The mantra ‘eat little and often’ is one that many of us have lived by over the years, thinking that it’s good for our health.
But, as I discovered, if you have type 2 diabetes or want to lose weight , this may not be helpful advice.
I loved my food and snacked all the time, but I learned the hard way that every time I ate, digestive hormones and insulin (the hormone we produce to control sugar levels in our blood) were produced to break down the food I was eating — which meant my system never got a breather.
Instead, I was perpetually producing insulin to combat the excess sugar in my bloodstream from the high-carb food I was constantly grazing on. Chef Giancarlo Caldesi (left) pictured with Dr David Unwin at the restaurant Caffe Caldesi in London. Together they have written the book ‘Low Carb Diet for Diabetes Cookbook’ Chef Giancarlo Caldesi (left) pictured with Dr David Unwin at the restaurant Caffe Caldesi in London. Together they have written the book ‘Low Carb Diet for Diabetes Cookbook’ I now know that having proper breaks between meals — also known as intermittent fasting — is accepted by many doctors as a healthier way to eat, particularly for someone like me who is trying to manage type 2 diabetes, says chef Caldesi I now know that having proper breaks between meals — also known as intermittent fasting — is accepted by many doctors as a healthier way to eat, particularly for someone like me who is trying to manage type 2 diabetes, says chef Caldesi
Over time, as I’ll explain, excess sugar built up in my bloodstream and caused terrible problems, including blurry vision, loss of feeling in my feet and arthritis.
I now know that having proper breaks between meals — also known as intermittent fasting — is accepted by many doctors as a healthier way to eat, particularly for someone like me who is trying to manage type 2 diabetes.
I weighed 16st when I was diagnosed eight years ago with type 2 diabetes, aged 59. The condition, which affects five million Britons, essentially makes it difficult for your body to process sugar.
After this, it would be another two years before I worked out that changing my diet to low carb — and crucially altering how often I ate — would transform my life.
The low-carb diet I adopted with the help of my wife Katie, a food writer, not only restored me to health, but also now forms the basis of the delicious recipes we have been sharing in the Daily Mail all this week, in the hope of inspiring other people to reap the same health benefits I did.
These recipes are taken from our new book The Diabetes Weight-Loss Cookbook, written in conjunction with GP Dr David Unwin, whose pioneering work chimes with my own experiences of low carb and diabetes.
Before I discovered low carb and intermittent fasting, however, my weight ballooned up to 17st 7lb and I couldn’t even play football with my young sons.
But as soon as Katie and I tried the new diet, the results began to speak for themselves. Within days, I was feeling mentally clearer than I had for years. Within months the weight was falling off.
Now I have reversed my diabetes entirely. It’s not an exaggeration to say I feel like a new man. But I’ve learned that it was not just what I ate that was to blame, but also the way I ate.
For me, this meant constant snacking — and also eating breakfast. We’re always told this meal is key to losing weight, with the theory being that if you get too hungry during the course of the morning, you are more likely to give in to a mid-morning snack or over-eat at lunchtime. However, this was not true for me.
In fact, I learnt there are good scientific reasons why having breaks between meals, and even skipping breakfast, is potentially a good habit to adopt.
Advice from Dr Unwin and my own research has made me realise how dangerous snacking is, because you are constantly bombarding your system with sugar and insulin. Now I have reversed my diabetes entirely. It’s not an exaggeration to say I feel like a new man. But I’ve learned that it was not just what I ate that was to blame, but also the way I ate, writes chef Caldesi Now I have reversed my diabetes entirely. It’s not an exaggeration to say I feel like a new man. But I’ve learned that it was not just what I ate that was to blame, but also the way I ate, writes chef Caldesi
Insulin clears the excess sugar in the blood by pushing it into the liver, where a little is converted to glycogen (an energy reserve). The rest is stored as fat. This helps to explain why weight gain, especially around the middle, is common in type 2 diabetes — it affects nine out of ten of those with the condition.
High-starch foods — which may include many you believe to be good for you, such as cereal or wholemeal toast — digest down into sugar, causing your blood glucose, and therefore insulin levels, to spike too high and too often.
You gain weight, but you also feel the effects of a ‘sugar dip’ as insulin overreacts to bring sugar levels crashing down. You may recognise this as tiredness and lethargy. If you then reach for a biscuit to perk you up, the sugar and insulin cycle begins all over again.
C onversely, having breaks between meals can have health benefits. When you are fasting, your digestive system gets a rest and your body can concentrate on other vital jobs, such as keeping your immune system strong and balancing hormones. It also helps to reduce your insulin to more stable levels.
This is why some experts — including Dr Unwin — now advise us to aim for three meals a day without snacking in between. At first I found it hard not to snack, as I had cravings for carbs and sugary foods. So I tried to phase the habit out gradually and ate low-carb snacks instead. I would treat myself to a handful of walnuts or almonds, or a small pot of natural yoghurt.
But I never had problems missing breakfast. The truth is I never liked it much anyway. Now I have a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, and I feel clear, alert and happy until my first meal, which is lunch at around 1pm.
I have a few nuts in the middle of the afternoon most days, and I’ll eat supper at around 8pm — then not worry about food again until lunch the next day.
My advice is to eat only when you are hungry, and not out of habit or when convention tells you to. If, like me, you don’t feel you need breakfast, for example, then don’t eat it.
If your goal is to lose weight, you may wish to experiment with longer periods of intermittent fasting — but do consult your GP first if you take medication.
Taking the idea of fasting further, you could try leaving 24 hours between meals once a week; fast between supper on day one and break it at supper on day two. You might be surprised at how empowering it feels, and there are often knock-on effects in that your appetite becomes more controlled.
I now eat much less than I used to, yet I also feel less hungry. You may struggle with your perception of hunger between meals at first, however — I did.
But you will soon adjust. Once your body can switch to fat-burning mode, burning calories from stored fat, it becomes easy to maintain having gaps between meals. Instead of grabbing a snack, have a glass of water or a hot drink, and focus on how much you will enjoy the next meal.
The beauty about the low-carb plan that we have been sharing in the Daily Mail this week is that it is flexible. You can set your own health goals and carb limits, and decide how often you eat.
But try to eat less often. It may seem strange at first, but once you get used to it, your body will thank you for it.
Note: if you are taking medication or are worried about your health, consult your gp before undertaking any fasting regime or significant change in diet. You CAN tuck into takeaways… just follow these orders
CHOOSE YOUR TIPPLE WITH CARE
Caldesi also advised care with alcohol, and to keep within 14 units per week Caldesi also advised care with alcohol, and to keep within 14 units per week
Alcohol is another thing you should view as a treat — after all, you don’t drink it because you are thirsty.
Beer, lager and cider are out if you are watching your blood sugar levels — per pint, they contain up to 18g carbs (which has the equivalent effect on blood sugar levels as 4 ½ tsp of sugar), hence beer […]
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