Failsafe weight loss

Reader stories (8 ways to lose weight that can be combined with failsafe eating)
Low fat failsafe eating
- A typical day
- Sample meals
- 11 guidelines for low fat failsafe with vegan options
- Recipes
4 ways food intolerance can contribute to overweight
Successful losers
An inspiring weight loss story
Scientific references
Further reading



In the world's first ever study to compare ultra-processed versus minimally or unprocessed diets, U.S. researchers found when 20 healthy adults who were provided with 2 weeks each of ultra-processed or unprocessed diets, participants on average gained nearly half a kilo a week on the ultra-processed diet and lost nearly half a kilo a week on the unprocessed diet (see our blog post)

Failsafers report the same:

"We are just amazed how much healthier our 8 year old son has been since trying to be failsafe ... Since being on the diet my children's appetite has diminished incredibly. Simply because they no longer have cravings and feel hungry after eating a meal …  " -  from story [1175]

For people who want to lose a large amount of weight, we recommend a dietitian-supervised elimination diet - and ask to lose weight while you are at it, like this reader:

Three years ago I started the RPAH elimination diet, with chronic urticaria, asthma and depression, weighing in at nearly 100kgs and only 26 years old. I had to change to live. Immediately I stopped smoking and drinking and discovered after 2 days of elimination I was suffering dairy intolerance and now stay right away from all dairy products. Within 12 months I had lost 30kgs and never felt better in my life - from story [285].

Failsafers have reported many different ways of weight loss.

There are reader stories below about 8 ways to lose weight that can be combined with failsafe eating:

  • dietitian supervised
  • low fat
  • low fat/salt/sugar
  • intermittent fasting
  • calorie counting
  • vegetarian/vegan
  • potato diet
  • meal replacement 

The science suggests that diets really low in fat – defined as 10-15% of calories from fat,  not 30% of calories from fat as used in some studies - and high in minimally processed plant-based foods are healthiest in the long term.  However, failsafers have reported their experiences with a variety of weight loss diets .

My favourite story is Rosemaree’s because she wasn’t even trying to lose weight - she went low fat to control hot flushes and was surprised to lose weight as well: "my clothes are hanging off me".

Meal replacements seem to be the least successful because the meals are usually not failsafe and there can be nasty reactions to additives in the foods. Of those, vanilla milkshakes may be the safest.

You can see their stories below.

      Reader stories (8 ways to lose weight that can be combined with failsafe eating)

[1404] Rosemaree’s story: “best way to lose weight is to not try …”

Hot flushes are driving me mad especially at night, sometimes keeping me awake at night for a few hours. I saw that your Women’s Health factsheet suggests a low fat diet. I find it really hard to be low fat on the failsafe diet. I will make some changes slowly to see if it has an effect on the hot flushes. It would be good to lose some weight too.

After 3 weeks

 I have made some progress on the low fat diet. Since I started my sleep has been better and I have had no nights staying awake for hours and go to sleep quicker. I still get hot flushes but they don't seem to be as intense and are not worrying me so much. I have lost some weight, gone down a hole in my belt. I very rarely have IBS now and I put it down to more fibre in my diet. It improved once I started having gf weetbix for breakfast and upped my vegetable intake. Not keen to eat fatty sugary food - must have lost the addiction to it.

After 3 months

I have lost about 8 kilos since going on the low fat diet, clothes are hanging off me. It seems the best way to lose weight is to not try to lose weight!  I have been experimenting with ways to change recipes to no fat or low fat and have minimal menopause symptoms. What annoys me is everything you read about how to help menopause never mentions to try a low fat diet. (Other than from you).

After 12 months

I have lost about 17 kilos. I am down to size 8 after being size 14 for years. Can’t get enough calories into me without fat! People are saying "Don't lose any more weight”.  I have found that my fat intake has a direct effect on my menopause symptoms. If I eat more fat the symptoms creep back.

My Typical day is

Breakfast: gluten free weetbix with low fat milk, decaf with sugar

I sometimes have scrambled eggs with 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites and chives, or an occasional boiled egg, not very often. It does affect the hot flushes I am sure so don't eat them often which I find annoying as we have our own chooks.

