The Side-Plate Diet: The Background

Most of us who are even slightly overweight are aware that, although no doubt a  complex area from a medical/nutrition point of view, our weight comes down to Calories In, Calories Out. As a neighbour of mine pointed out once, when I had exclaimed about her marvellous weight-loss (and rather put me in my place), “it’s not rocket science”.

Indeed it is not, and yet why do so many of us struggle with our weight? And I do not just mean middle-aged women like me; obesity (the description of which, on the NHS website, is  ‘somebody who is very overweight, with a lot of body fat. It’s a common problem, estimated to affect around one in every four adults and around one in every five children aged 10 to 11 in the UK’) is one of the biggest problems facing the long-term health of the population in the UK today.

The Guardian recently reported, “The UK has higher levels of obesity and overweight people than anywhere in western Europe except for Iceland and Malta, according to an authoritative global study that raises fresh concerns about the likely health consequences”. And from The Lancet: ” Because of the established health risks and substantial increases in prevalence, obesity has become a major global health challenge. Not only is obesity increasing, but no national success stories have been reported in the past 33 years. Urgent global action and leadership is needed to help countries to more effectively intervene.”

We know that the Calories Out bit is to do with burning the fuel which is our food; also not a simple issue (we are all different with different abilities, different metabolisms and definitely different levels of motivation) but essentially we all know we need to be ACTIVE. (The additional health benefits impact on our chances of getting cancer, dementia and a whole host of problems).

For the purposes of this piece, it is the Calories In bit which I want to share some ideas with you about. We are bombarded with information on healthy eating, diets, fitness regimes, super-foods etc. I went onto Amazon UK and found there were in excess of 131,000  diet books to be had  – it is mind-boggling to think how much more information is out there on the internet about the subject. How may different diets can you name? How many have you been on? Has the weight-loss been maintained? (If the answer to that last question is ‘yes’, well done). Has a diet you have been on left you feeling weak and pathetic rather than strong and healthy?

To make things simple I have devised the Side-Plate Diet: no calorie counting, no eating different things from the rest of the family, no need for bizarre ingredients (unless that is what makes you tick), but rather finding the “Golden Mean” –  the desirable middle  ground between the extremes of deficiency (not enough food) and excess (over-eating).  Healthy eating but with portion control at the forefront of the approach. I came across one diet (which no doubt has its avid followers and no doubt works for some people) which seems to use little ladles of different colours in which foods must be weighed, added up before being turned into a meal (not to mention you have to buy these cute little ladles). By limiting yourself to a set number of side-plates per day, being sensible (yes, I know, a Mars Bar fits very nicely onto a side-plate – the occasional treat is OK but this is a diet), and sticking to nutritious, balanced foods, you avoid the danger of over-eating and, very importantly (a problem for so many of us and certainly me) snacking.

Research has long highlighted  that people who keep a record of what they eat and drink and how active they are – known to health professionals as ‘self-monitoring’ have more weight-loss success. With the Side-Plate Diet I would urge you to keep a photo diary every day: unless you are a Luddite, chances are you, or somebody who lives in your house, will have access to a digital camera (preferably on your mobile phone). By taking pictures of the plates, you can see just how well you are doing but also analyse whether you are still managing to get enough fruit and veg, what the level of carbs are (it is easy to think that a piece of toast fits well onto a side plate and make that the basis of your meals) but also share what you are eating with others (including me). If taking pics is a problem, write it down.

My next piece will be “What Exactly Is A Side-Plate” – you probably think that sounds mad, but let me tell you, size matters! Also coming soon: Being Active, Portion Distortion, Calories Out.

Thanks for reading.

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ANNIE BEE X