Life in the Febfast lane

Yes, you heard correctly.  I’m doing Febfast.

If you don’t know me, you’ll be yawning about now and pondering whether to read on.  A dietitian not drinking for a month? That sounds about as newsworthy as your children giving up asparagus, doesn’t it?  Woop-de-fucking-do.

Well… maybe you haven’t met many real live dietitians before.  I’ll let you in on a secret.

Despite what Google thinks, we do not actually look like this:

dietitian image

Some of us don’t even like apples, you know? And the last time I whipped out a tape and measured fruit was, um.. I’m pretty sure I never have.

Oh look, you still don’t believe me?  Well here’s a picture I took at our staff meeting this month.

inside a dietitians' meeting

You see?  Wine is even mandatory during Tuesday night meetings in my workplace (it’s a good way to suss out the latest pregnancy news).

My friends will also vouch for the fact that I enjoy a good tipple, and that I hardly ever wear a lab coat.  Over the last few months, they’ve been lovingly administering me with more of the stuff than I’d care to admit.  And at the mention of Febfast, they’re now shaking their heads in sympathy – certain that I’ve finally lost my poor, tiny little mind.

You see, I’m just not a big one for swearing off things.

I’ve never quit sugar.  Actually I have a very healthy relationship with carbs (one of mutual respect and admiration).

I’m also totally rubbish when it comes to fasting – my only recent experience being when I tried the 5:2 diet to see what all the fuss was about. I lasted all of 17 hours on my meagre 500 calories, until at 2am I was wide awake and so deliriously hungry that I had to creep out of bed and make toast, least I chew my own arm off.

The truth is that I love food, and I especially love good food. And good food goes well with wine, which, in my books, is one of the perks of being a grown up.

Some foods actually demand an appropriate accompanying beverage.  Like these crisps, which – not being enough like crack cocaine by themselves – actually tell you to drink a beer with them.  I’d never noticed the fine print until this February.

chips go better with beer

It is scientifically proven that chips go better with beer

So why (I hear you asking) am I here? Very loudly and publicly vowing my sobriety throughout the month of February? Yikes, it’s hard to remember about now…

But I guess I figured it was time for some clarity.

February seemed as good a time as any to take a break from the booze, and start taking care of business.  And blimey, have I been TCB of late.

My mountain of paperwork is slowly eroding.  My bedroom hasn’t been this orderly since we moved in (one of the unexpected perks of singledom is all that extra cupboard space). And – if I do say so myself – you’d be hard pressed to find a more disciplined Tuppaware cupboard in the wider Glen Iris area.

tuppaware cupboard graphic

Suddenly it’s february 14th (blerk), and I haven’t had a sip.  Which means I’m over the half way hump already.  And considering my body fluid composition is now approximately 40% Perrier and 60% tea, I’m feeling pretty good.

I’m still waiting for the sparkling eyes, glowing skin and thick glossy hair that was promised – oh hang on –  I think I may have just confused Febfast with pregnancy there?  Forgive me.  I’ve been hitting the rocky road ice cream pretty hard tonight.

hit's of rocky road ice cream, straight from the tub

Seriously though, what I have noticed is the decided tinge of optimism in my demeanour these days.  I think it’s got a little to do with sobriety.  But no doubt it’s also just the passage of time.

So, fellow Febfasters – I know there’s a few of you out there.  I think you’ll agree that we all deserve a group hug and a pat on the back about now (or perhaps, just another mini Mars Bar and a cup of tea?).  Let’s chink our posh mineral water in wine glasses, and exclaim ‘gee, this is just so… refreshing!’ in unison.

There’s plenty of room on the sofa of sobriety at my place – we can clean out our email inboxes together, and submit our tax returns whilst knocking back peanut M&Ms like they’re going out of style.  And when we’re spent, we’ll pop on the tele and perve at the dishy Hotel Trivago guy, over, and over again. Ad nauseum.

