Losing Weight In Ramadan

Ramadan is an excellent opportunity to shed some extra pounds. You are already resetting your metabolism by the protracted, long overnight fast, as well as the daily fasting. Your metabolism resets and your body begins to change the way it does things.

Weight loss during the first few days is just dehydration. It may be exciting to see that you lost 2-3 pounds in the first day or two, but that’s all water loss and dehydration. No human can lose 2 pounds of fat overnight. It’s just water. But it’s still exciting!

So how can we maximize weight loss during Ramadan?

The most important factor is to avoid gorging or “binge eating” at night. We have found that gorging once a day is the fastest way to gain weight. Your body thinks it’s in a state of famine, and will store everything you eat as fat, because it is worried about food supply. Further, eating once a day scares your body and your body starts to shut down and slow down your metabolism. You don’t want to slow down your metabolism or you will gain weight.

Eating small meals throughout the evening and morning (after sunset) is the best way to maintain an adequate metabolism level and avoid the highs and lows of blood sugar associated with eating one massive meal. After eating a large meal, our blood sugar level increases. In response to this, our pancreas secretes a ton of insulin to bring the levels back down. That extra sugar is stored as fat. That is very bad. We want to eat small, well proportioned meals and snacks throughout the evening to avoid the sudden rise in blood sugar. We want to maintain an even and balanced level of blood sugar. Certain foods raise blood sugar levels more than others, and we will discuss that thoroughly.

Why do I feel hungry?

A lot of people ask why they don’t feel hungry throughout the day if they skip Suhoor (breakfast meal before dawn), but are starving by 9AM if they eat Suhoor. It all comes down to blood sugar levels.

Eating a massive meal in the early morning hours (before dawn) leads to a large surge in blood sugar and a subsequent secretion of a lot of insulin to help bring down your sugar level. In about 2-3 hours your blood sugar levels will drop to lower than normal, and this triggers a hunger response. By 9AM you will feel like you are starving. And you have the whole day left. By noon that feeling will go away, but why do you want to do that to yourself? You can avoid that problem by eating the right things throughout the evening and early morning and you can avoid this feeling of hunger. Later on I will discuss what you can eat to minimize the hunger response.

To fulfill the religious recommendation of Suhoor (not obligation), just wake up and drink some water. Water has no consequences in terms of blood sugar levels. You could also just skip it altogether and continue the overnight fast into the day, you are already living off your fat stores, and can continue to do so throughout the day. You won’t feel hungry. Overnight, your liver makes sugar for you to live off of, but can only do so for a limited period of time. If you continue this overnight fast into the day, you can start living off your fat stores. Isn’t that the best way to lose weight? By burning fat?

So what can you eat?

What we are talking about is “Glycemic Index”. This is a measurement of your blood sugar response to certain foods. For example, consuming 50 grams of pure white sugar, has a glycemic index of 111. That’s really high. The idea is to eat foods that don’t raise your blood sugar level. This will keep you from feeling hungry and will fill you up with very healthy food choices.

Vegetables like celery, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and spinach have a glycemic index of less than 15. They have almost no effect on your blood sugar levels. Berries like strawberries, blue berries, raspberries as well as apples, have a glycemic index of 20-30 and are better than other fruit options. Some fruits like mangos and bananas have a glycemic index in 40-55 range. The fruit with the highest glycemic index is a pineapple with a GI (glycemic index) of about 66. This is still better than eating bread and baked goods.

Some vegetables are higher in sugar than others and have a higher glycemic index. Potatoes, corn, tomatoes (really a fruit), and carrots are all higher in simple sugars than other more fibrous vegetables. In fact, a baked potato has a GI of 115! That’s about as high as it gets. The reason is that a baked potato is so processed, that it is very easy for our stomach to get at the simple sugars. The stomach has to do almost no work at all to get to the sugars. They are all there and readily accessible. Leaving the skin on and eating the baked potato with the skin, decreases the GI to 98, but it’s still high. The skin acts as a fibrous buffer that keeps some of the sugars away from the stomach. The more fiber you eat, the harder it is for the stomach to get at the sugars. Leave the peel on apples, cucumbers, peaches, apricots, dates, kiwis, and other edible peels. Eat a lot of fiber!

Foods with the highest glycemic index are baked goods and simple carbohydrates like bread, cake, desserts, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit juices, candy, soda, pop, and coffee and tea that you put a lot of sugar into. Some of these have glycemic indices as high as 100 or more. The food with the highest glycemic index is Corn Flakes breakfast cereal with a GI of 132. Breakfast cereals have some of the highest GIs. Instead eat real oatmeal with fruits slices! Real oatmeal doesn’t have as high of a GI as the prepackaged ready to eat stuff. Or make your own yogurt parfait with real fruit slices and sprinkle oat meal on top.

There is an entire section on Glycemic Index on the Alo Diet Website. Check it out!

What can I eat?

The key is to eat foods that have a minimal glycemic index impact, yet still eat healthy and nutritious foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, eggs, and lean meats are all very natural and very good for you. They also don’t cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels.

Timing of meals

Here in the US, most Muslims indulge after sunset and don’t wake up to have an early meal. Busy work schedules and busy lifestyles promote this bad eating behavior. This is a major contributor to gaining weight. The human body is very smart. The body figures out that it is only getting one meal a day and decides that it needs to store everything. So everything you eat gets stored as fat.

Normally, we tell our patients to eat small frequent meals throughout the day. Well, you can’t do that in Ramadan. So you have to eat small, frequent meals throughout the night. This helps avoid the spikes in blood sugar levels and will keep you even and balanced.

So what do you eat?

At Iftar time (break-fast time), eat the traditional three dates and drink plenty of water. If you are really concerned about the amount of sugar in the dates, eat one date, but take three bites (or skip the date). Then take a break, go pray Maghrib (sunset prayer) and come back for the actual meal. For your meal, drink plenty of water, start with soup and salad, and pace yourself. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full. So slow down your process. Drinking plenty of water also starts stretching the stomach earlier and lets you know you are full earlier.

Then you can go to Taraweeh (the Ramadan nightly prayers), afterwards eat a small snack like a cheese stick or a handful of almonds or a bowl strawberries and light whip cream. You could even drink some unsweetened tea or coffee (or use a sugar substitute). Then you can go to sleep.

Wake up before dawn, and do not eat cereal! Eat an omelet with spinach, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, and some other healthy alternatives. Even a few nuts and an apple are fine. Or you could eat a banana and dark chocolate. Or another bowl of strawberries and bananas and light whip cream, but put some cocoa powder on the whip cream this time!

What should I avoid?

Avoiding simple sugars, processed foods, and baked goods will go a long way towards improving your metabolism, your health, and your well being. You will also feel more energetic and feel happier. Simple sugars (carbohydrates) are the culprits we discussed above; sugar, bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, ice cream, sweets, candy, dessert, baked goods like cakes, muffins, and many others.

You don’t have to avoid these every day. You can have these once a week. But you must cut down on portion size. Eat a third of what you normally would eat. Cut a slice of cheese cake into thirds and eat just a small amount. You have to control your portions. Otherwise, you are just going back to your previous state of metabolism and gluttony.

Ramadan is meant to be a month where Muslims feel what poor people feel. We are supposed to empathize with the poor and needy. We are not supposed to be gorging and over-eating at night. That is the opposite of what Ramadan is supposed to be about. Ramadan is supposed to be an exercise in control of our basic human desires. It’s supposed to give us a taste of hardship. It is not supposed to be a month of feasting.

What about desserts?

Ramadan is a time when families make certain desserts and foods that they don’t normally make. Kanafa, Katayif, Baklawa, special ice creams, and sweet rice puddings are all traditional Ramadan treats. You have to restrain yourself. Once a week is ok, but very small portions. Do not indulge. Otherwise, you will put weight back on. It’s very hard to control yourself sometimes. But remember what Ramadan is supposed to be about.

Go on! Lose Weight!

Smart Snacking

In today’s fast-paced world where there is often no time to prepare snacks and meals, it is important to learn how to snack smartly using readily available food items and to combine them correctly. If you have children to look after, it could be worth checking out some of these toddler snack ideas. Smart snacking stabilises blood sugar levels, which promotes effective cognitive function and good health. Stable blood sugar levels help to manage inappropriate food cravings, maintain metabolic rate, and therefore promote weight management.


  • A smart snack should fit into your hand. After all, it is a snack and not a meal.
  • Each snack should contain about 120 calories for women and 180 calories for men.
  • The carbohydrate content should be no more than 25g for women and 35g for men.
  • The fat content should be about 10g per snack (although for weight loss closer to 5g is better).
  • The fibre content should preferably be at least 2g fibre per snack.
  • A smart snack should be slow release (low GI<62) as well as low GL (GL 7-10).


  1. Check the weight of the snack portion you will be eating.
  2. Turn the snack over to find the nutrition analysis.
  3. Look for the list of ingredients, usually in small print.

Step 1 Determine the weight of the snack you will be eating. Remember to check that the actual weight of the snack is the same as the weight per serving given in the nutritional table. If it is not the same, you will have to calculate the nutritional values of your snack from the per 100g column.

Step 2 Look at the nutritional analysis table and compare the nutrients per snack with the criteria for a smart snack. Ideally all the criteria should be met. The fibre content may not always be attainable. Many health bars weigh 40g or even more, which is too big a portion for women.

Step 3 This last step will enable you to determine the impact the snack will have on your blood sugar levels. In order to get an idea whether the snack bar is slow release (low GI) or not, you need to check the list of ingredients. Since all ingredients on foods in South Africa are listed in order of mass with the heaviest one listed first and the lightest one listed last, the first third of the ingredients on the list will give an indication of what the GI of the snack will be.


The GI gives an indication of how fast a food that contains carbohydrate, affects our blood sugar levels. All carbohydrates are not equal. There are those that are digested and absorbed slowly over about three hours and those that spike blood sugar levels almost immediately. Low-GI foods take three hours to be digested and absorbed and therefore supply the body with a steady source of fuel (glucose) for up to three hours.

High-GI foods, on the other hand, will invariably spike blood sugar levels, resulting in higher insulin levels that encourage fat storage and irritability and reduce cognitive function as the body tries to rectify the high blood sugar levels. Slow-release foods include vegetables, most fruit, seed breads, legumes such as baked beans and hummus, and many other unprocessed foods.

The GL by contrast, gives an indication of the glucose load the body has to deal with in order to keep blood sugar levels within normal limits. Snacks are meant to keep body fuel levels in a steady state, rather than push blood sugar levels up. The bigger the portion, the larger the glycemic load, and the harder it is for the body to correct the glucose surge. A glycemic load of less than 10 is easily metabolised by the body and that is why snacks should have a load of around 10.

GL = Carbohydrate per serving x GI/100.


  • Plan ahead – use the smart snack criteria to choose smart snacks. Keep a laminated copy of these smart snack criteria with you when shopping.
  • Shop ahead – on most days you would need a morning and an afternoon snack. While doing your normal grocery shopping buy a variety of perhaps 10 or 20 non-perishable snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, mini health bars, low-GI rusks, crackers, and so on.
  • As fresh fruit is perfectly packaged, nutritious and the ideal snack, buy a bag of apples at the start of the week and leave it in the office fridge. Make sure you finish the apples by the end of the week. The next week try naartjies, then pears, peaches, and so on.
  • When fresh fruit is not available, stew a whole packet of dried fruit and store in the refrigerator. Use half a cup of stewed fruit as a snack.
  • Your fresh snacks can then be interspersed with the non-perishable snacks.
  • Make sure your smart snacks are close at hand; in your desk drawer, the cubbyhole of the car, your briefcase, gym bag, or handbag.
  • Many fresh snacks such as boiled eggs, chicken fillets, fruit salad, home-made low-GI muffins, biscuits and rusks can be made in larger quantities and used throughout the week.
  • If needed, a meal can be replaced with two or three snacks for a woman and three or four snacks for a man.


All the ideas listed below meet the criteria for smart snacks for women. Men could have 1.5 times these amounts.

