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.
Zoë Harcombe, author of new book claiming to end food addiction, reveals how she finally won the battle of the bulge
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
Seiren, a Japanese textile company, has launched Deoest, a new brand of odor-eating underwear, claiming that it neutralize the smell of flatulence.
The pants are said to be a big hit with Japanese businessmen, as it means they can break wind without getting caught.
But there’s also a pink pair for women, too.
The odor-absorbing range, known as Deoest, effectively kills odor from wind. It does this using ceramic particles in the material fibres, which are said to absorb and neutralize gassy smells.
A word of warning, however: there is no word on whether they might mask any sound.
Deoest range was developed after the manufacturer, Seiren, was contacted by a doctor.
He wanted to help patients suffering from digestive complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome disguise their excessive flatulence.
Seiren has launched Deoest, a new brand of odor-eating underwear, claiming that it neutralize the smell of flatulence
“It took us a few years to develop the first deodorant pants that are comfortable enough to wear in daily life but efficient in quickly eliminating strong smells,” said Nami Yoshida, a spokeswoman for the company, Seiren.
“At first we thought about selling them to those who require nursing care and to hospitals.
“But to our surprise, lots of ordinary people, like businessmen who are in positions that require them to see people on a daily basis, bought them,” she said.
Deoest range has now expanded to 22 items, including socks that prevent feet from smelling and T-shirts that mask the whiff of sweaty armpits.
A study in the journal PLoS ONE suggests that some people responding to treatments that have no active ingredients in them may be down to their genes.
The so-called “placebo effect” was examined in 104 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the US.
Those with a particular version of the COMT gene saw an improvement in their health after placebo acupuncture.
The scientists warn that while they hope their findings will be seen in other conditions, more work is needed.
Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, said: “This is a fascinating but very preliminary result.
“It could solve the age-old question of why some individuals respond to placebo, while others do not.
“And if so, it could impact importantly on clinical practice.
“But we should be cautious – the study was small, we need independent replications, and we need to know whether the phenomenon applies just to IBS or to all diseases.”
The placebo effect is when a patient experiences an improvement in their condition while undergoing an inert treatment such as taking a sugar pill or, in this case, placebo acupuncture, where the patient believes they are receiving acupuncture but a sham device prevents the needles going into their body.
Two groups in the study had this type of treatment. One group received it in a business-like clinical manner and the other from a warm supportive practitioner. A third randomly chosen group received no treatment at all.
After three weeks the patients were asked if they had seen an improvement in their IBS, a common gastrointestinal disease that can cause abdominal pain and discomfort.
The team then used blood samples to look at what variant the individual had of the catechol-O-methyltranferase (COMT) gene. This plays a role in the dopamine pathway, a chemical known to produce a feel-good state.
Paper author Dr. Kathryn Hall, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), said this gene had been chosen because “there has been increasing evidence that the neurotransmitter dopamine is activated when people anticipate and respond to placebos”.
The researchers found individuals with a COMT variant that triples the amount of dopamine in the front of the brain felt no improvement without treatment but an improvement with the placebo acupuncture.
Ted Kaptchuk, director of the Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter at BIDMC, said: “We wanted to tease apart the different doses of placebo.
“We got an effect in individuals with this specific genetic signature for the general placebo, but an even bigger effect in the elaborate placebo where warmer care was given.
“You can really see the advantage of a positive doctor-patient relationship.”
Fabrizio Benedetti, professor of neurophysiology at the University of Turin Medical School, Italy, warned that dopamine may not be the only chemical involved with the placebo effect.
“A previous study on the genetics of placebo in social anxiety disorder showed that it is serotonin that is associated to placebo responsiveness and not dopamine,” he said.
“While this is a very interesting work, what we have learned in the past few years is that there is not a single placebo response and a single mechanism, but many, across different medical conditions and therapeutic interventions.”
John Nicholson’s book “The Meat Fix. How a lifetime of healthy eating nearly killed me!”presents author’ story of how eating meat again, after twenty-six vegetarian years, changed his life powerfully for the better, and of his quest to understand why the supposedly healthy diet he had existed on was actually damaging him.
The reformed vegan John Nicholson has gorged on all the foods his granny enjoyed… and has never felt better.
“As the kitchen filled with the smell of caramelized meat, my mouth watered in anticipation of the coming feast: a thick cut of tender steak, fried in butter and olive oil.
