All of us who like good living have to diet at some time. The holiday season is soon to be upon us, when all caution is thrown to the winds. Then there’s the Snowbird season, when those who can head to the warmth of the Caribbean, or Mexico, or even further afield, and never think twice of the pounds they are packing on. So where better to talk about it than here and now?
For a while I was a Toronto Sun columnist, with a series called “Getting in shape the easy way.” Writing in my thirties, I admitted that for the past 10 years when I wasn’t sitting around and working, I was sitting around and relaxing. I quoted Lloyd Percival, long since gone but then the super-fit founder of The Fitness Institute , who called the years between 20 and 30 the “dangerous decade.” You’ve left school, stopped playing organized sports, got chained to a desk. Though plenty of damage has been done, it’s not too late to start on the road to recovery. I tried, I really tried, and I did get back in shape enough that I dared post a swimsuit picture in the final column. I started out at 172 lb with a waist measurement of 38 inches and at the weigh-in at the Sun offices I weighed 160 lb. The embarrassed young lady from the newsroom, volunteered by the photographer to measure my waist, read off 33 inches.
Today I dream of 172 lb and 38 inches. Here we go again, I thought, but in fact after only a few weeks of not very serious work, I’m down a few pounds and back into 38 inch pants.
Rick Gallop is past president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and his wife, Ruth Gallop, is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, so they clearly know a thing or two about health. Their book “The GI Diet” was published in 2002 by Random House, and quickly became a best seller. It is now in its 10th edition. GI stands for glycemic index, or the rate which your body digests food and turns it into sugar. Understanding that is to understand how what you eat turns to extra body weight.
As far as I can tell, his principles have been lifted almost intact by one of the storefront diet chains, with the exception that his diet does not include any pills.
You’ll want to read the book yourself if you are serious, but the concept is easy to grasp. Rick divides food into three categories and marks them red, amber and green, just like a stop light. In the weight loss period only green light foods can be eaten. Then, to maintain your weight you eat mainly green light foods, but can also venture into amber or red light territory occasionally.
Also, he talks about the need to spread your proteins, carbs and fats equally through the day, with three small meals better than skipping breakfast, or eating a giant dinner to make up the hunger gap.
Examples of green light proteins are: fresh fish and seafood, lean beef, skinless chicken and turkey breasts, egg whites, soft tofu, fat-free fruit yoghurt, skim milk and 1 per cent or fat-free cottage cheese.
Some green light carbs include: bran cereals, quinoa, brown rice, apples, most berries, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, most vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Green light fats: almonds, canola oil, olive oil and soft non-hydrogenated margarine.
Like the folks at the diet chain he also has us staying away from the 5 Ws – white flour, white rice, white sugar, white salt and white potatoes – no more of those ever! There are plenty of healthy alternatives
Other similarities include keeping a diary or log of absolutely everything you eat or drink, and trust me, that works too, helping you understand where you are doing well and where you are slipping.
One thing I learned about from the diet chain is CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, taken in the form of several capsules a day. There’s tons of material on the web and nothing very concrete by way of proven results, but it seems to work for me in reducing tummy fat. Advocates of CLA claim that the nutrient helps to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass, and lose weight. Some claim that CLA helps you transform your muffin top into a six-pack by increasing your fat-burning capabilities. Actually, no one knows exactly how CLA works. However, from what I can gather, researchers do say it appears to decrease the amount of fat stored after eating, increase the rate of fat breakdown in fat cells, and decrease the total number of fat cells. There don’t seem to be any bad side effects so it might be worth a try for two or three months. Key with CLA, however, is to drink plenty of water (at least six glasses a day) and take some light excercise. Perhaps it’s just the water and the excercise that’s doing the trick, and the CLA is a placebo effect.
Last night I had pasta for dinner. I’ll start the diet again today. No really, I promise.