  • Biltong – about 30g leaner biltong such as ostrich or game.
  • Biscuits – two biscuits, home-made low GI and low fat
  • Boiled egg with three or four crackers.
  • Cereal – mini packet of high-fibre cereal such as muesli, about 30g.
  • Cheese and crackers – buy the individual packs of three or four crackers and use two wedges of processed cheese.
  • Cheese and fruit – one matchbox of low-fat cheese with one fresh fruit or two pieces of dried fruit, for example brie and kiwi slices.
  • Cheese and fruit skewers – for example, two black grapes per mini mozzarella ball threaded alternately onto a skewer.
  • Cheese and vegetable skewers – for example, two cherry tomatoes per mini cheese cube threaded alternately onto a skewer.
  • Cold meat and fruit – one strip of Parma ham wrapped around a melon wedge, or four shaved turkey slices with four prunes or dried apricots.
  • Cottage cheese – three tablespoons with five dried mango strips or fresh kiwi slices.
  • Crudites and dip – one or two cups of vegetable crudites with up to six tablespoons of fat-free flavoured cottage cheese, tzatziki or reduced fat hummus.
  • Dried fruit – serving of about 40g.
  • Drinking yoghurts – fat-free, sucrose- (sugar-) free versions of no more than 300ml.
  • Fresh fruit – this is the best choice. Single pieces or fruit salad – no more than two tennis balls in size.
  • Fruit bars – one dried fruit bar (maximum 40g).
  • Fruit rolls – to meet the smart snack criteria.
  • Health bars – to meet the smart snack criteria.
  • Muffins – one home-made low GI, low fat muffin.
  • Nuts or seeds – one small handful about 30g.
  • Peanut butter – one tablespoon with fresh apple wedges, pear or any other piece of fruit.
  • Pretzels – the smallest packet you can find, no more than 30g.
  • Rusks or biscotti – one or two home-made low GI, low fat rusks or biscotti.
  • Salad – one cup of assorted salads from a salad bar; stick to those with-out dressing.
  • Stewed dried fruit – half a cup.
  • Tuna and fruit – half an easy-to-open packet or mini tin of tuna with one fresh fruit.
  • Yoghurt – one small tub of flavoured or plain low-fat or fat-free yogurt (maximum 175ml), with berries if desired.

Source: Eating for Sustained Energy by Gabi Steenkamp

Lunches & Dinners

Lunches and dinners, whether eaten at home or packed to take to work, should meet the requirements of a balanced meal on a plate. Always consider the balanced meal on a plate and keep to these portions, no matter where you are eating.


Step 1
Half-fill your plate with colour from nature’s colour palette in the form of fruit or vegetables such as roasted vegetables, cooked vegetables or salad vegetables.

Step 2
Choose one fistful of starch in the form of low-GI cooked starches (rice, baby potatoes, sweet potatoes, mealies, corn, and so on) in the case of dinner, and perhaps low-GI breads or rolls, or cold cooked starches for packed lunches.

Step 3
Choose one portion (the size of the palm of your hand) of low-fat dairy or lean protein such as low-fat cheese, boiled egg, tuna or chicken breast.

Step 4
Have a small portion of healthy fat such as one teaspoon of olive oil in salad dressings, a small handful of nuts or seeds, two tablespoons of peanut butter, or a quarter of an avocado. Alternatively, a small amount of good quality oil could be used to prepare the protein of the meal.


  • Dry groceries can be bought on a monthly basis but fresh foods need to be purchased twice a week. Plan two short shopping trips every week, even if you pop into the shops on your way home from work. Ordering online is another convenient option.
  • Pre-prepared vegetables are useful but should be used within two days in order to retain the nutritional value.
  • Home-made vegetable soups are a smart way to add generous amounts of vegetables to a meal. Make vegetable soup in bulk and freeze in smaller batches.
  • Roasting vegetables in larger quantities and keeping them chilled for a few days makes for quick reheating and adding to meals, or for instant use in salads.
  • Fruit can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.
  • Cooked starches such as rice, pasta, barley and mealies can be cooked in larger quantities and stored in the fridge for up to a week and frozen for up to a month.
  • Chicken fillets and hard-boiled eggs can also be prepared in larger quantities and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
  • When cooking savoury mince, make more than is needed. Freeze in smaller portions, about half a cup (125ml). Ready-cooked mince can be added to cooked sweet potatoe or tinned chickpeas, or piled on top of seed loaf toast or into a mini pita pocket with lots of salad vegetables.
  • Meal leftovers can be stored in microwave-safe containers for quick and easy balanced meals on the run.
  • Ready-made sauces such as curry , korma, mushroom, tomato-basil, lemon and herb, sweet and sour, olive and sun-dried tomato, relish, and so on should have a fat content of 3g or less per 100g to ensure that you do not add appreciable amount of fat to the meal. In addition, use only half the amount of sauce per serving. This means that you would use twice the amount of meat, fish, chicken or vegetables and recommended on the product so that you end up using half the amount of sauces advised. Any leftovers can be chilled or frozen for another meal.
  • Ready-made higher fat ingredients such as low-oil mayonnaise, curry pastes, atchar, pesto, olive tapenade and hummus should be added with discretion and in very small amounts to avoid adding too much fat to your meal.
  • Sweet-chilli sauce, chutney, relishes, fruit preserves such as green fig preserve, onion marmalade, and so on may be fat free but have very high sugar content. Use no more than two tablespoons per person, to keep within the sugar recommendation of no more than 10g sugar per meal.
  • Keep a variety of plastic containers, resealable plastic bags, small cooler boxes, ice bricks, water bottles, mini sauce containers with tight-fitting lids and wipes on hand.
  • If you have access to a fridge at work, start each week by taking along a container with assembled lunch basics. Include salad vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, small cucumbers, sweet peppers and other crudites. Add cottage cheese, cheese wedges, hard-boiled eggs, tuna in brine, small tins of bakes beans, high fibre crackers, yogurts, etc. Assembling your own lunch from your supply of basics will be faster than fighting the canteen queues or walking across the road to a local takeaway. Your assembled lunch will also be healthier and sustain your energy throughout the afternoon.


  • Ready-made meals single meal portions are often too big. Choose those that are no larger than 250g per serving.
  • Ready-made meals usually provide only the starch and meat (protein) of the meal. To balance the ready-made meal, at least as much salad or vegetables should be added.
  • Salad bars and deli counter salads are usually high in fat due to the dressings used. Make sure you choose salads without mayonnaise or oily dressings. For example, beetroot salad, mixed lettuce-type salads, carrot salad, or pickled vegetables (gherkins, Peppadews, cabbage, mushrooms, etc.). The amount of undressed salads on your plate should be at least as much as the ready-made meal serving.
  • When choosing ready-cooked vegetables at a deli-counter, choose a variety of colours and ensure that these make up at least half of your meal.
  • Avoid those vegetables prepared with oil and cream, such as creamed spinach, oily roast vegetables, fried aubergine and other fried vegetables.
  • Roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin fritters and dumplings are starches and not vegetables.
  • When choosing sandwiches, hamburgers and wraps choose those with lost of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, grated carrot and other salad vegetables in order to get as much colour as possible.
  • If a nutritional analysis is provided:
  1. Check the energy (kcal) and fat content per serving. Be careful to look at the “per serving” values and not the “per 100g”.
  2. Calories should be between 350kcal – 450kcal for women, and between 450kcal – 550kcal for men. The fat should be no more than 15g per serving for both men and women.
  3. If the calories and fat are within these recommendations, the carbohydrate and protein will more than likely be within suitable limits; protein about 25g and carbohydrate about 40g per serving.
  4. For added benefit the fibre content should be about 5g or more, per serving.

All the meal suggestions below are amounts for one adult women. Men would eat 1.5 times these amounts. This means the vegetables also need to be increased, not only the starch and protein!

Smoked salmon light meal

Calories 300kcal; carbohydrate 30g; fibre 8g; protein 15g; fat 12g

  1. Thread 2 thin slices of smoked salmon (40g) onto a kebab skewer, alternating with a peeled and quartered kiwi fruit.
  2. Spread 1 tablespoon flavoured cream cheese onto a slice of low-GI seed loaf.
  3. Serve with generous amounts of rocket and mixed lettuce leaves, a few halved baby tomatoes and some cucumber.
  4. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to serve.

Assembling tip: Smoked trout fillets or smoked beef can be used instead of the smoked salmon.

Food fact: Although flavoured cream cheese is high in fat, using only one tablespoon on a slice of bread instead of margarine or butter, not only adds depth of flavour, but also does not push the fat content of the meal up too much.

Beetroot, pear and biltong (jerky) salad

Calories 400kcal; carbohydrate 43g; fibre 11g; protein 22; fat 13g

  1. Toss together 5 quartered precooked baby beetroot (150g), a handful of cherry tomatoes, a handful of baby mushrooms and 1 peeled and cubed pear.
  2. Top with 2 tablespoons shredded lean biltong.
  3. Crumble 1/4 of a round of feta cheese on top.
  4. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon prepared blue cheese salad dressing.

Assembling tip: Bottled baby beetroot is a reasonable substitute for fresh precooked beetroot.

Food facts: For a vegetarian meal, leave out the biltong and use half a round of feta cheese. Lean biltong provides a good source of protein for meals. Ostrich and venison biltong are the leaner choices, although lean Beef Biltong is also acceptable. The fibre content of meals can easily be increased by adding a piece of fresh fruit to the meal, incorporated into the meal or added as a “dessert”.

Tangy Chickpea Salad

Calories 335kcal; carbohydrate 42g; fibre 11g; protein 11g; fat 12g

  1. Place 2 generous handfuls of mixed salad leaves and fresh herbs into a salad bowl.
  2. Add half a red pepper, sliced into strips, and a few red onion rings.
  3. Add half a tin of drained chickpeas. If you don’t like chickpeas, serve with one slice of seed loaf.
  4. Toss in one handful of fresh berries of your choice.
  5. Top with 4 anchovies.
  6. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons honey and mustard dressing.

Assembling tip: Store leftover chickpeas in a sealed container (not in the opened tin) in the fridge for up to a week or make into hummus for another assembled meal.

Food facts: To make a meal of a salad, ensure that there is at least one starch and some protein in the salad. However, salads served as starters should not contain the starch and protein, as these are both provided by the main meal. In this salad, most of the protein is provided by the chickpeas and not the anchovies. The strong flavour of the anchovies limits the amount that can be used. Most of the fat in this salad comes from the dressing as most ready-made salad dressings contain 30% fat.

Roast vegetable and couscous salad

Calories 330kcal; carbohydrate 32g; fibre 16g; protein 14g; fat 16g

  1. Place 3 tablespoons couscous in a heatproof bowl that you can use for serving the salad. Add a shake of herb salt. Pour over 4 tablespoons of boiling water and leave for about 5 minutes to hydrate. Fluff up the couscous using a fork.
  2. Add 1.5 cups roasted vegetables (either prepared at home or bought from a deli counter). Suitable vegetables for roasting include butternut, courgettes, patty pans, cherry tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onion, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and leeks.
  3. Stir in chopped mint and coriander leaves.
  4. Top with half a round of herbed feta cheese, crumbled or cubed.

Assembling tips: This salad can be served warm in winter to provide a hot meal. To save time and energy fill your largest baking tray with the vegetables to be roasted. When cool, freeze the leftovers (for up to a month), or refrigerate (for up to one week) in 1 and a half cup (375ml) labelled containers.

Food facts: Couscous is one of the most concentrated starches. The 3 tablespoons uncooked couscous in this salad provide a whole starch portion. The fibre in the vegetables gives this meal its exceptionally high fibre content.

Waldorf Salad

Calories 360kcal; carbohydrate 43g; fibre 8g; protein 10g; fat 15g

  1. Cube 3 thick slices of cucumber and mix with 1 chopped green apple and 1 tablespoon fruit juice of your choice.
  2. Add 1 small chopped pear and 1 stick of chopped celery.
  3. Cube 1 matchbox of fat-reduced cheese and sprinkle over the salad.
  4. Top with 3 pecan or walnut halves.
  5. Mix 1 tablespoon low-oil mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and use this as the dressing for the salad.