Morning tea: failsafe hummus made with water, not oil and some plain sakatas or cruskits or a fat free muffin

Lunch: Leftovers or homemade soup or homemade pie with potato pastry or chicken and salad or a chicken, lettuce and failsafe hummus sandwich.  I use the Laucke gf bread, mostly without nuttelex. Afternoon tea: A pear and a few cashews or sometimes a piece of fat free cake or a slice

Only water or decaf to drink almost every day (occasional lemonade)

Dinner: Steamed fish and salad or chicken breast and veg or lentil sauce with spaghetti or rice or No Tomato spaghetti sauce (make my own low fat mince out of steak) or chicken and chickpea casserole with dumplings or steak casserole or rice noodles with veg and chicken or San Choy Bau or chicken spring rolls. I do a Roast on Sundays, mostly chicken, sometimes lamb or beef. I do notice more hot flushes if I have lamb. Usually do something with leftover roast on Mondays.

Sweets: I often have sweets. When I don't have energy/time to do anything else we have pear and spoon of yoghurt (sometimes a squirt of carob syrup). Otherwise we have rice, sago, custard and there are a few no fat or low fat recipes I have like carob mousse, carob self saucing pudding, pear jam steamed pudding, a Rice pear dish, a couple of rhubarb dishes. Rarely I have a sponge carob biscuit in the evening.

Some recipes:

Potato pastry (contains wheat, dairy and egg)

   Combine 1 egg white and 2 tbsp water, stir into 1 and a half cups of mashed potato cold. Add 1 and a half cups of plain flour and half a cup of skim milk powder. Use like pastry.

Delicious carob black bean brownies

San Choy Bau

   I either buy mince and cook it with a little bit of water and drain the fat off or make my own fat free mince, and I don’t use oil.


[212] Weight is dropping off (October 2002)

We are doing the elimination diet for my three children. I have been on the diet too and on the two occasions I had chocolate with my husband, I had a huge headache the next day. I have been a chocoholic all my life!! I also had a headache for the first week due to withdrawals, I presume. The best thing is I am not craving sweets and the weight is dropping off me!! I am losing about half a kilo a week (except during the salicylate challenge).

[1240] Nurse Naomi’s failsafe vegan story (October 2013)

Under the supervision of a dietician, I embarked on my Food Intolerance Journey 2 .5 years ago. I had no idea it would become my ticket to a transformation in wellbeing, energy and better health! I should point out that we are at the extreme end of the spectrum with a heavily restricted diet. A dietician’s fine toothed comb has decreed that it contains all the necessary nutrients that my children need to grow and that I need to train hard and compete well, as an athlete. I am a triathlete, and race triathlon (swim, bike and run). I have just been selected to compete on the (amateur) Australian Team for the Triathlon World Championships, London 2013.” – from NurseNaomi

[102] An adult success story - irritable bowel and weight loss (August 2001)

Around the middle of last year I realised that I was always tired, my workmates commented on my sneezing fits every afternoon, I was very irritable, easily reduced to tears, had rashes on my legs, an ear infection which would not clear up and generally felt unwell. But worst of all was my bloated stomach, which most times looked like I was 7 months pregnant, and the related bowel problems. Looking back I had been gradually getting worse for a couple of years.

I had been to my doctor a couple of times for other things and always mentioned the vague symptoms. I was told not to worry. As the bowel problems persisted I started to worry as my grandfather had died of colon cancer. A Rotary test was negative but I still worried. I went to my doctor again and although she agreed that the bloated stomach was unusual she could find nothing wrong. However, she realised that I was really starting to worry about cancer, so she suggested I have some tests, just to set my mind at rest. I had an abdominal scan and full blood tests. Nothing wrong. But my worry was increasing, so she sent me for a colonoscopy, warning me that it would be unpleasant.

That was my turning point. The specialist could not understand my mixed reactions when he told me there was nothing wrong. However, I had had the colonoscopy on a Monday so had arranged to also have Tuesday off work as I imagined I would still feel pretty awful a day later. I woke up on Tuesday feeling fantastic. I packed so much into that one day it was amazing. I also did not eat, as I so much enjoyed feeling "empty". I wondered whether my symptoms were being caused by something I was eating.

Coincidentally, I had recently read an article in Australian Good Taste, about food intolerance, and your book was recommended. I bought your book and realised that all my symptoms fitted the pattern. I even had belatedly-diagnosed giardia for several weeks a couple of years before. I went back to the doctor, and suggested I go on an elimination diet. She was very lukewarm about the idea but I was determined so I followed your instructions and went on the strict diet for several weeks. I tried the challenges and narrowed my causes down to dairy and salicylates (both of which I had normally in large quantities). I then got caught up in a round of end of year work functions and lunches, so I was not able to be so strict with myself. I went backwards quickly.

