Caution: To repeat the warnings in the last chapter: none of
the methods that follow should be applied to people listed
below, unless approved (and ideally supervised) by a medical expert in nutritional methods:
Where are you starting from?
The dietary restriction programme is not a weight-reducing approach as such. Its two aims are: health promotion (whether this be prevention of normal / common age-related health problems, or recovery from current ill health); and promotion of life extension. It is clearly quite impossible to guarantee that either of these aims will be achieved, and so anyone who is applying the methods must understand that they alone will able to judge whether or not they are sufficiently impressed by the evidence to become motivated to apply the programme, and ultimately whether they are pleased with the results.
Although the aims are not weight reduction, dietary (calorie) restriction almost always leads to this, and we must be clear that changes in weight are often an important guide to the way you are responding to the programme (and therefore to how efficiently you are applying the methods).
Assuming your age and health status do not bar you from applying the diet, your first step is to establish an important guideline, and this requires that you determine your ‘set point’ weight level.
How do you find your ‘set point’?
If you have remained fairly stable since your 20s or early 30s, note down your average weight during that time. This is your ‘set point. If you have steadily gained weight since that period of your life, then note down what your average weight was in your 20s or early 30s. This is your ‘set point. If you have experienced a rapid weight gain (or loss) then this should be investigated by a health professional before you adopt any of the methods outlined. There could, for example, be a hormonal or other imbalance which requires attention.
Once you have established your ‘set point’ weight level you need to keep it in mind as the dietary approach progresses, ensuring that at no time does your weight fall below it by more than 25 per cent. For example, if your ‘set point’ is 60 kilos (1321b/9.5 stone) you must not let your weight drop below 45 kilos (991b/7 stone). If your ‘set point’ is 80 kilos (1761b/12.5 stone) your weight should not be allowed to drop below 60 kilos (1321b/9.5 stone). Simple arithmetic, using the ‘set point’ as your guide, will give you your absolute limit of weight loss below which safety is being risked.
On the other hand, in order to achieve benefits from the diet you should try to ensure that if your ‘set point’ and your present weight are the same, that after 12 months you have achieved at least a 10 per cent reduction in weight (which is also a 10 per cent reduction from your ‘set point’); and if your ‘set point’ and weight
are different (because you have gained weight since your 20s), that within a year you should have achieved at least a 10 per cent reduction in what your weight was at the start of the diet. (This will not, however, be a 10 per cent reduction in weight from your ‘set point, which might take much more than a year to reach.)
So if your ‘set point’ and your weight at the start were the same, at 60 kilos (1321b/9.5 stone) you must try to reach a weight of 54 kilos (1191b/8.5 stone) within a year. If your ‘set point’ and weight at the start were the same, at 80 kilos (1761b/12.5 stone), you should reach 72 kilos (1581b/11.5 stone) within a year to begin to benefit from dietary restriction. If, however, your ‘set point’ is 60 kilos (1321b/9.5 stone) and because of weight rise since your 20s your present weight is now 70 kilos (1541b/11 stone), your weight should have reduced to 63 kilos (1391b/10 stone) by the end of the first year. Your ‘set point’ being 60 kilos determines that for benefits to begin to be gained you need to stabilize your weight loss at under 54 kilos, so this (life extension) target may not be reached for several years. Nevertheless, during this time a host of health benefits should start to be noticed.
Remember that the ‘set point never changes, since it is based on what your weight was in the past (unless you are still in your 20s in which case it is your present weight, as long as this is stable). If you have not lost either 10 per cent of your ‘set point’ weight after 12 months, or 10 per cent of your total weight after 12 months (if your ‘set point’ and starting weight were different) you should reexamine how efficiently you are applying the rules of dietary restriction.
Your ‘set point’ is your baseline
Your ‘set point’ weight is a key number. It gives you a marker from which you can assess whether you are achieving successful modification of metabolic rate through calorie restriction, by keeping a check on weight loss, and it also allows you to monitor the speed with which this is happening. It is important that any weight loss is not fast. The aim is a slow reduction of anything from 1-41b a month (depending on how much body fat you are starting with) from your ‘set point’ weight (or starting point weight, if these two figures are different).
To recap, the safe long-term (it could take several years) target you are aiming to reach is a reduction to not less than 10 per cent and not more than 25 per cent below your ‘set point’ weight. At that time the full benefits of dietary restriction will be operating (reduced free radical activity, more thrifty energy processes etc.). Never allow your weight to drop below 75 per cent of your ‘set point’ weight.
