Like many ‘slimmers’ (a word used to describe people who are often quite the opposite), I recently tried the Professor Tim Noakes approved low carbohydrate, high fat diet that is supposedly the ‘meal revolution’ we have all been waiting for.
Yes, according to Mr. Noakes and like-minded individuals, this diet- which not only approves of, but encourages, the use of diet-contraband like butter, cream and cheese- eliminates the true, nefarious source of our unsightly bulk: sugar.
According to the Noakes and his followers, a butter and cheese rich omelette is the perfect breakfast- just don’t you dare follow it up with a fruit salad. Because of all the sugar, obviously… (BOO! Hiss…).
A diet that encouraged the use of all the stuff I wasn’t supposed to have? Oh, hell yeah. Like everyone seeking a silver bullet to put their cellulite out of its misery, I jumped on board. I tried the Noaksian diet out for about a month. Maybe it was 3 weeks. I don’t know. Who’s counting? Oh right. I was supposed to be…oh well.
Here are some pros and cons of the ‘real meal revolution’ from where I’m sitting on my sizeable hindquarters:
1. It encourages people to eat their veggies
When I told Adam’s sister, a now dyed in the wool ‘Noakesian’ that I couldn’t understand how a diet that encouraged that much animal fat could be healthy, she said she found she was actually eating more veggies than she had done before. She was inspired to cook and experiment with vegetables she normally woudn’t have and felt genuinely freed from her formerly oppressive calorie counting.
Fair enough. I have always cooked with a lot of vegetables, but personally found that the plan’s strict dividing rules between starchy vegetables and the cruciferous kind was more limiting than inspiring.
2. It removes the stigma of good fats
Avocados, olive oil and coconuts get a bad rap in the low fat dieting world. They are high in fat, and coconuts especially always seem to be hopping the line between ‘is it’ and ‘isn’t it’ healthy, but everything is good in moderation right?
Although the real meal revolution puts a LOT of emphasis on coconut oil (debatably one of the least healthy coconut derived products).
3. It stops people from eating highly refined foods
I have yet to stumble on the ‘jelly bean, french fries and cake’ diet (please god, let it be out there) because, like EVERY diet ever, this one also tells you stay away from junk food.
Even with the battle waging on between ‘who’s macronutrient is better?’, the sugary, fried ‘crap’ is still easily defined and actively shunned.
Here’s the test if you’re still unsure of whether you are eating junk food or not:
Did you feel shame and self-hatred burning hotly on your face as you were eating?
That makes it junk food.
1. Even William Banting didn’t eat like this:
Take a look at what William Banting actually used to eat. That’s about 4 slices of toast a day. What??? Bread??? But everyone knows bread is POISON that will make you super fat, right? Except it didn’t. Maybe it was the entire bottle of wine he washed it down with that helped him burn the calories, but until I’m ready to trade the junk in my trunk for some designer liver spots, I’ll probably avoid the official Banting diet too.
2. Even though you’re not counting calories, they still count
Prof. Tim Noakes refers in his book to something called an ‘apostat’, the internal gauge that determines how hungry you are. The low carb, high fat plan is meant to adjust this apostat, so that although your meals are more calorically dense, you are actually eating less overall.
Prof. Tim Noakes has clearly never heard of an equally powerful gauge called the ‘sad, sad, piggy, piggy fatsostat’ which makes people like me eat their weight in chocolate-dipped feelings even when they’re not hungry.
3. Lentils are not the enemy
I know what my problem foods are. They are almost categorically not butternut and lentils, but almost definitely are pizza and chocolate. The real meal revolution, along with the paleo diet and probably some others that I haven’t heard of, or don’t care about, encourage the consumption of ‘organic, grass-fed, free range meat’ on an almost daily basis, while dieters are meant to eschew lentils and other ‘bad’ legumes that ‘masquerade’ as protein.
My inner tree hugger has a problem with this. Yes, I do agree that animals should be raised organic and free range, but I don’t think we should eat them every day. Neither does the UN. Legumes are cheap, full of fibre and vitamins, and are sustainable and accessible. If everyone on Earth had to switch to legumes as a primary food source, there would be enough to go around. If everyone had to switch to ‘grass-fed, organic beef’, we would be shanking each other in the street for a bit of sirloin.
I felt great 2 weeks into the real meal revolution, but not-so-good a month (or three weeks, whatever) into it. I felt, to steal Rebecca’s phrasing- as I so often do, ‘like I could feel my blood move’ because of my increased cream and butter intake. I missed legumes. The diet might not necessarily be ‘high protein’ by definition, but it is also certainly not vegan friendly.
Make no mistake, the high fat, low carb diet is SO much fun to be on because of all the naughty ingredients it allows, and if you find it encourages you to eat better and cook more, then it obviously works for you.
But please do remember this:
No 600lb American ever had to get cut out of their house because they ate too many lentils.