Now I avoid all processed foods, eat failsafe at home, and make informed choices when out. I love wine but have cut down to a couple of glasses per week, have decaf coffee, soy milk etc. The result has been a new zest for life - new role at work, back to studying part time and lots of activities. I'm back to size 12 clothes (have bought lots of new ones). I turn 50 next week and feel like 40.

I'm a bit evangelical when I tell people why I've lost so much weight, so I don't mind you sharing my story if it is of interest to others. Thanks again for providing the tools for me to get my life back. - NSW

From [362] Weight watchers was a bit of a challenge (March 2005)

After I undertook the elimination diet, my dietician at the RPAH clinic concluded that I was very sensitive to salicylates and I also had some milder reactions to quite a few other substances but not amines.  I am now without too many problems although trying to modify my diet when I attended Weight Watchers was a bit of challenge. However, I did eventually manage to lose 10kg.

[1241] Gastric attack on weight watchers food (October 2013)

When I started on the weight watchers program, everything was going well for the first few days then I developed gastric problems. I was losing weight but I had terrible stomach pains all the time, so I had to give it up after six weeks and the problem stopped. Yes, I was eating their products.  – by email (see similar reports in [873] and [1099])

[1100] 621: bloating, abdominal pains on the Tony Ferguson diet (February 2012)

I thought you may be interested in the list of ingredients to be found in the Tony Ferguson "healthy and nourishing" weight loss product. Everyone who has lost kilos purports to be vital, energetic and generally full of the joys of Spring.

It didn't occur to me to scan the ingredients (which I do in ALL food products before buying) as I naively thought when he said "healthy and nutritious" that it was true. It was only when I kept becoming hugely bloated with griping abdominal pains that I decided to check the ingredients and found - shock horror - Flavour Enhancer 621 (MSG of course!). -  Victoria, NZ

[1099] 635: ribo rash from Tony Ferguson weight loss soups (February 2012)

I started using Tony Ferguson (weight loss meal replacement) shakes last year and managed to lose 10 kg. Three months later I started using the soups as well. Around that time I developed a painful and desperately itchy rash mainly on my leg and sometimes it would spread to other parts of my body. My doctor gave me steroid cream and I didn't realise the cause of the rash until I heard you speak. When I looked at the packets, the soups I had been eating all contained flavour enhancers you talked about (621, 627, 631, 635). When I stopped eating them the rash went away. - Marian, NSW

[873] 635: Labile blood pressure and chest pain from Jenny Craig foods (November 2009)

I have been suffering from extremely labile blood pressure since 1995. The worst problem associated with this has been raised BP within an hour or two of going to sleep. I wake feeling unwell, head hurting, cold extremities, always need to urinate, and at times, shivering uncontrollably. I used to suffer from palpitations with it - but in recent times this is rare. I've been investigated for everything possible over the years. I am inclined to eat organic food and always watch the labels on any packaged food.

About 5 weeks ago I decided to join Jenny Craig as I felt I needed to lose up to 10 kilos and have been struggling to get this weight off. In the first week I was appalled to see how many 'numbers' were listed in the food. I could not eat things like their packaged snacks - with colours, flavours etc in them. At this point I consulted with them and asked for the food to be adjusted to suit not eating some of the colours that I know are not good, any sweeteners and Nitrates/Nitrites. This gave me a very limited list - and I could not avoid some Sulphites and Flavour Enhancers. I began to notice 635 coming up in many of the foods - and even most of the dinners.

By about 3 weeks into the food I woke feeling really bad with the old symptoms - including a feeling of pressure in my chest (which had been vaguely there the night before) and blood pressure that measured 217/114. As it did not reduce after a short while of sitting up (my usual method of allowing my bp to lower) I went to the local hospital. They did an ECG and gave me 1/2 Anginine and O2 which eased the symptoms. When the doctor found that my mother had Angina he suggested a Thallium Stress Test. This has been completed and the results are normal.

I have often since 95 suffered from a slight 'pain' in the chest - once definitely after eating a very tasty bowl of Chinese soup. I lived in Singapore for almost 12 years - but it was not until 95 when I was home for a short while and working on a camp site - eating mass produced food that these symptoms started to occur regularly...hence the visits to many doctors and specialists - always with a negative result for whatever they tested for. Food additives simply did not occur to me.

