Zoe Harcombe spent a decade piecing together the answer to the question “Why do we overeat when all we want is to be slim?”.
Through experience and research she discovered three very common conditions that cause insatiable food cravings.
You may have heard of them, you may know that you have one or more of them, but you are unlikely to know how they have turned you into a food addict:
Candida: is a yeast that lives in all of us, but it can easily multiply out of control, creating many nasty symptoms – from bloating and fatigue to irritable bowel syndrome and mood swings.
Foods that encourage Candida growth are the ones you crave – bread, fruit, pickled foods, cereal: basically any processed carbohydrates.
The more you give in to the cravings, the more you feed this condition – and the more of a food addict you become.
Food Intolerance: occurs when you have the same foods every day and you literally become intolerant to them, but you crave them to avoid the withdrawal symptoms that occur when you don’t consume them.
The most common intolerances are to wheat and dairy foods – in that order.
We have cereal (wheat) and milk (dairy) for breakfast, sandwiches (wheat) and lattés (dairy) for lunch, pasta for dinner with maybe yogurt for dessert. No wonder wheat and dairy are our biggest problems.
Hypoglycaemia: is suffered by most people, most days at around 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. It’s that “can’t concentrate/must have some food” kind of feeling and it causes intense cravings for carbs – especially sweets and chocolate etc.
When blood glucose levels dip below normal, your body will do whatever it can to get you to eat something – to get the level back up.
When you get that 11 a.m./4 p.m. feeling – you reach for a muffin, or a bar of chocolate. Yet this gives you way more sugar than you need, so you may release too much insulin coping with this unrecognized modern “food” and then your blood sugar level dips again.
This is why many people find that they can’t stop eating once they start – you never manage to get stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Two books were to provide the key remaining bits of the puzzle: New Low Blood Sugar And You by Carlton Fredericks and Candida Albicans: Could yeast be your problem? by Leon Chaitow.
The final piece in the jigsaw was a show-stopper. There are many and varied causes of these three conditions, but they all have one cause in common – calorie counting.
Trying to eat less drives people down the route of eating more of the foods that make these problems worse.
Fruit, muesli bars, cereal, low-fat/low-calorie products – things that you think are healthy – are feeding these conditions beautifully. So, start a diet and you will end up a food addict – the pathway is as clear as that.
And so Phase One of The Harcombe Diet was born. It only needed to be five days long – driven by food intolerance – as any food to which you are intolerant has passed through you in this time.
The core foods of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, salads, brown rice and Natural Live Yoghurt (the latter helps to fight candida) emerged as the “super foods” that would fight these nasty ailments.
Candida and food intolerance both cause serious water retention, and pounds can be dropped in the first few days – shrinking you by one dress size in the process.
More typically, people lose 7 lb in five days – but without going hungry or counting a single calorie. In fact, it is vital that you eat plenty – trying to eat less will make you overeat faster than you can say “I’m starving!”.
Zoe Harcombe said: “Within days, not even weeks, of working out Phase One, I had reached my natural weight of eight stone and I have been there ever since. I could never have imagined that I could eat as much as I do and stay at my perfect weight so easily – not least while eating a 100g bar of 85 per cent dark chocolate every day!
“To say this has changed my life is an understatement. I wasted a decade of my life obsessed with food but terrified of it at the same time. I would turn down social invitations because I felt fat and then sit at home and stuff my face instead.
“I started every day thinking <<today will be different>>, but it never was because I simply did not know why I could not resist the urge to eat – not everything, but quite particular things: biscuits, chocolate, cakes, crisps…you know the foods I mean!
“I hated myself and beat myself up for my assumed lack of willpower, but it wasn’t my fault. I was an addict, and only when I understood the cause of the addiction could I overcome the causal conditions and get back in control of food.”
Freedom from any addiction is wonderful. Freedom from food addiction is the best thing of all, as we have to eat – we just need to be able to control what we eat and not have what we eat control us.
And so Zoe Harcombe wrote Why Do You Overeat? When All You Want Is To Be Slim.
She said: “I put my email address in the first edition of the first book – thinking that about 20 people would read it.
“Hundreds of emails later I realized that people were losing several pounds in Phase One, then going on to lose several more in Phase Two – and still keeping this weight off.”
Some meal ideas on the Harcombe diet:
Breakfasts: Bacon & egg; rice cereal; yoghurt; porridge
Lunch: Salade Niçoise; frittata; rice salad; roast chicken with coleslaw
Dinner: Steak & chargrilled veg; butternut squash curry & brown rice; rice pasta & tomato sauce; Pork chops & roasted vegetables