Most of it was ok, but of course, there were judgements - particularly from one woman who openly stated she hadn't really read what I had written, but had formed an opinion of me anyway. Apparently I am naive enough to have expected magic to happen, what do I expect if I introduce sugar into my diet, and isn't it a shame (poor me) that I didn't do their diet instead. It was funny though, as they are all doing it. The rest of their conversation is about, "I introduced coffee today" and "I gained x amount on milk" .
After reeling slightly at their interpretation of my character, I tried to think about at what point, if any, I gave the impression that I was so naive, or that I expected a miracle. I then realised that I haven't really said what I think about the diet at all. My task was to follow the elimination diet and blog about what happened. That I did. I also gave information from the book on the other 5 secrets, and about why Dr Mansfield believes this. I talked a bit about how this might relate to me, but there was actually very little about what I believe.
There are several reasons that I didn't include my theories. Firstly, that wasn't the task, secondly, I am not a Doctor. I do however have Biology Degree, and a Masters of Science Education, and I did begin to study Nutritional Medicine before I had BB (mainly considering the Science of Nutrition from a Holistic Health perspective - something I hope to go back to in the future). As a result of that I do have a massive interest and fascination in the subject, and some ideas about what I believe. However, I am also aware that I am no expert and that the science and our understanding of it is changing all the time, so it is hard to be conclusive. For those reasons I was hesitant to write my true thoughts.
So here's my disclaimer - I am not a doctor and I am probably wrong!
...but here's a blog post on what I really think.
I think that we are all different. Genetically we are different. Our life experience and medical histories are different. Our daily lives, jobs, families, finances, preferences, stresses, situations and demands are all different too. I think that what works for you may not necessarily work me. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution.
My maternal grandmother for example, is almost 98. She is thin, still living in her own home and has pretty much existed on refined carbohydrates for her whole life. Her current diet consists of toast and marmalade, tea cakes, a notoriously high sugar breakfast cereal, biscuits, cakes and desserts. When we go out to eat, she would rather just have cake, but she can be persuaded to have fish and chips sometimes, or maybe soup and bread. She has always been like this. I remember from when I was a child, rather than have her Yorkshire puddings with a Sunday roast, she would have them with treacle. One of her tales about the rations during the war is about when she got extra sugar. This is a life time habit. Most people would say that this diet would lead you to an early grave, but clearly not in her case.
Despite the fact that I theoretically carry a quarter of her genes, I have pretty much nothing in common with her in this regard. I really have to watch my carbohydrate consumption, even down to the fruit I eat. For example, prior to the Elimination Diet, I hadn't eaten pineapple for years due to it's high sugar content having a negative effect on me and my well being. I think the key to health is understanding your own body, and then comes the hard bit, you have to ACT in a way that nurtures YOUR body.
We are notoriously bad at this. We know what we have to, but we don't do it. I have a theory as to why this is, which I will share.
There is an insight from E. F. Schumacher which I have been drawn to throughout my education career. He points out that despite the fact that the volume of education and knowledge we have continues to increase, so do the problems we are learning about. He was talking about ecological issues, but I think the same is true for health. We know more and more about how to be thin and healthy, there is information everywhere, diet after diet, regime after regime, program after program. We receive information at school, from the TV, on the radio, in the doctors surgery, yet we are getting fatter and fatter, and there are more and more cases of disease caused by what we eat every week. This is costing the health system a fortune, so there is more and more 'education' thrown at the problem, but it still gets worse!
Educational theorists are familiar with this dilemma. Simply giving people more knowledge is obviously not the answer. We don't just need people to know more, we need them to change their behaviours. The problem, I believe, is with the style of education we are using. Mostly, education is transmissive (passing on specific information), to change people it needs to be transformative (where the learner participates in the process of asking their own questions and constructing their own meaning). A comparative summary of transmissive and transformative education is available here Table 1- page 38 (Ref. Stephen Sterling).
Anyway, I think that's enough about educational theory to explain how my interest in the book began. Of course, there were personal reasons for my interest too, I had just had a miscarriage, something else to focus on was welcome, and I had gained 5kg in the failed pregnancy, but I was also interested from both the educational and nutritional perspectives. The Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss (also on kindle) was described as a book that it is about identifying what works for you. It takes the reader step by step through a process in which you construct your own knowledge about your own body. As you gather more information, you can reframe the question, or ask a new question and explore. It is an open ended inquiry. The subject is yourself - a topic everyone is interested in. Perhaps this book offered a transformative approach to weight loss education that could actually work.
To some extent, I think it actually does. Once you start the process of the elimination diet it does consume you. You are constantly questioning your response to different foods and making observations about yourself. I was definitely engaged in the process. There were times though when I wanted to pursue a different line of enquiry. The book is very prescriptive about what you do next. There were also lots of things I didn't really want to test (and several that I didn't - like aspartame and monosodium glutamate). It certainly is an open ended inquiry. I am still asking questions now. In some ways I wish that would stop, but at the same time it is good thing.
