I’ve spent the best part of three decades working to help people understand how the food they eat and the exercise they do affects their physical and mental wellbeing – inspiring them to become the best version of themselves that they can be. It’s an awesome job and a passion that began early for me.
I remember in Year 8, I noticed there were kids at my school who didn’t join in with any team games and instead hung around smoking cigarettes. It got me thinking. Clearly these kids didn’t feel comfortable playing organised sports – I could understand that, we’re all different – but I felt they were missing out.
By this stage I’d already been doing team sports for years and I knew how exercise could boost my mood, help me concentrate and build my self-confidence, so I asked the school principal if I could teach fitness classes. She said yes and I was beyond delighted.
Every week, I blasted my music and a small group of us leapt around doing grapevines, squat jumps and push-ups. I mention this because I honestly wanted to help those kids, just as I have wanted to help every brave contestant on The Biggest Loser, every client I have trained, and every open-hearted person who has enrolled in my 12WBT program.
But the sad fact is that we still aren’t doing so well on our Health Report Card. Here’s a snapshot of all the recent data I could get my hands on. This stuff rips my heart out:
- Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of Australians aged 18 and over, and more than one-quarter (28 per cent) of children aged 5–17 are overweight or obese, putting them at risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis.
- 1 in 3 Australian adults has high blood pressure.
- Cardiovascular disease kills 1 Australian every 12 minutes. This is the time it takes me to have a shower, towel down and get dressed – a truly overwhelming thought.
- 1 in 20 Australians had diabetes in 2017–18, with an average of 291 new people registering with the National Diabetes Scheme every single day.
- 1 in 5 Australians aged 16–85 will also experience mental illness in any given year, with suicide being the leading cause of death for those aged 25–44.
I want to help change this. I don’t want YOU to become part of these stats. In my first book, Crunch Time, I urged readers to choose foods that were as close to their natural state as possible and to feel empowered by making these choices. Yes we live in an obesogenic environment (fast food at every turn, our supermarkets packed to the rafters with processed food), but ultimately we are in charge of what we load into our shopping bags.
The problem is that we are literally bombarded with constantly changing information about what, when and how we should eat and drink. Should we ditch gluten? Stop eating red meat? What about fasting? And do probiotics really help? It’s no wonder many of us give up in frustration.
I’ve always tried to avoid using the word ‘diet’ when explaining my nutrition principles – it’s a word with way too much baggage – but I have always advocated eating a moderate amount of protein, a small amount of good-quality fat, lots of leafy greens and the right carbs.
And this just so happens to correlate with what many are now calling a ‘low-carb’ approach to eating. Notice I said ‘low carb’, not ‘no carb’. I’m not going to tell you that carbs alone are killing us, no way, but I reckon we can do so much better when it comes to choosing the right carbs in the right amounts, which is why I wrote this book.
My mission is to show you that low-carb eating is easy, fun and tastes amazing. Even better, it has incredible health benefits for your blood sugar level, metabolism, gut and brain. First I’ll explain the different types of carbs and how they impact the body.
No doubt you’ll already know that sugary drinks, lollies and biscuits have got to be kicked to the kerb if you’re serious about your health. But I also want to show you why whole plant foods are the best choice not only for total body health, but also mental wellbeing.
However, I’m not going to lie to you. If you’re used to eating pastries, pasta and white bread or lots of sugar, dialling down the carbs is not going to be easy. That’s why I’ve included 120 of my 12WBT low-carb recipes, each with the right balance of carbs, protein and fats to keep you feeling full and give you sustained energy throughout the day. I’ve also provided four dietitian-approved meal plans to help you get started.
Each features a creative use of leftovers (so you’re not cooking from scratch every day – who has time for that?!) and I also outline simple ingredient swaps (for particular tastes) and carb boosters for when you need to dial up the energy intake for hungry teenagers, manual workers or sport-loving humans. Think of the meal plans as your training wheels – soon enough you won’t need them any more and can confidently go it alone.
If you’re not familiar with my 12WBT program, don’t worry. All you need to know is that good nutrition coupled with exercise is a powerful path back to positive physical and mental health. I’ve seen it change the lives of thousands of my 12WBTers and personal training clients.
Just by being smart about the (low) carbs you choose every day means you’ll:
- Reduce your blood sugar level.
- Reduce your hunger.
- Store less fat.
- Improve your gut health.
- Improve your brain function.
- Improve your mental health.
In her nearly 30 years in the health and fitness industry, Michelle Bridges has focused on breaking down the barriers that block the path to a happier and healthier life. Her 12 Week Body Transformation is Australia’s most successful online weight-loss program, and has helped Australians lose almost 2 million kilos. Michelle was a trainer on The Biggest Loser and is the bestselling author of 16 books on nutrition and fitness, including Food for Life and Keeping it Off.
Image: 12WBT Low-carb Solution – courtesy of Macmillan Australia
Note: Extract published with kind permission of Michelle Bridges and Macmillan Australia