Tuesday, 13 May 2014

1834 Days 1&2: Interview with A Dietician

Wind, bloating, hunger and a REALLY bad mood- the 1834 diet has made me feel terrible after only two days. The gruel is thinner, there is less cheese to eat, and I'm drinking only water. Worse than all of this, I am sooooo unbelievably tired. Bring back 1797!!

Lucy (pictured coyly, left), has kindly agreed to act as dietician for the project, and she explains ...

1)  Thank you so much for agreeing to share your expertise for the Living The Workhouse Diet project. Could you tell readers a little about yourself and give a brief summary of your work?

Thanks for asking me Rachel – it’s proving a very interesting project. I am a dietitian, registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. I qualified a long time ago before our current intake of students were born. Most of the time I work in the NHS and I also do some freelance work.

2) What has interested or surprised you most about the project so far?

I’ve really enjoyed trying to translate the old recipes into something I can analyse. The hardest was trying to think of an equivalent to “hull’d and boiled wheat”. I was quite surprised by the generosity of the 1747 diet – I hope it was true that “cabbages, carrots, turnips, potatoes, beans, etc are served in great plenty during the season”. They didn’t have the Care Quality Commission in those days!

3) People have been astonished that I didn't lose any weight on the first (1797) diet. What was the main reason for this?

You were only on the diet for a week – people are not machines and all sorts of regulatory mechanisms endeavour to prevent weight loss. And you were pretty constipated. Sorry to be crude...

4) Do you predict that I will lose weight on the 1834 or 1901 diets?

I think you could lose weight on the 1834 diet – it is much lower in energy – but it would only be 1-2 lb. I would not recommend it as a healthy weight reducing diet as it is totally inadequate in protein and many vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and riboflavin. I haven’t seen the 1901 diet yet.

5) I stopped drinking tea two weeks before the 1797 diet, so I blamed lack of sugar, not lack of caffeine, for my headaches on the first three days. Was this really the reason?

I’m not sure why you had a headache. Constipation (again) could be one – it does cause one to feel pretty lousy. Alcohol would be another. It acts as a diuretic (makes you pee) so would leave you mildly dehydrated. Dehydration causes headaches and is the main cause of a hangover headache. I think you did very well to wean yourself off caffeine 2 weeks prior to the diet as the headache from suddenly withdrawing caffeine is awful. You did make a sudden and significant dietary change so some sort of symptom would be expected but I’m not sure that it was anything to do with lack of sugar. I am happy to be corrected on this.

6) You correctly predicted that I would suffer constipation and have no energy, whilst on the 1797 diet. The 1834 diet is more harsh; what symptoms can I expect?

On the 1834 diet I predict major wheat bloat, maybe tummy cramps, hunger, light-headedness and dizzyness. Please keep your fluid intake up.

7) Since finishing the diet I have not craved biscuits, snacks between meals or cups of my beloved tea. What has happened to me?!

You have adapted! Your body was habituated (not addicted). If things are routinely eaten your body will expect to keep getting them.
High sugar foods have what is known as a high glycaemic index, which means they make your blood sugar levels rise quickly. Insulin is rapidly produced in response to this which causes blood sugar levels to rapidly fall again. This rapid fall in blood glucose makes us feel hungry again, so we have another snack and so it can go on. The food in the 1797 diet had little sugar in it, and what there was was mixed into starchy foods. So the 1797 diet had a very low glycaemic index. It was very slowly digested and absorbed, put blood glucose levels up very slowly and they would never have risen to high levels. A steady trickle of insulin would have kept the cells supplied with glucose and there would be no sudden decrease in blood sugar levels. Our bodies like it this way and once adapted to this would not crave to go back to high sugar foods such as biscuits. That’s not to say that a liking for sweet foods goes entirely!
Caffeine, from tea and coffee for example, is not addictive in the clinical sense. It’s not like, say, heroin. But we do get habituated to it which means we don’t get addicted to the high it gives us but we really miss it when it is taken away. Humans are however highly adaptable creatures and we can, given time, lose our habituation to all sorts of things including caffeine.
Thank you to Lucy for sharing her time and expertise so generously for this project.

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