A few days after my recent visit to hospital, I thought - how dumb can I be?! ... it's the food! I stopped the JC food and within 36 hours began to feel well again. Some of the JC food has 627 and 631listed together and some has 635 listed. Many of the foods also contain the hidden MSGs such as HVP.

I now have a letter from my doctor to say that there is evidence that I am highly sensitive to vaso-active food additives ... and will be given a refund by JC. This has been an 'interesting' exercise that may finally give me the answer to my very labile BP and all the odd symptoms that seem to go with it.– Roslyn by email. (Yes, 635 was approved in the mid-nineties and is a combination of 627 and 631- S)

Low carb

 My son in his twenties lost 30 kg on a weightloss diet - he looked so good. He used the Dukan diet which worked for him (lean protein and oat bran, ... update 3 years later: he's still overweight but not as bad as he was years ago. 

Intermittent fasting (IF)

IF, also called the 5:2 diet, was developed for breast cancer prevention but is also excellent for weight loss. It is featured in the BBC documentary by Dr Michael Mosley "Eat, Fast, Live Longer".

Advantages: Intermittent Fasting is easy to combine with failsafe eating because for 5 days a week, you eat your normal diet and for 2 days a week you simply restrict what you eat (500 calories per day for women, 600 for men). Some studies have found that, like vegan diets, Intermittent fasting may lower the cancer promoting hormone called  IGF-1 (insulin growth factor -1).

I have been using this method for 3 years  -  “the incredible shrinking Sue” said a dietitian at one of my talks last year.  Mostly I use it to lose any extra weight I gain while hiking in Europe e.g. 4 kgs while doing 900 kms in France recently.  The day’s ration of 500 grams can be eaten whenever you choose - over the day or all in one meal. I started with three meals a day but find it easier to go through until mid afternoon before eating, because as others have reported, if I eat anything at all it seems to set up hunger for more. But everyone finds their own way.  It is very easy to stick to failsafe foods. A typical fasting day for me is 200 calories from steamed white potatoes (the highest satiety value of any food) spread with Howard’s bean paste for flavour; 200 calories worth of rolled oats (the second highest satiety value of any food), millet or quinoa  – at first it was breakfast, but now it’s supper- , and some failsafe vegetables such as chokoes, green beans,  lettuce and celery. Other failsafe foods that could be used include eggs, lean chicken and fresh white fish. See for calories per serve.

Disadvantages: It’s not for everyone:  DON’T do 5:2 if you are pregnant, have type 1 diabetes, eating disorders, or are extremely lean. It is NOT for children. DO consult your GP before attempting any kind of weight loss diet if you have an underlying medical condition.

More information

3 minute interview with Dr Michael Mosley 
The full fascinating 55 minute documentary Eat, Fast, Live Longer 
Book - The Fast diet by Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer - the simple secret of intermittent fasting: lose weight, stay healthy, live longer, 2013 

Failsafe low fat/sugar/salt

The Pritikin program pioneered very low fat/sugar/salt eating in the US over 50 years ago and now has more than 110 scientific studies to back it up. It has been described as "arguably the most effective diet, exercise, and lifestyle change program in the world" by the London Business Times.  A comparison of 8 popular weight loss diets found that while high fat diets may promote short-term weight loss, the greatest health benefits are from diets low in saturated fat and high in carbohydrate and fibre (Anderson et al, 2000).

Thanks to Howard’s mother – who was worried about heart health for her sons - we started our dietary voyage over twenty years ago on the Pritikin program which is based on minimally processed plant foods with limited meat and dairy and almost no added fats, sugars or salt. It resulted in easy weight loss – I lost my excess pregnancy weight, 15 kg in six months, but the diet is high in natural salicylates so it led to an increase in salicylate-related symptoms for us. Eventually I found a way to combine very low fat principles with failsafe eating, see Low fat failsafe eating below.

Failsafe with low fat vegan

In the 1980s, a study of 6,500 people in 65 rural Chinese counties stunned nutrition researchers. They found that the Chinese consume 20 percent more calories than Americans, but Americans are 25 percent fatter. The Chinese eat more starch but a lot less animal fat, and it’s the fat that is more easily stored on the body.  Chinese who eat the most animal protein – like an American diet - have the highest rates of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

These findings have been confirmed by a huge US Adventist study which examined over 60,000 Seventh-Day Adventists with diets varying from vegan to meat eaters.  Vegans turned out to be the healthiest and slimmest, with strict vegetarians a little heavier, fish-eating vegetarians heavier still, and meat eaters the heaviest group of the lot. (And the same applies to cancers - due to a drop in the cancer-promoting hormone IGF-1, vegan women have the lowest rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. 

