The greatest risk of eating as much fat as you fancy - and feeling so well - is that you become a food bore.
I've even been boring myself droning on about what I’m eating and not eating. I used to be scathing about picky eaters, but now I'm the one staring gloomily into carb-laden cafe food cabinets, or poring suspiciously over the fine print on food labels. Vegetarians, vegans, the gluten intolerant and those of you with food allergies … please accept my apologies.
As it was, there was only some sautéed pork belly and vegetables standing between me and the likely onset of a persistent depressive episode. More about the pork belly later, but first a bit of context.
Proponents of the Paleo (aka HFLC) diet claim that it improves mood and reduces inflammation. It was these claims which tempted me to try the diet because I have a chronic inflammatory condition which causes chest pain, and I suffer from bouts of anxiety and depression. Confusingly for the layperson, doctors and nutritionists on either side of the debate often employ the same research to reach quite different conclusions. I decided the only way to test the diet was to try it myself.
I promised a report on the result, so here it is:
1. Eating a HFLC diet feels cack-handed at first. Fat has been demonised for such a long time that it feels very, very wrong to use cream instead of milk, to leave the fat on the chop, to eat plenty of cheese and more than 3 eggs a week. But you get over that and remember that as a kid you used to be a proud member of the Egg a Day Club.
2. A bout of grief struck on Day Three of the new regime. Saying goodbye to all the carbs I’ve loved - Yazza’s cheese scones, Denheath Custard Squares, Dave’s homemade pizza - was hard to bear. But I found solace in the open arms of the on-line HFLC and paleo community. Tucked amongst their recipes for “the best LCHF chocolate cake in the entire universe”, “Apple and Aruglia Bison Burgers” and the Carbohydrate Calculator for Cat Food” I found lots of cheerful encouragement.
3. About Day Five I discovered that the greatest short-term risk of eating as much fat as you fancy is not a heart attack. You are at far greater risk of becoming a food bore. I even bored myself droning on about what I’m eating and not eating. Previously I’ve been scathing about picky eaters, but now it was me staring gloomily into carb-laden cafe food cabinets, or poring suspiciously over the fine print on food labels. Vegetarians, vegans, the gluten intolerant and those of you with food allergies … please accept my apologies.
4. By Day Six I was sleeping better. No more waking at 3am and not getting back to sleep until 6am. Now I was going to bed and sleeping through until morning. The sleep app on my phone confirmed this with a neat graph of my nocturnal sleep pattern plus a report that I achieved a 100% snore score.
5. The dog and I have grown very close over a newly mutual interest in flesh and bones. He used to nap when I cooked, assuming – correctly - that the salads and stir-fries would only occasionally involve meat. Now he’s agog at the first clang of a saucepan, and as alert as a Master Chef contestant when I begin the chopping and frying.
6. On Day 8, after a meal of sliced pork belly braised with leeks, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach and Bok Choy I was stunned by an amazing rush of well-being. I’ve never associated eating with feeling so good and so replete. If this is a fat rush, you can keep your much-touted sugar rush.
7. The pork belly effect wore off but has been replaced by a persistent and more generalised sense of well-being. I felt as if I was a radio which has, at last, been properly tuned so that all the hissing and static has stopped. I’ve found myself aware of feeling relaxed and happy for no particular reason, more light-hearted and less worried. Walking the dog the other morning I broke into a little jog out of sheer pleasure at being alive.
8. The clincher: no chest pain in nearly three weeks.
DISCLAIMER: I attribute my improved well-being to eating more saturated fat and protein and almost no carbohydrate but I must point out that this hasn’t been a scientific experiment. There was no control. I didn’t have any benchmark tests done when I began, and I haven’t had any follow-up test done now I’m at the three week mark. The placebo effect must be taken into account. Also, it’s spring: people often feel better when the days grow longer and the magnolias are in bloom. And of course, I might keel over of a heart attack tomorrow.