Food for Thought

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Waist Not, Want Not— By Maggie Alderson
I can get my skinny jeans off without undoing them … This waistband revolution is the result of two months on the GI diet—which stands for ‘glycaemic index’, meaning how fast foods break down into sugars in your bloodstream. The lower the GI, the slower it breaks down – which is good, because you feel full longer.

In that time, following a diet I have found effortless—even enjoyable—to stick to, I have lost five kilos. That might not be much on a big bloke, but when you’re just a little squirt like me, it means you’re down a full dress size, a bra size and all your belt notches. More importantly, I am also down below the non-negotiable, crucial waist measurement which medical opinion now prescribes for women as being essential for long-term heart health: 88 centimetres.

… the thing that really inspired me to embark upon it – quite apart from general fashionista vanity and horror of the elasticised waistband – is that my dear old dad had his first heart attack at the age of 50. I am now at the stage in my own life when that birthday is no longer looking like something that only happens to other people. I can see it on the horizon now – without a telescope. And I was all too aware that I was carrying my excess weight in the worst place you can for heart disease risk; around the middle, like a lifebelt.

I was only 10 years old when Doug had that first heart attack and I remember it all too clearly. Characteristically, he was watching sport on TV at the time. Over the next few years he had several more and he was in and out of hospital – with that pitiless monitor going beep beep beep – his health gradually declining, until he died of heart failure at 63.

His last few years weren’t that much fun for a man who used to play serious rugby union. So out of respect for his memory – and in the understanding that I have inherited his excitable ‘A-type’ personality, which is another heart-risk indicator – I felt I had to turn that apple-shaped abdomen into something more closely resembling a healthy violin. Or at least a cello.

And it’s happened. I’m not Jessica Rabbit yet (I would like to lose another three kilos…) but, my goodness, I’m looking – and feeling – better than I did two months ago. But the real revelation of this diet journey for me—and I’ve been on every fad diet that has come out in the past 25 years – is that this is the only one of any of them that has actually lived up to all the breathless hype in the opening chapters.

You know where they all say: You won’t feel hungry! You can eat delicious meals! The whole family can eat the same food and not notice! You can eat out in restaurants! You can break it occasionally for special occasions and carry on losing! You are going to want to carry on eating like this for the rest of your life! Well, for this diet, it’s all true. A-m-a-z-i-n-g.

I’m not spruiking one particular diet book here—there are loads of different versions of the GI system on sale now and I have several. They differ in details, but the message is the same. And the message is some kind of a miracle. I commend it to you. I just wish it had been around when my dad was still alive.

—This piece is reproduced with permission of the author. It was first published in Good Weekend, the Saturday magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, where Maggie Alderson writes each week. Her columns have also been collected into two books, Shoe Money and Handbag Heaven (Penguin). She’s still doing well on the low GI diet …

maggie alderson
Maggie Alderson
Photo: Derek Henderson