1 October 2005

Food for Thought

Waist Not, Want Not— By Maggie Alderson
I can get my skinny jeans off without undoing them … This waistband revolution is the result of two months on the GI diet—which stands for ‘glycaemic index’, meaning how fast foods break down into sugars in your bloodstream. The lower the GI, the slower it breaks down - which is good, because you feel full longer.

In that time, following a diet I have found effortless—even enjoyable—to stick to, I have lost five kilos. That might not be much on a big bloke, but when you're just a little squirt like me, it means you're down a full dress size, a bra size and all your belt notches. More importantly, I am also down below the non-negotiable, crucial waist measurement which medical opinion now prescribes for women as being essential for long-term heart health: 88 centimetres.

… the thing that really inspired me to embark upon it - quite apart from general fashionista vanity and horror of the elasticised waistband - is that my dear old dad had his first heart attack at the age of 50. I am now at the stage in my own life when that birthday is no longer looking like something that only happens to other people. I can see it on the horizon now - without a telescope. And I was all too aware that I was carrying my excess weight in the worst place you can for heart disease risk; around the middle, like a lifebelt.

I was only 10 years old when Doug had that first heart attack and I remember it all too clearly. Characteristically, he was watching sport on TV at the time. Over the next few years he had several more and he was in and out of hospital - with that pitiless monitor going beep beep beep - his health gradually declining, until he died of heart failure at 63.

His last few years weren't that much fun for a man who used to play serious rugby union. So out of respect for his memory - and in the understanding that I have inherited his excitable ‘A-type’ personality, which is another heart-risk indicator - I felt I had to turn that apple-shaped abdomen into something more closely resembling a healthy violin. Or at least a cello.

And it's happened. I'm not Jessica Rabbit yet (I would like to lose another three kilos...) but, my goodness, I'm looking - and feeling - better than I did two months ago. But the real revelation of this diet journey for me—and I've been on every fad diet that has come out in the past 25 years - is that this is the only one of any of them that has actually lived up to all the breathless hype in the opening chapters.

You know where they all say: You won't feel hungry! You can eat delicious meals! The whole family can eat the same food and not notice! You can eat out in restaurants! You can break it occasionally for special occasions and carry on losing! You are going to want to carry on eating like this for the rest of your life! Well, for this diet, it's all true. A-m-a-z-i-n-g.

I'm not spruiking one particular diet book here—there are loads of different versions of the GI system on sale now and I have several. They differ in details, but the message is the same. And the message is some kind of a miracle. I commend it to you. I just wish it had been around when my dad was still alive.

—This piece is reproduced with permission of the author. It was first published in Good Weekend, the Saturday magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, where Maggie Alderson writes each week. Her columns have also been collected into two books, Shoe Money and Handbag Heaven (Penguin). She's still doing well on the low GI diet ...

maggie alderson
Maggie Alderson
Photo: Derek Henderson


Anonymous said...

Don't you think it is giving the wrong message for people to read that 'on the diet'(isn't it more about making better choices?) - Maggie lost 5 kilos in 2 months? Even when I read the original article it annoyed me that making low GI choices should be presented as another diet. Surely that's not the message you are trying to get out? What about exercise Maggie?

Anonymous said...

It was Maggies article in the Good Weekend that inspired me to buy the book, 'low GI diet' & sign up for the newsletter. I think she is great for using her column to get the word out there about this style of eating. Her opinion is highly regarded by many women, especially me, as she is right, this actually works & the whole family CAN eat the same food.

Anonymous said...

Low GI eating to minimise the peaks and troughs in blood glucose and reduce insulin levels is indeed about making simple adjustments to your usual eating habits - this for that.
Today, with our push button, 'let your fingers do the walking,' sedentary lifestyle, many of us need to lose weight. We don't know which GI book Maggie used, but most of the ones we have seen include exercise suggestions. The good news is that Maggie lost weight and is finding it easy to stick to her new low GI way of eating (which is what she means when she uses the word 'diet' in the last line).
We are often asked by visitors to the website: 'Just tell me what to eat/do to lose weight?' In The Low GI Diet (Jennie Brand-Miller et al) the authors answer this plea with a flexible action plan that deals with energy intake and energy output and takes people by the hand for the first 12 weeks to increase fat-burning muscle, tone the body and get those kilos moving. To help prevent weight regain, they show readers how to achieve serious sustainable lifestyle change, the key to lifelong weight control.

Anonymous said...

I need a list of all high gi foods to avoid. what foods are good low gi and bad for you(white flour bread)

Anonymous said...

We are often asked if people should avoid all high GI foods. Our advice is no. In Low GI Eating Made Easy, Brand-Miller et al say: 'There is no need to eat only low GI foods. While you will benefit from eating low GI carbs at each meal, this doesn't have to be at the exclusion of all others. High GI foods such as potatoes and wholemeal bread make a valuable nutritional contribution to our diet and when eaten with protein foods and low GI carbs, the overall GI value of the meal will be medium.'
The most up-to-the-minute listing of GI values can be found in the DATABASE at www.glycemicindex.com
Alternatively, there are pocket guides to GI values:
UK (The New Glucose Revolution Complete Guide to GI Values)
US (The New Glucose Revolution Complete Guide to Glycemic Index Values)
Australia (New Glucose Revolution Shopper's Guide to GI Values)