At 50 years of age, Helen had tried many times to lose weight. Her neighbours had started walking on a regular basis but she felt tired all the time and had no energy to do anything more than what she had to. Being 95 kilograms and only 168 centimetres tall ruined her morale. Her mother had diabetes and she knew being overweight put her at greater risk, but every time she lost weight she ended up regaining it. Finally, it was no surprise to her when she was diagnosed with diabetes. In fact it was some relief, here at last was a reason for her tiredness.
On her doctor’s suggestion, Helen saw a dietitian for help with her diet. At first glance what Helen was eating appeared reasonable. Breakfast was a slice of wholemeal toast or a wholemeal cracker with margarine and black tea. Lunch was a light meal such as celery, lettuce, a slice of cheese, a slice of cold meat, an egg and a couple of crackers, spread with margarine. For dinner she was having soup and a piece of steak with vegetables. She limited herself to a small cocktail potato. The meal was finished by a piece of fruit.
A closer look at her food record, showed that Helen’s diet was in fact poorly balanced. It was dominated by protein and fat foods and contained insufficient carbohydrate. It didn’t contain enough food to provide a good range of nutrients. What’s more, Helen herself was struggling with it and often felt hungry since she had cut lollies and biscuits out of her diet.
To improve things, we first looked at the frequency of eating. Helen kept to three meals a day because she had been brought up to believe that was better for her. She agreed to trying a small snack of fruit or a slice of bread between meals. Even though she wasn’t on medication for diabetes, the effect of spreading her food intake more evenly across the day, between small meals and snacks, could help to stabilise her blood sugar level and help her lose weight.
We then revised the amount of carbohydrate that she ate, and listed a range of low G.I. carbohydrate foods that were to be her first priority at each meal. The filling value of the carbohydrate left her with less space for the proteins that used to dominate her diet Helen’s new diet looked more like this:
Breakfast began with a fresh orange, juiced, and a bowl of oats with sultanas and low-fat milk Helen added a slice of Burgen™ or raisin toast if she was still hungry.
Lunch was usually a sandwich on Burgen™ bread with a slice of lean meat and salad and a piece of fruit or a muffin to finish. Sometimes she had a vegetable soup or pasta with a vegetable sauce and salad.
The proportion of foods on her dinner plate was rearranged, shrinking in the meat department and filling out on the vegetable side. She began to think of carbohydrate food as the basis of the meal and varied between pasta, rice and potato. Twice a week she made a vegetarian dish with legumes like a minestrone soup or a vegetable lasagne. An evening snack was usually a yoghurt or fruit.
After a month on her new eating plan Helen felt better—in fact she felt well enough to tackle some exercise. Taking a serious look at her day, she decided to commit the half hour after dinner to a walk, five nights a week.
Over the next six months Helen’s weight dropped from 95 kilograms to 80 kilograms. Her blood sugar levels were mainly within the normal range. She no longer struggled with hunger and felt good about the food she was eating.