The De-Stress Diet by Charlotte Watts and Anna Magee
I was lucky enough to attend the book launch for The De-Stress Diet so I got to meet the lovely Charlotte in person and listen to her and Anna talk through their co-written book. Which gave me a greater insight into the content as well as highlighting key points within the book.
As you may have worked out from the title, the book is circling out stress as a factor that is making us fat in the 21st century. Like many people, as my career has progressed I have become more sedentary, found less time for exercise, my stress levels got much higher and I did find it very difficult to lose the weight I’d gained. Even though I was running three or four times a week and watching what I ate I still wasn’t losing any noticeable weight which I have put down to firstly some stressful occurrences in my life and secondly to a hormone imbalance caused by hormonal contraception (which thankfully I am no longer on!) Read more about hormones and weight issues here.
Back to The De-Stress Diet book. The first section is entitled “Stress and You”. It starts with a chapter highlighting exactly how and why stress makes us unhealthy and fat. It’s not just about being stressed out and reaching for the biscuit tin, the book deals with how our body reacts in different situations (fight, flight or freeze) as well as making a very important point – stress is not just in your head, it affects your body as well! It explains that when we are stressed our bodies produce a hormone called Cortisol which plays a large part in making us fat around the middle. Cortisol orders the release of fat, calories and energy into the bloodstream. If we are in a permanent state of stress two things happen – our bodies are told to store the fat around the middle and we crave sugary foods. These two things both = weight gain!
Next, we are asked “which stress suit are you wearing?” where there are a number of different options, I was a combination of “Stressed and Tired” and “Stressed and Demotivated” at the time. For each stress suit, there are recommended energy nutrients for the diet – for the tired suit Iron and Demotivated Vitamin D. Finally, there is a chapter with a general overview of the diet – good and bad foods and an outline of how the meals are put together and why.
Part two deals with the actual diet stages, and teaches you how to form your breakfast, lunch and dinner with the various food groups. One thing I will say about the breakfast options is that when following the diet I found that I was hungry before lunchtime. Currently, I am following the GL diet by Patrick Holford (after a consultation with Mary Lou Harris) which is very similar to the detox diet in principle but it advocates complex non-starchy carbs at every meal. My current favourite breakfast is two poached eggs stacked with a grilled Portobello mushroom and sliced sweet potato dressed with organic extra virgin olive oil, Himalayan crystal salt, pepper, oregano and chilli flakes. The inclusion of the sweet potatoes in the morning means I have been able to move my lunchtime back half an hour (which addressed the massive gap I was having between lunch and dinner. Long hours meant I was not eating for 7-8 hours = not good for my body’s energy and stress levels) The chapter on lunch and dinner is an excellent go-to on how to put these meals together and there are lots of options to mix and match ingredients so you will not get bored of eating the same diet food night after night. There’s also a really great chapter on healthy drinks and snacks and wise advice on how to ditch the bad habits and replace with good ones.
The final part of the book covers lifestyle changes to help you lead a less stressful life. For those who are short on time, there are some quick exercise routines and de-stress yoga poses to practise at home. Something both Charlotte and Anna pushed at the event was to walk regularly. Anna said that she struggled to lose her last bit of fat around her middle despite running regularly and it was only when she replaced her running with walking that she did lose it. This reflects the core message of the book – when we run we are putting our bodies under stress which is normally a good thing but if we’re stressed out in our lives we are only increasing our stress levels and therefore the production of Cortisol. Walking is an excellent remedy for stress as it means you are outdoors (try to find somewhere green and pretty!) and you have time to collect your thoughts, to air them and get whatever is bothering you out of your system (hopefully!)
The De-Stress Diet is a great lifestyle book (it’s more than a diet – it is a lifestyle change) for those who want to not only lose weight but also be healthier, more energised and most importantly less stressed.