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton lost 24 lbs (10.5 kg) by switching to a vegan diet two years ago. And he wasn’t even trying to lose weight.  The ex-president, formerly known for his love of burgers, barbecues and junk food, changed to a strict vegan diet in 2010 after fears over his health related to heart surgery. Read more:

The 60 day potato- only diet

The simplest version of a vegan diet would have to be the potato diet which consists of 20 potatoes per day for 2 months – it was this diet plus The Martian book and movie - that inspired me to take in half my calories from potatoes on 500-calorie fasting days. It was followed by American Chris Voigt from the Washington Potato Commission to prove that potatoes are healthy, nutritious and slimming. ‘The potato is one of the most near complete foods on earth’ says Chris. ‘One potato provides 45% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C, the protein of half a glass of milk,  more potassium than a banana, fibre, and other B vitamins and minerals.’  Over 60 days, Chris lost 17 lbs (7.7 kg) and his cholesterol and other health indicators improved enormously. 

I am not recommending a diet consisting of only potatoes! There are other failsafe foods you can easily add to complete your diet. For more information about how to follow a vegan diet see Low fat failsafe eating below

      Low Fat Failsafe Eating including vegan options

According to Dr John McDougall, whose website has a free vegan diet program, the majority of your food should consist of starchy grains and vegetables.

Foods suitable for a vegan diet include:

grains – potatoes, rice, millet, sorghum, rye, buckwheat, quinoa (all gf), wheat, oats, barley
legumes – beans, lentils, peas (all dried beans except broad beans are failsafe; peas are moderate)
starchy vegetables:  white potatoes are failsafe (moderate salicylate starchy vegetables include carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, butternut pumpkin to be eaten if tolerated)
non-starchy failsafe vegetables: swedes, iceberg lettuce, cabbage (green, red, savoy, wombuk), celery, chokoes (chayote), mungbean sprouts, chives, leeks, shallots, and small amounts of garlic (mod sals vegetables if tolerated: beetroot, asparagus, cucumber, zucchini, bok choy, cos and other lettuces, green peas, sugar snap peas, snow peas, coloured potatoes, turnips – everything peelable must be peeled)
fruit: pears (delicious apples – mod sals – if tolerated)

- A typical day

•    cereal - e.g. oatmeal, rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat
•    skim milk - 1 cup or unlimited non-dairy equivalent (oat, soy, rice) for vegans*
•    wholemeal bread - e.g. 3 slices*
•    fruit - e.g. 2 pears
•    fish/chicken/lean beef or lamb - e.g. 100 g (not for vegans)
•    vegetables - e.g. 5 serves
•    canola oil – e.g. 1 tsp per day or less for very low fat*
•    pasta/rice*
•    water, soda water, decaf coffee
•    alcohol – e.g. whisky & soda 2 glasses/week* or less
•    exercise – e.g. 1 hour of brisk walking per day or equivalent

* see Guidelines below

- Sample meals

Breakfast: oats, rice, millet (gf) or other failsafe grains with milk substitute (soy, rice, oats) or limited skim milk, chopped fresh pear

Lunch: wholegrain wheat or gf quinoa bread (or brown rice if possible with failsafe hummus or failsafe bean paste (omit the vegetable oil for very low fat)  or That Cheese Sauce (failsafe, cheese-free, incredibly useful as a dip, spread, topping, sauce or mayo)  as a spread, and salad - unlimited low and moderate salicylate as tolerated raw and/or cooked vegetables

Dinner: e.g. brown rice or wholegrain pasta served with steamed permitted vegetables and That Cheese Sauce


Burritos with Mountain bread or gf wrap, kidney beans, cooked permitted vegetables, permitted salad vegetables, low fat quark (yoghurt cheese, not vegan), failsafe bean paste and That Cheese Sauce as sauces


Hearty lentil and vegetable soup/stew with wholegrain toast


Chicken, beef or lamb stew with vegetables on rice. The allowed portion of chicken, beef or lamb is chopped small and used mostly for flavouring. Not for vegans.


