What are the golden rules of the Harcombe Diet?

The premise of nutritionist Zoe Harcombe's diet plan is 'stop counting calories and start losing weight'. Sounds good to us, but how does it work? Here's everything you need to know...

Nutritionist Zoe Harcombe once struggled to lose weight. She was addicted to refined carbohydrates and sugary snacks but found that the more she tried to eat less the bigger she got. The pounds finally started to drop off when Zoe stopped counting calories and changed the way she ate. From this, she developed The Harcombe Diet. And here’s what it involves…

What can you eat? 

The diet is based on the premise that there are three common medical conditions that cause food cravings and that they themselves result from calorie-restricted eating. They are candida, food intolerance and hypoglycaemia.
The Harcombe diet involves ditching fake food in favour of real food. Instead of limiting the amount they eat by calorie-counting, followers don’t eat less. Instead, it’s about ‘making the calories you eat count’, explains Harcombe on her website.
The diet is split into three phases:
Phase One lasts for five days. During this period, you can eat unlimited meat, fish, eggs, vegetables (except potatoes and mushrooms), natural yoghurt, herbs, spices and one portion of what are called “safe” grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats) each day.
Phase Two lasts for as long as you need to lose weight. Fruit, dairy products, baked potatoes and whole grains are re-introduced.
Phase Three is meant to last for life. It teaches you the rules of “cheating” while keeping the weight off.
Harcombe gives more detailed information on the three phases in her book, The Harcombe Diet: Stop Counting Calories and Start Losing Weight.
How much weight can you lose?
Harcombe claims that followers of the diet can expect to lose 5 to 7 pounds in the first five days alone.
Harcombe Diet foods and vegetables

All the greens

Who is the diet for?

The Harcombe Diet is aimed at anyone who experiences cravings and wants to stop feeling addicted to certain foods, including chocolate and bread. (So that’s most of us then…) It’s for people who have used calorie-controlled diets to lose weight in the past but found that the pounds soon returned, and now want to slim down without having to make too many sacrifices. Those who experience uncomfortable symptoms after meals, including bloating, may also benefit.

 So what do the experts think? We’ve spoken to nutritional consultant Anna Baudrain to hear her verdict on this new eating plan…

‘The fundamental principle of The Harcombe Diet is to eat real food, which is sound advice, backed by respected nutritionists.
The book also claims that the medical conditions candida, food intolerance and hypoglycaemia are caused by eating the wrong combinations of foods, and highlights the importance of combining foods correctly. In my clinical experience, the principle of food-combining works well for people with a slow metabolic rate.
However, this diet may not be a one-size fits all solution. People with chronic digestive issues, an underlying inflamed gut or a fatty liver should work with a trained nutritionist.’

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