30 days without sugar or caffeine or alcohol

17th, February 2016

One group of local people including Mark Regan, CEO of Kingsbridge Private Hospital had taken their New Year resolution very seriously and embarked upon a healthy eating challenge for 30 days with the aim of helping them lose weight and also improve their percentage body fat, reducing their waistlines, cholesterol and blood glucose, all in just one month.

As we entered into this New Year with resolutions and hopes there were also new challenges ahead. One group of local people including Mark Regan, CEO of Kingsbridge Private Hospital had taken their New Year resolution very seriously and embarked upon a healthy eating challenge for 30 days with the aim of helping them lose weight and also improve their percentage body fat, reducing their waistlines, cholesterol and blood glucose, all in just one month. The basis of this diet and lifestyle change is to eat only healthy and unprocessed food stuffs, and to avoid caffeine, refined sugars and alcohol and to exercise three times per week. The hope is that after such an impressive start people will be encouraged to make healthy changes in the long term too.

The volunteers from Northern Ireland all signed up and had personal health screening at Kingsbridge Private Hospital before commencing their new regime in early January. The screenings were to ensure that there were no underlying medical problems which might have affected their ability to take part, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to get baseline measurements for their weight, percentage body fat, waist and hip measurements, cholesterol and glucose blood measurements etc. Then the challenge began. Some were clearly overweight and needing to do something, but some were in a healthy weight range and simply wanted to improve their health in other ways.  There were no big surprises in the medical examinations, and no-one was excluded.

There is no doubt that this kind of a challenge will have a price, but it is important to remember that the prize should be greater than the price. The early days will involve discipline and focus, but after a few days, people should be able to stick to what they have agreed to do and what they are allowed to eat.  Initial drops in blood sugar may be felt a little with irritability and fatigue. This is also true after a few days without caffeine, but headaches may also be experienced when caffeine is suddenly withdrawn. With regards to alcohol, it really depends how much someone is consuming in any one week as to whether they will miss this or not, from a physical point of view.

Eating healthy unprocessed food has to be a benefit - there is no physical or health "downside". We all have "learned" to desire certain foods, even processed foods, and there may be a psychological barrier to be overcome in relation to certain favourite processed foods that people eat regularly, but physically people should not notice any difference when eating healthier food. They may notice that foodstuffs taste a little different, as almost all processing now involves the addition of salt and sugar, to both savoury and sweet things. Eating unprocessed foods will not have this salt and sugar, and so may taste a little different. This is different as oppose to worse! People may find that they prefer the unprocessed flavours!!

We monitored the Group on this 30 day challenge, taking theirbloods and other physical measurements at the half way point and againat the end point in February. The month passed quickly for all and happily without serious events! The most impressive changes were with the few individuals who most needed to make the changes. Our own CEO had an impressive drop in cholesterol of 2.2 mol/l from 6.0 to 3.8, but not much of a weight loss, and although his blood sugar and other bloods were relatively unchanged, these changes in diet were definitely worth making. Mark felt great over the course of the month and has noticed a significant change in his waist line, his sleeping, and his energy levels and concentration. Proof for him at least that eating healthily is well worth the small sacrifices required.

By Dr Roger Brown - GP at Kingsbridge Private Hospital, Belfast.


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