Fish, chicken (no skin) or lean beef, (less than 100 g, not for vegans) with vegetables. 1-2 tsp of canola oil per day can be used for cooking stir-fries/fish/chicken/leeks/shallots, or for salad dressing

Fresh peeled pear or delicious apple (moderate salicylates, if tolerated)
Carob tofu mousse

•    Mountain Bread, rice cakes with failsafe hummus or bean paste
•    rice cakes plain or spread with That Cheese Sauce or Carob Tofu spread (no sweetener )
•    potato - steamed, microwaved or dry roasted with a little iodised salt
•    left over cold or reheated vegetables, e.g. potato, swede, choko, green beans, peas
•    vegetable soup
•    celery sticks plain or with low fat failsafe hummus or bean paste
•    oatmeal, millet or quinoa flake cereal
•    fruit from your allowance
•    occasional, small quantities: raw cashew nuts

water, soda water, mineral water, decaf black or with skim milk, soy, oat or rice milk

- 11 guidelines for low fat failsafe with vegan options

Cereals are more filling if wholegrain and cooked not dry  e.g. oatmeal , millet porridge (gf), cooked rice (gf)

Dairy is limited: 1 cup of skim or low fat milk, soy or rice milk or 1 tbsp low fat yoghurt per day

Vegan means no dairy. Alternatives include oat milk, rice milk and soy milk. Soy should be from whole soy beans only, not soy isolate. Preferably with little added sugar or oil – we use Pure Harvest Organic and dilute it with water. Silken tofu is failsafe and suitable for low fat vegan (firm tofu is moderate in amines).

Wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, pasta and brown rice are recommended but if you are intolerant to wholegrains and brown rice, you can eat white rice, limited white bread (chewy if possible, such as Mountain Bread wraps or Coles Rustic baguettes) and plain rice cakes e.g. Sunrice/Pure Harvest original which are made solely from wholegrain brown rice and are generally well tolerated. White rice has a much better satiety value than you would expect and is gluten free. Gluten free wholegrains such as millet and quinoa may be better tolerated. Wholegrains - especially wheat bran – are very high in insoluble fibre, so too much can cause bloating, stomach aches and diarrhoea. If these symptoms are your problem, start with small amounts or avoid altogether – it is counterproductive to have stomach aches when trying to lose weight. You can try developing a tolerance  e.g. try cooking some brown rice in with the white rice and slowly increasing the ratio. Obviously you need to avoid the bread preservative (280-283, propionates also called cultured wheat, cultured dextrose, cultured rice, cultured whey and whey powder – even in organic brands)

2 peeled fresh pears (not canned pears in sugar) or if tolerating moderate salicylates golden or red delicious apples which should be peeled. If cravings are a problem, it is best to not eat fruit alone. You can eat fruit within a meal e.g. chopped in salads or as a dessert.

The easiest way to achieve a very low fat diet is to go vegan.

Otherwise, limit meat to 100 g of meat per day or less – e.g. use  small amounts of chicken, lean beef and lamb in stir fries, soups and stews, mainly for the flavouring

Vegan:  avoid all meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products. 

Egg whites are low fat but whole eggs should be mainly avoided.

Vegan:  No eggs.

Vegetables are limited only by your tolerance for salicylates, amines and glutamates

For low salicylate salad vegetables, choose iceberg lettuce, celery, raw or steamed cabbage, bamboo shoots, mungbean sprouts, chives, cooked green beans and Brussels sprouts. If tolerating moderate salicylates, eat to tolerance level from: asparagus, beetroot, carrot, cucumber peeled, snow peas, fancy lettuce such as cos or mignonette

Other vegetables – white potatoes (it is a myth that potatoes are fattening , just don't add butter, oil, sour cream or salad dressing- see the 60 Day Potato-Only Diet , swedes (can be mashed together with potatoes in the cooking water), cabbage (red and green), chokoes, Brussel sprouts, leeks, shallots, green beans, lentils, chickpeas,  all kinds of dried beans except broad beans, and small amounts of garlic. If tolerating moderate salicylates, eat to tolerance level from: asparagus, beetroot, snow peas, bok choy, pak choy, sweet potatoes orange or white, coloured potatoes, butternut pumpkin, turnip, peeled zucchini, marrow. Some vegetables - especially dried beans lentils and chickpeas – are very high in insoluble fibre. Too much can cause bloating, stomach aches and diarrhoea. If these symptoms are your problem, start with small amounts e.g. 1 tsp of bean paste per day, or avoid altogether – it is counterproductive to have stomach aches when trying to lose weight.

No more than 1 tsp oil per day, canola is failsafe and has the best omega ratio. No butter, no margarine. 

Failsafe means whisky & soda or vodka and gin with ice – obviously without sugar or sweetener-laden mixers such as tonic.