The time it takes you to reach your target weight should be anything from 12 months to several years. The older you are when you start the programme the longer you should take to achieve this target weight. One of the joys of this approach following a 1,800 to 2,000 calorie per day diet) is that it is highly unlikely that you will ever drop below 75 per cent of your ‘set point’ weight. By the time you have reached the safe weight level your metabolic machinery should have adjusted to the reduced energy intake, becoming ever more efficient, and maintaining you at this optimum weight indefinitely.
Daily protein and fat requirement
Apart from your ‘set point’ weight you also need to record your present weight, since you will need it as a guide to your ideal protein and fat intake. If you have remained stable in weight since your 20s, then your ‘set point’ weight will also be your present weight. If you have altered in weight since your 20s you should now record your present weight. You use this figure to calculate how much protein and how much fat you should consume daily as part of your restriction diet. The guidelines for this are: 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein daily for each kilo of your present body weight, and 0.4 to 0.6 grams of fat daily for each kilo of present body weight.
It is now time for some simple arithmetic. Multiply your present weight in kilos by 0.8 and by 1.0. Let’s say you weigh 60 kilograms:
60 x 0.8 = 48
60 x 1.0 = 60
You need to eat not less than 48 and not more than 60 grams of protein daily, until you start to lose weight, at which time you will need to recalculate your protein intake based on your new body weight. You should do this about once a month, taking your new body weight as your main number and multiplying it by 0.8 and 1.0 for your new daily protein requirement.
Note: If your body weight is different from the example given above (of someone weighing 60 kilos) you need to use your weight in this calculation.
To discover your fat requirement take your present body weight and multiply this by 0.4 and 0.6. If your present body weight is 60 kilograms:
60 x 0.4 = 24
60 x 0.6 = 36
You need to eat not less than 24 and not more than 36 grams of fat daily, until you start to lose weight, at which time you will need to recalculate your fat intake based on your new body weight. You should do this about once a month (until you reach your target weight at which time it will stabilize at that level), taking your new body weight in kilos as your main number and multiplying it by 0.4 and 0.6 for your new daily fat requirement.
Note: If your body weight is different from the example given above (of someone weighing 60 kilos) you need to use your weight in this calculation.
Guidelines will be given later in this chapter on how this protein and fat content of your diet might be made up.
Reminder: It is essential that you readjust your protein and fat intake as the weight loss progresses, to match your present body weight at all times. Each time fat and protein levels are reduced to match your reduced weight it is also necessary that you then increase your intake of calories from other sources (complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables, for example) so that the 1,800 to 2,000 daily intake of calories is maintained. Help is given in the next chapter on how you might best work this out.
1,800 or 2,000 daily?
If you are over 50 years of age it is suggested that you do not allow weight loss to occur too fast (especially if you are overweight) and that you therefore stick to 2,000 calories per day. Younger people (20 to 50) can usually afford to lose weight a little faster and can choose between either 1,800 or 2,000 calories a day. This is not a crash diet. It’s aims are not to produce weight loss as an end in itself but quite simply to improve health and to encourage life extension.
An almost automatic by-product of the method will be a loss in weight, which is used as a guide to how efficiently your body is adjusting to caloric restriction, the one and only proven method for achieving life extension to date, with a host of positive health benefits added as a bonus.
We all know the expression (taken from the title of a famous diet book) that calories ‘don’t count’. This expression was used to point to the fact that people who tried to slim using calories as their sole guide, and who applied diets of 1,00.0 calories (often less) for lengthy periods, frequently failed to achieve their objectives. This was often because dietary change was too quick (‘crash’ diets) and restrictions too great. It also had much to do with the thoroughly unbalanced way the limited calorie intake was made up.
The life extension diet does not try to aim at weight loss. It is essentially a slow process and it does not reduce intake of food to ridiculous and unsustainable levels. When weight reduction is too fast, compensating mechanisms are triggered in the body which try desperately to retain weight levels. Life extension diets, because they use only a moderate reduction in food intake, and because they insist on adequate protein, fat and all other nutrients apart from calories, and because the quality of the food eaten is seen to be at least as important as how much is eaten, do not produce this type of defensive reaction and are sustainable for years (indeed, for a lifetime – a long one it is hoped).
Once established, the natural life extension diet is easily maintained, does not produce the sort of social difficulties which extremely limited diets do, and allows a normal life to continue with no feeling of deprivation. The need to count calories in this instance is therefore not the same as in strict crash diets, but rather as a means of giving a pattern to eating which is easy to follow. The way this is done is by means of what has become known as an ‘exchange diet’ about which I have more to say below.