Food fact: The fruit in this salad provides the “starch” for this meal. Regular Waldorf salad is a high-fat meal because of the cheese, nuts and salad dressing. With this salad it is important to adhere to the amounts given for the ingredients, in order to keep the fat content withing the recommendations.

Italian Pesto Toast with Salad

Calories 340kcal; carbohydrate 35g; fibre 7g; protein 24g; fat 13g

  1. Toast 1 slice rye bread and spread with 2 tablespoons ready-made pesto.
  2. Layer with 1 thinly sliced tomato, overlapping the slices to fill the slice of bread.
  3. Scrunch a generous amount (65g) of shaved lean turkey or chicken on top of the leaves.
  4. Top with 1 matchbox of grated mozzarella cheese. Season to taste and place under a hot grill until the cheese just melts.
  5. Serve with a large tossed salad splashed with balsamic vinegar.

Food fact: Shaved cold meats are all very lean and because they are sliced so thinly, generous amounts (half a 125g pack per person) can be used as the protein in meals.

Crudites on the Run

Calories 395kcal; carbohydrate 42g; fibre 16g; protein 19g; fat 15g

  1. Fill a dinner plate or lunchbox with a variety of easy-to-eat finger veggies such as cherry tomatoes, snap peas or mange touts, baby carrots, baby corn, mushrooms, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets and gherkins (2-3 handfuls or cups)
  2. Add 6 tablespoons of lower fat hummus and half a cup tzatziki (grated cucumber and plain yogurt) and use as a dip for the vegetables.
  3. For men, add 3-4 Provitas.

Assembling tip: Although hummus, including lower fat hummus, is readily available in supermarkets, it is quick and easy to make at home.

Hummus recipe: Drain 1 tin of chickpeas and pour into a liquidiser or food processor. Add 4 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon (or more) crushed garlic, 4 tablespoons tahini or peanut butter and seasoning of your choice. Blend until smooth and serve. Hummus can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.

Food fact: Most of the fat in this meal comes from the controlled portion of the lower fat hummus. Regular hummus contains at least double the fat of the lower fat version because of the added oil, so be sure to always choose the lower fat hummus or make your own, without any added oil.

Tricolor Sweetcorn Salad

Calories 280kcal; carbohydrate 29g; fibre 10g; protein 13g; fat 12g

  1. Chop 2 cups of the following together: spring onions, cucumber, tomato, red and yellow peppers.
  2. Add half a tin whole-kernel sweetcorn, drained.
  3. Add 3 sliced calamata olives.
  4. Chop up 1 hard-boiled egg and add to the salad.
  5. Mix 1 tablespoon low-oil mayonnaise with 1 teaspoon lemon juice to make a dressing. Add a little water if the dressing is too thick.

Assembling tip: Bloiled eggs keep for at least a week in the fridge and are easy to add as a protein to any meal. To save energy, boil six eggs at a time.

Sweet Potato Spud

Calories 400kcal; carbohydrate 57g; fibre 9g; protein 18g; fat 10g

  1. Place 1 medium sweet potato in the microwave and cook for a few minutes until soft.
  2. While the sweet potato is cooking, mix half cup of chunky cottage cheese with half cup of finely chopped salad vegetables such as peppers, celery, tomato, cucumber and grated carrot
  3. Add 1 teaspoon Dijon or wholegrain mustard.
  4. Cut open the sweet potato and fill with the chunky cottage cheese mixture.
  5. Serve with a small tossed salad dressed with 1 tablespoon low-oil mayonnaise thinned out with lemon juice or vinegar.

Assembling tip: Mix the whole tub of cottage cheese with double the amount of finely chopped vegetables. Use half for this meal and keep the other half for another quick light meal. Pile the prepared cottage cheese mixture on a slice of low-GI bread and serve with a salad.

Warm Mixed Vegetable & Tuna Salad

Calories 350kcal; carbohydrate 40g; fibre 10g; protein 29g; fat 7g

  1. Place 1 cup of mixed frozen or tinned vegetables (corn, peas and carrots) in a microwavable bowl.
  2. Drain 1 tin of tuna in brine (175g) and add half to the vegetables.
  3. Microwave on high for 3 minutes until warmed through.
  4. Stir in 2 tablespoons low-oil mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons sweet-chilli sauce.
  5. Season to taste with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice.

Assembling tip: Store the leftover tuna in a sealed container in the fridge for up to three days and then use to make this quick and easy meal again.

Food fact: Tuna and chicken are more concentrated sources of lean protein than red meat or eggs. For this reason, a small portion of chicken or fish is enough to provide the protein for a balanced meal.

Mexican Tortilla Meal

Calories 420kcal; carbohydrate 39g; fibre 7g; protein 22g; fat 18g

  1. Sprinkle 1 tortilla with a little water and warm in a tea towel in the microwave for 20 seconds on high. Alternatively, warm the dampened tortilla in a frying pan.
  2. Heat 1 cup ready-made salsa.
  3. While the salsa is heating, place the warm tortilla on a plate and spread mixed lettuce leaves, coriander leaves and thin cucumber slices on top.
  4. Place a chunkily chopped hard-boiled egg and 1/4 sliced avocado pear in the middle.
  5. Thin out 4 tablespoons fat-free smooth cottage cheese with a little water or skimmed milk and drizzle over the filling.
  6. Top with the warm salsa and roll up the tortilla.

Food fact: Regular tortilla meals are high in fat because of the sour cream, Cheddar cheese and guacamole (avocado). In this version, all of these have been controlled or changed. Despite this, the fat content is still slightly over the recommend fat content for a healthy meal.

Polenta and Tomato Grill

Calories 360kcal; carbohydrate 51g; fibre 1.7g; protein 13g; fat 11g

  1. Cube 1 thin slice of ready-cooked polenta (finger thickness or 55g) and place on a dinner plate.
  2. Spoon over 1 cup of ready-made herbed tomato sauce (bottled or tinned).
  3. Top with 1 matchbox grated mozzarella and 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese.
  4. Place under the grill until hot and bubbling.
  5. Serve with a salad to fill your dinner plate generously and drizzle with oil-free dressing.

Food fact: Parmesan cheese may be higher in fat but the strong flavour allows you to use just a little for maximum flavour enhancement. Grated Parmesan keeps for months in the refrigerator.

Halloumi Cheese on Toast

Calories 431kcal; carbohydrate 44g; fibre 8.5g; protein 22g; fat 15g

  1. Microwave half cup broccoli florets for 3 minutes on high. Set aside.
  2. Toast 1 slice of seed loaf.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon soya sauce with 2 tablespoons sweet-chilli sauce in a frying pan until bubbly.
  4. Add 3 finger slices of halloumi cheese (2 matchboxes) and fry gently for 1 minute on each side.
  5. Place the “fried” halloumi slices on the toast.
  6. Serve with half cup ready-made beetroot salad and the broccoli florets.

Assembling tip: As an alternative to the beetroot salad and broccoli, add a large tossed salad.

Food fact: Soya sauce and halloumi cheese are both high in sodium, which means that those who have high blood pressure should use as little soya sauce as possible.

Pesto Tomatoes

Calories 385kcal; carbohydrate 40g; fibre 6g; protein 14g; fat 14g

  1. Cut 2 large tomatoes in half and slice away the round sides so that the 4 halves can rest on a plate.
  2. Top each tomato half with 1 tablespoon ready-made pesto and half teaspoon tapenade or 2 chopped olives for all 4 tomato halves.
  3. Place a thin slice of mozzarella or brie cheese on top of the pesto and olives (use only 1 matchbox of cheese for all 4 tomato halves).
  4. Grill the tomatoes until the cheese bubbles.
  5. Serve on a bed of baby spinach mixed with rocket leaves and 3 mini pita pockets (heated under the grill). Season with black pepper.

Food fact: This (lacto) vegetarian meal contains enough protein, thanks to the cheese. Traditionally, vegetarian meals are thought to be lacking in protein. However, it is vitamin B12 and iron that are lacking more often than protein.

Roast Vegetable and Feta Pita

Calories 430kcal; carbohydrate 26g; fibre 11g; protein 42g; fat 12g

  1. Cook 3 baby potatoes or 2 mini corn on the cob in the microwave (pricked and microwaved for 2 minutes on high, covered).
  2. Microwave or cook 2 cups frozen or fresh vegetable medley (broccoli, butternut, sweet peppers, onion, courgettes, patty pans, etc.).
  3. Place the cooked vegetables and potatoes on a dinner plate. Add prepared roast chicken pieces that are the size of the palm of your hand. Remove the skin.
  4. Pour 2 tablespoons low-fat ready-made cheese sauce over the vegetables.
  5. Cover and reheat the chicken dinner in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.

Food fact: Chicken is a very concentrated source of lean protein. A portion the size of the palm of your hand therefore contains more than enough protein for any meal.

Spicy Grilled Chicken with Roast Veg & Sweet Potato

Calories 405kcal; carbohydrate 26g; fibre 8g; protein 39g; fat 15g

  1. Cook 1/3 ready-peeled and cubed sweet potato or 3 baby potatoes until soft.
  2. Lightly cook 1 cup fresh or frozen prepared vegetables until just tender. Your vegetable mix should include a lot of colour: broccoli, carrots, courgettes, onion, butternut, cauliflower, green, yellow and red peppers, mushrooms, leeks.
  3. Generously sprinkle your favourite spice over 4 chicken breasts (thaw first if frozen).
  4. Place the chicken in a large ovenproof dish and add the cooked sweet potato and vegetables. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
  5. Cover and bake or microwave until the chicken is cooked.
  6. Serve only 1 chicken breast drizzled with 2 tablespoons ready-made cheese sauce, all the potato and the veggies. Use the rest of the chicken in other meals.


Calories 450kcal; carbohydrate 46g; fibre 11g; protein 31g; fat 14g

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large frying pan or wok.
  2. Add 1/4 chopped onion and 1 teaspoon crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon crushed ginger. Gently stir-fry and then add 3 matchboxes lean steak strips.
  3. Stir-fry until just cooked and then add 3 cups fresh or frozen prepared vegetables (bean sprouts, broccoli florets, shredded cabbage, mushrooms, mange touts/snap peas, sliced peppers, chopped spinach, sliced courgettes).
  4. Add half cup frozen or tinned sweetcorn, and mix.
  5. While the stir-fry is cooking, combine the following in a cup: 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon soya sauce, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and enough water to fill a cup. Pour over the stir-fry and heat through.
  6. Serve without adding any other starch.

Food facts: Restaurant stir-fries are usually high in fat because of the amount of oil used. When making stir-fries at home, use only 1 teaspoon oil to stir-fry the vegetables. The sauce of a stir-fry adds starch because of the sugar it contains.

Pizza Meal

Calories 380kcal; carbohydrate 41g; fibre 7.5g; protein 19g; fat 15g

  1. Reheat 2 slices of leftover pizza.
  2. Serve with a generous tossed salad drizzled with 1 tablespoon low-oil dressing or balsamic vinegar.

Assembling tips: Pizzas are high in fat, so choose one with several vegetables toppings (mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, onion, spinach, etc.) and only one protein topping (sausage, bacon, salami, ham, seafood, etc.). The best way to reheat pizza is under a (table-top) grill. Microwaving tends to make the pizza tough.

Fish & Chips

Calories 416kcal; carbohydrate 37g; fibre 7g; protein 37g; fat 13g

  1. Place one fistful (10 chips or 100g) oven-ready frozen chips on a baking tray. There is no need to add any oil. Bake according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Ten minutes before the chips are done, place 2 frozen flavoured or spiced (not crumbed) fish pieces on the same baking tray as the chips and bake until done.
  3. Serve with a large tossed green salad drizzled with 2 tablespoons low-oil salad dressing and tomato sauce (optional) for the chips.

