1. Feb, 2018

The 'Always Hungry?' diet

Have you heard of the 'Always Hungry?' diet by Dr David Ludwig?  I hadn't until last week, so when it came to my attention, I thought I would review it. You might think this means I just read the book, but particularly as it's backed by science, I prefer to actually have a go at it. You can only empathise so much, personal experience with a diet can make all the difference when you're trying to relate to a client.

My first impression was how similar it is to The Dukan Diet in the way it uses 3 phases and focuses on one macro as being key to weight loss. For Dukan it's animal-based protein & for Always Hungry it's 'good' fats. 

The phases are even described as having similar effects on the body. Both Phase 1s are supposed to conquer your cravings and be 'priming your body to burn fat'. However the list of 'allowed foods' differs as the Dukan Diet contains little-to-no fat, only 'low carb' veg and zero fruit, while Dr Ludwig recommends 50% of your intake comes from fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds avocado and full fat dairy or alternatives (soy, almond etc). The balance is divided equally between carbs (in the form of fruit & veg, nuts or legumes) & protein (including vegetarian options).

Phase 2 is the steady weight loss phase in both diets. Unlike the Dukan Diet where you alternate protein only and protein/ veg days, Always Hungry allowed foods now include whole kernel grains eg. whole barley or steel-cut oats, and most starchy veg, though still no potatoes. Weight loss is understandably expected to be slower than Dukan, but is it claimed to be more sustainable as you 'retrain your fat cells'. Intake is now adjusted to 40% fat, 35% carbs & 25% protein. You might be wondering where your fibre is coming from in the Dukan Diet in this stage on the days you eat protein only. You are encouraged to have up to 2 tablespoons of oat bran. I imagine the constipation would be dreadful if you didn't take up the option.

Phase 3 is the maintenance phase, where you reintroduce potatoes, bread and refined/processed carbs and take note of how your body is able to deal with them - do they spike your blood sugar levels and make you feel hungrier or are you unaffected?  Intake ratio is now 20% protein and 40% each of fat and carbs. The final phase of the Dukan Diet is more complex, split between Transition (where you can finally eat some fruit and bread) which incorporates 'reward meals', and Consolidation (where you get a whole day off when you can eat whatever you want, as long as you keep 1 day of pure protein each week). 

In my experience, Dukan is much easier to follow. There is hardly any measuring apart from the oat bran, just a list of allowed foods and you can eat as much of them as you like. Only in the third phase does it become remotely complex, but even that is easier than any of Dr Ludwig's phases. He is unsurprisingly precise, you have to measure everything & the macros have to be just right. Consequently compliance is probably far less than Dukan apart from those that are highly motivated/disciplined.

Which diet would suit you best would very much depend on your personality and what you're trying to achieve. If you are obese, Dukan will help you lose weight much faster, but with it's very high animal protein intake, it's impossible to do if you're vegetarian or vegan. If however you are slightly overweight, and more focused on trying to reverse/stop insulin resistance and get long term control over your cravings, it's hard to go past Always Hungry. It's evidence-based and backed by medical and nutrition heavyweights such as Professor Walter Willett, Dariush Mozaffarian and our very own (Aussie) Professor Jennie Brand-Miller.

I'll keep you posted on my progress. Generally speaking, if I haven't given up within a week, I should be in it for the long run. I've tried a lot of diets over the last 30 years. Some, like this one, for 'science', and some prior to becoming a nutrition professional, for weight loss. Especially after each pregnancy.  My take on diets at this point in my life is that they all work - if you stick to them. Its not the diet, it's the elimination of what I, like most of you probably, call 'crap food' that is the most important factor. In Always Hungry? Dr Ludwig is telling us that even some foods that are seen as healthy, such as potatoes, can derail our long term weight loss efforts. 

As always, it's a good idea to have a chat to your GP before embarking on any new diet, and supervision by a university-qualified nutritionist, who works alongside them, will ensure you're getting adequate nutrition throughout your new regime.