Quality is at least as important as quantity
In the previous chapter I briefly touched on ’empty calories’ and the way satiety (the feeling of wanting to stop eating because of the sensation of having ‘had enough’) is reached more rapidly when food is rich in nutrients. You can easily experiment by noting how much less (in weight and calorie content) wholemeal bread (packed with nutrients) you would eat at a meal, compared with pure white bread with its empty nutritional content. The same applies to ‘white’ rice compared with unpolished rice. Wholemeal bread, or unpolished rice, requires far more chewing and will bring you to a point of satiety far sooner than would be the case were you eating the empty calories of pappy, nutritionally deficient, white bread or white rice.
This emphasis on vitamin and mineral-rich food is of major importance, as it will lead to a host of additional benefits from the diet, the most notable of which is the level of essential nutrients it will provide. This is not to say that you can never eat junk food, but that such empty calorie foods should play a very small part in any serious life extension programme.
This puts a ban on refined foods, wherever possible. No white polished rice (brown unpolished instead). No white bread or foods made from white flour (wholemeal instead, including pasta). No sugar of any color added to anything, if at all possible. Little if any alcohol. These negative injunctions should
be taken to heart as the use of such foods will quickly add calories to your allowable total of 1,800 or 2,000 daily. If you were eating refined products these calories would also be arriving without the essential nutrients which have been such a key reason for the success of life extension programmes in animals to date.
Remember Sir Robert McCarrison’s studies on the effects of human diet on animals. He showed that health, vigor and wellbeing were all dramatically affected (negatively) by introducing sugary, refined foods and that where whole foods were used, with a high level of these eaten raw, health was enhanced and longevity achieved. Remember also the work of Dr BircherBenner (see Chapter 4) and his evidence of the benefits of raw, enzyme and vitamin-rich foods in the diets of even very sick people, and the wonderful results he achieved. The ideal pattern of eating should therefore include a large amount of uncooked food, in the form of fresh fruit and salad, and this will be emphasized in the menu sections.
So, calories do count, but only as part of a balanced, wholefood-oriented diet which uses them as a guideline, not as a fetish.
Exchange unit diet
The idea of an exchange diet is that in each category of foods a fixed measure is given (say a cupful, or a tablespoonful) of a variety of foods within that category (there are six of these in our use of exchange units: Dairy, Fat, Grain/Starch, Fruit, High Protein and Vegetable). You will be told how many cupfuls (or other measures) of each category you should eat daily in order to provide a balanced and nutritious diet for yourself. You will also be told how many calories each exchange unit (KU) or measure (cupful, ounce, tablespoon etc.) produces so that you can keep tabs on your calorie intake and avoid consuming too much.
Within each category (Dairy, Fat etc.) many different foods will be listed and it is from these that you can make your choice for your daily diet. For example, you might be told that you need to choose (in order to keep within the criteria of sound nutrition and limitation of calories) two EUs from the ‘Dairy’ category daily. On the list of foods in that category you will find low-fat yogurt, low fat cheese, skimmed milk, soya milk and many others. Each of these will carry next to it information on how many EUs it represents. This will give you the chance to make your choice based on your personal likes and dislikes, and to rapidly see that you have filled your quota from that category for the day.
It is because you can exchange any measure from a particular category for any other in that same category that the system is so named. You cannot, however, exchange a food from one category for a food from another (a Grain/Starch for a High Protein, for example) as this would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise, which is to ensure a balanced diet.
Incidentally the ‘Dairy’ category, somewhat surprisingly, does not contain cheese, which is found in the ‘High Protein’ category. Such apparently arbitrary allocation of foods to seemingly inappropriate categories is actually necessary to ensure adequate protein intake. ‘Dairy’ refers almost totally to various forms of milk and yogurt (including soya milk).
Important Note: In some cases one food will contain EUs from several categories. For example, some of the ‘High Protein’ category foods, such as medium-fat meat, will have both a protein and a fat exchange value. Other examples:
- An ounce of mozzarella cheese or loin steak contains a ‘High
Protein’ exchange unit and half a ‘Fat’ exchange unit.
- A meal which includes a third of a cupful of cooked soya beans
will contain a ‘High Protein’ exchange unit, half a ‘Fat’
exchange unit, and half a ‘Grain/Starch’ exchange unit.
