ONE AUTHOR’S STORY ABOUT METABOLIC BALANCE®
~ Laurel Ives Published: 30 November 2014 The Sunday Times (UK)
Tired of every fad diet going? Then a nutritionist-led plan from Germany, Metabolic Balance, might work. It did for Laurel Ives, Sunday Times writer.
I first heard about the Metabolic Balance diet from Style’s fitness and food guru, Calgary Avansino. “You have to weigh everything, it’s a bit of a faff, but friends have lost so much weight,” she said. I didn’t need to be told twice.
Boy George lost a ton of weight on the program, Jemma Kidd is a fan, and the online testimonials are glowing. Founded in Germany by Dr. Wolf Funfack, the diet is a big hit there but is only now reaching critical mass in the UK, spreading fast among the Chelsea tractor set. And so I find myself in the glossy Chelsea consulting rooms of the nutritionist Petronella Ravenshear, who explains that Metabolic Balance is all about insulin control and resetting my metabolism, which, post kids, seems to have slowed to the speed of a tortoise. I’ve tried exercising like a demon and fad diets, but although the short-term results are good, the weight dial always seems to creep back up.
CONTROLS INSULIN & BALANCES HORMONES
Once your insulin is under control and your hormones balanced, you can, says Ravenshear, start to cheat occasionally. Well, that’s a relief. But wait, the first phase of the diet involves a two-day cleanse, eating just salad. Then a blood test is taken that determines what foods I will eat during phase two, which is rather Germanically called the Strict Adjustment phase.
Strict means no oil, alcohol, sugar or snacks, and, horrors, no milk in coffee or tea. In other words, you can’t really socialize for two weeks, unless it’s a trip to the cinema with a bottle of water. Ravenshear is upbeat: “It’s going to be great. You are going to look and feel fantastic.” I feel terrible already. Once the blood test is done, I receive my list of allowed foods. This a slightly random collection of vegetables, eggs, fruit including apple, mango, papaya, and watermelon, certain varieties of fish and meat, poultry, feta cheese and cottage cheese. There are no grains except a slice of rye bread.
Everything has to be precisely weighed. There are three meals a day and there must be five hours between them. Snacks are not allowed, but there is a silver lining – intense exercise isn’t allowed either. Every day I must drink three liters of water. Exactly how the blood test reveals what you should eat is unclear, and the Metabolic Balance team won’t reveal their trade secrets. Yet, what most people find – and it’s certainly true for me – is that the diet seems to pick the food you don’t normally eat.
The nutritionist, Gloria Parfitt, the UK director of Metabolic Balance, says: “It forces you to have a more varied diet. The blood test reveals any issues with the liver, kidneys, hormones and enzymes, and certain foods are recommended. For example, if your immune system is compromised, you won’t find any dairy in your plan. Over time inflammation in your body decreases, you learn how much protein and carbohydrate to eat, and your digestion improves.”
The weighing of limited ingredients is time-consuming, though, so I’m grateful that Ravenshear has initially signed me up for food deliveries. These arrive early in the morning from Total Diet Food, in a little cooler bag. I come to look forward to my daily delivery, and for the first two weeks I hunker down, eating nothing except the food (which is surprisingly tasty) that arrives from TDF, and drinking sparkling water when I feel hungry. After a few days, even a black coffee seems like a treat.
EASY FOR A REGULAR SNACKER
As a regular snacker, my biggest worry was how I would cope without my11AM and 4 PM fixes. Not snacking also goes against most current nutritional advice, which claims blood sugar is kept stable by eating healthy food at regular intervals. Yet Ravenshear is a convert: “As a nutritionist, I was horrified when Dr. Funfack told me there was to be no snacking, as I’d been taught the opposite. Yet every time we eat or drink, our blood sugar goes up and so does insulin. This program is all about keeping insulin low, because insulin is the fat storage hormone, and when it is high we no longer access our fat stores for energy. I used to dread people coming to me for weight loss, now with Metabolic Balance it’s thrilling because I know it’s going to work.”
It turns out that a big glass of water and a decaf coffee (not strictly allowed between meals, but rules are made to be broken) effectively kills my snack craving. Two weeks in, I go for my first weigh-in. Ravenshear has a super-sophisticated scale called a Tanita Body Composition Analyser, which lists weight, fat percentage, muscle, water and metabolic age. In two weeks I had lost 7lb, of which nearly 7lb was fat. Result!