Food facts: Chips are a high-fat food. Even oven chips baked without any extra oil, contain approximately 2 teaspoons fat per 100g, which is only 10 chips! Restaurant and takeaway chips are not only high in fat, but also contains harmful trans fats. For this reason it is better to enjoy a small portion of oven chips prepared at home.

Source: http://www.gabisteenkamp.co.za/books-index.htm

Seven Easy Ways to Boost Your Water Intake

Water can be an acquired taste, so you may find it hard to go from drinking none to drinking 2 litres in the space of a few days. Like getting into any good habit, it makes sense to start incorporating small measures first then build up slowly to your goal.

  • Put a glass of water by your bed and drink it when you wake up.
  • Carry a 500ml bottle of water around to sip throughout the day (when you get used to this, you can refill half-way through the day and boost your intake to 1 litre).
  • Dilute fruit juices 50/50 with water
  • Make water more exciting by flavouring it with fresh lemon, lime, ginger, mint or have it hot as a herb or fruit tea.
  • Fruit and vegetables consist of around 90 per cent water. Two pieces of fruit and two servings of vegetables can provide 500ml of water (double that and you get a litre!).
  • When you feel hungry, drink a glass of water – thirst is often mistaken for hunger.
  • Always have a glass of water with a coffee and two glasses of water with every alcoholic drink.

Eliminate your hidden food allergies

The most common reason for weight gain caused by fluid retention is allergy. The word ‘allergy’ simply means an intolerance that cause a reaction in the immune system.

Your body is like a tube. The digestive tract, which has a surface area the size of a small football field, is the gateway between the outside world and your body. It’s guarded ferociously by your immune system. If a substance that isn’t on the guest list, so to speak, tries to gatecrash and get through your digestive tract and into the bloodstream, your immune system goes haywire.

The reason why food intolerance can lead to weight gain, and difficulty losing it despite going on reduced-calorie diets, is complex but is starting to be unraveled. The most common kind of food intolerance leads to the production of IgG antibodies, which activate an immune reaction when you eat an offending food. This, in tern, increases inflammation in the body, raising certain known markers for inflammation such as TNF-a and C-reactive protein (CRP). Increased inflammation also increases water retention and bloating, as well as other classic signs of food intolerance, including aching joints, headaches, blocked nose, irritable bowel syndrome and skin problems. However, these systems are often delayed by 24 to 48 hours, so it isn’t easy to know what you react to just by observing how you feel after eating a particular food. Nor is it easy to work out what you’re intolerant to just by observing how you feel by the short-term elimination of the food, because some people get withdrawal symptoms when they eliminate certain foods. To make matters worse, some potential offending foods, especially wheat and milk, have an immediate pay-off by producing opioid-like chemicals called gluteomorphins and caseomorphines that make you feel good. So, if anything, you are naturally drawn to these foods. The same is true with sugar, which, in the short term, promotes energy, but actually encourages inflammation and weight gain in the long term.

The more foods you eat that provoke IgG antibody reaction (tested in a simple allergy test) the worse it is for your health and your weight. Your immune system should not produce large amounts of IgG antibodies and, if it does, you are likely to suffer from some degree of general malaise and symptoms that just don’t seem to shift, as well as resistant weight loss.

For example, a recent study found that obese children had much higher IgG antibody levels than normal-weight children. “Anti-food IgG antibodies are tightly associated with low grade systematic inflammation and with the thickness of carotid arteries’, the study authors report. The researchers conclude that having IgG antibody reactions may be involved in the development of both obesity and atherosclerosis, and that a diet based on eliminating IgG-positive foods might be the way forward. Inflammation also affects the gut, potentially making the gut wall more leaky or permeable, which, in turn, may increase food intolerances.

The more often you are reacting allergically, the more more resistant you become to insulin. This is because the body releases masses of immune messengers called cytokines to deal with the allergy, and cytokines make you less responsive to insulin. Also, repeated allergic reactions mean that more garbage ends up in your bloodstream as your immune cells fight off the invaders.

As antibodies, cytokines and other immune cells move in to deal with allergic in invaders, they make a lot of mess that has to be cleaned up by your liver, your body’s detoxifying organ. Eventually, the liver’s detox capacity gets overloaded. When this happens, your body dumps the toxins in the least harmful place: your fat cells. The more intoxicated your fat cells become, the more weight you gain and the harder it becomes to shift those extra pounds. This is why people with allergies find it harder and harder to lose weight. Also, this continual process of overintoxication can turn a mild allergy into something severe. Many people don’t find out about their allergies until it’s really obvious.

Discover whether you’re allergic

Allergies can be responsible for many symptoms, especially digestive problems, from bloating to constipation, and diarrhea to abdominal cramps. These are almost always accompanied by mental and physical symptoms, such as mood changes, chronic tiredness, depression, increased appetite, sleepiness after meals, inability to concentrate and a host of minor ailments, from itches and rashes to asthma and sinus problems. Check yourself out with the questionnaire below.

Your instant allergy check

  1. Can you gain weight in hours?
  2. Do you get bloated after eating?
  3. Do you suffer from diarrhea or constipation?
  4. Do you suffer from abdominal pain?
  5. Do you sometimes get really sleepy after eating?
  6. Do you suffer from hay fever?
  7. Do you suffer from rashes, itches, asthma or shortness of breath?
  8. Do you suffer from water retention?
  9. Do you suffer from headaches?
  10. Do you suffer from other aches and pains, from time to time, possibly after certain foods?
  11. Do you get better on holidays abroad, when your diet is completely different?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, there’s a real possibility that you have an allergy. If you answered ‘yes’ to four or more, it’s pretty much guarenteed.

Top Tip

Do you get bloated after eating and have to undo a button or two? If so, it is very likely you are eating something you are allergic to.

Pinpointing the allergen

It may seem odd, but more often that not the foods a person is allergic to are those they really crave. If you’re craving and eating something frequently, as though you’re mildly addicted, there is a chance you’re allergic to that food. Through my work with a number of allergic and overweight clients, it became clear to me that they were bingeing only on certain food groups. When they were instructed to eat as much as they liked of anything except the suspected allergen (the food provoking an allergic reaction), they often ceased to binge. And, when they avoided the allergen completely, they often lost 1.3 – 1.8kg (3-4lb) and occasionally as much as 3.2kg (7lb) almost overnight.

This sort of short-term weight loss can only be the result of excess fluid retention, and nothing to do with fat. You can’t burn 450g (1lb) of fat in 24 hours, even if you are starving – and much less 3.2kg (7lb)!

One of the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction can be a sudden fluctuation in blood sugar level that, in turn, affect appetite. So could allergic reactions trigger bingeing? In honesty, nobody has a definite answer to this question, but my observations of a number of clients certainly show that sometimes allergies do play a role in yours.

There are two ways to find out what you are allergic to. The first we could call ‘educated trial and error’. You need to avoid suspect foods for 14 days and note what happens by taking the pulse test, explained below.

The Pulse Test

Most people are free of symptoms within 14 days of avoiding an allergy-provoking food. And most will react on reintroducing the food within 48 hours, although some may have a reaction delayed by up to 10 days. Delayed reactions are much harder to test. For some people, symptoms improve considerably when they leave out the offending foods. For others, noticeable changes are slight.

One simple way to help identify possible suspects is the pulse test. The pulse test demands that you avoid all suspect foods for 14 days, then reintroduce them one by one, with a 48-hour gap between each item to be tested. Take your resting pulse, sitting down, before you eat the food, then take it again after 10 minutes, 30 minutes and 60 minutes. Write all this down on a chart. If you marked increase in pulse rate more than 10 points, or have any symptoms of ill health within 24 hours, including immediate weight gain, bloating, fatigue, headaches or joint aches, for example, avoid the food and wait 24 hours before testing the next food.

Although day-to-day changes in symptoms are hard to pin down to specific causes, avoidance of suspect foods for 14 days often lessens symptoms, which then increase significantly on reintroduction. So you’ll be able to pinpoint which foods or drinks make you worse. It is very important to observe symptoms accurately, because you may have preconceived ideas about what you do or don’t react to, perhaps because of what somebody told you, or because you dread being allergic to certain foods that you’re addicted to.

IgG allergy testing – the gold standard

Because the body sometimes delays its allergic reaction to a food, avoidance/reintroduction tests don’t always pick the allergy up. This happens because you may not suspect the food, and so not test it. Or you may suspect only one food, yet be allergic to a range of them, so you’ll continue to have a background of reactions and may thus have difficulty losing weight.

The best and truly accurate way to find out what you are allergic to is to have what’s called a Quantitative IgG ELISA test. This is the gold standard of allergy testing. “Quantitative’ means the test shows not only whether you are allergic, but also how strong your allergic reaction is. Many of us live quite healthily with minor allergies. But stronger allergies can create all sorts of problems, including weight gain. “ELISA” is the technology used. You don’t need to know all the details, but, trust me, it’s the most accurate system. If it’s done properly it is at least 93 per cent reproducible. It’s used by almost all the best allergy laboratories in the world.

To convey why it’s so good, I need to explain a bit about the human immune system.

Your immune system can produce tailor-made weapons that latch onto specific substances to help escort them out of your body. They are like bouncers on the lookout for troublemakers. The bouncers are called immunoglobins, or Ig for short. There are different types. The real heavies are called IgE, although most allergies involve IgG reactions. IgE reactions tend to be more immediate and severe. However, most ‘hidden’ allergies that may be insidiously causing weight gain are IgG-based. In an ideal world you test for both, but I normally start by testing a person for IgG sensitivity to food. If you’d like to find out more about the science behind IgG-based food allergies and intolerances go to www.patrickholford.com/IgGfoodallergies.

All that’s needed for testing is a pinprick of blood, which is absorbed into a tiny tube and sent to a laboratory. The lab then sends back an accurate readout of exactly what you are allergic to. Your body doesn’t lie. You either have IgG bouncers tagged for wheat (for example) or you don’t. Your diluted blood is introduced to a panel of liquid food ‘testers’ and, if you’ve got IgG for that food, a reactions takes place.

The good news about IgG-based allergies is that if you avoid the offending food strictly for three to six months, the body forgets that it is allergic to it. The reason is that there will no longer be any IgG antibodies in your system to that food. This doesn’t hold for IgE-based reactions, however.

To give you an example, I have an IgE allergy to milk. I react within 15 minutes. Even if I avoid diary products for a year, I still react if I consume some. I used to have an IgG to wheat. I avoided it for three months and now I no longer react. In my case, weight gain wasn’t the problem, it was migraine headaches. I had them every other week from the ages of 6 to 20, until I discovered that wheat and milk were triggering them.

Fenton R, like myself, had regular headaches, sinusitis and fatigue and had been plagued by acid indigestion for 20 years. He was also gaining weight year on year. Doctors were unable to help him, suggesting he drank too much fizzy pop and should exercise more. And indigestion tablets helped for only 20 minutes before the problem returned with redoubled force.

He decided to have a food intolerance test. The results came back showing he was intolerant of eggs, cow’s milk, yeast and wheat. He took all the rogue foods out of his diet, for example by switching to soya milk, , and within two days the indigestion began to ease. Now it has gone completely, along with all the other health problems that had dogged him – including an excess 12.7kg (2st.) in weight.

“It feels as though a shroud has been lifted from me. Not only have I lost the weight, but also have 100 per cent more energy. It used to be an effort to go up the stairs. I used to get headaches most days, and they have gone. I used to get sinus twinges almost every day, and that has cleared up. I used to sweat a lot, and thought I was just a sweaty person. But now I can walk and run and just don’t sweat. My skin used to be cold all the time but now it’s nice and warm. I feel more relaxed as well. It had got to the stage where I couldn’t even think clearly, but now I can do so again.”

The usual suspects

The most common foods or food groups that people are allergic or intolerant to are shown below, in order. Of all these foods, by far the most common allergy-provoking substances are dairy products, followed by yeast, eggs and wheat. This doesn’t necessarily means that these foods are bad for you, it just depends on whether or not you are allergic or intolerant to them.