This was not a regular treat. In fact, for the previous 26 years I’d been a vegan, eschewing not just meat but all animal products.
My diet was an extreme version of the NHS Eat Well regime, which recommends lots of starchy foods and smaller quantities of saturated fats, cholesterol, sugar and red meat.
According to government advice, I was doing everything right – and yet my health had never been worse. My weight had crept up over the years, until in 2008 I was 14½ stone – which is a lot of blubber for someone who is 5ft 10in – and was classified as clinically obese.
I waddled around, sweating and short of breath, battling extremely high cholesterol and suffering from chronic indigestion. I was always tired and needed to take naps every afternoon. I had constant headaches and swallowed paracetamol and sucked Rennies like they were sweets.
Worst of all, I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which left me feeling as if I had lead weights in my gut. My belly was bloated and distended after every meal. I was, to use a technical term, knackered.”
John Nicholson’s book presents the story of how eating meat again, after twenty-six vegetarian years, changed his life powerfully for the better
“But that was about to change. In 2010, I decided to give up my supposedly healthy lifestyle and embrace good old-fashioned meat.
From that day on, I ate red meat four or five days a week. I gobbled the fat on chops, chicken skin and pork crackling. I feasted on everything we’re told to avoid. The effects were instant.
Twenty-four hours after eating meat again, all my IBS symptoms had gone. As the weeks and months passed, every aspect of my health improved dramatically. I became leaner, shedding body fat and becoming stronger and fitter. My headaches went away, never to return. Even my libido increased.
It felt like being young again, like coming back to life. But though I felt energized, I was also furious.
Furious with myself for sticking to the “healthy” eating advice, which was actually far from a sensible diet. But also furious with the so-called experts who have been peddling this low-fat, high-carbohydrate claptrap for so long that no one thinks to question it.
My maternal grandmother would certainly have challenged it. Like my grandfather, she was born into a poor family in East Yorkshire at the turn of the century and their eating regime was simple: meat and at least two vegetables at every meal, lots of butter and full-cream milk (they would have scorned yogurt as little more than “off” milk), bread, potatoes, cake and puddings.
Nothing would have swayed them from that lifestyle. Had a low-fat diet been suggested by a doctor, Gran would have told him to his face that it was all rubbish and that you needed fat to “keep the cold out”.
If she could have seen people buying skimmed milk today, she would have thought they had lost their minds. Getting rid of the best bit of milk? Lunacy.
Late in her life, I recall her scorning the advice on limiting the consumption of eggs because of concerns about cholesterol. On one occasion, she watched in astonishment as a celebrity TV chef made an egg-white omelette. “He’s a bloody fool, that man,” she said.
She was right to be skeptical, it turns out. For years the authorities told us cholesterol-rich foods would kill us – but we’ve since learned that is utter drivel.”
John Nicholson was fat and ill as a vegan
“While Ancel Keys, the scientist whose research in the Fifties first raised concerns about cholesterol levels, suggested that heart disease was linked to large amounts of cholesterol in the blood, he never claimed those levels were linked to the amount of cholesterol we eat.
“There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood,” he said in a magazine article in 1997. “And we’ve known that all along.”
Since then, the NHS’s paranoia about cholesterol in food has been replaced by concerns about saturated fat – found in everything from butter, cheese and cream to pies, cakes and biscuits.
They suggest saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. But this is open to debate.
France has the lowest rate of death from coronary heart disease in Europe, yet the country has the highest consumption of saturated fats.
Gran survived into her 80’s and Grandad into his 70’s, despite laboring down the pit his whole working life. Did they achieve this by gobbling low-fat spreads, soya oil or skimmed milk? No, they lived on old-fashioned foods such as butter, lard and beef fat. Indeed, a growing body of opinion suggests that the factory-made products that have replaced these staples – vegetable oils, polyunsaturated margarine and spreads – are the real cause of the degenerative diseases that are so common today.”
John Nicholson is leaner and healthier after he changed his diet as a meat eater
“Findings by the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit-making research organization in America, show most cases of heart attack in the 20th century were of a hitherto little-known form known as myocardial infarction (MI) – a huge blood clot leading to the obstruction of a coronary artery.
MI was almost non-existent in the U.S. in 1910 and was causing no more than 3,000 deaths a year by 1930. However, by 1960, there were at least 500,000 MI deaths a year across the country.
