By Dr Harry
Dr John Briffa is a UK based medical doctor, columnist and speaker.
I read John’s book, Escape the Diet Trap, in a single sitting during a flight to America. It aims to persuade us that dieting (i.e. eating less) does not work in the long term. This is because when we diet we end up feeling hungry all the time, and miserable which does nothing for our motivation. Although interestingly he also states that, “at the time of writing I normally eat only 2 meals a day.”
He is a proponent of eating foods which are low-carb (low carbohydrate), and suggests that by following this diet (i.e. lifestyle choice) you can lose weight.
He then goes on, in Part 1 of the book, to outline his arguments in favour of eating low carb foods and addresses the questions which usually come up when you replace the carbs in your diet with more fat and protein.
You will certainly be surprised by some of the stances he takes, but I am not going to make any critique of that here: you can make up your own mind.
There are plenty of references (about 250) which are cited in the bibliography. These are mainly scientific research papers, and you can follow up on what he is talking about if you are so inclined.
The first part of his book is designed to educate; he calls the summary at the end of each chapter “learning points” and gives five or so bullet points of the chapter in brief in case you decided to gloss over it!
What caught my eye, because I have written about these subjects on the Fat Creep Blog, was when he talks about the flaws of BMI and the usefulness of waist circumference as a marker of visceral fat.
After he presents his arguments that low carbohydrate is the way to go, Part 2 of the book helps you change your lifestyle, from a diet and exercise standpoint.
If you want to embrace the low carbohydrate lifestyle which he advocates, he helps you by listing foods which can be eaten abundantly (natural products like meat, fish, egg) as well as foods to be avoided which are high in carbohydrate, such as pasta, bread and rice.
For example, if you want to know what a good breakfast consists of try full-fat yoghurt with some berries and a dash of honey. You can even eat it on the go, or at work. Lunch? Obviously sandwiches are out of the question because bread is carb rich. Therefore he suggests a crayfish salad.
In fact he gives you a sample menu to survive on which contains some practical ideas and helps to make the process as straightforward as possible.
Many of his more general hints are well known and we have even advocated many of them in the Fat Creep Forum but this doesn’t mean that they don’t bear repeating.
- Don’t ever be hungry because you will end up making bad food choices
- Eat slower, consume less
- Reduce your portion sizes
- Drink plenty of water - the best way to tell you are getting enough? The colour of your urine! (too dark means you need to drink more water)
Along with some ones I hadn’t heard before and which I will definitely be implementing such as:
- Keep snacks (like nuts) out of sight (like in a cupboard), and only take out a handful at a time – this forces you to think about your snacking rather than just eating from a packet until it’s empty!
- Don’t snack while watching TV – again, like the above suggestion, this is a bad idea because you are distracted while you eat, and not thinking about the act of eating which is important in itself
He even gives detailed descriptions of exercises you can do each day to work on major muscle groups. Like the food choices, he provides this information for maximum convenience.
His top tips for regular exercise are to decrease screen time (TV/internet) and actually schedule exercise into the day (like you would a meeting, or breakfast!)
Although anyone reading the book has probably done all these already, I am sure that quite a lot of people (myself included) do not exercise like this on a daily basis.
And that is part of the beauty of this book. It is certainly not a “dieting” book. But it is a doorway to a healthy lifestyle: something which we should all be striving for.
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