Alison Walsh road-tests the latest wonder diet
Needing to get her act together, Alison Walsh embarks on the 2016 wonder diet.
Iarrived back at work after the Christmas break with a physique like Santa. I needed to clean up my act immediately. Among the pile-up of mail on my desk lay several newly released books, including The SirtFood Diet: The revolutionary plan for health and weight loss by British nutritionists Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten. “Lose 7lb [3kg] in seven days!” the cover shrieked. A quick online search revealed this diet had been attracting wide attention since its New Year paperback publication, had social media abuzz, and had wedged itself on bestseller lists. London’s The Times reported it as the diet everyone would be talking about in 2016.
I had no idea what sirtfoods were, but they included red wine, chocolate and coffee. Sounds good, I thought, although I did notice the list of highest-ranking sirtfoods also included hale and hearty candidates such as buckwheat, celery and kale – the fashionista vegetable formerly known as cattle feed. The authors say these foods are rich in the nutrients that stimulate fat-burning genes known as sirtuins. Previously, the only known ways to get those genes switched on had been fasting and exercise.
I decided to dive in for the diet’s 3kg-in-sevendays “hyper-success” phase, as I needed to truncate my intake and this diet at least seemed to include healthy foods. And of course there was the red wine, the chocolate and the coffee …
Phase one restricts food intake to 1000 calories (4184kJ) a day ingested via three green juices and one meal. I was going out that evening, so after work I careened off to buy the required foods and a new blender (our previous one expired while puréeing raspberries for the Christmas trifle, a possible pointer to where my diet went horribly wrong) so I could get cracking the next day.
In the morning I realised I should have bought a juicer, not a blender, as my machine groaned under the pressure of the quantity of vegetables. In fact this first green juice batch, quickly put together before I skated out the door to work, was so thick, it was pretty much inedible. “Pond scum,” remarked one colleague, looking doubtfully at my glass. “Sludge,” shivered another. I could only eat a few spoonfuls and I was starving. However, a black coffee, a better constructed juice when I got home and the meal (prawns with buckwheat noodles and a square of 85 per cent cocoa chocolate) meant I was a shoo-in for success on the scales: half a kilo had evaporated the next morning.
On the second day I added enough water to my green juice to make it drinkable and ended up with a substantial volume of not entirely unpleasant juice despite its agricultural aroma. Keeping it cold and adding some ice cubes made it much more palatable. Dinner was kale and red onion dahl with buckwheat. I was down a kilo by the next morning.
After three days of this, participants graduate to 1500 calories, dropping one juice and adding a second meal. The menu is relatively enticing, with vegan or carnivorous options. Day six ends with the choice of steak with a red wine jus, although opening a bottle of wine to use 40ml in the sauce can only be described as extreme cruelty to dieters. Despite all the talk about red wine, that was the only sign of it in the first week.
I did find that I couldn’t always drink all the juice and that the meals were quite large. Some ingredients were difficult to locate and I never did find buckwheat flakes. The 40 participants who took part in the initial dietary testing on which the book is based were members of a health club in London’s upmarket Chelsea, and had their meals prepared by the club’s “renowned” head chef. So they wouldn’t have had to drive around in a frenzy, going from shop to shop, seeking cocoa nibs and endive, would they?