On behalf of all the Febfasters out there, I’m dialling up a bit of Wilson Phillips tonight (in a totally ironic and self-effacing, Bridesmaids kind of way of course) and belting out a bit of ‘Hold On’ while I’m making the meatballs.

Go ahead and join me – you know you want to.

 

 

 

 

 

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The truth dietitians won’t tell you about fad diets

Here’s a thing:  Diet books for dogs.

Because why limit the dieting industry to humans, when there’s a whole market out there for overweight, guilt-ridden, food focused dogs?

diet books for dogs

Now they can unlock their ancestral diet too.  Or go vegetarian (I’m no dog nutritionist here, but seriously?).  And someone very passionate about canine diets, felt the need to write a ‘complete guide’ to not eating poop.  Yes they did.

It’s further evidence that the diet industry is showing no signs of easing up.  And do you know what?  My sensible, measured dietitian-ness can’t fight it any longer. I’ve decided it’s time I ditched the goody-two-shoes routine and jumped aboard that juggernaut.

Because nobody wants to read about how small, sustainable changes to your eating habits can help you lose weight and improve your long term health.  Not even dogs.  What we’re searching for is the dietary holy grail: a revolutionary new eating program that melts away kilos, cures chronic diseases and doubles as religion.

The key to fad diet success is pretty simple – as you can see from my nifty graphic below.

Fad Diet Writing 101

Sounds pretty awesome – right?  A lot more happening than ‘eat less crap and exercise more’.

But fad diets don’t just look and sound good.  The truth is that they’re benefiting us in more ways than we can imagine.  And the new, edgy, laser-tooth-whitened me is here to let you in on what the DAA and the Government have been trying to cover up for YEARS:

 1.  Fad diets help people lose weight and feel happy

Every year, millions of people shed millions of kilos of lard on fad diets.  And while they’re doing so they feel FANTASTIC.  It’s hard to miss how fantastic they feel, because they tell anyone and EVERYONE who will listen, and the best ones even get to go on TV. The giddy joy of fitting back into your old skinny jeans and living on ketones are a pretty heady combination.

But don’t feel bad if your friend is looking suddenly more buffed than you since they kicked their toxic sugar habit.  The flip-side to stringent diets is that they just aren’t sustainable for 98.7% of those who try them**.  You’ll be able to get your own back a few months later, when they’re back in their fat pants and no longer sporting that zealous, invincible look. When you pop over for coffee, just stare a little too long at the packet of biscuits on the bench, and then ask ‘hey how’s your sugar-free diet going?’.

**figure based on random sample of my dieting friends over past 25 years

2.  Fad Diets Are Good For The Economy

Because they sell books.  Billions of them!  And you can’t stand an ebook proudly on your coffee table as a conversation starter.  Fad diets are what keeps the publishing and printing businesses afloat, and keeps people in jobs.   And it doesn’t end there.

dietbook montage

With all of these sensational, ground-breaking new diets, comes the demand for sensational, groundbreaking new products – Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Seed Oilhome fermenting kits, and fart-proof underwear (I know you think I’m joking but check this shit out).  And let’s not forget the celebrities, shonky doctors and wellness coaches whose pictures grace the covers.  Their maca powder habits and alkalised water deliveries keep the health food industry in business, which in turn sells more kooky books, which in turn drives sales of carb-free pasta and dairy-free-soy-free-real-cheddar-taste-without-the-cheese kale chips.  And who can argue with that logic?

kale chips

3.  Fad diets put food on the table for desperate TV programming executives

Just imagine where those poor souls would be, without the constant turnover of new fad diets to feed the 24 hour news cycle?  Very short on low-brow current affairs and breakfast ‘news’ segments, is where.   And in the absence of such tasty programming morsels, we’d probably be subjected to more awful news about war, disease and famine. Which would make us so miserable we’d just gorge ourselves on more biscuits and cake, and get even fatter and more disgusting.

