The many benefits of taking control of your diet

Want more energy, to be in control of your diet and moods and reduce the risk of breast cancer? The 2-Day Diet may be just the thing.
Author Dr Michelle Harvie is an award-winning research dietitian funded by Prevent Breast Cancer. For the last 24 years she has specialised in strategies for weight loss and preventing breast cancer and its recurrence. She gave Merrick Life readers some tips on taking control.


Dr Michelle Harvie and co-author Prof Tony Howell


When Dr Michelle Harvie talks diet and exercise then it’s probably wise to take notice.

Her books have sold more than 300,000 copies across 18 countries and for more than two decades she’s been analysing the effects of diet and lifestyle on health.

Since 2006, Dr Harvie and the research team have run clinical trials which have shown that two days per week of a low calorie, low carbohydrate diet (650 to 1000 calories per day) can be more effective for weight loss and reducing levels of the hormone insulin than the standard approach of daily dieting. That’s important as being overweight and high levels of insulin are linked to breast cancer risk and other common diseases.

Diet control but no calorie counting

There’s no calorie counting, fasting or skipping meals. To reach your weight target it’s a case of following the low-carb plan for two days a week. Then, for the rest of the week, eating our recommended, Mediterranean style diet with plenty of fruit and veg, lean protein, oily fish and low fat dairy.

According to Dr Harvie, when people are eating healthily they generally feel more positive, energetic and feel in control.


That’s why in times of stress, such as difficult work periods or through a relationship breakdown, it remains important that people keep an eye on what they eat.

Dr Harvie said: “Our bodies are finely-tuned machines and there are a lot of things that need to work together. If we don’t put the right fuel in or we don’t maintain them properly then things will go wrong.”

She puts the success of the 2-Day Diet and other programmes that don’t advocate across the week dieting down to it being a less daunting change for people. Although she does believe that people who commit to two days inevitably start to think more carefully about what they eat across the rest of the week as well.

She’s also clear that regular physical activity, social integration and a good night’s sleep all have their part to play in boosting self-esteem and keeping a healthy body and mind.

Don’t ‘Google’ diet

Dr Harvie said: “It’s no surprise that physical activity is prescribed on the NHS to help depression, because it really works. Give yourself a kick start, the chemicals in your brain change for the better when you exercise and eat healthily.”

It’s also important to get quality nutritional advice whenever looking at diet. That doesn’t mean Googling ‘diet’ and taking what’s found as gospel. But instead looking at informed websites like the British Nutrition Foundation, NHS Choices or the British Dietetic Association.

That’s in addition, of course, to what’s available through Prevent Breast Cancer and its experts based at Wythenshawe Hospital’s Nightingale Centre.


Prevent Breast Cancer logo

Over the years, Dr Harvie has seen time and again the positive results of people taking control of their diets. The case of one woman particularly springs to mind.

“She was three stone heavier than she should have been. Slimming groups had not worked for her and she was a high breast cancer risk. She had no energy and felt bad about herself.

“She got started with the 2-Day Diet, stuck with it and over six months she went from 84 to 63 kilos (13 stone 2lbs to 9 ston3 9lbs).

“This woman eventually lost a third of her body weight. Her Body Mass Index (which uses height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy) dropped from 32, in the obese range, to 23, in the healthy range.

“Her blood pressure normalised, so did her cholesterol and she was a lot happier in herself. It was a real lesson. We don’t always have to turn to cholesterol lowering or blood pressure or mood enhancing drugs.”

Weight loss reduces cancer risk

Why weight matters so much is evidenced by some stark figures.

Gaining weight over adult life increases the risk of developing breast cancer. The average woman in the UK gains a stone in weight over adult life. This increases risk of breast cancer by about 20% whilst gaining between 1 and 1½ stone increases risk by 60% and 3 stone doubles risk.

But the positive news is that something can be done about it.

A study of 34,000 women, found that modest weight loss i.e. shedding 10lbs reduced risk by 25-40%.

Go here for more information on the 2-Day Diet.

Two mouth-watering recipes for you to try at home

chimichurri steak recipe

bang bang chicken salad recipe