when all eating is done within an 8 hours period each day (apparently Hugh Jackman used it before playing the part). Spector also gives the supporting evidence for the 5:2 diet which allows normal healthy eating for 5 days a week then restricts calories for the 2 remaining days: men to 600 calories and 500 for women. Incidentally, I have seen clients use these diets successfully as part of their coaching or hypnotherapy to a lighter, brighter way of being.
Another fact mentioned more commonly mentioned now is how a poor sleep routine is linked to being over-weight. Apparently sleepy people are more stimulated by food! Nick Littlehales' book, "Sleep - The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps...and the New Plan to Recharge Your body and Mind", explores sleep management in huge detail. That's hardly surprising as he is a sleep coach to Olympic athletes, some Premier League and Sky cycle teams. What you need to know, most of all, is just how important darkness is for sleep and how important sleep is for good health! Research shows to avoid obesity your sleep should average 7 hours. Incidentally those sleeping less than an average of 5 hours are at greater risk of diabetes (type II). Note, however, that 8 hours a night is an average and not for everyone. You might be like Usain Bolt who likes a good 10 hours, or more like Margaret Thatcher who existed on about 5 hours per night along with day-time naps. In Littlehales' programme, your sleep time can vary from night-to-night to accommodate your life-style as sleep is measured over the week and includes naps. Our natural body clock 90 minute cycles are known as "circadian rhythms" and are a crucial part of his programme. They continue night and day with your body dipping between 1 - 3pm and 5 - 7pm - ideal times for a wee nap just like the continental siesta.
Sadly inexpensive calorie-rich food is on offer almost everywhere and the NHS recommended exercise levels are higher than even an energetic enthusiast might guess. It takes a while to become conversant with what nutrition and calories are in a portion of food but good Apps help such as "MyFitnessPal". But if you've gone down that route and you're battling the bulge unsuccessfully perhaps this has given you more to think about to increase your chance of success? Good luck and I hope this has been of use to you. Remember if you've other health issues and you are not used to doing exercise, do get advice from your GP before embarking on your healthy life-style change. If your BMI healthy weight-range seems a long way off, keep looking forward step-by-step: that's the weigh to go! And as ever, if you'd like some coaching or hypnotherapy for weight-or sleep management (or anything else) please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or by phoning 075 548 54321. Coaching is available by Skype so your location makes no difference. My Hypnotherapy and NLP sessions are available at Mulberry House, the delightful complementary health clinic in the West End of Edinburgh by booking directly with me. Please scroll through my testimonials on the About page to read about how I have helped others successfully.
For those interested please find below references and links for further reading/viewing:
Spector Tim (2015) THE DIET MYTH The Real Science Behind What We Eat Weidenfeld & Nicolson UK
Habermacher Andy (2016) The Human Brain and Coaching; Emotional Drives and Coaching; Motivational Patterns and Coaching - Excellence in Neuroleadership International Coaching Federation Webinars (Book available)
Littlehales Nick (2016) SLEEP The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps...and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind Penguin
Summit Life Coaching Limited, Hypnotherapy and NLP - January 2017, amended January 2018. Not for reproduction without permission please.