It will not take you very long to get to know automatically how many EUs a particular quantity of food contains, and how many measures (representing a given number of EUs) you are ‘allowed’ in order to fulfill the criteria which your life extension diet demands.
Don’t forget the protein, fat and calorie requirements
When a particular measure of a food is described, say a cupful of yogurt, it will not necessarily carry with it information on how many grams of protein, how many grams of fat and how many calories (how much energy it will produce) it contains. This information will need to be calculated from data presented at the start of the description of each category, which will indicate how many grams of fat or protein, and how many calories are present in foods on that list. So, when a cupful of plain, unflavored, low-fat yogurt is listed, it will have the following information: Exchange units -1 Dairy EU and 1 Fat KU. The category (in this case Dairy) will have under its heading the information that each Dairy EU contains 8 grams of protein and provides 80 calories. Some Dairy EUs also contain Fat EUs, and these will be listed.
If you were to include a cup of plain yogurt in your diet on any given day you would automatically have taken up one of your Dairy and one of your Fat exchange units. You would also have met some of your daily fat (5 grams) and protein (8 grams) intake requirements for the day (these requirements, you must remember, are based on your personal body weight, and will alter as time passes with changes in your weight).
You will not really need to count the calories in this instance since your overall ‘allowance’ of EUs of dairy-based foods will take into account the calorie factor. However, knowledge of how many calories etc. EUs from different categories contain will give you a way of keeping tabs on the calorie level of your diet. All that it is necessary for you to do is to ensure you consume the correct number of EUs in each category, and the correct level of protein and fat intake as well, and the calories will take care of themselves.
Protein/fat/calorie contents will be provided under each category list in the next chapter. They are as follows:
- Each Dairy exchange unit contains 8 grams of protein and provides 80 calories.
- Each Fat exchange unit contains 5 grams of fat and provides 45 calories
- Each Fruit exchange unit provides 40 calories and contains no fat and minimal protein.
- Each Grain/Starch exchange unit contains 2 grams of protein and provides 70 calories. Some of the Grain/Starch products also contain Fat EUs which are listed.
- Each High Protein exchange unit contains 7 grams of protein and some contain up to 3 grams of fat (some contain none) and provides 55 calories. Where even higher fat content exists this will be made dear.
- Each Vegetable exchange unit contains 2 grams of protein and provides 25 calories.
Keeping a check on fat and protein
An important additional check would be for you to periodically add up your protein and fat intake in grams, using the information provided, in order to see that you are within the guidelines given above (where you multiply your body weight by 0.8 and 1.0 to give you a range within which you should stay, of the number of grams of protein to be eaten daily; and by 0.4 and 0.6 for the range of fat intake in grams per day).
How to put it all together
- In the next chapter you will find category lists (Dairy, Fat, Fruit, Grain/Starch, High Protein, Vegetable).
- Each of the items on each list will be described in terms of a unit of measurement (cupful, ounces etc.) and will contain information as to how many exchange units this represents. Each category list will tell you how many grams of protein and fat each EU represents as well the number of calories.
- There will also be diet lists (in fact just two lists, a 2,000 calorie list and an 1,800 calorie list) which recommend the number of EUs from each category which you need to consume every day in order to fulfill the requirements of under-nutrition without malnutrition – a balanced, calorie-restricted diet.
- You need to calculate your ‘set point’ weight and your current weight (they might be the same) and from your current weight work out your present fat and protein requirements.
- Based on your age you should decide on a 2,000 calorie diet (automatic if you are 50 or over) or an 1,800 calorie diet (a personal choice if you are under 50 and over 20).
From the very beginning of your diet you should take daily supplements in the form of good multivitamin and multi mineral capsules or tablets. You should ask the advice of someone in a pharmacy or health store to ensure that the supplements you are buying supply you with all essential nutrients at a level which meets your RDA (recommended daily amounts) requirements. Many nutrition experts regard RDAs as a guideline only, seeing them as an absolute minimum requirement. For this reason, taking them in a supplement form, as well as receiving a fairly abundant supply in the food you will eat, is not ‘overdoing’ things. It is ensuring that your RDAs are met, that optimum levels of nutrients are present, and that there remains no chance of deficiency when following the calorie restriction diet.
Note: Supplementation as advised is not an option, it is an absolute requirement of the diet.
How to start slowly
There are several ways of sliding gently into programmes such as these:
- For the first month eat normally, as you have always done, but introduce a reduction in your food intake of 10 per cent (leave around 10 per cent of the food on your plate at the end of the meal, or more sensibly put 10 per cent less food onto the plate in the first place). At the same time (during this first month) start applying the 2,000 calorie per day diet on one day each week.
