- Diet & Weight Loss
Escape The Diet Trap By Dr John Briffa My Review
High Protein Low Carb Diet or Primal Diet?
The strap line to Dr. Briffa's book is "This is not a diet book". This is because he suggests that, if you follow his advice, you should be able to lose weight without feeling hungry or deprived of food. In the main the advice is most closely aligned to "Primal Diets". He believes that the healthiest diet is one that is similar to that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. However, Dr. Briffa analyses primal diets and shows that they were higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrate than the current typical diet.
I am not a doctor. You should get professional medical advice before making significant changes to your diet. This review of Dr. Briffa's book is just a review, it does not attempt to convey all of his advice. In addition, I believe that responsible diet book authors (including Dr. Briffa) advise that you seek advice before changing your diet.
The Theory Behind Escape The Diet Trap
Actually, there are a number of theories that Dr. Briffa outlines and then pulls together and results in a strategy to lose and control weight without counting calories, extensive exercise or hunger. In his book, Dr. Briffa supports his theories by quoting numerous research studies.
Restricting Calories and Exercising More is Counter Productive
The theory here is that when calories are restricted, the body responds by lowering its metabolic rate and by sub-consciously restricting movement. Hunger is increased until you become obsessed with food. High levels of exercise only burn a limited number of calories and greatly increase the feeling of hunger.
Restricting Carbohydrates Assists Weight Loss
Here Dr. Briffa explains how carbohydrates increase the secretion of insulin and that insulin is the key hormone that helps the body to store fat.
Low Fat Diets Are Not Helpful
Low fat diets are not effective. It is a fallacy that animal fats are fattening. In fact animal fats and some oils (such as olive oil) are effective in satiating hunger and enable you to restrict carbohydrate intake.
The Hunter Gatherer Diet is Most Suitable
The theory here is that the human body is not evolved to cope with modern diets which have a high sugar and carbohydrate content. Dr. Briffa explains this by asking us to imagine the evolution of man over a year. The hunter gatherer diet is dominant until midnight on 30th December. It is only on 31st December that grains, dairy products, sugar and vegetable oils.
How Exercise Can Improve Health
Although extensive exercise is counter productive, some types of exercise improve general health. Dr. Briffa favours walking for 30 minutes per day which has been shown to bring significant health benefits and regular resistance exercise to build and tone muscle.
The combination of these theories give the blueprint to enable you to escape the diet trap.
My Experience Following Escape The Diet Trap
The blueprint says that at least 80% of your food intake should be based on primal foods such as meats, fish, eggs, berries, vegetables (but not potatoes or legumes), nuts and seeds, butter, full fat yoghurt and olive oil. Please note this is not the full list but it gives a good indication of the sort of foods you can eat. You don't have to count calories, just eat as much as you need to stave off hunger.
A typical day for me would be:
Breakfast- Full fat natural greek yoghurt with a few berries. Black Coffee
Snack- A few almonds and walnut halves
Lunch - Three scrambled eggs (made with butter) and onions, tomatoes and mushrooms fried in butter.
Snack- Almonds and walnuts
Evening Meal - Meat or Fish (whatever my family is eating) with vegetables (no potatoes, legumes, pasta or rice). Dessert- Full fat Greek Natural Yoghurt.
I find it quite easy to follow this "non-diet, diet". I very rarely feel hungry or crave processed foods, sugary foods or carbohydrates.
I do find it motivating to plot my improvement, see the graphs for weight and blood pressure. Please note the date axis is not to scale, there are some large gaps between dates. You can see the graphs that I've lost quite a bit of weight, over 1 stone (14 pounds) and that my blood pressure (I've taken the same medication throughout) - has improved somewhat.
Escape The Diet Trap, My Verdict
I like the research based advice that Dr. Briifa provides. There are some things that I'm sure he is absolutely right:-
- Conventional advice such as eat less and exercise more is not helpful and may actually be counter-productive.
- Animal fats, far being harmful, help you to lose weight and fight off hunger.
- Sugar and processed foods and drinks should be avoided.
- Bread can be addictive and may keep you overweight.
- Carbohydrate intake needs to be controlled in order to reduce weight.
However, I think there are a number of issues that have not been nailed yet:
- How much does carbohydrate intake need to be reduced in order to reduce weight?
- Can starchy vegetables and fruit such as potatoes and bananas be a healthy part of a successful weight reduction program?
- Should nuts and seeds be part of a low carb/primal diet?
Different primal/low carb diet books will give different answers to some of these questions. I wish that Doctors, Nutritionists and Journalists in the Low Carb/Primal Diet camp would work together to gain consensus about these areas of difference. I've written about this in more detail:- Are Low Carb Diets Healthy?