The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet

The Complete Low-FODMAP DietTwo months ago you’d have drawn a blank look from me if you mentioned a FODMAP. Or rather, the FODMAP acronym. Today, it seems to be integral to my eating life.

After some seven years of turning up to various doctors complaining of an assortment of annoying but arguably not life-threatening symptoms, it looks like we’ve finally worked out what’s causing my issues: fructose.

That’s essentially a sugar that’s contained in a bunch of foods that make up the FODMAP grouping, or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccarides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols.

High-FODMAP foods have been linked to a bunch of food intolerances, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s and Coeliac diseases. Low-FODMAP foods, on the other hand, seem to make those of us whose bodies flair up when we encounter high-FODMAP foods very happy.

As someone who studiously steers clear of anything involving the word ‘diet’, I was dubious about The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet‘s ability to convince me to start and stay with it. So it’s testament to the strong communication and communication design of this book that I consider it a worthy purchase and read.

Research-rich, it delivers a trove of detailed information in largely lay terms, which means it’s not overwhelming and people like me can have a red-hot crack at adopting the diet. I’m impressed, especially so as the book has whole sections and a sample weekly menu plan for vegetarians and vegans (they also have ones for coeliacs and so on).

This means I’m not cobbling together information and coming up with my own approximations of how the diet would apply to me. Which is pretty much par for the course with any other diet or recipe I’ve ever attempted.

That’s not to say that the diet isn’t confusing, because it kind of is. With foods anywhere from onion and garlic to apples on the do-not-eat or eat-minimally lists, there’s nothing hugely intuitive about which foods are high- or low-FODMAP. That may be why the diet took so long to really take off.

But, having been loosely following the low-FODMAP diet for a month or so, I can testify that this diet is already improving my allergies/intolerances. And doing so in a way that doesn’t compromise my overall long-term nutrition. Which means I should probably fully commit to it and stop faffing about.

The avoiding onion and garlic thing is, I have to say, indescribably difficult, with those two tasty vegetables forming the basis of just about every cooked food and every cooked winter food I’d currently like to consume.

I have also joked that, as a vegan on the low-FODMAP diet, I’m pretty much the most nightmarish dinner party guest ever. I’ll forever need to be turning up to people’s places armed with my own food in tupperware so as not to send them (or me) into what-on-earth-is-safe-to-eat meltdown.

But that’s a small adjustment to make in light of the more exciting healthfulness I’m feeling. Plus, there are some tasty-looking low-FODMAP recipes at the back of the book that warrant some road testing…

Mid-month round-up – dieting, running and glad-wrapping your glutes

It’s a departure from my normal non-fiction areas but I have recently been devouring dieting and exercise books. There was a few factors to me picking out these books, from some interesting new releases to my new hobby of running, but I will cheerfully admit my main motivation was superficial – I wanted to look nice when I walked down the aisle (well, sand).

Nothing like needing to fit into a wedding dress to concentrate the mind, even if I was sensible enough to buy one that fitted rather than go with getting an “aspirational”outfit 4 dress-sizes smaller, and end up shoe-horning myself in on the day. (Apparently, you can tamp down your wobbly bits by wearing two sets of body-slimming underwear or wrapping yourself in cling-film but honestly, dieting sounds easier.)

For those of you who also prefer to keep your Glad Wrap for cookery but would also like to get a better handle on your eating habits, I recommend the first of my picks, the Beck Diet Solution.

Cabbage soup. Banning carbs. Super foods, celebrity endorsements and expensive supplements. The Beck Diet Solution instantly endeared itself to me by recommending none of these things. Instead its author, cognitive therapist Dr. Judith S. Beck, has written a six-week program that applies Cognitive Therapy to dieting and weight loss: teaching readers how to think differently, change eating behavior, and lose weight permanently. The result, she claims, is that the book teaches the skills needed to get off the yo-yo diet circuit, and to diet successfully and to keep the weight off permanently.

It’s a psychological program, not a food plan, and can be used with any other sensible diet program, such as the CSIRO Wellbeing Diet. The program requires a regular daily commitment but it’s short on the gimmicks and big on long-term changes and is certainly easier to apply in real life than most of the diet books out there.

Also on the sensible side, and with no mention of cling-wrapping your bottom whatsover, is Dr Carmel Harrington’s The Sleep Diet, which was just released in August. Subtitled why sleeping well is the missing link to permanent weight loss, it’s not exactly subtle about advocating sleep, good sleep and plenty of it, to keep hormones that cause hunger down and your metabolism ticking over nicely. Dr Harrington argues that we are sleeping far less than previous generations, that sleep and weight are fundamentally connected and that the depth and effect of this connection is only now being discovered. The Sleep Diet explores the science, presents the research, and provides simple rules for improving your health – and weight – by getting more sleep.

While weight loss is a focus, the book also includes a DIY sleep program which will benefit people who have no issues with their waistline but lots of issues with their sleeping patterns or with people trying to disrupt their sleep. The book states clearly says that in order to lose weight, I need to stay in bed longer. Finally science has justified my Snooze Button habit.

If I was to decide to follow the example of my third pick, Running Crazy, though, I’ll need to set my alarm gruelingly early. Running Crazy explores the world of the 100 Marathon Club, also known as the Hell’s Angels of Running. This club has only one prerequisite for membership but it’s a biggie – every member has completed over 100 marathons. Many have completed over 200. And some, some have managed 500, 700, 800 marathons. That’s almost 34,000 kilometres, or Sydney to London – and back.

Why? Well, that’s what the book explores and how these runners find the time and energy to accomplish monthly – or in some cases, near weekly – what most people have to train for a months or years to manage. And their enthusiasm is infectious – whether you have a marathon already under your belt or, like me, you’re still proud of your 5km, it’s hard not to read the book without a tiny voice at the back of your mind saying, “I could do that”.

I have to admit, I’m still unlikely to actually decide to punish myself with a marathon run let alone 100 of them, but it’s hard to wiggle out of a quick 5km run when you have read about people who routinely run a marathon a month. And at least getting out and running means I am less likely to need a few extra rolls of Glad Wrap come summer.