By now you will (surely) have read about or seen on TV the furor that has followed Professor Tim Noakes’ astonishing and controversial about turn on eating carbs. (For those of you who have been missing for the last few weeks, he has told us to tear up the pages about carbo loading in his book Lore of Running. He has now adopted a low carbohydrate, high fat diet.) Here is what he has to say in an official statement:
Last week I received more than 200 requests for information and since I do not have an additional secretary to manage this correspondence, I am unable to answer each letter individually. I have therefore prepared an outline letter which explains why I think that those who, like me, are carbohydrate-resistant (CR) (or pre-diabetic with a family history of diabetes) can improve their health significantly by substantially reducing the amount of carbohydrate that they eat. It may be that many others will benefit from this eating plan but at present I conclude that it is those who are the most CR who will benefit the most. In time I think we will learn that you do not have to have CR to benefit from this eating plan. But I am not prepared to make that conclusion just yet.
Although many asked for specific diets, I am reluctant to give such advice. I prefer to give general advice and ask that you please consult a dietician by taking this letter to him or her and asking for help in constructing a healthy eating plan, whilst sticking within the guidelines I suggest.
So the first point is that this is not a diet, it is an eating plan for life – it is a life style. If you wish to lose weight and improve your health by changing your eating for a short time only, then this is not the way to go. Once you go down this eating route, you have to stick with it for life. Because if you start eating this way and successfully lose weight, you will regain that weight and more should you go back to eating the way you did before – that is if you go back to eating the food choices that caused the problem in the first place.
The point is that if you are like me, your metabolism does not work very well when fed too much carbohydrate. And this is not going to change regardless of how much weight you might lose or even how much exercise you might do. For those of us with CR, our metabolism is the problem and if we want to do the best for our bodies then we have to change FOREVER the nature of the foods that we eat. But I argue that this change is much easier than most would ever believe. Unfortunately it is also the advice that many dieticians will be the least likely to give you.
So if you are not ready to make a change that you will continue for the rest of your life, then it is probably best that you do not begin in the first place.
For to change you have to rid yourself of an addiction for eating easily assimilated carbohydrates – an addiction that is at least as powerful as those associated with cigarette consumption and some recreational drugs. As you know, it is not easy to give up addictions. And like all addictions, addicts have to take each moment of their recovery one day at a time. In a sense those of us who are unable to metabolize carbohydrates are never cured of that addiction. We are always in recovery. We have to take each new day of our cure, one day at a time.
But if, like me, you are convinced that you have a really good reason to change (in my case to avoid dying from diabetes – the fate that struck my father and his brother) and are prepared to change what you eat for the rest of your life, then you may be up for the challenge. Please note also that this is not a fad diet – the reason why it works so well is because there are solid biological reasons why it has to produce a successful outcome if followed properly by those with CR.
The second point is that this eating plan requires some discipline to be successful. As I have said, it takes discipline to insure that we do not relapse into our former addiction. Those who really benefit the most are those who have the greatest reason for and desire to change. I changed initially because I did not want to develop diabetes so I had a very good motivation to start. Then I discovered that once I had got rid of the addictive food choices, I felt so good on this eating plan that I would never want to go back to my old eating ways.
So now I have two reasons to stay with this eating plan – long-term health and the feelings of a renewed youth.
The point is that the greater your reasons to change, the more probable it is that you will be successful.
The third point is that the only discipline you require is very simple: You must severely restrict the intake of the following foods. I have found it easiest simply to remove all from my diet.
• Sugar (Must be completely removed from your diet)
• All sugary drinks including cola drinks and sweetened fruit juices
• Breakfast cereals
• Some high energy fruits like bananas
• All confectionary – cakes and sweets
• Artificial sweetners and products containing these products (like “diet” colas)
• You should also be very wary of so-called “low fat” options, yoghurt especially, since these are laden with sugar and so are less healthy than the full fat options. In fact you need to check all the foods that you eat. You will be astonished in the number that contain hidden sugar.
I think that most dieticians would agree that none of the foods listed above is essential for health and some like sugar and other refined carbohydrates are definitely unhealthy. Some dieticians argue that whole grain cereals should be included because they are “healthy” but I have had difficulty finding whole grain cereals that have not been heavily refined. It is also clear that allergies to cereals are commoner than is realized.