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Exploring food sensitivity

Apple and Pear
Fruit from the core list

It’s no secret that I strive to eat healthily.  Not all the time – let’s face it what would a week in Cornwall be without pasties and cream teas? Or a blow-out birthday meal? Or an eat-until-you-pop Christmas dinner?

But the rest of the time, the 80-90% part of normal life then I try to make sensible choices.  And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that certain foods affect me in different ways.

The difficulty is knowing exactly what it was that caused the problem.  And that’s what I’m trying to find out – what are the foods that fill me with energy and zest and what are the foods that make me feel lethargic, tired, dull, bloated, and low in mood?

I’ve got a good idea which the guilty culprits are but I want to find out in a scientific way rather than by guess work.  For example is bread ok or not?  And if my body doesn’t particularly like me to eat it, is it the wheat, the yeast or the sugar?

So I did some research and found a book that could help me on my quest:  The Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss by Dr John Mansfield – a doctor who trained at Guy’s Hospital, London and has worked in the field of food sensitivity for nearly 40 years.

His book talks a lot about weight loss but it was the chapter on food sensitivity that really interested me.

The two key concepts that he explains are that food sensitivities stem from foods (generally newer ones to the human diet, eg. grain and dairy) that we tend to rely on too much in our diet and over time may create an adverse reaction within our body.  Secondly, if we become sensitive to a food we may not notice because in general, we will be eating that food regularly which creates a “masking” effect within the body.  This means that we feel better after we have eaten something we are sensitive to rather than worse (confusing huh?), unless we haven’t eaten that food for five days in which case the body will react to it.

He then outlines a plan which involves stripping the diet right back to a core list of foods that are generally accepted not to cause problems for anyone. After one week of this then you start to introduce one food at a time at breakfast and dinner and monitor the effects.

Perfect – a scientific approach to what I want to do.

Not so perfect is that the core list is only 40 foods – of which I like about 27 of them (turkey, cod, green beans, lentils, apples and pears to name a few).  So the first week is going to be tough – but I am going to do it.

After the first week I move into phase one, introducing foods that shouldn’t cause any problems but are slightly more prone to causing sensitivities than the core list so that includes broccoli, chicken, peppers and more.

I’m not expecting any problems with phase one, but phase two I think will be interesting.

The foods I’m really keen to see if I react to are:

Caffeine (coffee historically causes migraines so I tend to drink tea – strong and black)

Sugar – this has caused me so many problems in the past I would be surprised if I don’t react negatively



Dairy – particularly cream (which I love and crave) and greek yoghurt which I eat a lot of in the belief it is good for me (I hope I’m right)

Alcohol (wine)

How will I know if I’m having a negative reaction?

Well I’m going to have to get used to weighing myself on a regular basis: twice a day to see how my body reacts to the “safe” foods. In the first week I can expect to lose a little weight and although I might feel a bit rubbish for a few days, if I am sensitive to food, then I should feel amazing by the end of the week.

Then when I introduce each new food I have to see if my weight increases (probably due to an immediate inflammatory response in my body which should happen within a few hours) and/or I suddenly feel lethargic or experience some other negative response.

It’s a bit technical and I’m going to have to think hard to keep my menu as varied as I can given the constraints but I’m really keen to identify the best foods that work, or don’t work, for me.

I’ll be updating daily on twitter…you can follow me on @mumontherum and I’ll be using a hashtag of #foodsensitivity.

I’ll also be blogging again at the end of week one to let you know how I’m getting on.

The Fat Burn Revolution programme: mid point results

Workout shot from week 3 of The Fat Burn Revolution
Workout shot from week 3 of the Fat Burn Revolution

I was hoping to write this post last week, but as it was half term my children had other ideas.  So technically I’m just past half way through the programme I started back in September but I thought it about time I shared the results so far.

The question I get asked the most is: “How much weight have you lost?” and it’s actually the question I want to answer the least.  Not because I’m not proud of the fact that I’m half a stone lighter now than I was seven weeks ago but because it doesn’t tell you very much.

Let’s face it, I could live on cabbage and water for a week and I’d lose half a stone and we all know that I’d put it back on again the following week.

This has been different.  I’ve worked out five or six times a week: sometimes with heavy weights and sometimes doing high intensity running in bursts of 30-60 seconds at a time.

I’ve changed some of the things that I’ve been eating.  I stopped eating sugar around 18 months ago so I didn’t have to worry about that and I rarely eat refined products like white bread and pasta, preferring the wholewheat versions.  I’ve upped my fruit and legume intake and concentrated on eating as healthily as I can.

So where does that leave me?  Well the numbers that I was interested in changing were my body fat percentage and the size of my waist.  Then after I’d taken my initial photos I realised my bottom needed some serious work too!

Back in September my body fat was around 35% (which equated to around 51 lbs of fat). It’s now fluctuating around 31% (which equates to around 43 lbs of fat).  I’m really chuffed with this. I keep imagining what the 8lbs of fat that I’ve lost looks like and it ain’t pretty.

My waist has dropped by 11cms (that’s just over 4 inches) against a target of losing 15cms or more.  I’m thrilled at this.  There’s still work to be done but I can feel muscle underneath and as a bonus of strengthening my core my back is feeling stronger than it has in a long time.

My bottom (I measured around the widest part of me) has gone down by 3cms.  Now I know this doesn’t sound much but I’m as pleased about this as I am about my waist.

Why? Well that’s a good question.  The measurement just doesn’t do justice to what has been going on with my bottom and legs.  When I started they were a bit lumpy, bumpy and with more than their fair share of cellulite.

Now I’m pleased to say that there is hardly any cellulite left and my bottom is looking, dare I say it, peachy?  I don’t think I’ve ever described my bottom in such glowing terms.

So with five weeks to go I’m feeling enthused and confident that there will be more positive changes to report on in December.  Woo hoo, let’s go.

By the way, if you’re feeling inspired to try any of this yourself, Julia’s book The Fat Burn Revolution has just appeared on Amazon ready for pre-order.