I Predict A Diet – How Avoiding Lying Can Help You To Lose Weight

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I’m getting to the age where I have to think very carefully about things like weight loss, cholesterol and blood pressure. In a way though, I’m lucky not to have been born twenty years before I was. And not just because I would be 66 now if I had. But more on that later.

There are a lot of myths about food. Here are two traditional ones:

“It takes more calories to eat cucumber than there are in the cucumber.” (Not true. That myth is down to someone confusing calories with kilocalories. When someone says “This food contains 200 calories” they really mean it contains 200 kilocalories. We just shorten it to calories because it’s easier to say.)

“When you eat ice cream, you use more calories raising it to your body temperature than are in the ice cream.” The scientific principle behind this is sound and wouldn’t it be lovely if it were true? But sadly it isn’t. There’s just too many calories in ice cream for that idea to work. As anyone who has put on an alarming amount of weight after consuming a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s will tell you.

Another, more recent myth about food is “Butter is bad for you.” This has been received wisdom for decades, but we’ve recently found out that this wisdom simply isn’t true. Sure, butter will make you put weight on if you slice it up and make sandwiches out of it. But it’s no better or worse for you than low fat margarine.

This is why I’m glad I didn’t reach middle age twenty years ago. Imagine how many men in their sixties, having been put on butter free diets by their wives during their forties and fifties, have now found out that they could have had butter all along. And then been told “Oh, and by the way, you could have eaten as many eggs as you liked too. We’ve found out that your blood cholesterol is made by your body processing fats and not by consuming cholesterol in food.

The cholesterol in those rich, delicious egg yolks wouldn’t have affected your own cholesterol levels one jot.” This news could not have been good for these men’s blood pressure. I know the anger I would have felt would have sent mine through the roof.

The biggest myth to do with food is this one: “You only put weight on if the calories you consume exceed the calories you expend.” Anyone who has been on a diet and exercise regimen will tell you that this is bollocks. Even the doctor who devised this model eventually admitted that he devised it to teach a general principle to first year medical students and that it’s really a great deal more complicated than that.

Weight gain is becoming endemic in Great Britain. Sixty per cent of adults are now overweight or obese. In order to see what we might be able to do about this, a lady called Professor Susan Jebb has been conducting hell of a lot of research on the matter.

Susan Jebb is Britain’s foremost authority on nutrition and co-author of the delightfully titled report “British Obesity : Gluttony or Sloth?” She’s also the campaigner responsible for brow-beating confectionery companies into making chocolate bars smaller in the interests of health. To be fair to her though, I don’t think she expected the confectionery companies to be cheeky enough to charge the same money for them once they’d been shrunk.

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The shrinking of the chocolate bars was only a partial success anyway. Manufacturers got around it by inventing “duo bars”, essentially a really long chocolate bar cut in half and shoved into one wrapper. The confectionery claimed they were “for sharing” or that you could “save one half for later”.

I mean seriously, who shares chocolate bars? Even men don’t do that. As for women, forget it. And as any woman will tell you, the words “chocolate” and “later” are mutually exclusive. Stick them in the same sentence and they might annihilate each other, like matter and antimatter. The safety of the universe relies on eating all available chocolate immediately.

Anyway, in order to get to the bottom of the mystery of why some people can eat whatever the hell they like and others can put on two pounds just by looking at ham sandwich, Professor Jebb and her team devised and experiment.

They took all sorts of people and put them into something called a whole body calorimeter. This measures every calorie you expend, super accurately, by comparing how much oxygen you use up to how much carbon dioxide you expel.

They also accounted for every calorie consumed by the test subjects. They even went as far as collecting the urine and faeces of the test subjects and measuring how many calories had passed through their bodies untouched.

Here is what they found. That old, simplistic model that states “You only put on weight if the calories you consume exceed the calories you expend” is completely and totally and utterly…Correct.

You cannot put weight on unless you overeat. And you don’t have to overeat by much to get fat. Fifty calories a day will do the trick if you keep it up for long enough.

Any physicist could have told you that of course. The human body is a complex and amazing thing, but it’s not clever enough to defy the “energy can be neither created nor destroyed” rule.

Of course, it can seem like some of us can put weight on without eating very much. But this is down to our behaviour and, more importantly, our perception of our behaviour. In other words, anyone who says they increased their level of exercise and decreased their calorific intake but didn’t lose any weight, is lying. Maybe not deliberately and perhaps only to themselves, but they are lying.

Another interesting point that Professor Jebb has made is this. There are health gains to made from doing things like eating more fibre and eating less saturated fat and salt. But these gains are very modest ones. The really big health gains come from simply losing weight. How much you eat is far more important than what you eat.

So, if your doctor has told you that you have to lose weight, you need to be very, very honest with yourself. Don’t reward yourself with a Big Mac after your workout and convince yourself that it doesn’t count because you’ve been good.

Don’t limit yourself to rabbit food. Eat nice things, but have smaller portion. Be more active and take more exercise. That way- if you’re honest- you will lose weight. And it will creep off the same way it crept on. Slowly and without you really noticing until your trousers are no longer the correct size.

© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015

 

 

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About thedailygrime

At that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.

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