Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Post from TFT Chef Ambassador Andrea Oschetti: "Dieting Demystified"

Note from the Editor: this article first appeared in the South China Morning Post on 23 October, 2012.


Forget dieting: it slows your metabolism, reduces your lean mass and you accumulate toxins, soon enough you put back what you lost.

Forget counting calories: quality calories are full of nutrients, while poor calories increase our appetite. Cooking techniques are much more important than the calorie count, a chef can heal or poison by the way he cooks. Cook your food simply and quickly.

Forget the complexity of the commercially driven diet industry. The key principles for healthiness are few and simple. The goal of losing weight is already misplaced; you want to lose body fat, not just weight. Don’t relay on scales, look at the mirror. In terms of body aesthetic, toned is beautiful, skinny is not.

There are three simple rules if you aim at losing excess body fat or maintain your ideal weight: eat well, keep the metabolism active and do physical exercise.

On eating well Michel Pollan put it as simple as one’s can: "Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food". Avoid industrial food and deep fried and you are 80% on the right track.

To focus on keeping the metabolism active is revolutionary, alas, but the most important point to lose weight sustainably. The problem with diets is they disregard the role of the metabolism and simply limit calories: our body reacts by slowing down its consumptions and make out body prone to gain weight easily. You should lose weight by eating healthy food and intelligently distribute your food throughout the day. Eat what you need, don’t starve yourself. Have a rich breakfast, a balanced lunch and a light dinner. Eat within 30 minutes of when you wake up or your metabolism will slow down. Don’t eat a lot in the evening or you will fuel the body's night anabolic phase, i.e accumulation of fats.

Physical exercise does not mean competing in Ironman races. It means doing regular activities that you regard as fun. Start gradually and make sure your work out is intense enough to burn energy.

My dream of ideal weight and healthiness became real in the summer of 2008 at Kamalaya, the wellness retreat in Koh Samui (www.kamalaya.com). The programme I followed at Kamalaya re-started my internal engine. Rather than working on calories intake, it focused on making my body work again. It offered a menu which is nutritious and deeply satisfying, complemented with daily herbal and anti-oxidant supplements. Karina Stewart, Kamalaya Co-Founder, explains that Kamalaya's cuisine philosophy is to "favor fad-free over fat-free; a sensible approach to dining that aims to educate and inspire guests to develop a more thoughtful and enriching relationship with food. Purists may be alarmed to find some richer dishes on the menu, like Chocolate Soufflé, but Kamalaya recognises that human nature sometimes seeks indulgence. When it comes to healthy eating, the quest for perfection can be our greatest downfall because it often leads to an all or nothing mentality where one chocolate seems little different to the entire box." I would like to share with you Kamalaya's key principles for optimizing weight loss.

Early Dinner: Eat your evening meal before 7pm; ideally start your meal at 6pm.

Carbohydrates: It is best to eat complex carbohydrates in the daytime when you are awake and moving, which is when you are most metabolically active.  Try a a small serving of complex carbohydrates at either breakfast or lunch – for example, muesli at breakfast or glass noodles at lunch are good choices. Complex carbohydrates are not recommended in your evening meal or more than once a day.  A light dinner with an emphasis on lean protein and vegetables is more energy efficient.

Protein: Try to eat protein with every meal to maintain a stable blood sugar throughout the day.  This will help you sustain the energy levels necessary to get you through your day and most of all, it will prevent you from getting ravenously hungry and overeating.

Eat as a ritual: Turn eating into a ritual.  If your body is your temple, then eating would be the ultimate act of worship.  Blessing your food, giving thanks or even just taking a few deep breaths before starting your meal will calm the nervous system to work optimally.

Chew your food thoroughly: By slowing down your eating and chewing more, you will enhance your digestion and give your body time to signal when you’ve had enough.  We recommend that you chew each mouthful 30 times, counting to yourself until this becomes a habit.

Go the soup and salad route: Eating more water based vegetables and soups will provide the hydration necessary for cellular metabolic reactions to happen as well as prevent overeating.

Fiber: Increase your intake of fiber through cooked and raw vegetables, low glycaemic grains, legumes and fruits.  Bulking up fiber will minimize over eating, help with constipation, release trapped toxins, decrease absorption of fat and lower cholesterol.  Additionally, increasing fiber will expedite the transit time for food through your digestive system.

Drink more Green Tea: It is a potent antioxidant, it boosts energy and strengthens the heart. Research shows that the combination of green tea and exercise targets tummy fat.

Talking about the importance of activating our metabolism, for this week’s recipe I borrowed a dish from Kamalaya which features Wakame, one of the richest source of vegetable proteins vitamins and minerals. The high iodine content makes it an excellent food to support thyroid function.


Wakame 240g
Spring onions 120g
Cucumber 320g
Sesame seeds 1/2 tsp
Extra virgin olive oil , apple vinegar
Salt and pepper


Cut wakame, spring onions and cucumber into thin strips. Mix together in a bowl, season with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

To serve, arrange the salad in the middle of your serving plates and sprinkle with some extra sesame seeds.

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