herald

Thursday 31 July 2014

My type of diet

Where I am in LA, you can eat any which way you like.

Fussy gals like me will delight in the fact that you can order off menu, ask for no-carb options, and dressings and sauces on the side with not a whisper of an exasperated sigh from your waitress, or server as they refer to them here.

Eating patterns here have a different social context and there are cult-like diet groups; the high protein, the raw foodies, the vegans, the everything-as-long-as-it's-organic and the low fat consumers who have become like communities here.

One, more then any of the aforementioned, piqued my interest: the blood group diet. Popularised by Dr Peter D'Adamo, the diet is now enjoying resurgence in popularity. Celebrity fans include Cheryl Cole, Elizabeth Hurley and Miranda Kerr. The regime is based on the belief that for each blood type there are specific eating and lifestyle habits that will lead to optimum well-being.

A naturopathic physician, D'Adamo's book, Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type, was a worldwide bestseller. The book, first published in 1996, states that human blood type is key to the body's ability to differentiate self from non-self.

In other words, he advocates different diets for people with O, A, B and AB blood types.

The diet has attracted criticism from dieticians, physicians and scientists, however, with many disputing D'Adamo's claims and lack of hard evidence.

That wasn't on my mind last week when I was chowing down on a fillet steak salad in the Sunset Tower when a vision of beauty walked in with her beau. It was none other than Miranda Kerr and her husband, Orlando Bloom. Just four months after giving birth Miranda's limbs were almost childlike. I couldn't finish my food. Whatever she was doing I had to give it a try, and so I embarked on the diet.

First up, you need to get your blood type. I had my blood tested a few months ago, therefore I know I am type O. If you donate blood they will give you your type, therefore killing two birds with one stone, charity and vanity. D'Adamo calls type O the "hunter" blood group. It is the most common blood group. Strangely, thyroid problems are more prominent among type Os than any other blood group.

For my blood type the food types are divided into three columns; highly beneficial, neutral, and to be avoided. For me, meat is highly beneficial, as are iron-rich greens such at broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, green tea and walnuts. Dairy, pork and wheat are to be avoided. I am told I need regular vigorous exercise to relieve stress and to avoid depression . . . Great.

I stare at the other blood types longingly. Now if I was a type A I would need a vegetarian diet and relaxing exercise, yoga, golf and Tai Chi, which sounds like a walk in the park.

In order to see if the diet worked, I decided to embark on it for five days and keep a diary of my experiences.

>Day 1

Eggs are allowed, but I can't have any toast or butter with them so I have two poached -- sadly by themselves -- for breakfast. I am not allowed orange juice but grapefruit juice is fine so I make some of that also. By 11 am I am starving.

Lunch is tricky. I can't have smoked salmon, so I have a dull chicken salad, again no bread and dressing is just lemon and olive oil, as vinegar is bad for me, apparently.

Dinner is beef steak and spinach. I adore this meal, but it is way over my usual budget.

>Day 2

I wake up feeling groggy and mildly depressed, with no nice frothy cappuccino to indulge in -- both coffee and dairy are out for type O.

I sip grapefruit juice and have a bowl of mango and pineapple. I feel saintly. Mid morning, I find I am almost mainlining my snacks of pumpkin seeds and walnuts. I'm stuffing them into my mouth without even thinking. I worry that I have blown the diet when I see the ridiculously high calorie count on the bag of walnuts -- 200 in a handful -- and I've eaten about five handfuls, but the diet specifically says it's not about portion sizes, so I calm down a little.

I am allowed a small amount of brown rice or quinoa as grains so I whip up a stir fry with some leftover veg and beef from last night. Soy sauce is out, but tamari, which doesn't contain wheat and tastes similar, is in.

The meal is delicious. I have some dark chocolate which is on my neutral-foods list. A food is neutral when it simply acts as a food, not doing anything bad or good to you.

>Day 3

Substituting green tea for coffee is not exactly a fair deal and it costs almost the same in some places. I don't mind paying for coffee or hot chocolate with lovely foam and chocolate powder as I can't make it at home. I can, however, put a teabag in a cup, so paying for it is just annoying.

I embark on the first of my prescribed three 40-minute runs per week. These are deemed crucial to my blood type and I am supposed to thrive on them.

It's one thing running in Ireland where it's always cold. Running here, in the 34-degree heat, is downright impossible. I downloaded a new song in a bid to enthuse myself. Lights, by Ellie Goulding, is exactly three minutes and 41 seconds. I know this for certain as that is precisely how long I was able to run until I was utterly breathless.

>Day 4

The only bread I am allowed is Essene bread. I finally track some down in a health food store. It's made of a sprouted grain and is apparently also mentioned in the bible in the book of Ezekiel chapter four, verse nine which says: "Also take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, and put them into one vessel and make bread of them", so there you go.

>Day 5

I'm now fully obsessed by the blood type diet and am constantly referring to the website www.dadamo.com for recipes and to read people's tales of how they were cured of ailments by following the diet.

I am two pounds lighter and although the exercise is lagging, I do feel well. The blood type diet is a tough regime and I have spent more on food this past five days then I would normally. To make it possible, you must make the effort and take the time to seek alternatives such as the bread, and specific pulses, and some really good chocolate -- you will feel less deprived with them in your cupboard.

I like being aware of what foods to avoid, but cutting out dairy and wheat entirely is tough and upon my return to Ireland I know it will only be tougher. There is also a huge amount of research on the internet saying that the blood type diet is ridiculous, which dampens my spirits as I virtuously decline cheesecake and try to go for a run. But I feel better for having tried.

I haven't morphed into Miranda Kerr but after five days of this, I know why they call those models 'super'.

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