The ‘Non-Diet’ Diet

I love food.

I love going out and finding amazing ingredients. Preparing it. Cooking it. Eating it. On my own, with my girlfriend, with friends or with family.

Jamie Oliver writes:

“It’s about recipes that really hit the spot at a certain time, and have the capacity to pull out explicit feelings and old memories, as well as creating new ones and passing that joy onto the next generation.”

I couldn’t agree more. When I left home after University at the age of 22 I lived on my own for 2 years and really developed a love of cooking and spent a lot of time reading about good, nutritious foods and their effect on the human body. I’m a big believer that if my grandmother wouldn’t recognise what’s on the ingredients list – it usually doesn’t end up in my fridge or cupboards. The typical Western diet isn’t a particularly healthy one.

I think the word “diet” has a different meaning to a lot of people. I think the general perception of that word means to cut calories, to reduce what you eat, to detox, something temporary in order to lose a couple of pounds and a few months later being back where you started.

There is a lot of confusion and a lack of real understanding on what to eat these days to be healthy. Your goal could be to lose weight, reduce body fat or build muscle. You can pick up one of 10 magazines on the shelf and find all sorts of people promoting pills, magic supplements or the latest ‘this will give you the body of your dreams if you drink it 3 times a day’ shake.

For diabetics, what we eat really is crucial. Having a good, stable blood sugars allows our management of our condition far easier. Trying to reduce glucose spikes and dips and instead have a more sustained slower release of glucose throughout the day makes it all far easier and helps lower complications later on in life.

So, to clear up some confusion – here are 10 tips which I have found that will help balance blood sugar levels, give you good digestive support and essentially help you have a more sustainable and manageable approach to food and diet. All whilst keeping you healthy and happy and letting you live the life you want to lead.

1) You Need to Want to Change.

This is incredibly important. There’s no point just hoping, wishing, thinking – you need to put all that into action and stick with it. There needs to be a reason why you want to change. A goal. To feel better. To look better. To help your family. To make living with a condition just easier.

There isn’t a X number of weeks transformation “diet” that actually works in the long term. Not from my experience anyway. Our bodies are not designed for liquid diets or ready made meals based  on a points system. This is usually the primary reason that once you leave your “diet” within a few weeks your back where you began originally.

Getting the hang of eating healthy is actually really easy. Healthy food is not bland or boring. It’s not steamed vegetables 3 times a day. It’s not chicken, rice and broccoli. It’s so much more than that – and it’s brilliant.

2) Recognising Hunger.

There’s a real difference between actually being hungry and thinking that you need food. Recognising the difference is key.

 

 
3) Eat Real Food.
 
The food you put in your mouth should have come from the ground, should have grazed fields, swam in lakes, hung from trees or flown around in the sky. It definitely should not have come from a lab, test tube, be man made or contain a list of ingredients that you struggle to pronounce. There is no fad diet that is sustainable or will give you good long term health.
In the 1930’s, a study was undertaken by Weston A. Price to view the relationships with diet and the health of 16 groups of tribes people all over the world. Food sources obviously varied depending on where in the world they were but what was common throughout was that they all lived and ate on food that was available from the land provided to them. They all continued organic foods, whole foods and animal products. All their diets contained meat. Price found that all these primitive diets contained at least FOUR times the quantity of minerals and vitamins compared to the typical Western diet of the time.
It was found that they were all in excellent health, had good physiques and no cases of malignant diseases. This was up until two tribes people (American-Indians & Eskimos) were subjected to the Western diet and then illness was far more frequent.
There are many factors that influence your optimal macronutrient ratio (proteins, carbs, fats) at any given time – but the vast majority of the time your diet should contain as much organic, one-ingredient and unprocessed food as possible.
4) Calories.
 
Educating yourself that not all calories are created equally. It is what makes up those calories that counts towards a good healthy lifestyle. A calorie from a pizza is not the same as a calorie from an apple. Know how many calories you need per day in order to fuel your body optimally and make them up of nutritious foods. Just because something is marketed as low-calorie or low-fat either does not necessarily mean it’s good for your optimal health.
5) Greens.
 
