How I Lost Weight on a Diet of Duck and Rye Bread

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What the Diet Did for Me

After only a couple of days of eating this way, I had significantly more physical energy and mental clarity. The midmorning and midafternoon yawns disappeared. I didn’t know how lousy I’d been feeling before the diet until I realized how much better I was feeling on the diet.

I experienced complete satisfaction after each meal. I no longer had the cravings for my old pals chocolate and sugar. And my digestion improved tremendously. Everything moved along the way it should—easily and speedily. The burps stopped, as did the previously frequent bouts of hiccups. I felt calmer all over.

I also discovered I had a sensitivity to wheat. The minute I ate it, my brain felt fuzzy, as if my head were stuffed with cotton. Later, I overcame this sensitivity, though I still keep my wheat consumption to a minimum.

Did we cheat? Of course—doesn’t everyone? We didn’t for the first month or so, but eventually we used a tad more butter, mostly on that delicious rye toast. Once or twice, we splurged on coffee ice cream—a three-way no-no of dairy, sugar, and caffeine.

What the Science Says

Curious to learn more, I consulted Michael Boms, adjunct professor of biology at the State University of New York in New Paltz. He provided clarity and consonance on several key points:
  • Eating meat separately from starches (grains and potatoes) makes sense: Digestion of meat begins in the stomach and requires different enzymes and acid levels than does starch digestion, which begins in the mouth with plenty of chewing to break down the cell walls and release nutrients inside. When protein and starch are eaten together, the digestion of both is compromised. Everything slows down, which puts a strain on the pancreas to secrete enzymes into the small intestine to finish what the stomach couldn’t.
  • Eat fruit separately, not with meals: Fruit requires very little digestion. If combined with other foods, fruit remains in the stomach longer, delaying absorption in the small intestine. This can produce fermentation, causing gas and bloating. Fruit shouldn’t even be mixed with vegetables, Boms cautions, since each requires different enzymes, which can inhibit one another. So it was so long to slivers of pear in a green salad, and no winter mélanges of citrus, fennel, onions, and olives (another fruit!).
  • The simpler we eat, the better we digest: Combining food properly means less stress on our bodies.

Just Say Yes and No

Two years later, how do we eat? I felt the need to relax the restrictions eventually in order to fully resume what I’ve loved doing for so many years: tasting, testing, and developing recipes professionally. In addition, the rules and prohibitions had become too socially isolating for me—I needed to go back to dining out with friends without major dietary machinations. But I’m still careful with my selections, and I can feel it when I stray too far and combine too many different foods.

My husband sticks to the diet more closely than I do, but we both keep wheat to a minimum, and if we have the choice, we select spelt over whole wheat. We even found a wheat-free pasta—made of quinoa and corn—that looks and behaves so much like regular Italian-style pasta our guests don’t notice the difference.

The best outcome? We continue to eat a far greater amount and variety of vegetables than we used to before embarking on the diet. And we’re more acutely aware of how food affects us. We know that we feel better—with no digestive disturbances—when we keep our animal proteins separate from our starches, and our fruit separate from everything else. Oh, and we still do love a good duck breast.

Kemp Minifie was wrapped up in all aspects of food at Gourmet magazine for 32 years, and is now part of the Gourmet Live team. For more tried and tested tips and tricks, check out her Kemp’s Kitchen column on the Gourmet Live blog.

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