x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The low-fat lark is slow to register

Tales from the scales The diet is going slowly, much too slowly.

The diet was going slowly, much too slowly. Two weeks into my new low-fat regime and the scales were barely registering. My next appointment with my diet doctor was approaching and I had very little to show for my efforts. Sure enough when I rolled up at the Weight Loss Clinic at Dubai Healthcare City the beastly weighing machine showed precisely 0.7kg of weight loss. The disappointment clearly showed in my face and I could see it mirrored in the face of Dr Rita Nawar, the endocrinologist who is, metaphorically speaking, holding my hand on the path to a thinner me.

I was sure she would think I hadn't been trying and I told her that it was generally at this point in my previous attempts at dieting that I tended to give up and reach for a bar of chocolate by way of comfort. She was concerned enough to suggest another blood test but the two I already had to determine whether my body processed sugar, carbs and fat efficiently were enough for me. I'm a bit of a wimp about needles so I asked her for another week's grace. Having determined that my body's problem is with processing fat, I've had a fortnight of eating hardly any at all so maybe I was just a slow starter.

Nawar explained that the majority of people have a much steeper weight loss curve but quite a few people lose weight like descending a flight of steps. Down one, plateau, down another, plateau again. She thought I might be one of those and gave me another week. Sure enough, next time around that's exactly what happened. The dreaded InBody composition analysis machine that cruelly spat out the horrid news that my body was 32.2 per cent fat three weeks previously had suddenly become my new best friend. It registered a thrilling 2kg weight loss but the best news was that it was all fat. In fact there had been a slight increase in muscle mass which could explain the slow beginnings. Muscle is heavier than fat so if my muscle tone was getting better I could still have been shedding fat.

I can't tell you what a boost it gave me. Looking back I can see how on other diets, quick weight loss was probably only water and never had a chance of being permanent. I've also been fooling myself about the amount of exercise I take. I play golf at least twice a week, the equivalent of a nine kilometre walk each time, I heard myself telling Nawar, and I also swim regularly. Who did I think I was kidding? Since I came to the UAE I've been using a golf buggy. It's far too hot to walk. As for my so-called swimming efforts, frankly I just get in the water and paddle around ineffectually. From now on I determined to gear up and do lengths energetically. I might even stick my head around the gym door one of these days too.

What has convinced me about this low-fat lark is the simple science of it, based on the studies of Dr Naj Torbay and Dr Nawar. From their work on the link between diabetes and obesity they have concluded that some people can't process carbohydrates efficiently and some can't process fats. I'm a "fats" person. Supermarket shopping has now taken on a whole new life and I am discovering foods that I've never even heard of before. For a start it takes me longer. These days I need my glasses on shopping trips as I read all the labels rather than hurtling around grabbing things from the shelves.

Take your time, the good doctors advised. There is hidden fat in so many foods that you need to be careful until you get used to it. I'm now buying the lowest fat butter and milk products and I'll choose freshly prepared hummus rather than my favourite taramasalata. Weightwatchers cereals, Sweet & Low sweets and no fat yoghurt now fill the shelves of my fridge along with a fascinating little yellow bottle full of zero calories spray-on butter. Then there's Waitrose's Perfectly Balanced soups and Bachelors Slim a Soup with it's cheesy slogan "a great big hug in a mug". Oh please. Don't patronise me and don't make me think about cheese.

There's oil free salad dressing and Fry Light that says it's non stick, no cholesterol, low fat. In fact it's hardly there at all. My biggest problem now is my husband's face when he opens the fridge and finds nothing he wants to eat. Oh well, he could do with losing a few pounds too. @Email:pkennedy@thenational.ae