In the second month (don’t forget you will be taking vitamin and mineral supplements all the while) start to consume 20 per cent less food on your normal feeding days, and also increase the calorie restriction/exchange unit pattern to two days per week. These days should, at this stage, not be consecutive, but should have at least one ‘normal’ day in between. You should continue to eat the reduced amount (20 per cent less than you were eating before the diet) of regular food on the ‘normal’ days.
Each month that follows, increase the days on which you use calorie restriction/exchange unit pattern by one day a week, until by the time you reach seven months you will be fully on the diet. As month by month you increase the number of days each week, which are based on calorie restriction/exchange units, make sure that these are spaced out. For example, in the third month, when three days a week are modeled on this pattern, ensure a day between each diet day on your ‘normal’ (20 per cent reduction) diet.
Quite simply, until month four, you should not have two consecutive days on the calorie restriction/exchange unit diet.
Important: Don’t leave any of the food on your plate on the days you are using EUs as your guide to quantity, only on the ‘normal days.
This pattern of introducing the diet gently is ideal for anyone of 50 or over.
- For anyone under 50 (and over 20) the pattern for introducing the diet should be as follows.
For the first month introduce the 1,800 calorie per day calorie restriction/exchange unit pattern on two days each week (but not on two consecutive days), while on the other days eat as previously but start to eat 10 per cent less than usual for the first few weeks, before moving to a 20 per cent reduction in ‘normal’ intake.
In the second month move to four days per week on the 1,800 calorie per day calorie restriction/exchange unit pattern (by now regularly eating 20 per cent less food than before the diet started, for your ‘normal’ meals).
Space these restriction days out so that a ‘normal’ day intervenes wherever possible (e.g. Monday restriction diet, Tuesday normal (20 per cent off) diet, Wednesday restriction diet, Thursday normal (20 per cent off) diet, Friday restriction diet, Saturday normal (20 per cent off) diet, Sunday restriction diet. In this way only Sunday and Monday are adjacent to each other as restriction days, at this stage).
By the third month you can move to applying the restriction pattern on six days per week and eating 20 per cent less than usual on the other day.
By the fourth month you can be fully on the calorie restriction/exchange unit pattern of eating. Don’t leave any of the food on your plate on the days you are using EUs as your guide to quantity.
This somewhat faster introduction to the fully restricted diet is suitable for anyone between 20 and 50 years of age.
- If either of these patterns seems too quick for you, you can slow the whole introduction process down even further by taking two months for each change which is listed as taking one month in numbers 1 and 2 above. What you should not do is to try to speed the process up as nothing will be gained by doing this.
- An important additional ‘boost which you can give the programme, in dietary terms, is to periodically (once a month for two days, for example) use fasting or mono-diets. Guidelines on these will be found in Chapter 13.
Monitoring the changes
- Keep a record of your weight at least once a week taken at the same time of day each time.
- Once a month recalculate your protein and fat requirements based on changes in your weight.
- Every now and then (once or twice a month) do a ‘spot check’ on your calorie intake, using the information in Chapter 12. Make sure you are close to the 1,800 or 2,000 calories a day (depending on your age), as there is no virtue in trying to reduce the levels further.
If at any time you feel unwell on the diet, consult a health professional. It may have nothing to do with the programme, or you may be applying the pattern wrongly in some way. The most likely readjustment you will sense is a change in energy patterns, with feelings of more vitality and well-being, although there is often a period of adjustment during which you may feel lethargic or even nauseous for a while.
If you feel dizzy, lethargic or ‘spaced out’ this could be a temporary phase. If it persists for more than a few days, a health check would be wise. Sleep patterns and bowel habits may change. These will usually adjust themselves over a period of months.
If you were previously allergic or ‘sensitized’ to particular foods which are now being eliminated, you could feel withdrawal symptoms or even develop minor skin eruptions. Although usually self-limiting, if you are at all concerned a nutritional expert/health professional should be consulted.
- Ensure that you are eligible, with no age or health barriers (see cautions above).
- Identify your ‘set point’ and present weights (they could be the same).
- Calculate from your present weight your daily protein and fat requirements.
- Carefully read the notes on exchange units so that you are quite comfortable with the ideas they contain.
- Buy your supplements.
- If in any doubt, consult a health professional before starting the programme.
- Start the programme.
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