The most common food allergies are:

  • cow’s milk
  • yeast
  • eggs
  • gliadin grains such as wheat (also rye and barley)
  • nuts
  • beans
  • white fish
  • shellfish

Cow’s milk

The most common food allergy is to cow’s milk. It’s present in most cheeses, cream, yogurt and butter and is hidden in all kinds of food; sometimes it is called ‘casein’, which is milk protein.

Logically, its status as an allergen isn’t suprising, since it is a highly specific food, containing all kinds of hormones designed for the first few months of a calf’s life. It’s also a relatively recent addition to the human diet. Our ancestors, after all, weren’t milking buffaloes. Approximately 75 per cent of people (25 per cent of Caucasion origin and 80 per cent of Asian, Native American or African origin) stop producing lactase, the enzyme that’s needed to digest milk sugar, once they have been weaned. Is nature trying to tell us something? However, it’s not the lactose – the sugar in milk – that causes the allergic reaction. It’s the protein.

If you react to cow’s milk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will react to goat’s milk or sheep’s milk. However, many people do. It’s often best to eliminate all dairy food for the first three months, then try goat’s milk or cheese or yogurt.

As dairy is the most common allergen, it is used very little in the recipes in this book. If you do have difficulty tolerating it, you may find that you are all right with sheep’s- or goat’s-milk products. There are easier to digest though they have a distinctive, tangy flavour, much stronger than cow’s milk. However, if you’ve had an allergy test and it’s confirmed that you’re allergic to all dairy, avoid all of it, including yogurt and butter. In most cases, if you strictly avoid your allergy-provoking foods for three months, you body can ‘unlearn’ the allergy. So it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

There are many alternatives to dairy now, including soya and quinoa ‘milks’. Try them out and find one you like.


After milk, yeast is the second most common culprit in allergies. Some people think they are allergic to wheat because they feel worse after eating bread. If you’ve noticed this – perhaps feeling sluggish, tired or blocked up – but feel fine after pasta, you may not be allergic to wheat, but to the yeast in the bread.Yeast is not only in bread as baker’s yeast but it’s also in beer and, to a lesser extent, wine. Beer and lager are fermented with brewer’s yeast. If you’ve noticed that you feel worse after beer or wine than after spirits – the ‘cleanest’ being vodka – then you may be yeast-sensitive. If you have been allergy-tested, you’ll know whether you are allergic to brewer’s or baker’s yeast. Most people who are allergic to yeast at all are allergic to both. Wines are yeast-fermented. Champagne has very little yeast. However, the only guarenteed yeast-free alcoholic drinks are pure spirits. Since you won’t be drinking much alcohol, it’s best to stick to spirits for the first three months so that your body has a chance to unlearn the allergy.

If you’re allergic to yeast, you’ve also got to be on the lookout for hidden yeast in stock cubes and processed foods. As the Holford Diet features wholefoods and fresh ingredients, and avoids yeasted breads, this should be far less of a problem for you. I also recommend using yeast-free vegetable stock cubes by Marigold.

A word about alcohol: as well as causing allergies in some, alcohol irritates the digestive tract, making it more permeable to undigested food proteins. This increases your chances of developing an allergic reaction to anything, and it’s why some people feel worse when they eat foods they are allergic to and drink alcohol at the same time. For example, you might be mildly allergic to wheat and milk and feel fine after either. But when you have both, plus alcohol, you don’t feel great.


This is the grain that more people react to than any other. It contains gluten, a sticky protein also found in rye and barley and oats. Gluten sensitivity occurs in about one in a hundred people, but it is medically diagnosed in fewer that one in a thousand. However, there is something in gluten, called gliadin, which some people react to specifically. The only way to know for sure exactly what you are allergic or intolerant to is to have a food intolerance test. If you have had an allergy test you’ll know whether you are sensitive to gluten, gliadin or wheat.

If you are gluten-sensitive, then you cannot eat wheat, rye, barley, or oats. Excellent alternatives are rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and corn (although some gluten-sensitive people do react to corn). Quinoa and millet cook in much the same way as couscous. From the GL point of view, quinoa is the best. These days, you can find rice, corn and buckwheat breads and pastas in larger supermarkets and good health-shops.

There’s no gliadin in oats. If you are gliadin-sensitive, then you can eat oats, but not wheat, rye or barley. Oats also contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds.

If you are only wheat-sensitive, it’s relatively easy. Just eat rye, barley or oats. For example, you can eat rye bread, oatcakes and oat-flake cereals, but not Weetabix or wheat bread.

In the big scheme of things wheat’s prominence as an allergen shouldn’t be surprising. Grains are the second most recent addition to the human diet, and weren’t eaten by hunter-gatherers. They were eaten by farmers for something like the last 10,000 years, but only in certain parts of the world. For example, no gluten grain naturally grows in North-America, so Native Americans have been exposed to gluten for only about the last 200 years at most.

A worrying trend in the US, where ‘low-carb’ diets are the craze, is to remove the carbohydrates from wheat products so you’re just eating the protein portion. As this is principally gluten, it’s a recipe for disaster for anyone with a hidden gluten allergy.


Some people are allergic to egg white, but not egg yolk. If you are sensitive to eggs, when you come to reintroduce them, it’s best to start by reintroducing egg yolk. If you don’t react withing five days, then reintroduce egg white. Eggs are in quite a lot of processed foods and bakery items, so check the label carefully.

Nuts and beans

These are part of the same food family, along with fruit pips. In essence, they’re all seeds. The most common individual allergens in this group are, in descending order, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, haricot beans and soya beans. You can react to one and not the others, but if you do react to a member of this family there’s a greater chance that you’ll react to another member of the pip/bean/nut family. Coffee, from the coffee bean, and chocolate, from the cocoa bean, are also members of this family.


Another major allergen is fish, but most people who are allergic to it react to white fish, not the oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring that are so rich in omega-3s. If you’re also allergic to those kinds, however, take a tablespoon of chia seeds with breakfast every day, together with a good-quality supplement, to keep your essential fatty acids topped up.

Shellfish allergies are very common, with prawns and abalone two of the worst villains. You may be allergic to mussels, scallops, whelks, oysters and squid, which are molluscs – or to lobsters, crayfish, prawns and shrimps, which are crustaceans. Octopus is in a world of its own! Be careful here, though. If you’re allergic to squid but not to octopus, be aware that some people sell squid labelled as octopus to make a bigger profit, because they can buy it more cheaply.

How the Holford Diet caters for you

If you suffer from food allergies, you don’t have to feel deprived on the Holford Diet. It is always sensible to vary your diet as much as possible, and the menu plans and recipes are designed to include a wide range of ingredients. Such a varied diet, together with the introduction of exciting new foods such as quinoa, soya products and lesser-used legumes such as flageolet and cannellini beans, ensures that there is plenty to tempt your taste buds, even if you do have to avoid certain items.

When you have an allergy test, the best laboratories will give you clear instructions on what not to eat and what you can eat, as well as giving you the back-up of a nutritionist to answer any of your questions. By avoiding foods that cause symptoms, you will probably find improvements in your health that you didn’t ever imagine. I can’t count the times I’ve heard people say, “I didn’t even know I could feel this good.” The Holford Diet and supplements will also help to further reduce your allergic potential.

After three months of abstaining from the allergen, you may then find that you can tolerate it in small periodic ‘doses’. For some people the allergy disappears completely. Others have to be careful about certain foods for life. Once you have more than a sneaking suspicion that you are allergic, it is best to have an allergy test.

Once you’ve identified what you are allergic to, and eliminate it, the next step is to improve your gut health. I recommend having a heaped teaspoon of glutamine powder in water last thing at night to help heal the gut, plus a probiotic supplement containing dairy and sugar-free acidophilus and bifido bacteria to help restore gut health. These are only necessary for a couple of weeks after eliminating your offending foods to restore gut health and reduce your allergic potential.


  • Find out if you are allergic to something you’re eating and avoid it. You can do an avoidance/reintroduction test but, quite frankly, it’s better to have a proper ‘quantitative IgG ELISA’ test.
  • After three months you can reintroduce the foods you tested positive for, although ideally not eating them every day.
  • Even if you are not allergic to it, reduce the amount of cow’s milk you eat and drink, substituting goat cheeses, soya produce and the like.
  • Even if you are not allergic to it, reduce the amount of wheat you eat, substituting other grains such as oats, rye and rice.
  • Limit alcohol. Ideally drink no more than three small glasses of wine, half-pints of beer or lager, or single spirits a week.
  • Drink the equivalent of eight glasses of water a day.

Patrick Holford’s The Low-GL Diet Bible

Why So Many Diets Fail

After we had such great response to our first blog article Fad Diets Exposed, we realise the public is hungry for the truth. Here we share a section of Patrick Holford’s book The Low HL Diet Bible to shed more light on the subject.

Why so many diets fail

Dieting can be like negotiating a minefield of misconceptions. Many methods for losing weight have no basis in science whatsoever. So, if your dieting life has been one long string of depressing failed attempts, it’s hardly surprising. Maybe you should have tried fat burner pills from Sculpt Nation much sooner.

Here, I’d like to debunk some of these ‘methods’ and expose them as myths (the biggest of all being that the best way to lose weight is a conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet). That way, you’ll have the knowledge to prevent a life of yo-you dieting and long-term health problems.

Myth number 1: the only way to lose weight is to eat less fat and less calories

Hard-wired into our culture is the false idea that the best way to lose weight is to eat a low-calorie diet. Losing weight is beneficial to your health. But eating a low calorie diet is not the only way to do this. Some people have even looked into companies such as Cars Bought for Cash to sell their vehicles that they take to work or use for short distances. Instead of this method, alternatives like walking or taking public transport may make the difference to your weight loss.

We all know the simple equation: calories in, minus calories out, equals your weight. Since fat has more calories per gram/ounce than protein or carbohydrate, the easiest way to cut the total number of calories you eat is to eat less fat. That’s what you are told. However, in reality, there are number of methods that can be carried out to help you lose fat, not least of which being the process of cryolipolysis. Medical institutions such as Ice Aesthetic, who can be found at https://www.ice-aesthetic.co.uk, use controlled freezing methods to help their patients lose weight in certain areas of their body.

Low-fat, low-calorie diets have become the orthodox approach to weight loss, jealously guarded by doctors and dieticians the world over. But orthodoxy doesn’t necessarily mean right, just that it won the battle of the diets. In fact, it’s wrong. As you will see, whichever way you look at it, low-GL diets work better. Let’s examine the evidence, both by looking at the big picture, then at what the latest science shows us about burning fat.

Let’s start with the big picture. America leads the world’s obesity epidemic. In fact, obesity has recently overtaken smoking as the number-one preventable cause of premature death. Flying the low-fat, low-cal flag in the 1970s they set out to reduce the total percentage of calories eaten from fat. In 1977 fat averaged 42 per cent of calories. Their campaigns were extremely successful, and by 1997 fat averaged 32 per cent of calories. Did the decrease in fat intake stop the obesity epidemic? No. It’s accelerated.

So, what about the UK? Government diet surveys conducted between 1985 and 2000 show that, like the Americans, we have been successful, both in cutting the percentage of fat and the total intake of calories. People are eating less. Calorie consumption has gone down, changes haven’t halted our escalating epidemic of weight gain one iota. Just watch a movie from the 1980s and notice people’s size. Something is going seriously wrong in the twenty-first century, and clearly the blame cannot be laid at the level of fat intake.

Not only have we been told that eating fewer calories is the best way to lose weight but we’ve also been told that a calorie is a calorie and that’s all that counts.

Myth number 2: a calorie is a calorie is a calorie

It’s not easy to control rigidly how many calories a person eats, but you can do it with animals. So, let’s look at what happens to animals given identical diets in terms of calories and all other nutrients – with only one difference: GL. In the chart on page 38 you’ll see what happened to one group of rats. Half were given a high-GL diet, the other a low-GL diet. They couldn’t cheat. They had exactly the same number of calories – and there weren’t any sweetshops around the corner.