Almost every meal you have should contain dark, leafy greens. Such examples include kale, chard, lettuce, mustard, collards, parsley and spinach. They have a whole host of health benefits and include vital minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese and are full of fibre. They are a wonderful anti-oxidants and work well in removing a lot of harmful substances in the body.
Source: prn.fm
6) Cravings.
 
Ah. The biggy. Snacking on something sweet or calorifically high usually means your body is lacking something and it’s “craving” it quickly.
  • Sweets:
    • Lacking: Chromium, carbon phosphorus, sulphur and tryptophan.
    • You Can Get This From: Broccoli, grapes, cheese, chicken, turkey, fresh fruit, beef, organ meats, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, cranberries, kale, horseradish, cabbage, spinach and sweet potato.
  • Bread:
    • Lacking: Nitrogen.
    • You Can Get This From: Chicken, beef, pork, turkey, fish, nuts.
  • High-fat Snacks:
    • Lacking: Calcium.
    • You Can Get This From: Dairy, mustard, dark leafy greens, legumes.
  • Caffeine:
    • Lacking: Phosphorous, sulphur and iron.
    • You Can Get This From: Chicken, beef, organ meats, fish, eggs, dairy, red peppers, garlic, onion, dark leafy greens, apple vinegar.
  • Fizzy Drinks (just a side note – “Diet” Cola etc. does not mean it is good for you – far from it):
    • Lacking: Calcium.
    • You Can Get This From: Broccoli, dark leafy greens, dairy, legumes.
  • High-salt Foods:
    • Lacking: Chloride.
    • You Can Get This From: Fish, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, goats milk.
7) Hydration.
 
We simply cannot exist without water. As our body is made up of 80% of the stuff it plays a vital role in nearly every bodily function. Lack of water is the number 1 trigger of daytime fatigue and it’s incredibly important for a diabetic to stay on top of their water consumption during the warmer months. If we don’t have access to water, the body will find it tough to pass glucose out of the blood via urine and can result in further dehydration as the body goes out to find water from other parts of our body.
Water is key for proper circulation in the body and the levels of oxygen in the bloodstream is greater when the body is well hydrated. It also helps to remove toxins from the body and helps to suppress hunger.
8) Fat is NOT the Enemy.
 
There’s been a massive media witch hunt about fats in recent years. Not all fats will make you fat. In fact, fats and oils are essential for optimal health. Without fat, vitamins cannot be transported and absorbed throughout the body efficiently – especially vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats also regulate and help hormone production in both men and women.

Diabetics – fat will also slow down the release of glucose into the blood stream which will lower the fast acting impact of particular foods on your blood sugar levels. In return this should keep your appetite under control and will help keep your energy levels stable and constant. If you’re interested in a low carb diet then fats should account for a large proportion of your daily calorie intake.

You only need to actively avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats). That’s it.

 
9) Have Breakfast. 
 
It is a very western habit to skip breakfast or to eat cereal, toast and tea/ coffee. You’ve just given your body a load of processed carbohydrates and sugar. Almost all cereals are empty parcels that contain no nutritional value. Having eaten this your body is now craving these kind of foods the rest of they day. Having a good source of protein in the morning like an omelette, scrambled eggs or even a smoothie is a much better way to start the day.
Skipping breakfast is the worst way to start the day. Your body needs food to fuel itself. Without it, you’re much more likely to snack and crave foods that aren’t optimal.
 
10) Balance.
 
You may now think that I am advocating a completely strict get all your foods from the farm lifestyle. This isn’t the case. Food is amazing. Living in London, wandering around food markets, trying food made on the street – it’s incredible. It’s all about balance.
You should try 80-90% of the time for your diet to contain good, clean, healthy, one-ingredient foods where possible. The other 10% or so, relax. Enjoy yourself. Have a burger. Have a curry. Try and do your best to make sure these come from quality sources rather than your local fast food stop.
Your body deserves the best. You deserve to feel awesome every single day. Try to use these 10 tips in your life and I promise you, you’ll notice a massive difference.

 

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Dan has been a Type 1 Diabetic for over 5 years and writes about his experiences with Type 1, nutrition, exercise and living an overall healthier life with diabetes on his blog and via his social media platforms.

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