Diet blog: gut instinct

Judith Wills / 16 May 2017

Ditch the diet rules and make yourself a plan instead, advises our diet expert.

I do like the idea of doing away with as many rules in one’s personal life as possible.  As someone recently said to me, “Rules are just one more thing to fail at and induce guilt.”

I reckon that in most situations, flexibility is the real key to a happy and interesting life, not rules.  And never more so than when we are talking food and diets.

I bet you can think of dozens of eating plans you’ve tried over the years that have rigid rules that must be obeyed.  And I bet on every one, you gave up.  Or, as some would say, you failed.

Well you didn’t.  It was the diets that failed you, with their lists of musts and mustn’ts, get and don’t get, rigid timings, intricate shopping lists and and so forth.

Every time I’ve been successful in losing weight, I’ve done it by following my own instincts and basically, using my own preferences, managing to cut down on the amount I ate over the course of a week.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever followed someone else’s set diet plan.

I toyed with the idea of doing the 5:2 when it was at the height of its popularity, just to see what happened.  But in the end I couldn’t be bothered, and simply skipped meals when I didn’t feel hungry, now and then. 

Even if you don’t need or want to lose weight, perhaps you’re being swayed by the health food police.  You must eat clean!  You must avoid meat!  Do not touch white food items!

Banish sugar – and sweeteners – from your life at all costs.   And so on, and so on, until you hardly dare get up in the morning in case someone jumps out at you from behind a hedge on your way to work and swipes the bottle of fizzy water out of your hand.  “Don’t drink that!  Don’t you know fizzy water is bad for you?”

Er, no. 

So I will tell you that it’s okay to have a plan, which isn’t the same as rules at all.  A plan is, “I’m going to think before I eat anything, and if I’m hungry I won’t eat.”  Or maybe, “I’m going to give myself a small portion at every meal, eat slowly, and if I’m still hungry at the end I’ll maybe have a bit more.”  It could even be, “I’m going to cut right back on sweet foods and alcohol and see if that helps me lose weight.”

You see the picture – you try a plan, and if it doesn’t work out, you regroup, try something a little different. Unless you are on a diet for medical reasons, with rules for a purpose.

But rules, at the saying goes, are just made to be broken, and that’s why that is exactly what people do.  And when we’re talking food and weight, how very true it is.  Don’t believe the hype, don’t believe the rigid diet gurus.  Do your own thing, and nine times out of ten, you’ll have more success.

Ate last night

I do love fishcakes of all sorts, and it’s been a while since I cooked crabcakes.  These small beauties are filled with tangy fresh flavours and their low-cal profile means you can have them with some sweet chilli jam without feeling guilty.  My son gave me this jam, packed with his home-grown, metabolism-boosting chillies.  The crab I used was fresh-picked white crabmeat in pots from Waitrose but if you want to add a little brown crab meat for a richer dish altogether, that’s fine. 

Judith Wills crab cakes

Crabcakes with chilli jam

  1. 225g white crabmeat
  2. 2cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped OR 2 tsp ready-made minced ginger
  3. 2 fresh red japaleno chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
  4. 1½ tbsp chopped coriander leaf
  5. 2 spring onions, chopped
  6. 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  7. Juice of ½ lime
  8. Salt and black pepper to taste
  9. 1 egg yolk
  10. 75 - 100g fresh breadcrumbs
  11. 1 tbsp flour
  12. 1 egg
  13. 2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
  14. 2 level tbsp chilli jam
  15. few handfuls mixed salad leaves and fresh herbs
  16. 2 tsp French dressing

In a bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients, then stir in the egg yolk and around half the breadcrumbs, or as many as you need to form a fairly firm mixture, and combine well.  Cover the bowl and put the mixture into the fridge for half an hour.

Put the flour on a plate.  Beat the egg with a little water and put into a shallow bowl.  Put the remaining breadcrumbs on another plate.

Divide the crab mix into four cakes.  Put the oil in a frying pan and begin to heat it up.  Meanwhile, dip each cake into the flour, then the egg mix, then the breadcrumbs to coat.  When the oil is hot, fry the cakes over medium-high heat for around 2½ minutes a side or until golden.  Serve with the chilli jam and the salad sprinkled with the dressing.


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