Diet, identity and dopamine
29 June 2017
On a summer evening when the temperature was as hot as any busy kitchen, almost 200 people packed into the Sheldonian theatre in Oxford to hear two-Michelin-starred chef, Tom Kerridge, in conversation with Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health. Tom has lost more than 11 stone over 3 years and has successfully kept his weight down; Susan was interested in the motivations and strategies behind his successful weight loss, which he has also shared in his latest book, The Dopamine Diet.
Tom has adopted a very low carbohydrate diet, removing foods like pasta, rice and potatoes, and using his culinary expertise to create low-carb versions of dishes traditionally high in carbs, such as white radish lasagne or shepherd’s pie with a cauliflower topping. He keeps food tasty and rewarding by using ingredients such as anchovies, feta and loads of herbs and spices, so you can still be satisfied.
Susan noted that cutting carbs can be a simple way to cut calories (and lose weight) without calorie-counting. Most people get nearly half of their daily calories from carbs; avoiding them tends to remove some of the fat from our diet too, think of butter on bread, or the fat in chocolate or biscuits. She also stressed that there is no need to avoid fruit or vegetables (except starchy root veg), or dairy products (except those with added sugar) with this type of diet. In fact if you stick rigorously to the low-carb ‘rule’ you can afford to eat a bit more of other things, larger portions of meat or fish or oily dressings on veg to stop you from feeling deprived and help stick to the diet. Tom even had a recipe for strawberry cheesecake or tiramisu for a very occasional dessert, made with sugar substitutes so they don’t break the low-carb rules.
Despite his enthusiasm for the diet, Tom acknowledged that low carb doesn’t suit everyone, it takes real determination to stick to it and isn’t always easy. The key is to find a diet plan that works for you and your lifestyle. Tom emphasised the need to have a plan – dieting doesn’t happen by accident – you need to prepare by having the right foods at home and know how to handle potentially difficult situations such as eating out. He stressed the need to ditch the ‘old-me’ and create a new identity as person who enjoys different types of foods and found support from family and friends helpful in his journey. These are all strategies that we know from our research can turn a new dieting attempt into a successful one.
Hearing Tom talk was a great insight into one person’s journey to lose weight. It inspired many people in the audience who were trying to lose weight themselves and it has helped us to develop our plans for a new research project that will test a low-carb diet for people with diabetes.