To bant or not to bant, that is the question. I have never had any faith in the long term success of diets. All evidence seems to show that, unless you can sustain a diet, very few people manage to maintain their initial weight loss and worse than this, many dieters end up fatter than they were before they started dieting. So when, at the beginning of the year, I decided I needed to lose weight, I considered all the pros and cons of dieting. After much consideration I decided that banting (eating low carb, high fat) was the way to go. It is punted as a lifestyle, not a diet, which was a plus in its favour and the idea of eating lots of bacon appealed to me.
I bought a copy of The Real Meal Revolution (RMR) by Tim Noakes et al and started my banting journey. I joined a banting group on Facebook and began reading online articles disputing the notions that food fat causes cholesterol, that cholesterol causes heart disease, that diabetics should eat carbohydrates and that fruit is good for you. Essentially the banting lifestyle challenges the validity of the food pyramid, the nutritional guide to eating that we have all used for the past 20 years or so. The more I read, the less convinced I became in the empirical value of any nutrition research. There are equally convincing arguments to be found for and against most food groups and their health benefits and many conclusions are more subjective conjecture than objective facts. However I decided to give banting a bash, after all what did I have to lose? Well, 8 kgs actually.
The first 3 months were easyish. I followed the banting guidelines and cut out all foods that are classified as TOXIC (such as seed oils and BEER!!!) and HIGH-CARBOHYDRATE (such as all grains and flours from grains, starchy veggies and sugar) and increased my intake of fat. However I also changed my eating habits. I tried to eat a hearty breakfast, which kept me going throughout the day, and reduced the amount I was eating in the evening. I also stopped snacking – a major bad habit broken I’m pleased to say. I simply stopped eating when I was bored and played online bridge instead!
For many the main aim of banting is to encourage ketosis, the body’s fat burning mode. Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when the body is deprived of glucose for energy. Unwanted stored fats are burned off instead because the body is forced to rely on burning fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates. In order to go into ketosis one has to (a) increase the amount of good fat one eats – for energy and (b) eat according to the RMR food lists – Green (eat what you like), Orange (low carbs to be eaten in occasionally and in small quantities) and Red (to be avoided totally if one is aiming for ketosis).
When I started banting I aimed for ketosis and, after 3 months in and out of it, I lost weight and centimetres quite easily. However I also lost the will to persevere with ketosis and weight loss. My Facebook banting group posts recipes for all sorts of banting-friendly alternatives to bread, cakes, biscuits and pizza – most of which I found quite unpalatable and very expensive. In fact, after a while I went off food. I became bored with salads, 101 of ways of eating cauliflower and anything made with almond flour. And I was repulsed by just about everything else. If I couldn’t eat LCHF, I didn’t want to eat at all. Despite a hugely reduced appetite, I didn’t lose any more weight. I did, however, feel the need to put my feet up quite often and watch hours of mindless telly. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that banting is just like any other diet, in that it focuses mainly on changing nutritional habits but doesn’t address the emotional aspect of eating. Many banters become quite preoccupied with finding banting-friendly substitutes for their favourite snacks – like cakes and biscuits. Why? – Because they haven’t dealt with their eating issues.
Like most people on diets, when I was banting I became preoccupied with food – always worrying about what I could and couldn’t eat and feeling bad when I “cheated”. I realised that this could not be a sustainable lifestyle for me, especially since Noakes commented recently that banting is an “all or nothing” lifestyle. That, in my opinion, is not only very hard to maintain but not really very desirable. I have since decided to stop banting and pursuing the whole ketosis thing. Although I still have a couple of kgs to lose, I don’t think that, for me, ketosis is the way to go. So I’m afraid that is the end of my banting journey.
At the beginning of the year I was dettermined to lose weight and now I am dettermined to continue with a healthier lifestyle, finding a happy balance between nourishing and non-fattening meals and continuing to replace bad eating habits with good. I’m still going to use the RMR Green, Orange and Red lists as guidelines for meal plans but if occasionally I fancy something that is on the Red List I am jolly well going to have it and not some half-arsed alternative. Never again do I want to eat something that is pretending to be something else – if I want a slice of cake or bread now and again, I am bloody well going to have it and not something made out of almond / coconut flour and cooked in a mug in the microwave. And for that matter, who in their right mind thinks that one can substitute 85% Cocoa for a decent slab of chocolate? Yuk – has anyone really tried eating that when you are all cosy, tucked up in bed, watching telly and looking for a nice piece of choccy?
By the way, I’m calling my new lifestyle the real deal resolution!
Recently Njabulo turned 23 and we had a little celebration.