In this strictly controlled study by one of the world’s leading experts on weight loss, Professor Jennie Brand-Miller from the University of Sydney, the low-GL rats gained no weight. But the low-GL rats gained weight week on week, and pound on pound. By the end of 32 weeks, the high-GL group were not only 16 per cent heavier but they gained 40 per cent more body fat on the same number of calories!

Another study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that mice with a low-GL diet lost almost twice the body fat in nine weeks as mice given identical calorie-controlled diets, the only difference being that one group was on a high-GL, the other a low-GL diet. The low-GL dieters was substantially leaner and slimmer.

Same calories, very different results. Yet, of course, this is nothing short of heresy for conventional calorie theorists.

But, you may be asking, does the same thing happen to us? After all, rats and humans don’t always respond in a similar way. The answer is yes. Here’s a couple of examples.

Researchers in the human nutrition department at South-Africa’s University of the Orange Free State assigned 15 volunteers to a low GL diet and 15 others to a normal calorie-controlled diet for 12 weeks. Both diets contained identical number of calories. The two groups then switched diets for 12 more weeks. During the first 12 weeks both groups lost weight, but those on the low-GL diet lost more weight. During the second 12-week period, the group that switched to the low-GL diet lost 40 per cent more weight than the group that switched to the normal diet. Yet the caloric content of both diets remained the same.

Another recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine put volunteers on to one of the three diets: a conventional low-calorie, low-fat diet, a Mediterranean diet, restricted for calories and high in fibre and monounsaturated fats; and a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb diet, similar to the Atkins Diet, but emphasising vegetarian sources of protein rather than meat and dairy products. Both the Meditarranean diet and the low-carb diet were effectively lower-GL diets. Despite similar calorie intakes the participants lost 4.5kg (10lb) on the low-carb diet, 4.3kg (9.5lb) on the Mediterranean-style diet and only 2.7kg (6lb) on the low-calorie, low-fat diet. The fact is that low-fat, low-calorie diets were not as effective for weight loss as the low-GL diets.

Despite all this evidence, some so-called experts still say ‘a calorie is a calorie is a calorie”, as far as weight loss is concerned. Whichever way you slice it, this is simply not true. You can lose weight by changing the quality of what you eat, even if you don’t change the quantity. Of course, if you change both the quality and the quantity by eating fewer calories of lower-GL foods, that will trigger the most rapid weight loss.

But that’s not all. We now know that people who eat low-GL food eat significantly less anyway, simply because they feel much more satisfied. One study compared hunger between those on a conventional low-calorie, low-fat diet with a low-GL diet. Those on the low-GL diet reported much less hunger.

So, if you eat a low-GL diet, you not only lose weight but you also tend to want to eat less. It’s a double whammy in your favour.

But calories can’t just vanish. If two people eat the same number of calories and one, eating the high-GL diet, stores some of the calories as fat, what happens to the calories in the low-GL dieter? Think about those animals that lost more weight on the same calories. A calorie is a unit of energy and, if it’s not going into fat, it must be burnt off as energy. This either means that the body’s metabolism speeds up, ‘burning’ up the calories, or the person becomes more active and burns them off through exercise, or possibly both. We’ll never know in those animal studies because they didn’t fit the animals with pedometers! But, either way, it’s good news.

Myth number 3: you can’t change your metabolism

Your metabolism is the way in which you turn your food into energy or into storage as fat. We are programmed to respond differently to the food we eat. This programming is partially inherited: some people’s metabolism rapidly turns food into fat, for example. But your metabolism is primarily down to what you eat and how active you are.

Because of this, you can change both the efficiency of your metabolism and your metabolic rate – the speed at which you burn calories. Crash diets usually lower your metabolism and your metabolic rate – the speed at which you burn calories. Crash diets usually lower your metabolic rate dramatically, for instance, whereas intensive aerobic exercise can increase it tenfold, and leave it raised for up to 15 hours.

By changing the kinds and combinations of food you eat, and exercising, you can reprogramme yourself to burn fat more rapidly. And the less fat and the more lean tissue you have, the more calories you burn off just keeping your body alive. In other words, your metabolic rate has increased, and you’ve changed from fat-storer to fatburner. This is what a low-GL diet, together with exercise, will do for you over the long term.

The dramatic drop in metabolic rate is one of the main problems with low-calorie diets, not only because you burn fewer calories but also because you feel tired and sluggish. This means that dieters find it increasingly difficult to lose weight the lower their calorie intake, because they don’t have the energy to exercise and raise their metabolic rate. Low-GL diets cause half the reduction in metabolic rate compared to a typical low-fat diet and consistently increase energy levels.

This was shown in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers assigned 39 overweight or obese adults to one of two diets. One group was on a low-GL diet, the other group followed a conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet. They were then followed for two years while on these diets. Each person had their metabolic rate measured once they had lost 10 per cent of their body weight. The group on the conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet had almost twice the reduction in metabolic rate compared with the low-GL group.

Myth number 4: if you eat a high-protein diet you lose calories in urine, so you will shed more weight

When you’re on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, your body switches from using carbohydrates as its primary fuel to using fat and protein instead – including the body’s fat reserves. As the body burns fat, ketones – a by-product of the process – are excreted in the urine. This is called ketosis.

Supposedly, since fat and protein constitute a less efficient fuel than carbohydrate, you can eat more. The thinking is that the body will excrete some of the calories of this inefficient fuel as ketones.

Nice theory, but wrong. It is true that people do lose more weight on high-protein diets. But the reason is that they eat less on those diets. And the reason they eat less is that high-protein diets help to stabilise blood sugar.

This high-protein-diet camp, led by the late Dr. Atkins, was one of the first to say that sugar makes you fat. But its solution was to say that carbohydrates are bad and protein is good, so you should eat a high-protein, high-fat diet that’s very low in carbohydrates. Now, a high-protein meal has a low-GL, which in turn balances our appetite and helps us lose weight. But a meal with some protein and some low-GL carbohydrate works in the same way. There is absolutely no need to avoid or massively restrict carbohydrates to lose weight, provided you are eating the right low-GL kind, plus protein.

Let’s take a look at three weight-loss trials published on the Atkins-type high-fat, high-protein diet versus a conventional low-fat diet. The first showed that, after six months, those on the high-fat, high-protein diet lost 5.8kg (12lb 11oz), compared with 1.8 (4lb) on the low-fat diet. That’s a rather unexciting 225g (8oz) a week. However, after 12 months, there was no significant difference.

The other trial showed no real difference in weight loss between the high-protein approach and conventional dieting, with an average weight loss of 4.5kg (10lb) after six months. That’s less than 225g (8oz) a week.

The third compared the Atkins Diet with the Slim-Fast plan, WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley’s Eat Yourself Slim diet and fitness plan in a community based sample of otherwise healthy overweight and obese adults. Weight and body fat changes were measured over six months.

Results showed that all diets resulted in weight loss, averaging 5.9kg (13lb) over 6 months, or a rather unimpressive 225g (8oz) a week. The Atkins Diet resulted in significantly higher weight loss during the first four weeks, but by the end was no more or less effective than the other low-fat, low-calorie diets. A review of all the high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet studies done to date concluded, ‘Weight loss was principally associated with decreased calorie intake.”

In other words, an Atkins-type diet works, but the results aren’t spectacular and are principally due to eating less in general. Moreover, there are problems, and even serious dangers, associated with eating high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets.

The problem with high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets

High-protein diets are usually high in meat and dairy. High meat intake is strongly linked to increased risk for cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, pancreas and kidney, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. They also recommend, “If eaten at all, limit the intake of red meat to no more than 80 grams a day.” High-dairy diets also dramatically increase the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer. High-protein diets are also proven to tax the kidneys and can tip older people with less than perfect kidneys into kidney failure. Since high-protein diets first became popular, kidney problems have increased. Another problem with high-protein diets is bone mass loss. What’s more, high-protein diets are often designed to produce ketones, which are toxic by-products of running your body on protein.

In excess, ketones can be very toxic and in extreme cases ketosis can be fatal. Reports suggest that 58 deaths have been associated with very low-calorie, very high-protein diets. Moreover, recent research has proved that the amount of calories lost through ketosis is negligible. One study put people on a ketone-producing very low-carb diet (5 per cent of calories as carbs) versus a non-ketone producing low-carb diet (40 per cent of calories as carbs) for six weeks. This second diet is closer to the Holford Diet. Both lost weight – 6.3kg (1st.) vs 7.2kg (16lb) respectively – but those on the ketone-producing diet had an increase in markers for inflammation and felt worse. So, if you don’t lose more weight, it makes you feel worse, and the risks are high, why do it?

These high-protein diets promise more than they deliver in other ways too. As I’ve said, I think the switch to ketosis triggers weight loss by stabilising blood sugar, and it’s known that ketosis also suppresses appetite. A low-carbohydrate diet also kick-starts weight loss because you use up your short-term stores of glucose, which are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, bound up with water. In fact, for every pound of glycogen, you store 1.3-1.8kg (3-4lb) of water. The net result is an immediate weight loss of up to 2.25kg (5lb) – just one reason why people claim spectacular short-term weight loss. But it’s not sustainable. The glycogen and water will come back, as will your appetite. Many people on high-protein diets lose weight, get bored, then gain it all back again.

A diet lacking in carbohydrates such as fruit and green leafy vegetables will leave you deficient in antioxidants and vitamins, unless you are very careful about what you eat and take supplements. You won’t get enough fibre, and could get constipated as a result, which can lead to digestive problems. Additionally, many people feel ill as they go through sugar withdrawal and switch to ketosis. Nausea and tiredness continue for some people, making it hard to stick to the diet.

Nowadays, there are many variations on the original low-carb Atkins Diet, from America’s South Beach Diet to Australia’s Total Wellbeing Diet, supposedly based on good science.

The South Beach Diet is really the Atkins Diet with an emphasis on polyunsaturated fats and low-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates. In a sense, this might be a step in the right direction if the advice on those fats and carbohydrates were up to date. Like Atkins, South Beach emphasises a ‘ketogenic’ diet of minimum carbohydrates for the first two weeks. Ultimately, this doesn’t seem to result in more fat loss, but it may cause greater initial weight loss as the body sheds water. (If you avoid carbohydrates, the body has to break down glucose for energy, which is stored as glycogen. Glycogen is stored with water.) This benefit is immediately attractive and may add to the diet’s short-term popularity; however, the weight will come back because it’s not a loss of fat. The only published trial I could find on the South Beach Diet appeared in a 2004 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, and it reported an average weight loss of 6.1kg (13lb 9oz) over 12 weeks, or 500g (1lb 2oz) per week.

The Australian Total Wellbeing Diet, researched and developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and Dairy Australia, is another high-protein diet that has hit the headlines. It recommends scoffing no less that ten portions of meat and two portions of fish, plus six eggs and a few servings of cheese in a week. This makes a total of 300g (10 oz) protein a day, just like the Atkins Diet.

The Australian Wellbeing Diet is said to be based on solid research. The reseach in question involved 120 people put either on the Total Wellbeing hight-protein diet or a high-carbohydrate diet for 12 weeks. The trial, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found no difference in weight loss at all! What it did find, although this isn’t mentioned in the conclusion, was signs of kidney stress (decreased creatinine clearance) and potential bone mass loss (increased bone mass turnover) in only 12 weeks! I guess that’s not something the high-protein diet brigade want to shout about.

The bottom line is that high-protein diets, especially those based on meat and milk, can be dangerous. They potentially increase the risk of bone and kidney problems, and breast and prostate cancer. And as we’ve seen, the weight-loss results are little different to conventional dieting in the long run. In my opinion the high-protein approach to stabilising your blood sugar, and hence your weight, is certainly not worth the risk.

