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Eating right – the expert’s view

Desi Horsman

Desi Horsman is a leading authority on everything to do with food. She is a qualified clinical nutritionist, wellness expert and professional speaker. She is passionate about her discipline and sharing her incredible knowledge about the human body and the connection between mind and body wellness.

I asked her a few questions that could apply to our daily lives:

“We are all born with an innate wisdom of knowing what, when and how much to eat. Each person knows exactly what their own body needs.” – Desi

I’d like to challenge you on that statement – many people feel that they are clueless when it comes to nutrition and making the right choices – is it because you have to find that “innate wisdom” through guidance?

“Every child is born with an innate wisdom and ability to listen to their body’s needs. They are attuned to know how much and when to eat, and what is good for them to eat. Why we don’t retain that as adults is largely due to how we were fed as babies and children. Well -meaning parents spend many mealtimes playing games to get their child to eat more. The message sent to the child is not to trust their own cues. Ultimately, this is where overeating starts.

Pressurising a child to eat more at a meal will very often make them eat less and create an inner struggle with food in the future.

Force feeding leads to lifelong aversion to certain foods that are healthy.

Some foods do not agree with the child’s constitution but maybe a parent will not allow them to leave the table until they are finished. This could lead to them growing up unaware of which foods they tolerate more than others.

Food used as bribery/rewards/distraction/negotiation/threats – leads to emotional eating.

These are just some of the examples that lead to us to not knowing when we are actually hungry, or emotional eating, or when to stop eating. Guidelines have to be learnt with a step by step process on how to listen to your body’s cues.

How do you know exactly what you need if your brain is screaming at you mid -afternoon that you need sugar?

Your blood sugar has a natural dip around 3pm in the afternoon. If you have skipped a meal or eaten high carb meals during the day you will crave something sweet. This is because the brain needs little bits of regular glucose throughout the day and the body will give very clear messages when there is no supply.

Is there one meal that’s more important than another (based on ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’)

It’s important to look at each person individually in this case to see what best suits their constitution. Breakfast is definitely of major importance because what you eat in the morning will map out the rest of your day. A high carb breakfast like cereal will give you quick spike in sugar and then a fast drop later in the morning. When that happens you will feel fatigued and concentrating on work will be difficult. This can also set you up for cravings later in the day.

The Banting or high fat -almost -no -carb -diet worked wonders for many people, especially men, in general. Why would it work for one group of people and not for another?

Again this is a very individual chemistry -based result and one size does not fit all. If your liver is under any stress a high fat diet will not work for male or female. The unfortunate news for women is that it’s easier for men to lose weight! A woman’s body is designed to store fat as part of the reproductive process. Blood sugar is very important for keeping hormones in check and with certain restrictive diets a woman may land up having the opposite effect.

How do you spot a fad diet?

Very restrictive and very high in certain food groups and low in others screams fad diet. Firstly these diets are not sustainable and secondly they could land up creating health issues. Look for key words like “quick fat loss”. Long -term sustainable weight loss is not quick.

Is counting calories relevant nowadays?

Calorie counting has become highly outdated in the health arena but still used by many for “quick” weight loss. Current research shows that while the quantity of calories plays a large role in the science of metabolism, the quality of the calories are more significant to weight loss. The human body is a complex system and calories from a carbohydrate and calories from a fat or protein are metabolised differently in individuals.

What questions should we ask ourselves when embarking on a new food plan journey?

  • Are you making a huge sacrifice that will actually be stressful to your body and have a negative effect on your longevity in the long run?
  • Is it sustainable or do you turn to old patterns over time and gain back the weight, or even worse, put on more than you lost.
  • Are you doing it to lose weight or to be healthy?

The bottom line is we’re all different, with different tastes, lifestyles, dietary preferences and genetic makeup and what works for one person will not work for another. As scientific research continues to evolve and we are left feeling confused, it’s best to keep an open mind and be willing to challenge deep beliefs. There are certain foundational rules that will never change – eat seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables and whole foods that are not processed; avoid refined carbs and read the ingredient labels, at all times avoiding sugar, chemicals and trans fats. Use healthy cooking methods and add a dash of common sense and you will find what works for you.