Things then start looking up on the food front, too. In phase three, my list of foods expands (buffalo mozzarella is happily on the list), I can cook with oil and, even better, I can have one cheat meal a week. At the end of week three, I go out for a delicious dinner and finish it with chocolate mousse — pudding has never tasted so good.
SHE LISTENS TO HER INNER SIGNALS
Wheat, however, is off the menu, even when I’m cheating, after dire warnings of its evil effects from Ravenshear. “Wheat protein contains gluten [so does rye, but it is much easier to digest], which makes the gut leaky. This means that little fragments of the protein can get into the bloodstream and the immune system is activated, which can result in fatigue and hunger. Gluten can also attach to receptors in the brain, which messes with brain chemistry, making people hungrier and making wheat addictive.” This is a controversial area and many experts disagree, but Ravenshear cites the work of the pioneering Italian scientist Dr. Alessio Fasano as evidence. She also advises monitoring my body’s reaction. After a few weeks of abstinence, I eat a piece of bread and the subsequent bloating proves it’s not for me.
As the weeks pass, I settle into an easy routine. In reality, this is not a hard diet to follow long term. It’s effectively protein and vegetables, with fruit and the odd drink. I’m full of energy and I feel great. When I do fall off the wagon, I confess to Ravenshear, and we come up with a plan to get me back on track. At one point I go to New York, but even after living on martinis, I still don’t gain any weight. In fact, I am steadily losing it, and the compliments are flooding in, boosting my motivation. “You look well” is the most common remark; it’s true that if you cut out processed food and sugar, your skin very quickly thanks you.
MY GIRLFRIENDS ARE AMAZED
… and some sign-up. A few weeks in and I dig out a pair of Joseph trousers from the 1990s that I had consigned to the pile of “vintage fashion for my daughter”. After 12 weeks, I’ve lost just over a stone [14 pounds], and have only two pounds to go to reach my target weight.
There is no denying this is an expensive diet. You have to do it with a coach, which involves paying for a blood test (a thorough analysis of your health) and three months of coaching (from £700). Yet, if you add it all up, it doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. Ravenshear prescribed numerous supplements, as well as supporting and motivating me. If you cannot afford it, which, let’s face it, is most people, then the principles are surprisingly easy to follow (see box, right).
As for the million-dollar question: will this diet work for life? Well, if wine is out [but not forever] and black coffee is in, then anything is possible.
DIET THE METABOLIC BALANCE WAY
- Diet the metabolic balance way
- Eat three meals a day — no more, no less.
- Each meal should contain a lot of protein and a good portion of vegetables. Cut out sugar and wheat.
- Leave at least five hours between meals.
- Don’t mix proteins in one meal and don’t repeat proteins in a day (eg, if you have chicken for lunch, have fish for dinner).
- Finish your evening meal by 9 pm.
- Drink lots of water, at least three liters a day.
- Eat one apple a day and, if you like, one type of fruit after each meal.
- Get moving — climb stairs (don’t use lifts and escalators). Take walks outside. Cycle rather than drive. Yoga and meditation are excellent for calm and peace of mind.
Laurel Ives: ‘A big glass of water between meals kills my snack craving’
WHY CHOOSE METABOLIC BALANCE?
Metabolic balance® is not a standardized diet plan, but rather a holistic approach to putting your body’s metabolism into a healthy balance and reaching your ideal body weight.
Insulin, the pancreatic hormone, plays a central role in this process. It “opens the doors” to our body’s cells, allowing blood sugar to enter and supply the body with energy. Being overweight has a strong effect on the delicate balance between blood sugar and insulin levels and is thus the root of many common illnesses and disorders.
Healthy nutrition, as recommended by metabolic balance®, will stabilize your body’s insulin level, maintain the natural feeling of fullness after a meal and balance your body’s metabolism. The cornerstone of metabolic balance® program is a personalized nutritional “road map” based on your body’s bio-chemistry. If you are interested in finding out more about metabolic balance,®. Sign up for monthly news & tips. Contact Myra for more information. You can also visit MetabolicBalanceCalifornia.