Myth number 5: don’t eat protein with carbohydrates; those foods fight

Food combining diets seperate protein foods from carbohydrate foods. Nature doesn’t. Beans, lentils, nuts and seeds all contain both. And the healthiest nations of the world are the nut, bean and seed eaters.

Despite all this, a number of food-combining diets abound, based on the principles of Dr. Hay, a physician writing back in the 1930s. He emphasised eating wholefoods and lots of fruit and vegetables; he also advocated eating fruit separately from other foods, since, if trapped in the stomach after a steak for example, fruit can ferment. So far, so good.

Dr. Hay also recommended never eating carbohydrate-rich foods with protein-rich foods. So, for example, fish with rice or chicken with potatoes is out. The only study I’ve seen recommending that overweight or obese people follow this kind of diet showed a 3.5 per cent average body-weight change over 12 weeks. Although subjects in this trial were not advised to eat less or change the kind of food they ate, there was no measure indicate whether this weight loss was solely due to food-combining or changes in the quantity or quality of food.

It is now known, however, that combining protein with carbohydrate slows down the release of sugars from a meal to the bloodstream, helps stabilise blood sugar levels and hence helps to control weight. Since the majority of overweight people have blood sugar problems, it would seem that combining protein with carbohydrate would be better, not worse for you. So, in my book, fish with rice is in, not out. This is the staple diet, along with fruits and vegetables, of many island and coastal people around the world, many of whom are exceedingly healthy and slim.

Dr. Hay’s approach, if followed strictly, is probably best for those with digestive problems and worst for those with blood sugar problems. I remain to be convinced that the benefits reported by those on food-combining diets aren’t largely due to changes in the kind of foods eaten, rather than their non-combination.

Myth number 6: it’s eating fat that makes you fat

We’ve already seen many examples of low-fat diets causing less weight loss than low-GL diets, and how cutting fat intake hasn’t worked. Yet most people still believe that the fat you eat turns into fat in your body. It isn’t just fat that makes you fat. All sugar or carbohydrates and all alcohol, as well as all fats, are turned by the body into glucose. (Protein, too, can be turned into glucose, but not easily.) Glucose, remember, is the fuel our bodies run on, and any excess is turned into fat. So, too much fat, protein, carbohydrate or alcohol can all lead to fat gain and weight gain. But the culprit is sugar and refined carbohydrates, not fat.

What is more, looking at fat alone, as far as your body is concerned there’s a world of difference between, say, 100 calories of saturated fat from meat and 100 calories of essential fat from seeds or fish. Saturated fat can only be burned for energy or stored as body fat. But essential fats are used by the brain, the nerves, the arteries and the skin, and they balance your hormones and boost immunity into the bargain. Only if there’s any left over does it make sense for the body to burn it or store it. Although the research is in its infancy, it appears that omega-3 fats EPA and DHA (which is what’s found in oily fish), and monousaturated fats (as in olive oil), as well as possibly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs – as found in coconut), are easier for the body to burn and less likely to be converted to body fat than animal-based saturated fats. So you are more likely to gain weight eating a diet full of animal-based saturated fat or damaged fat in fried or processed foods than you are eating essential fats in fish and seeds.

One big reason for this is that the body craves essential fats, precisely because it needs them to function. This craving means we are drawn to fats in general, and, as we’re surrounded by saturated and processed fats the minute we enter the average supermarket , we may well en up eating them. Yet, afterwards the body still keeps craving fat – so we eat more fatty foods. But, if you eat essential fat-rich foods such as fish and seeds, you’ll fully satisfy the craving and will end up eating less.

Does eating fat make you fat? Of course it does, in excess, but fat isn’t the main culprit. As we saw earlier, the number of calories we eat from fat has dropped, but it hasn’t curbed the obesity epidemic.

Low-fat diets arose out of the belief that fat is the prime culprit in weight-gain. But, as with high-protein diets, there are two potential problems with this approach. First, most low-fat diets are high in carbohydrates, so sugar and refined foods replace fatty food. This encourages a blood sugar problem that, in turn, makes it harder to maintain weight control. For this reason, very low-fat, high carbohydrate diets can often cause fatigue, mood swings and sugar cravings.

But the worst aspect of a low-fat diet is that it cuts out essential fats. Ann Louise Gittlemann is the former director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Centre in Florida, which emphasised low-fat eating. In her book, Beyond Pritikin, she notes certain conditions in people placed on low-fat diets, such as allergies, yeast problems, mood swings, a lack of energy, and dry skin, hair and nails, that she believed were caused by the lack of essential fats.

Although most of us could do with cutting back on fat, the real emphasis should be on reducing foods rich in saturated fats and devoid of essential fats (meat and dairy produce), and instead eating foods rich in essential fats (seeds, their oils and fish).

Myth number 7: the best way to lose a lot of weight fast is to eat a very low-calorie diet

I’m dead against very low-calorie diets and calorie counting. Not only does it encourage obsessive eating but also the maths are patently wrong.

Consider this simple example. A banana is approximately 100 calories. So, if you eat a banana fewer every day for a year you’d lose 36,000 calories. A pound of body fat is equivalent to around 4,000 calories. That means you’d lose nearly 4.5kg (10lb) in the first year, 22.7kg (3.5 st.) by the fifth year, and 45.3kg (7st.) after 10 years – and vanish completely after 15 years!

The calorie equation for exercise is equally ridiculous. Cycle vigorously for 15 minutes each day and you will lose 4.5kg (10lb) in the first year. Quite possibly. But 45.3kg (7st.) after 10 years? No chance. However, according to calorie theory, merely a banana every day undoes all that hard work anyway.

According to Dr Michael Colgan, nutritionist to many Olympic athletes, some athletes burn off more than 7,000 calories a day, but eat only 3,500 calories. Going by calorie theory alone, these athletes should completely disappeared by now.

An investigation by Dr M. Appelbaum of people living in famine in the Warsaw ghetto during World War One came up with the same contradiction. With an average calorie intake of 800 calories a day, and requirement of around 2,500 calories, a deficiency of 1,241,000 calories would have built up over two years. The average body has 13.6kg (2st.2lb) of fat, representing 120,000 calories, to dispose of. Even if all the fat were lost, what happened to the other million calories?

If you still believe it’s all down to calories, listen to this. The Sunday Times put two similarly overweight people on diets, one on an earlier version of the Holford Diet (called the Fatburner Diet, which had approximately 1,500 calories), and one on the Cambridge Diet (330 calories in those days). The volunteer on my diet lost more weight after six weeks.

The missing link in the low-calorie approach is metabolism – the process of turning the fuel in food into energy that the body can use, and burning off unwanted fat. As we’ve seen, people’s metabolism can vary considerably. Having a slow metabolism means youll turn more food into fat.

If you start out this way, a low-calorie diet can simply exacerbate the problem. With crash diets below 1,000 calories a day, the body sees this reduction in food as a threat, and slows down the metabolic rate dramatically. According to Dr John Marks from Cambridge University , “As weight falls, the metabolic rate always falls too.” In the short term you can lose around 3.2kg (7lb) of body fluid and, if you’re lucky, an absolute maximum of 900g (2lb) of body fat a week, which together could account for as much as 4.5kg (10lb) in two or three weeks. But the minute you go back to what you were eating before, the fluid returns. And so will the fat, because your metabolic rate has slowed down, meaning that you now need to eat less food to maintain a stable weight.

This ‘rebound effect’ is good business for mortuaries. A report by the National Institutes of Health, using the findings of a 22-centre study called the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, illustrated that people whose weight showed variability over six to seven years had a higher death rate. It’s also good for food-replacement programmes (using special drinks or bars in place of food), whose customers try crash-dieting on average three times a year.

The bottom line is that the body is intelligent. If you try to starve it, it will turn down your metabolic fire. If you work with its natural design you’ll burn unwanted fat easily.

Very low-calorie diets do more, however, than make you feel bad and gain weight afterwards. They can be dangerous, and are now required to provide at least 400 calories and 40g of protein per day for women and 500 calories and 50g of protein per day for men, to unsure the dieter’s body will not be breaking down muscle tissue or vital organs to meet calorie requirements. These diets do not encourage the re-education of eating habits. And they leave you very hungry.

The solution in the eyes of the people designing these diets is wheat bran, which fills you up while at the same time supposedly triggering weight loss. But does that make diets want to stick to the regime? To find out, I put ten people on a diet of 1,000 calories per day, plus high fibre, for three months. Only four lasted the course, with an average weight loss of a measly 1.4kg (3.25lb). The high drop-out rate is a reflection of how difficult it is to stick to a low-calorie diet for a long period of time.

In another study we put ten slimmers on high-fibre tablets – claimed to induce weight loss – for a period of three months. Five completed the three months with an average weight loss of 680g (1.5lb). Not very impressive.

However, some special kinds of fibre do assist weight loss, and having a high-fibre diet by eating wholefoods – not by adding wheat bran – is definitely good for you.

Myth number 8: stimulants help you to lose weight by reducing your appetite

It’s true that stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and the body’s own adrenalin all help to reduce your appetite. They do this by releasing stores of sugar held in your body. So, sure, you can lose weight by just drinking coffee – in the short term.

However, long-term use of stimulants messes up your blood sugar control. When your blood sugar dips, this leads to fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, sugar craving, weight gain and, of course, dependence on stimulants. The best way to control your appetite, and your cravings, is to eat a low-GL diet.

Myth number 9: slimming pills work

Every year there is a new pill or potion that claims to do it all for you – starch blockers, fat blockers, appetite supressants, slimming pills. Avoid them at all cost. You can’t cheat the body without paying a price.

Starch blockers inhibit the digestion of carbohydrate. The theory is that if you can’t digest it you can’t gain weight. But having a whole lot of undigested carbohydrate in the digestive tract is bad news. It feeds the wrong kind of bugs, causing bacterial and yeast infections as well as terrible gas.

Much touted as an answer to weight loss is a supplement called chitosan, sometimes called the ‘fat attractor’ or ‘fat magnet’, which inhibits the digestion of fat. It apparently works because it has a positive charge and attracts fats, which have a negative charge. Once bound together with chitosan, the fat is less likely to be absorbed and passes through the body, so it is claimed, and cholesterol levels decrease.

However, three studies have found no significant differences in either weight or cholesterol levels in people taking chitosan or a placebo. One study involved 30 overweight people who took chitosan or a placebo for 28 days while eating their normal diet. There was no difference in weight or cholesterol. The second study, involving 51 obese women, found that the chitosan group had slightly greater cholesterol reduction that the placebo group, but no difference in weight loss after eight weeks. Another study, with 68 obese men and women, found no improvement in weight or cholesterol.

The latest fat blocker to hit the market is a patented fibre extract from the prickly pear (Opuntia ficus indica) called NeOpuntia. Although some studies do show that it binds to fat, and also lower cholesterol, I’ve not been able to find any evidence to date that it causes weight loss.

Drug companies are also cashing in on the weight-loss market with drugs that stop you from digesting fat. An example is Xenical, the drug name for a chemical called orlistat. This drug does actually work, in the sense that it does reduce fat absorption. The immediate potential side effects are gas with discharge, oily or fatty stools, oily discharge and an inability to control bowel movements. If that doesn’t put you off, more worrying are the effects on essential fats, so vital for heart, brain and skin, but whose absorption is also reduced when taking Xenical. Since essential fats are probably the most commonly deficient nutrient in the West, the last thing you want to swallow is something that stops you from using the little essential fat there is in your diet. Also, it probably isn’t a good idea to have undigested fat in you digestive tract.

Some slimming drugs are basically stimulants that suppress appetite and wire you up, inducing anxiety and hyperactivity. Similarly, if you drink 15 cups of coffee a day, it would also work in the short term. In the not-so-long term, stimulants mess up your body’s metabolism as well as your physical, mental and emotional health. Even if it sounds ‘natural’, avoid any herb or supplement whose active ingredient is caffeine – and that includes guarana.

Myth number 10: there’s nothing wrong with being overweight

The health risks associated with weighing more than you should accumulate as soon as you are as little as 3.2kg (7lb) overweight. With over half of people in Britain overweight and 20 per cent obese, that’s a lot of extra health risks.

