When it comes to dieting – or anything else for that matter – there’s no one size that fits all. But let me share what I have learned in the course of helping Mrs StroppyGit to lose a few kilos.
Over the years Mrs SG tried various dieting systems, all of which cost money and were entirely ineffective. Then I heard about the 5+2 diet, which simply involves consuming a maximum of 500kcal* on each of 2 days per week and eating normally on the other 5. I agreed with Mrs SG that she would eat only what I served to her.
Then I set up an Excel model and entered the calorific value and the percentage of protein and sugar in each kind of food that we routinely eat. These data are freely available from many websites. I used a US site called http://nutritiondata.self.com. I also checked the nutritional data on all the packets and tins in our kitchen.
With that preparation, I only had to weigh each ingredient that went into the food I served to Mrs SG and enter the weight into the model. That gave me a daily calorie count and also the number of grams of protein and sugar. Of course, there are lots of other components of food that matter and which a real dietitian would measure and adjust. But I just followed a few simple rules:
- Consume 1,100-1,300kcal/day normally, but no more than 500kcal on 2 days per week (the ‘fasting days’).
- 1,300kcal/day is less than the normal maintenance level for an adult, and it may be exceeded on special days when we entertain guests or go out to eat.
- Consume 30-50 grams of protein every day, including the fasting days.
- Every day consume less sugar than protein.
- Eat small amounts of a wide variety of things.
- Don’t buy anything without reading the nutritional data and comparing with other products.
- Always eat unprocessed food in preference to processed.
- Prepare meals in your own kitchen as much as possible. You don’t know what’s in a restaurant or take-away meal.
Let me expand a little on No.5. There’s an old song that goes “A little of what you fancy does you good.” My mother often quoted that song, applying the sentiment to food. A narrow diet is necessarily a poor one.
And I will expand on No.6 too. The corporations that manufacture and distribute our food are not our friends. They are amoral organisations designed to generate income for their shareholders, directors and senior managers. Credulous customers who become obese, unhealthy or malnourished are collateral damage. For example, when fat was the big enemy many products appeared on supermarket shelves labeled ‘Low fat’. The labels were truthful, but they failed to mention that the products contained lots of sugar and therefore calories.
I’ll give you an example to illustrate that last point. Mrs SG and I like different yoghurts. Hers is labelled ‘Low fat’ and contains 1,120kcal/kg. Mine bears no such label and contains 620kcal/kg.
Oh, and I should add that after 5 months of following this regime Mrs SG has lost 10kg and her BMI is within the healthy range. She looks and feels good and has suffered no bad side-effects.
* kcal = kilocalorie(s), 1 kcal being the heat required to raise the temperature of 1kg of pure water from 20 degrees to 21 degrees Celsius. It is commonly called a calorie in the dietary context, which is confusing. The kilojoule (kJ) is another measure of the same thing. 1kcal = 4.2kJ.