4.  Fad diets make for excellent dinner party and water cooler conversations

Which helps us connect with like-minded suckers individuals who’re interested in any new fad innovations in nutritional science.  Next time you’re stuck for conversation, just try this:

Simply combine the phrase ‘I read recently’ or ‘my trainer says’ or ‘many people now believe’ with any old rubbish, and you’ve got yourself a whole lot of credibility and a sure-fire conversation starter. For example:

‘I can’t believe you still eat carrots.  I read recently they’re worse than soft drink’

‘Gee I’m glad they do a paleo all day breakfast here – my trainer says I shouldn’t eat gluten after 4pm on weekdays’

‘I wouldn’t touch dairy with a barge-pole these days.  Many people now believe it causes early puberty, autism spectrum disorder and flabby upper arms’

5.  Fad Diets give stupid people a chance to be famous and make money

My final point on this matter may sound a little harsh, I know.  But doesn’t everyone deserve a chance to have their day in the sun?  Why should stupid people miss out?

And here, I give you Freelee the banana girl – a raw, vegan diet coach who has invented the Mono diet.  She’s shed 20kg by eating ANYTHING SHE WANTS (as long as it’s low fat, raw and vegan that is), in ANY AMOUNT.  The catch is that she only eats one type of food at each meal. NB. If you are contemplating watching this clip, proceed with caution, and please note these are 4 minutes of your life you will never get get back.

And on the subject of stupidity, I couldn’t finish up here without introducing Alicia Sliverstone and her books The Kind Mama and The Kind Diet.  

#1 New York Times bestseller Written for the many people out there who prefer to get their dietary, fertility and medical advice from a celebrity instead of a doctor – it’s apparently topped the New York Times Best Seller list.  Now that’s what I call #booksales.

But before you race out and get your own copy, do me a favour and check out this review, which is quite frankly, more useful and entertaining than both her books put together.

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I got 99 problems – but a grain ain’t one

I’ve been channelling Alf Stewart again.  It’s something that comes over me at times of intense frustration – like when my children decide to barge through the toilet door the moment I have closed it and sat down… or in this case it’s when celebrity chefs decide they need to reeducate the nation about feeding their families.  Not according to evidence-based guidelines developed by research bodies throughout the world, but according to their own skewed beliefs and practices.

The Almonds are activated! (Image: Sunday Life, The Australian)

The Almonds are activated! I repeat: The almonds are activated! (Image: Sunday Life)

If you haven’t yet heard, Celebrity chef Pete Evans’ latest bit of Facebook grandstanding has him promising to bring his version of healthy eating into schools across Australia – and his Facebook fans – the anti-dietititian brigade – can barely contain themselves.  He hasn’t yet told us what exactly his ‘Healthy School Lunches’ program will entail, but if we are to go by his recent spot in the Australian (‘6 foods I never stock at home’), it might look something like this:

No grains.  That means goodbye to the humble sandwich and sushi roll (sorry mum). This also extends to meat that was fed grains, in case you’re wondering.

No dairy.  Because apparently no-one in his family can digest it.  And sorry (!) but soy alternatives such as tofu and soy milk are also bad for us  – proving 130 million Japanese resoundingly clueless.

No sugar (Pete goes into convulsions at the mere mention of sugar).  That seemingly innocent combination of glucose and fructose apparently causes all manner of physical and psychological disturbances, according to…. well… him.  But don’t fear, because pure maple syrup and raw honey are tickety-boo.

No vegetable oils.  Pete reckons vegetable oils are toxic.

Gee, that’s quite a bit there on the bad list Pete.  So which foods does he give his blessing to?

Nuts and seeds.  I’m right here with you Pete – these are great foods.  Activate away!

Fibrous organic vegetables.  Awesome.  Fibre is good.  Organic is nice.. if you have the funds.  We should probably all eat more vegetables.

Herbs and spices and naturally fermented foods.  No argument here.  Hey -I wonder if the sludgey banana I found at the bottom of my daughter’s bag would count as a naturally fermented superfood?!

Organic, free range, 100% pasteurised meat, poultry and eggs and hand-caught salmon from sustainable waters.   These are all good things.  Very expensive good things.  But here’s where the value judgements start to creep in – because surely if we just cared enough about our family, we’d all scrape around and find the money to eat organic?    