It surely can’t be a coincidence that this happened as the U.S. embraced a new diet based on increasingly large portions of highly processed foods and vegetable oils?
Similar changes in the national diet took place in Britain during the early years of my life and I can’t help wondering whether my father might still be alive today if it had not been for this shift.
I grew up in the North-East during the Sixties and had no idea about “healthy eating”. Those few people who did fret about their diet were thought of as fussy.
No one thought food was a problem, unless the chip shop ran out of battered sausage on a Friday. We ate suet puddings every week, our bacon and eggs were fried in lard, milk was full-fat – I’m not sure skimmed milk even existed in the Sixties – and we ate eggs every day.
Then, in the Seventies, things changed. We got wealthier and food became cheaper. Mam began buying more cakes and confectionery instead of home-baking. We ate more shop-bought food in general.
She also stopped using lard in the chip pan, opting for Spry Crisp ’n Dry instead. Gran wasn’t pleased. She thought vegetable oil was a new-fangled fad – it was, and that was precisely why Mam liked it. She saw it as moving on, modern and fashionable.
Dad never did any exercise and drove everywhere in his newly acquired company car.
More processed food, margarine, sugar and vegetable oil, combined with days spent behind a desk and a wheel, saw him gain a sizeable belly and the apple shape so common today. In 1987, he died of a massive heart attack, aged just 65.
His diet in his later years was not one that would have appealed to Gran. She was vehemently against margarine.
“I’m not eating anything made in a factory,” she’d say. “You don’t know what they put in it.”
It was a fear shared by many of her era. Had I heeded such warnings, I would have avoided my battle with processed food, in the form of soya, the bean whose industrially produced extracts are marketed as a low-fat and exceptionally healthy source of protein.
Today, soya is everywhere. About two-thirds of all processed food in the U.S. contains some form of it. That percentage will not be much different here – you’d be amazed at how often you eat ‘hidden’ soya.
When my partner, Dawn, and I decided to become vegan during the Eighties, it was still rare in Britain. This lifestyle shift came about shortly after we’d left Newcastle Polytechnic and moved to live self-sufficiently in a rented cottage in northern Scotland.
When one of our chickens became ill, we found it terribly difficult to put it out of its misery and began to doubt whether killing – or eating – animals was for us.
We didn’t see why someone else should have to do our dirty work for us, so in January 1984 we ate our last bacon sandwiches and embarked on our dramatic lifestyle change.
At about this time, governments in the U.S. and Europe were recommending that people cut down on eating animal fats, cholesterol and red meat in favor of more starchy foods, fruit and vegetables and wholegrains.
This new healthy eating advice had much in common with the vegetarian diet. We felt we were following a golden path, especially when we discovered the apparent wonders of soya.
Only later did we discover that research by the Weston A. Price Foundation had suggested that processed soya foods are rich in chemicals called trypsin inhibitors, which disrupt protein digestion. I believe it was these that created all my problems with IBS.
Soya has also been associated with hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, a condition whose symptoms include unexplained weight gain, lack of energy and depression – all problems that Dawn began to experience. These problems were exacerbated by other health problems caused by our diet.
As voracious consumers of nuts, pulses and wholegrains, our diet was very high in copper and, because of the lack of animal protein, low in zinc. Some researchers have linked this imbalance to constant feelings of fatigue, something with which Dawn and I were all too familiar.
For years, we gave the NHS every chance to find out what was wrong with us and get us well. But doctors didn’t and couldn’t – perhaps because they wouldn’t even consider that our apparently healthy diet might be the problem.
Finally, in desperation, Dawn suggested we should try eating meat again. At the same time, we cut out all vegetable oils, except olive oil, and ate lots of lard, beef dripping, butter, cream and full-fat milk.
We have also cut out starchy carbohydrates such as bread, which contains a component of starch that causes blood sugar levels to peak and trough, leading to a cycle of hunger and over-eating.
Admittedly, the absence of bread is one aspect of our new diet that might have caused Gran to ask if I had gone “soft in the head”. In her day, they needed lots of carbohydrates to fuel their physically demanding lives, but we are far more sedentary.
But I’m sure she would have approved of everything else about our new diet because her generation knew how to eat properly. That’s a skill we have forgotten, brain-washed as we are by government and medical propaganda.
It’s time we reminded ourselves of it, questioning the one-size-fits-all, “healthy” eating advice we’re spoon-fed and opting instead for wholesome, unprocessed, home-made food.”