It is the no-diet diet, described in a tremendous book, allowing women to enjoy a lifestyle that enables us to eat foodstuffs we had believed, for the past two decades or so, to be off-limits.
The book is called Eat, Drink And Be Gorgeous and has been written by Esther Blum, a woman who is about to become as famous in the diet and fitness industries as Martha Stewart is in the world of home decoration, or Oprah Winfrey in the world of self-help.
Blum is a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist who is urging women brow-beaten by misleading science, peddled by quacks after a quick buck, to forget fasts and ditch the detox. Hers is a realistic mantra that understands not only that the more extreme a diet or fitness regime, the more destined we are to fail, but also how damaging to our bodies and our minds these restrictive, faddy, excluding-everything-but-brown-rice-and-lemon-juice diktats really are.
Blum has been endorsed by celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Sharon Stone and Teri Hatcher - three teeny-weeny women who have found, as they have got older, that punishing regimes have a tendency to pile years on to a woman's face and that they really need to be gentler on themselves. We all know that self-denial followed by failure followed by guilt followed by over-indulgence is a vicious cycle. The diet and fitness industries want you to fail: when you find you can't keep up the daily power-walks and the skin brushing and the banishing of dairy for four months, you go for a quick fix instead, which means you throw money at the problem.
A revolutionary philosophy
But there is another way. This is how the non- diet diet works. First, you learn to accept you are flawed.'A little self-acceptance,' says Blum, a delightfully un-neurotic New Yorker, 'goes a long way to softening our own critical voice, which can serve as a barrier to helping us reach our goals.Just because we do not have Madonna's willpower does not make us weak or bad or lacking. Blum's revolutionary philosophy is that the dieting industry has got it wrong. We need food. Much of what has, until now, been deemed bad and naughty is, she assures us, quite the opposite. Blum cheerfully admits her relationship with chocolate goes deep, and understands that ours does, too.
Rather than making eating chocolate as shameful as if you started injecting heroin, Blum lists its beneficial nutritional qualities - it contains phenylethylamine, which releases endorphins in your brain, making you feel happy, as well as serotonin, theobromine and anandamide, all of which increase circulation and elevate mood. She recommends we eat one ounce of dark chocolate every day. Blum urges us to forget what we have ever been told about good and bad foods, with her second rule being that we women should all be eating full-fat food. Hurrah! 'We live in a fat-free culture. Women have done their bodies a disservice because we have disrupted our hormones to a phenomenal degree,' she says. She explains that we need cholesterol to make oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, the hormones that regulate our moods. Starving our bodies prevents our hormones from working properly, making us prone to depression.
Fat-free foods can also, perversely, make us fat. 'These products register in the body as carbohydrate,' Blum says, 'and can contribute to weight gain.Let's start with eggs. Don't believe the hype about eggs raising your cholesterol level. It isn't true. 'Eat the yolk and the white,' she says. 'Egg yolks contain more protein than the white, as well as lecithin and choline, which help the liver break down and metabolise cholesterol.And how about that old enemy of the woman on a diet, butter? She has a chapter entitled: Feel Like Buttah? Have Some Buttah! In it, she explains that saturated fats 'support bones, protect the liver from toxins, enhance the immune system, protect the heart muscle, and absorb omega-3s. In moderation, they don't cause heart disease, but do slow down the absorption of foods in your stomach, making you feel fuller for longer.
Just enjoy yourself
Most importantly, Blum points out that it is not the quantity of fat in your diet that could cause breast cancer, but the quality of fat. Fabulous fats - as well as dairy, these are found in grapeseed, olive oil, nuts and seeds - should take pride of place in your larder. Meanwhile, you should discard low-fat, low-cholesterol spreads and margarines that are regarded by Blum as 'frankenfats: the structure of margarine is not found in nature, so the body has a hard job breaking it down. 'This can lead to headaches, joint aches and a host of other problems.
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