However, alcohol is generally not recommended on a weight loss diet partly because of calories in the alcohol and partly because alcohol undermines willpower.  Best to avoid or limit to 2 small drinks per week.

Artificial and sugar free sweeteners are not failsafe. Sweeteners are not as bad as fat when used in small amounts as part of a high starch meal, e.g. sugar or maple syrup on porridge. For those wanting to avoid fructose, rice malt syrup is failsafe and contains no fructose. Cocoa and low fat chocolate mousse is a suitable dessert for weight loss if you can manage amines. Otherwise, carob powder is the failsafe substitute for cocoa, and is naturally sweet, see the carob tofu  mousse recipe.

Salt is now thought to be less of a problem than fat, unless you are one of those people who know they have problems with salt.

Failsafers generally don’t overeat salt because they don't eat much processed food. If you choose to add salt, make it iodised because iodine deficiency is becoming a problem, unless you eat fish regularly.

DON'T count calories, keep a food diary, limit food intake or go hungry

DO eat healthy food, limit fat, and avoid or limit sugar and other sweeteners - except for very rare treats - because sugar makes you eat about 10 per cent more than the same meal without sugar. Yes, there are indulgent recipes in the Failsafe Cookbook but you don't have to eat them all the time – they are to get children who are used to eating at Macca's through the first painful months of the elimination diet, to be gradually reduced and after that used in small portions for special occasions.

Most diet programs recommend at least light daily exercise, the more the better. Obesity researchers have been studying the Old Amish communities in the US because only 4% of the Amish population are obese compared to over 30% of the US adult population.

The Amish have not changed their lifestyle in 150 years and still farm with horses, requiring a high level of physical activity. A typical Amish day includes pancakes with syrup, scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, bread, butter and pie; lunch of a taco salad with potato crisps, ground beef, shredded cheese, beans and canned peaches and dinner of roast beef, gravy, potatoes, bread and butter and chocolate pie. So how do the Amish avoid obesity? The answer is the enormous amount of physical exercise that they do – on average 18,425 steps a day for men and 14,196 for women, whereas 10,000 steps per day is generally considered a "very active lifestyle" .The men reported ten hours a week of vigorous physical activity, 42 hours a week of moderate physical activity and 12 hours a week of walking.  More information: The Amish obesity studies

- Some recipes

That (cheesefree) cheese sauce
Failsafe hummus
Gado gado salad (eggs optional)
Vegetarian combo
Beetroot (moderate salicylate) salad
Carob tofu mousse or spread (you can leave the sweetener out)

The biggest question regarding vegan diets:  is it nutritious?

The biggest problem concerning vegan diets is vitamin B12 as it occurs only in animal products. However, B12 does not need to be taken daily.  If you are a strict vegan please discuss this with your dietitian. In any case, we recommend checking nutrition with your dietitian!  - see Nurse Naomi’s story (a failsafe vegan athlete) below. For more information including issues such as osteoporosis (calcium) and protein, see

More information (vegan)

Brody J. Huge study of diet indicts fat and meat, New York Times

Barnard ND. The physician's role in nutrition-related disorders: from bystander to leader. Virtual Mentor.  2013;15(4):367-72

The China Study

The McDougall Program 

        4 ways food intolerance can contribute to overweight

1.Food chemicals can be addictive. That is why people on the elimination diet generally experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms some time during the first two weeks.

2.Food chemicals - especially salicylates - can cause appetite disturbance and contribute to eating disorders including binge eating/starving.   Children and adults who refuse to eat breakfast are often food intolerant. When they go failsafe, normal eating patterns appear. See Eating disorders and failsafe factsheet

3. Symptoms of food intolerance such as bloating and stomach discomfort can make people overeat. Recent research suggests that chronic stomach aches and other irritable bowel symptoms are more common in people who are overweight. Since irritable bowel symptoms are increasing in  Australia - thought by some to be due to overuse of antibiotics – it seems that getting rid of the stomach aches and other bowel symptoms  may help such people to lose weight. See story 102 above, a report of woman who did the RPAH elimination diet for her bloated stomach and related bowel problems and ended up losing her excess weight too.

Scientific reference: Ho W and Spiegel BM, The relationship between obesity and functional gastrointestinal disorders, Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y), 2008;4(8):572-8.

