What’s the Best Diet?

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when every woman in the United States begins to get frightened of the water. Well, frightened of taking off her clothes and putting on a bathing suit so that she can get into the water at the beach or the club or the local swimming hole.

I am a veteran of the Bathing Suit Wars. These are not wars with another country, another state, or even another human being. They are the wars with ourselves, with our own body’s perceived imperfections.

When we are sixteen, our bodies are pretty much perfect. We may feel that we’re too fat (Most women do, and have a distorted view of their own bodies), but there is little or no cellulite and most of us look pretty hot! When we get to be thirty, there are a few more visible signs of aging, but we’ve proven fairly well preserved. By the time we get into our forties, most of us have given up swimming and have started wearing “big shirts” to avoid showing the contours of our bodies. Fifty is frightening and, unless a healthy woman spends most of her day lifting weights and doing aerobics, she is beginning to get very afraid of what she sees in the mirror.

I am now sixty, and recently noticed that my knees have begun to migrate downward. When I go swimming, I do it alone where there are no mirrors and nobody is calling it to my attention that I’m not sixteen.

Over the years I have been on every diet know to womankind. This is no exaggeration! You must believe me, because I speak the truth. I have gained and lost and gained again enough pounds to create several other adult human beings. It is my contant battle.

My mother put me on my first diet when I was nine years old, cottage cheese and canned pears. The next diet she tried on me was boiled eggs and grapefruit. When I lived in Germany, a weight consultant put me on a fast during which I drank 1/4 cup of a 50-50 mixture of grape juice and water every hour. I have eaten fruit only, vegetables only, meat only and water only.

I tried the fad diets, and when those didn’t keep the weight off, I decided to use the method the “experts” tell us will work, “Like the turtle, slow and easy “. So I joined Weight Watchers. It took a long time to lose the weight, and a short time to gain back. They lied.

I thought maybe it was all psychological and tried aversion therapy, which only works if a person is averse to things. I’m not. You can tell me it’s a baby mouse all day, make me look into a mirror while eating “bad” things and shock me when I do, but if it tastes good, I’ll eat it anyway.

I tried Jenny Craig once, thinking that no matter how bad the food tasted, I could make it through the program, but I was wrong. It was inedible. NutriSystem food was pretty good, but the weight still returned, plus those few extra pounds.

Then there are the diets invented by doctors or pseudo-doctors for those of us who have become ill and are desperate to be healthy again, no matter how hard it is to follow the Plan. (On a scale of 1-10, one being bearable and 10 being un-bearable) My favorite in this category , rated a rousing 10, is the “McDougal Program”. It is supposed to help us lose weight and feel great, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, decrease or eliminate our need for medication, and avoid costly and unnecessary surgery. If a person is still healthy enough to enjoy eating, this doesn’t work. I still have the book. I also still have Dr. Dean Ornish’s “Eat More, Weigh Less”, which rates 9.5.

What I know as a chef is that food has wonderful natural flavor and we can enhance the flavor with salt and herbs and spices, but there are really only two other options for flavor enhancement: sugar or fat. If we cut the fat in a dish, we must compensate by using a sweetner, either naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables, or not-so-naturally occurring. Sucrose, Lactose, Sorbitol, Dextrose, corn syrup, and white sugar are all added to most pre-packaged low-fat meals.

Sugar.

Are you the type of person who isn’t hungry until lunch if you skip breakfast, but are hungry by 10:00 AM if you eat cereal or toast and jam? If you are, you’re like me, and people like us tend to have a blood sugar problem. We may not be diabetic, but our bodies react to carbohydrates more rapidly than other people’s. We need to pay attention to how fast a food is likely to raise our blood sugar, because that is in direct correlation to how quickly our blood sugar drops. We need to look at a food’s Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load.

David Mendosa, a freelance medical writer and consultant specializing in diabetes, is kind enough to share his insights with us on his website ( http://www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm ) where he states in part:

“The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers-the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. So a low GI food will cause a small rise, while a high GI food will trigger a dramatic spike. A list of carbohydrates with their glycemic values is shown below. A GI is 70 or more is high, a GI of 56 to 69 inclusive is medium, and a GI of 55 or less is low.

The glycemic load (GL) is a relatively new way to assess the impact of carbohydrate consumption that takes the glycemic index into account, but gives a fuller picture than does glycemic index alone. A GI value tells you only how rapidly a particular carbohydrate turns into sugar. It doesn’t tell you how much of that carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food. You need to know both things to understand a food’s effect on blood sugar. That is where glycemic load comes in. The carbohydrate in watermelon, for example, has a high GI. But there isn’t a lot of it, so watermelon’s glycemic load is relatively low. A GL of 20 or more is high, a GL of 11 to 19 inclusive is medium, and a GL of 10 or less is low.

Foods that have a low GL almost always have a low GI. Foods with an intermediate or high GL range from very low to very high GI.”

Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., C.N.S., the former director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center, is recognized internationally as a pioneer in dietary, environmental and women’s health.

In her book “Eat Fat, Lose Weight.” she explains the glycemic issue in a simple and straightforward way, and clarifies many nutritional aspects of choosing what we eat. She isn’t pushing a diet, but gives us the tools we need to eat in a way to optimize our health. As far as I’m concerned, hers is the definitive book for my needs. It is easy to understand, succinct, and complete. It delivers.

Low GI foods are those found on low carbohydrate diets. I put myself on my first such diet in 1972. This way of eating has always worked for me. Whether called Atkins, Carbohydrate Addicts, Zone, or Lindora, when I adhere to the principles I’ve worked out for myself, my body shrinks, my cholesterol lowers, my energy level rises, and my blood pressure falls. All this, and I’m not hungry, but the food is natural and tastes good. It’s the disciple that is the hardest.

At first, when the body is shrinking rapidly and everything works well, there is absolutely no problem. It’s only after a couple of months when the craving starts that I hear a tiny voice in my head telling me that, “Everybody else can eat chocolate. Why can’t I?” After another month, I usually have convinced myself that I, like every other addict, can handle it.

Basically, I eat meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and salads. The meat can be sautÃ?©ed, but not breaded and fried. The salad can have real dressing, real parmesan cheese, but no croutons. I have cream in my coffee, but only two cups in the morning. Because I know from experience that my body requires it, I take psyllium husks for added fiber, at least one tablespoon per day with a couple of glasses of water. I drink diet soda, and use aspartame as my sweetener of choice. Even though I could eat full-fat dairy and sour cream, I try to stay away from them because my body doesn’t seem to operate optimally on these.

I’ve yet to overcome my negative self-talk, but I’m extremely healthy, not on medications, not morbidly obese, and I’ve also not yet given up the idea that:

� One day I will balance my output and input of energy.
� One day I will discover the beauty of my own body, viewed realistically,
âÂ?¢ One day, I will buy a bathing suit and go swimming – in public.

Then, and only then, will I have won the Bathing Suit Wars.

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