Coconut oil. Yes of course coconut oil.  Coconut oil is so hot right now. Because of it’s high smoke point right? (see what I did there) and it’s apparent lack of ‘toxicity’.  He also allows virgin olive oil at times, but favours lard and tallow as healthy cooking options at home.  Mmmm…

What about fruit? I hear you ask.  Fruit didn’t rate a mention – evidently it wasn’t downright evil enough to make the naughty list, or pure enough to make the nice list.  Does that mean I should give up practicing my apple swan lunch box art?  Humph.

turn-ordinary-apple-into-deliciously-artful-swan.w654

Now you’re probably thinking at this point – gee she’s really got her knickers in a knot over this one.  And yes, this is out of character for a dietitian who isn’t usually very dietitian-like about food.  It takes a bit for me to get my hackles up, but man they’re up.  My inner Alf Stewart (in his gravelly tones) has been baiting me:  ‘C’mon girly – are you gonna let that dingbat with his flamin’ activated almonds get away with this rot?’

No Alf.  I won’t stand for it.  I’m going to clamber up onto my soap-box and let rip.  Here goes..

As a dietiitan, I see people every week who are utterly bamboozled by conflicting dietary advice.  They no longer know who to believe, and many have lost the instinct which tells them whether they’re hungry or full.  Guilt is a big theme.  They ask me about the 5:2 diet, whether they should Quit Sugar or detox, and whether dairy is good or bad.  The ones who eat well are also taking spirulina and popping vitamins, and the ones who eat crap don’t don’t really give a crap.so hot right now

I’m very familiar with actual food allergies/intolerances and the restrictive and socially isolating diets that some need to follow.   Food allergy sucks.  Coeliac disease is not fun. And food intolerance symptoms can be genuinely distressing.  But I’m also encountering more and more clients who appear to be hiding their frankly disordered eating habits behind the veil of food intolerance or ‘special’ requirements.

Like the woman I saw recently, who over ten years, had whittled her diet down to only eggs (6-8/day), cream and butter, pork, chicken and lamb.  She avoided all grains and all fruits and vegetables except potato (which she fried in duck fat) and banana (100g/day).  Her blood cholesterol was a whopping 19mmol.  But in the immediate future she needed a psychologist more than she needed a dietitian.

And I suppose that’s why I get so worked up about diets that are all about restriction, and self-appointed ‘experts’ like Pete, who advocate them.  They promote the idea that eating to a certain formula will make you better, cleaner, stronger.  Through mainstream and social media, they subtly pervade the public conscious, encouraging confusion and needless anxiety around food.which diet?

Do we want to teach our kids that foods have either good or bad moral values?  Do we want to risk strengthening the foundation for disordered eating, in those who are most vulnerable?  As the mother of a nearly eight year-old daughter, the idea terrifies me.  And I wonder if the thousands who ‘like’ and ‘share’ Pete’s grandiose school lunch plans have really thought this through?

Pete obviously has passion for what he does – and that’s great for him, and the upwardly mobile, alternative-aligned punters with whom the paleo movement resonates.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.  He’s a TV chef with nutrition qualifications from an ‘Institute Of Wellness’, and quite frankly, he’s no Jamie Oliver.

I prefer a bit of common sense and moderation, myself.  I learn from my colleagues, who blog with intelligence and perspective – like Dr Tim Crowe from http://www.thinkingnutrition.com.au – who presents the science in lovely bite-sized, helpful chunks.  And http://www.thenutritionguruandthechef.com – a breath of fresh air in cyberspace in the form of no-nonsense, cut-the-crap good food.

So how about we all just calm down (that’s you included Alf), practice a bit of moderation, and agree that different styles of eating suit different people.  If we cook real food at home, eat plenty of plants, eat less processed food and stop when we’re full, I figure that’s a pretty good start.

(now if you’ll excuse me – I’m just popping down to the shops for some organic free range offal and giant mushrooms to make this paleo burger for the kids lunch tomorrow)