4. Sleep deprivation can cause cravings for fatty and junk foods. Sleep disturbance issues such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent night waking, sleep apnoea  and insomnia  are common  food intolerance symptoms. See our sleep issues collection. Scientific reference:  Greer SM et al, The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013:6;4:2259

        Successful losers

The National Weight Control Registry started in 1994 with a study of nearly 800 long term weight losers who had lost an average of 30 kg and successfully kept off at least 13 kg for an average of five years (1). The researchers now follow over 10,000 long term weight losers at

What do these successful losers have in common? The majority

•    eat a low fat diet
•    do about 1 hour of moderate intensity exercise per day
•    watch 10 hours less TV per week than the average American
•    eat fewer foods from fast-food restaurants (less than one per week) and fewer meals in non-fast-food restaurants (about 2.5 per week) than average. "The majority of meals eaten by registry members were prepared or eaten at home" (2).  So with failsafe you are making a good start.

        An inspiring weight loss story

Australian teacher Jeanne Mithieux was working in London when she saw a photo of herself in a bathing suit and decided to lose weight. To surprise her family, she secretly started to eat a sensible diet, starting with branflakes with low-fat milk and fruit for breakfast, fruit for morning break at school and soup or a jacket potato for lunch. For dinner she ate fish and vegetables followed by fruit and low-fat yoghurt.

Jeanne said she had the occasional treat like a muesli bar or a glass of wine, but she avoided butter, margarine, biscuits, cakes, cream, anything fried, nuts, dressings with oil and avocadoes. She also began five minutes of exercise a day in her living room. When she could run around her living room 800 times without stopping she started running outside, every day, no matter what the weather. Over sixteen months, 80 kilos (176 pounds) just fell off. Weighing 57 kilos, Jeanne flew home for a visit. Her family was waiting at the airport but failed to recognise her. They thought they were being hugged by a stranger.

Read more:

        Scientific references

Intermittent calorie restriction
Harvie MN et al, The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 May;35(5):714-27.

Food intolerance can contribute to overweight
Ho W and Spiegel BM, The relationship between obesity and functional gastrointestinal disorders, Gastroenterol Hepatol (NY), 2008;4(8):572-8.

Greer SM et al, The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013:6;4:2259 and

Successful losers
1. Shick SM, Wing RR, Klem ML, McGuire MT, Hill JO, Seagle H. Persons successful at long-term weight loss and maintenance continue to consume a low-energy, low-fat diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 1998;98(4):408-13.

The most comprehensive study of long-term weight loss ever conducted, the National Weight Control Registry, found that the vast majority of its nearly 4,500 successful people followed a Pritikin-like program that involved daily exercise and an eating plan low in fat and very high in fiber-rich carbohydrates like vegetables and fruit. The members lost, on average, 66 pounds and, at six-year follow-up, had kept it off. Less than 1% followed a high-protein, high-fat diet.

2. Klem ML, Wing RR, McGuire MT, Seagle HM, Hill JO. A descriptive study of individuals successful at long-term maintenance of substantial weight loss. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;66(2):239-46.

"The majority of meals eaten by registry members were prepared or eaten at home" p243

Comparison of 8 popular weight loss diets
Anderson JW, Konz EC, Jenkins DJ. Health advantages and disadvantages of weight-reducing diets: a computer analysis and critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000;19(5):578-90.

Vegan diets
4. Turner-McGrievy GM, Barnard ND, Scialli AR. A two-year randomized weight loss trial comparing a vegan diet to a more moderate low-fat diet. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 15(9):2276-81.

5. Barnard ND. The physician's role in nutrition-related disorders: from bystander to leader. Virtual Mentor. 2013 Apr 1;15(4):367-72

Tantamango-Bartley Y et al,  Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Feb;22(2):286-94.

Amish Exercise
Bassett DR and others,  Physical activity in an Old Order Amish community. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Jan;36(1):79-85.

        Further reading

3 minute interview with Dr Michael Mosley

The full fascinating 55 minute documentary Eat, Fast, Live Longer

The Fast diet  by Dr Michael Mosley & Mimi Spencer - the simple secret of intermittent fasting: lose weight, stay healthy, live longer 2013

Nathan Pritikin and the Pritikin program

A vegan diet (hugely) helpful against cancer

T Colin Campbell, The China Study

The Adventist Health Studies

The Starch Solution by Dr John McDougall 2013 and The Free McDougall Program

Christ Voigt’s 60 Day Potato-Only Diet (20 potatoes per day for 60 days)

Nurse Naomi’s vegan blog

Introduction to food intolerance

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians 

© Sue Dengate updated June 2019


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.