Have you heard about the latest diet craze to hit the headlines? The Champagne Diet has been touted as a cheerful alternative to standard weight loss diets. DietDoc comments.
Christmas and the Festive Season are nearly upon us and for most South Africans, the celebrations started weeks ago with endless office parties, club dinners, and end-of-year events. And of course, all these parties involve copious amounts of rich food and endless drinking. Under normal circumstances this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your waistline. We indulge wildly and are then faced by a holiday at the sea where most women and their partners want to look stunning in a bikini or a speedo. No wonder many people regard the Festive Season as stressful!
A jolly alternative
Last week news of a jolly alternative to standard weight loss diets, featuring up to two glasses of bubbly a day, was widely touted on the internet and in the media. Cara Alwill Leyba who hit on the idea of the Champagne Diet which features “classy foods” and sparkling wine as a means of losing weight, was inspired to create an alternative to all the strict and rather puritanical slimming diets that are doing the rounds (Bee, 2011).
Leyba is no novice when it comes to dieting. She said that she had tried the Atkins, Weight Watchers, and Dukan diets, all without success. Her naturally chubby body build and her job, which entailed a lot of socialising always prevented her from losing weight. But when she decided to switch to drinking champagne (very dry champagne only contains 65 kcal or 273 kJ per glass) instead of red wine, and eating classy foods like smoked salmon and crudités, instead of high-fat cocktail foods, she at last started to lose weight (Bee, 2011).
Cara Alwill Leyba is about to publish a book describing her experiences and her new diet concept. The idea of being allowed to have an alcoholic drink once a day makes any diet slightly less restrictive and should appeal to dieters who are being torn in two by the demands of Festive Season socialising and the desire for a slim figure.
What does this diet entail?
Although the details are still sketchy, it would appear that the Champagne Diet entails the following:
Breakfast consists of a high-fibre carbohydrate with some monounsaturated fats (e.g. wholewheat or low-GI bread with olive oil-based margarine or 2 tablespoons of mashed avocado)
Mid-morning snack: One portion of fresh fruit
Lunch comprises fun-food such as a pizza with goat’s cheese, roasted red peppers and mushrooms (alternatives would be low-GI bread with thin slices of Prosciuto and a green salad)
Dinner includes a tasty grilled or smoked fish like salmon or very lean grilled meat with mixed vegetables or a salad
Other daily snack: 2 flutes of dry Champagne
According to Cara Alwill Leyba her diet is balanced and provides between 1200 and 1400 kcal/day (i.e. 5000 to 5900 kJ/day) (Bee, 2011).
Will it work?
Any slimming diet that contains approximately 6300 kJ per day should induce weight loss. So despite quaffing a glass or two of champagne a day, the low energy content of the diet should ensure that people should lose weight on it. So I agree that this diet may assist with weight loss.
Is it balanced?
However, the Champagne Diet is, is not completely balanced because it does not include sufficient calcium-rich foods to provide the 1200 mg of calcium recommended daily for adults. Anyone who uses the diet should consider taking a calcium supplement such as MenaCal.7 to stave off brittle bones in the short-term and osteoporosis in the longer term.
The alcohol dilemma
The public should note that this Champagne Diet is NOT a licence to drink indiscriminately and that anyone who does not drink alcohol, should not feel obliged to start drinking.
It is also important to keep in mind that most international dietary organisations specify that alcohol intake should be kept to a minimum. For example, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, state that “If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation - up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men - and only by adults of legal drinking age”. (USDA. 2010). Leyba’s advice to women to have two glasses of champers per day, therefore, exceeds the prudent alcohol guideline for adult women. Our South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines are at present being revised and it is probable that they will include similar warnings about the use of alcohol.
In the light of the above mentioned concerns and the havoc that alcohol abuse causes in this country, the Champagne Diet should be approached cautiously and only used as a guideline to survive the Festive Season.
Let them drink Champagne
While Cara Alwill Leyba’s Champagne Diet appears to be a fun concept, she sounds a bit like Queen Marie Antoinette who is purported to have said "Let them eat cake!", when told that her subjects were starving.
Who can actually afford to drink champagne and eat classy foods in the present economic climate? Leyba’s diet is probably aimed at the "upper crust" in cities like New York and London, who have not been hit by the economic crunch.
A clever approach
But one thing is for certain, Leyba is to be congratulated on her clever approach to the psychology of weight loss. Instead of threatening her followers if they dare to "transgress" by having a glass of alcohol, she purposefully sanctions this "forbidden treat" by encouraging people to have up to 2 glasses of bubbly a day. This immediately makes the diet less forbidding and its users will automatically feel less deprived and more inclined to stick to the basic principles.
Under normal circumstances the use of alcohol is actively discouraged in most weight loss diet regimens, primarily because alcohol has such a high energy content (29 kJ/gram, which is secondly only to fat at 37 kJ/gram). Many women have watched their husbands’ beer boeps melt away when they go on the water wagon for a while. All these men have done, is to cut out the extra energy provided by their habitual alcohol intake and the kgs disappear like magic.
Any diet that sanctions the intake of moderate amounts of alcohol, especially relatively low-energy very dry champagne, sounds exotic and decadent and not like a diet at all.
How to use the Champagne Diet
I would recommend that anyone who is starting to gain weight rapidly because of Festive Season excesses should take the basic principles of Leyba’s diet into account, namely:
Eat very-low-fat foods whenever possible during the Festive Season. For example, if you are going to attend a function or a dinner overloaded with kilojoules, make sure that you eat very sparingly for the rest of the day. Stick to fresh fruits and raw vegetables and one or two servings of high-fibre grains or cereals.
Only eat low-fat foods at the function. Select lean grilled meat or fish and top up on salads without the dressing. Order berries and sorbet for dessert instead of Christmas pud and you will not only avoid kJ-overload, but feel a lot better and lighter.
If you are going to drink, stick to 2 small glasses a day and select an alcoholic drink that has relatively fewer kJs, like very dry champagne or dilute your alcohol with plenty of ice or water or soda. Have 2-3 nonalcoholic, energy-free drinks for each alcoholic drink you allow yourself. In this way you will dilute your energy intake from alcohol and also feel much better the next day. Most of the horrid symptoms of a hangover are due to dehydration, so by drinking plenty of water or soda water at a party, you will prevent the dehydration effect.
If you are a party fanatic and intend going out every night from now till after New Year, cheat the kJs by not drinking any alcohol at every second party. Order soda water with lots of ice, a twist of lemon and a dash of bitters to add colour and pretend you are having a vodka. Many people tend to drink alcohol to be part of the crowd, but if no one knows that you are cheating, then you will be the winner both weight- and health-wise.
So although I don’t think most of us can afford the Champagne Diet, its basic principles and a bit of common sense may just help you survive the Festive Season without damaging your figure or your liver.
- (Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, December 2011)
(Bee P. 2011. Drink bubbly, lose weight. 30 November 2011; USDA. 2010. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Executive Summary.)
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