I know the book is about weight loss, but to me, the focus on weight alone was quite distracting. There were so many more things that could be observed with regard to your response to a particular food. I wish I had done more of this. Like how foods made me feel. If I did it again, I would do that. I am however doing that a bit now- though obviously in a less controlled environment - it has made me more aware.
Apparently 70-80% of people that have tried the diet find at least one thing to which they are sensitive, and eliminating this solves their weight problem forever. That is an attractive proposition. When I googled diet before accepting the assignment, one journalist had written about cool it would be to find that carrots made her fat (I love carrots so I wouldn't have been so impressed). When I did the diet a few things raised questions, but when retested there was nothing. I am apparently one of the 20-30% for whom it doesn't work. I can't say that this came as much of a surprise, but it was worth the try. It was difficult to know what was normal daily fluctuations in weight and what might be a reaction. I am still not sure I believe that it works, but perhaps if I had had a serious reaction to something I would have a different opinion.
What did work was I lost weight. The exact amount that I had recently gained in my short pregnancy. This was a pleasing result. Dr Mansfield thinks that this was due to a sensitivity that I haven't yet identified, but I am not sure I agree. I think it was due to eating a restricted diet which did not contain any cereals or refined carbs. As soon as I started eating those again the weight loss stopped.
I did however feel brilliant when I wasn't eating those foods. Readers who know me will be aware that I am a big fan of fasting, not for weight loss (though that is an added bonus) but for health and vitality reasons. This was the closest I have come to the benefits of fasting while still eating (if that makes any sense!). It was also a very powerful lesson in how much better I feel on a low carb diet, and is something that will hopefully stay with me and be the transformative learning that I needed.
Having said that, in some ways the elimination diet made my eating habits worse. I already knew that pineapple contained too much sugar for me, but I ate heaps in stage 1 (and lost weight), and have continued to buy it (until this week) having been given a somewhat false impression that it is OK. I was expecting to find some problems with the cereals and refined carbs too, but didn't, and again, I think the OK'ing of these items has made me eat more of them since the diet than I did before (again, until this last week when I had a little word with myself). However, I also think I would be less likely to be aware of this about myself had I not followed the diet.
The things I regret about doing the diet are bombarding my body with an overload of various carbs in stage 3 - I don't think that did me any good at all, though it did remind me that my body really doesn't like that. I also regret stopping taking my Vital Greens supplement. However, both were necessary as part of the process, and short term.
With regard to my opinion on the other secrets...
My opinion? Cook real food, with natural (where possible organic) ingredients and enjoy. This is one thing that the elimination diet forces you to do, you can't eat processed food, you have to eat natural food, with only one ingredient!
The second secret is to avoid low fat diets. I agree with this too. Dr Mansfield however says that it doesn't matter if its saturated or unsaturated fat and I quite get my head around that, even though I know there is other research out there that suggests the same. I hope he's right as I love butter (having a strong preference for natural fats over chemically manipulated margarines). I got through loads of olive oil on the diet and have noticed I am using much less again now, perhaps I should increase it again. Dr Mansfield's theory on this, which I agree with, is that fat fills you up, and without enough fat you eat more carbs and get fat. There is lots of compelling evidence for this, both from a biochemical perspective and a social one - since our transmissive diet advice started saying we should eat less fat, and the diet industry has made more low fat foods, we have got fatter and fatter and fatter!
Regarding the fourth secret, I don't feel I know enough about candida to comment really. The same for thyroidism, secret six.
The fifth though is insulin resistance, which I do know about. I overcame this problem myself through diet in 2003, and think that really this is where my attention should be focussed right now. This is where the low carb thing comes in for me, and the fasting. If you are someone with signs of insulin resistance you need to do something about it. If, like my Nan, you are not, don't worry! I recommend a low carb diet, paying particular attention to the GI of foods. If I had to recommend a particular 'diet' for people in this situation, The Fast Diet (also available for Kindle) looks to be giving promising results and to be mainatainble long term, which is what it's all about.
In summary, I do think that this book is a step towards a transformative approach to weight loss. It did enable me to lose weight, and it has given me more understanding of how my body responds to certain foods, and it has continued to engage me in this observational approach to my own nutrition since the diet itself ended. I am not convinced by the idea that it is as simple as cutting out a food that you are sensitive to, but if I had found a food that I was sensitive to that might have been different. Would I recommend it to others, yes I think I would.
As I said before, I thought it was a shame that the only real measure of the effect of a food was weight. It could have looked at so much more. What might be even better (or next) would be a book that concentrated solely on the elimination diet, but looked at many other indicators of health, not just weight.
OK - that's it! You did well if you got this far. If you are new here and want to know more about my experiences on the diet here's the link- Elimination Diet. I would like to think that this is my last post on this topic, but as I said, the enquiry has grabbed me, (to some extent against my will!) so I suspect I will continue to question and explore. Currently the subject of enquiry is wheat...