And these are serious risks: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, osteoporosis, cancer, polycystic ovaries and arthritis. One study showed that about 40 per cent of heart disease in women is linked to overweight, whereas others connect it to higher risks of breast cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and other complications. Diabetes is strongly linked to obesity – your risk of developing diabetes goes up 77 times if you’re obese. With over 200 million obese people in Europe alone, that’s a lot of sick people.

In fact, every year obesity causes the premature deaths of 30,000 people, costs Britain’s National Health Service 1 billion Pounds and is responsible for the loss of more than 20 million working days. According to Dr Susan Jebb of the Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre in Cambridge in the UK, “Obesity is a serious medical condition that reduces life expectancy by increasing the risk of many chronic and potentially fatal diseases.”

And with a thousand people becoming obese every day, we need to wake up to the fact that there’s a disaster in the making here – but only potentially. It only looks like a slippery slope: there is a way out.

Why the Holford Diet works where others fail

You can lose weight on a low-calorie diet, a high-protein diet, a low-carb diet or a no-fat diet. But you are stacking the odds against you. Why? Because…

  • You get short-term weight loss as your body burns its essential store of glycogen – that’s 2.25kg (5lb) gone, but it all comes back!
  • None of these diets satisfy your appetite better than the Holford Diet, so you have to fight hard to stay on them.
  • All of these diets are highly restrictive in some way – who wants to live without carbohydrates or fats?
  • None of these diets have been shown to trigger as much weight loss in the short term or long term as the Holford Diet.

In a trial comparing my original diet to Unislim (a low-calorie, high-exercise regime, with weekly support meetings), on average, the volunteers on my diet lost four times more weight than the other dieters: 6.3kg (1st.) in three months. Every single trial by third parties has proven highly successful, with many reports of additional benefits ‘concentration improved’, ‘no wobbly feeling’, ‘never felt hungry’, ‘easy to stick to’, ‘extra energy’, ‘thoroughly detoxified’. In these trials, not one person failed to lose weight. When GMTV compared the effects over six weeks of WeightWatchers (based on low-fat, low-calorie diet) with the Holford Diet, the WeightWatchers’ dieter lost 4kg (9lb) and the Holford dieter lost 4kg (9lb). The Holford dieter, however, had none of the benefit of weekly support group meetings as had the WeightWathcers’ dieter. The benefits of the Holford Diet, with its increased feeling of good health and well-being, are enough to encourage dieters to continue.

Although the Holford Diet might mean slightly fewer calories than you are eating now, slightly less fat and slightly more protein, the major emphasis is on quality, and there will be plenty of it – all delicious.


  • The major cause of the obesity epidemic is an increase in sugar and refined carbohydrate, not an increase in fat.
  • Different sources of calories have different effects on weight loss.
  • Eating a low-GL diet triggers the most rapid weight loss.
  • If you eat too few calories your metabolic rate slows down to conserve your fat, so you have to suffer to lose weight and will inevitably develop rebound weight gain.
  • High-protein diets stabilise your blood sugar levels and reduce your appetite, but they don’t work better than conventional diets and they’re not good for you in the long run.
  • Low-fat diets are bad for you because the body needs essential fats and keeps craving fats until it gets them.
  • The best diet for long-term weight loss is a low-GL diet, in which low-GL carbohydrates combined with protein and essential fats – in short, the Holford Diet.

Rooibos – South Africa’s gift to health

Rooibos Improves Antioxidants

When Dr Annique Theron discovered the anti-allergic properties of Rooibos in 1968, no research had been conducted on this miracle indigenous plant. Only from the 1980’s Japanese and American scientists started to investigate the health benefits of Rooibos and since then, many different studies have been conducted in various countries.

Recently scientists at international research facilities in Rome and Glasgow found the first clinical proof that drinking Rooibos tea significantly increases the antioxidant capacity in human blood. The consequence is the improvement of the body’s natural defences. Researchers found that, one hour after drinking Rooibos tea, the antioxidant capability in the bloodof 15 healthy volunteers was at its highest, after drinking 500ml of Rooibos tea. This is applicable to normal (fermented) and green (unfermented) Rooibos teas.

Professor Mauro Serafini, leader of the project and Head of the Antioxidant Research Laborotory at INRAN, a nutrition research institute in Rome, Italy, comments: “On the basis of the results of our study, we conclude that Rooibos tea is able to deliver antioxidants ingredients to the body. It is highly possible that, once absorbed in the circulatory stream, the unique ingredients of Rooibos may display other biological activities in the human body. That is why we are planning further intervention studies in humans to investigate the effect of Rooibos tea on the body’s strategy of defence to counteract the development of heart disease.”

Professor Lizette Joubert, a leading South African Rooibos researcher, working on the quality and chemical composition of Rooibos t South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council says: “This new research proves thatthe compounds in Rooibos are potent enough to have a measurable effect on the antioxidant capacity of the blood.”

“This study underlines the value of Rooibos as a widely available and affordable source of dietary antioxidants,” comments Mientjie Mouton, chair of the Product Research Commitee of the South African Rooibos Council.

Patrick Holford Praises Rooibos Tea

Patrick Holford, British nutritional specialist and highly praised international author, has included Rooibos tea in his latest health book, The 10 Secrets of 100% Health. This book was written after thirty years of research about the nutritional and lifestyle habits of physically and psychologically healthy people.

Holford refers to Rooibos tea in two of his 16 golden diet rules, namely to avoid caffeine and to hydrate your body.

Holford says: “Since redbush tea is naturally caffeine-free, it’s untreated so every last one of its healthful polyphenols is preserved. The other thing that sets redbush apart from other teas is its low tannin content. Tannins are polyphenols in black and green tea responsible for their astringent taste. Since redbush tea is lower in is lower in tannins, it’s much smoother and milder tasting -no matter how long you steep it.

Furthermore, its potent antioxidant content protects your body from free radicals. The antioxidants in redbush tea are called polyphenols. And it’s the catechins in the polyphenols that support your overall health and boost your immune sustem. Plus, these antioxidants are also thought to lower blood fat levels, which in turn help to support normal cholesterol levels.”

Cancer-Fighting Foods

It is currently estimated that 1 in 3 people will get cancer. In 20 years from now, this figure might grow up to 1 in 2 people. Eating certain kinds of foods is associated with a decreased risk of cancer. While the evidence accumulates, adding the following foods to your diet cannot hurt, and is likely to help.

  • Fruit and vegetables are top of the anti-cancer foods. These are good sources of vitamins A and C. A study in Japan on 265,000 people found that those with a low intake of betacarotene, which is found in fruit and vegetables, had a high risk of lung cancer. Other studies have produced the same result for colon, stomach, prostate and cervical cancers. Betacarotene is found in particularly large amounts in carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe melons and apricots. There is lots of vitamin C in fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Garlic, used liberally, may keep cancer away. A National Cancer Institute study carried out in China in 1989 discovered that provinces where garlic was used liberally in their cooking had the lowest rate of stomach cancer. Garlic contains sulphur compounds that help deal with toxins and free radicals.
  • Soya beans have been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. In Japan and China, women who get most of their protein from soya bean foods – tofu, soya beans themselves and soya milk – have lower rates of breast cancer. These results have been confirmed in animal studies.
  • Yogurt may protect against colon cancer. The bacterium Lactobacillus adicophilus, found in many live yogurts, slows down the development of colon tumours, and yogurt-eaters have a lower incident of colon cancer than those who do not eat yogurt, as do those whose calcium intake is high. Abnormal cell divisions in the colon have also been shown to slow right down when calcium intake is increased to 2,000mg  a day. Of course, non-diary yogurt would be best.
  • Sesame and sunflower seeds are rich in selenium, vitamin E, calcium and zinc. Eat a spoonful every day to keep your antioxidant army in top condition.

Coffee Shape – Nature’s Slimming Secret

Cosmetology Middle East, the source of ‘never seen before’ anti-aging products, has launched Coffee Shape the remarkable organic slimming green coffee manufactured by ATP Life Pty Ltd of Australia.  Independent medical research confirms one cup daily, containing 200mg of green coffee extract, can contribute to up to 3 kilos of weight loss in 14 days. Coffee Shape has a distinctive taste flavoured with roasted Arabica beans and is successfully used by hundreds of thousands of men and women in Europe and Australia.

Even when maintaining a healthy lifestyle many people still struggle to shift extra kilos but slimming coffee provides a popular solution.  Coffee Shape significantly aids weight loss by suppressing appetite converting sugar to glucose and increasing the metabolic rate.  The key component of green coffee is Chlorogenic acid and each daily sachet contains 114mg of caffine.  Coffee Shape does not contain senna.  “I found slimming coffee to be an extremely effective way to control my weight, particularly as it has been so easy to include in my daily schedule” commented Charlotte Proudman, Managing Partner of Cosmetology Middle East.

Coffee Shape has been tested by independent market research.  Ayton Global Research UK conducted a comparative, randomized, double-blind 4 week study on 62 healthy volunteers.  The findings of the study indicate 75% of the participants lost an average of 1.60kg over 2 weeks and 80% lost an average of 2.02kg in 4 weeks. It confirmed findings of a 2007 study published in International Journal of Market Research which stated: “…slimming coffee appears to have a significant effect on absorption and utilization of glucose in diet compared to normal instant coffee”…

Coffee Shape has been recommended by medical professionals and alternative therapists for the treatment of obesity.


The Psychology of Weight Loss

Ask any exercise teacher what is the most common question they get asked and the answer will be: ‘How can I tone up and lose weight?’ or: ‘How can I make my bottom/tummy/thighs/hips smaller?’ In other words, it is about the desire to change body shape and look different.

Food inevitably dominates our lives in that we need to eat in order to live. However, the pressure to get thin and stay thin are enormous and have led to the use and abuse of food as a controllable factor in a perhaps otherwise uncontrollable life.

Unfortunately, when it comes to actually making choices about what to eat and when to eat, objective knowledge is only one part of the influence and usually very minor part at that.

Far more important is the cultural and sociological environment we live in and the resultant pressures to conform to stereotypical body shapes; stereotypes established and maintained through media images, advertising and marketing.

We live in a society and in a time where ‘thin’ is valued and seen as attractive and desirable and ‘fat’ is the opposite. Developing from this is an inherent prejudice against overweight people, leading to discrimination in all aspects of daily life. A great number of people are trying to lose weight on a daily basis and weight loss is one of the primary goals of many peoples’ change in diet and exercise lifestyle.

There are plenty of seemingly glamorous female role models provided for us in the media in the form of ultra slim usually tall models who are used to advertise designer clothes and of course an enormous range of other products. Male role models often conform to the well built and defined body that is usually unrealistic and difficult to achieve.

Individuals eat (or don’t eat) as a response for a whole range of life events to deal with the subsequent emotions and feelings. If the eating behavior results in over eating and therefore a gain in weight, then the eating behavior comes to be seen as the cause rather than the symptom of psychological distress. This is often translated into ‘if only I could get my eating under control and get thin, then I would be happy and everything would be alright’.

What this means is that in order to restore normal/desirable body weight we have to:

  • Address any underlying psychological problems that made us use eating as comfort or control
  • Re-establish healthy diet and lifestyle patterns that are sustainable for the rest of our lives
  • Learn to listen to our body’s natural signs and messages

When these are put down as bullet points like above it all looks easy, but of course it is not and demands determination, commitment, help and support, both short and long term.

Many people with the desire to change are very unsure how to go about getting the help they need. It is very easy at this point to be swayed by magazines, advertisements or recommendations from friends about the latest wonder diet or product that will make the pounds drop off overnight with very little pain or effort. Nearly all diets are based on calorie restriction, no matter how they are dressed up.

Of course the best way to change your appearance is by changing your outlook towards yourself and towards life. Strive to be fit and healthy rather than having a super model figure. When you change your lifestyle for good in order to be healthier, the happiness of being leaner, stronger and more energetic will follow automatically.