This article was published in the Autumn edition of GIY Magazine 2017
We’re now at crisis point in terms of the obesity epidemic with recent statistics showing that 2/3 of Irish adults are either overweight or obese. Another stark statistic is that obesity is now killing more people than malnutrition globally, which means we’ve practically solved world hunger only to create an even bigger problem in the process. This is causing untold torture and suffering worldwide and imposes financial strain on our already struggling health services. How did it come to this? Where did we go so wrong? Even without understanding the problem fully, we’ve known for a long time that serious change is required in order to reverse the situation.
Until now, attempts at change have come through personal trial and error and the propagation of flawed expert opinion has compounded and confused the problem rather than alleviate it. Low fat / high carb diets have been touted as the solution since the 60s and yet have been disastrous in terms of world health (google the sugar scandal). Governments are now implementing sugar taxes in a flip/flop attempt in order to solve this problem, however I believe it is education that is required as most people still do not understand that not all calories are NOT equal and that sugar comes in many forms, not just sweet stuff. For example, according to the glycemicindex.com website, corn flakes have the highest gi, coming in at 132 (the glycemic index being a scale measuring how various foods affect our blood sugar levels) and baked spuds / white rice, although more nutritious, typically have a higher gi than most sugary soft drinks!
Fat alone does NOT make us fat!
Based on my research in Don’t Eat for Winter, and evidence continuing to emerge, the problems we face are primarily rooted in extremely high carbohydrate diets compounded by sedentary lifestyles. Fat has been blamed in the past for making us fat (it sounds logical), but we now know it isn’t that simple and that fat in and of itself is pretty innocuous, in terms of weight gain, until you add carbs into the equation. For example, people all around the world are losing significant weight on very high fat / low carb diets such as ketogenic diets. If fat alone were the problem, this wouldn’t be possible. Even Diabetes.co.uk are now recommending very low carb diets to help prevent and even reverse type 2 diabetes.
It’s difficult to argue against the fact we have a major excess of carbohydrates in Ireland when you think of our typical diet, which might consist of toast or cereal for breakfast; a sandwich, wrap, baguette for lunch; and pasta, potatoes, rice etc. for dinner and sweet treats in between such as tea and biscuits. Walk into any convenience store/petrol station and look at the array of goodies available in and around the service desks and you’ll realise how difficult it is to run the sugar gauntlet even if you are fully aware of the problem. This type of food may be ok for the sugar energy needs of lumberjacks, block-layers and olympic athletes but for the average worker with a desk job, it is excessive.
MOST HIGH GI CARBS ARE HARVESTED IN AUTUMN!
I became aware that high gi foods were related to fat storage through my own experience and research into diet for kettlebell sport. I had a eureka moment in early 2016 when I noticed there were no carbs available in nature at that time. That’s when I came up the phrase “There’s no Starch in March!”, which is the name of a chapter in Don’t Eat for Winter. To back up my theory I put foods harvested in Ireland/UK into a spreadsheet, organised by their optimal harvest months and it showed a huge spike in the availability and the average gi of foods harvest in autumn time. Protein and fat sources remain fairly constant throughout the year, but the real seasonal variable is carbs, which become hyper available in autumn time.
The science is telling us excessive carbs (sugars and starches) are the problem, what Don’t Eat for Winter gives is a fundamental reason why. The science tells us these foods trigger body processes such as insulin response, which puts the body into fat storage mode; and dopamine release, which triggers a sense of reward and comfort and also addiction like gorge instincts. Essentially, beguiling us into eating more foods that promote fat storage. In the past, putting on a layer of body fat in autumn would have been advantageous in order to help us survive the food shortages and cold of winter. The problem today is that we have created an infinite autumn ‘on steroids’, with not only all of the natural carbs available all year round but also refined versions too such as sugars, syrups and white fluffy starches with all of the fibre and goodness removed. We are now eating for winter all of the time, but unlike Game of Thrones, winter never comes and this results in us accumulating body fat year on year until it becomes chronic, which is what we’re experiencing today in our society. A layer of fat that is stored temporarily every autumn and lost every spring was part of our design and perfectly healthy, accumulating it over years, without respite, is not.
In order to solve this problem, people simulate food shortages, like that which would have been experienced in winter time. We call these simulations diets and they can be torturous and conjure up negative thoughts from denial to starvation and often there is a dreaded bounce back afterwards. The focus is typically on creating a calorie deficit, however the type of calories are not considered and so the same instincts are continuously being invoked and we try to overcome these instincts with willpower. Of course it is almost impossible to fight instinct without an inner struggle, which is why these diets become torturous, and when instinct inevitably wins the battle, we beat ourselves up believing that we have failed. This can be damaging to our self-esteem.
We need to stop beating ourselves up and realise that we are not failures but perfect products of nature, survival machines built to work in harmony with the seasonal foods available within the environments in which we evolved and adapted. However, our environments have changed drastically in the very recent past and we have not yet learnt to cope with the changes. In order to fix things, we must first acknowledge this.
The ultimate solution to the problem, therefore, is to eat seasonally like our ancestors did, however this is not entirely feasible in today’s world with the wonderful array of foods available. Don’t Eat for Winter addresses this and presents a compromise in order to help our bodies both work within the parameters of our evolution and our new environment combined. It’s a sensible solution for a crazy world.
The GIY philosophy is fantastic and centres such as Grow HQ implementing it fit perfectly with the Don’t Eat for Winter ethos, however even those of us who eat seasonal produce would be guilty of having bread, potatoes, rice or other autumnal carbohydrate alongside our seasonal foods. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it must be understood that these are foods are autumnal and therefore should not be consumed in every meal, all year round, if we wish to work within the parameters of our design.
Dont Eat for Winter, or The DEFoW Diet for short, is a simple set of guidelines to hack nature’s rules in order to minimise fat storage process and gorge instincts whilst ensuring excellent nutrition. That’s why it’s both effective and sustainable in today’s world. It offers the reader a solution that allows them to tend towards an energetic summer hunter’s physique as opposed to the lethargic winter hibernator’s. You can find out more about The DEFoW Diet on www.donteatforwinter.com
DEFoW Gets Results…
I was the first guinea pig and lost the last 2 stone of my 7 stone fat loss journey in 8 weeks after spending 4 years losing the first 5. It was so effective I felt I had to write the book to share the concept. Next was my lovely wife Nicola who had trained circuits for years and wanted to get under 60kg for years. Once she began working within the parameters of The DEFoW Diet she lost over a stone of fat in about 6 weeks and improved muscle tone. We’ve both kept it off now for over a year without any effort. There have been many reports of significant weight losses from readers of the book including a 19lb loss from a US soldier, a similar amount from a kettlebell athlete and personal trainer in cork, and a number of other losses from both men and women totalling about 300lbs so far and continuing to be reported.
The book is endorsed and the foreword written by Dr. Mark Rowe (doctormarkrowe.com), founder of the Waterford Health Park and thought leader in the areas of wellbeing and happiness. It is available in the Book Centre and online on www.donteatforwinter.com