Losing weight – my story

Don’t go on a diet- change your diet.

Over the Christmas period I read Peter Fitzsimons’ book “The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down”.

It is the story of a former rugby champion, now in his 50s, who had put on weight (152 kg) but then discovered the secret to permanent weight loss. He lost 45 kg….. and kept it off. How?

Three basic steps

  1. Quit sugar (and salt)
  2. No alcohol
  3. Exercise

The book is full of wisdom but here are the takeaway points for me.

My personal story is at the end of this blog.

Why sugar is bad for you.

Sugar never satisfies your hunger or thirst and leaves you wanting more. It metabolises quickly and any excess is stored as fat.

Sugar leaves you hungry because it distorts our body’s appetite. In other words, the more sugar we eat the more we need to eat.

Stop the sugar and you will stop the hunger.

Stop the hunger and you reduce the fat.

Our body breaks down or metabolises carbohydrates into sugars including glucose and fructose.

The pancreas produces insulin which signals which muscles and organs need glucose thus removing it from the bloodstream.

In a normal functioning body, insulin suppresses our appetite.

However, the more sugar we ingest, the more insulin we produce and the more resistant our brain gets to the insulin message. This means we eat more, get fatter, increase our blood pressure and our risk of diabetes.

Fructose causes no release of insulin.

In addition, fructose increases the net level of another hormone called ghrelin which tells us we are hungry.

Heard enough? Not yet. Let’s talk about leptin. Leptin is a hormone that is released when our fat cells sense an elevated level of glucose. It’s the body saying “We have too much fat, stop eating so much.”

But as with insulin, the fatter we get, the more leptin that is produced. The more leptin we produce, the more resistant our brain gets to the leptin message. This means we eat more and we get fatter.

Sugar suppresses our self-correcting appetite by suppressing the effect of insulin and leptin.

Some foods break down (metabolise) quickly and others more slowly. A can of Coke gives you a quick hit of energy. But just as quickly, you get thirsty again. Dietitians characterise it as trying to keep a fire burning using only paper. Yes, the paper will ignite and then flare up producing some heat but it will quickly die down requiring you to stoke the fire with more paper.

A better alternative is to place something slow burning on the fire like boiled eggs or avocado.

So the main problem with sugar and junk food is not that it makes you fat but that it doesn’t satisfy you at all.

How does sugar make you fat?

Excess glucose is converted into glycogen of which up to 150 grams is stored in the liver providing 24 hours of carbs energy. The rest is stored as fat.

When our fuel tank is full this excess fat is delivered to our reserve tank which for men is usually located around their belly and for women located around their thighs and hips.

Glucose fills the main fuel tank. Fructose is redundant and it’s broken down by the liver and circulates in the bloodstream as bad cholesterol before settling in our reserve tank as fat.

A can of Coke gives you 160 calories. A can of Coke each day for a year ie 365 x 150 calories = 58,400 calories. They say for every 7,700 calories you do not burn, you gain a kilo of fat.

If in a year this person does not burn the calories in the Coke they drink then they will put on 7.5 kilos in fat.

Keep drinking the Coke and eating the chocolate and you will only add fat to your reserve tank.

While you see many badly overweight men in their 40s, 50s and 60s, you don’t see nearly as many in their late 70s and 80s because the bitter truth is if they don’t have their weight under control by then they mostly …. die.

Without sugar everything works as it should and we stop over-indulging.

We don’t know how much sugar we consume.

There is a shocking disparity between how much sugar we are designed to cope with and how much we actually take in.

Our daily recommended allowance of sugar is 9 teaspoons. In fact, our body can get by without sugar at all.

Research indicates that the average Australian and American consumes at least 36 teaspoons a day, which at 4 grams a teaspoon adds up to a kilo of sugar a week and over 50 kilos a year!

A can of Coke contains a little over our daily allowance of sugar. This means with each additional can of coke and all other sugar intake we are taking on excess weight.

If you removed all items containing sugar from the supermarket shelves, just 20 percent would remain.

The good stuff, namely fresh meat, fresh milk, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit is found around the perimeter of your supermarket. Everything. you find in the aisles is processed and packaged. Stay away from anything in packages.

Read the nutrition information on the packaging, particularly the 100 grams column and you will see how much of what you are eating is sugar. For example, tomato sauce is 32 per cent sugar, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks is 56 per cent, Masterfoods BBQ sauce is 54 per cent and dare I say it Tim Tams are 44 per cent sugar.

The processed food industry adds significant quantities of sugar to our food. Half that sugar is glucose and half is fructose, an addictive substance twice as sweet as glucose.

The industry has a term for how much sugar, fat and salt they should add to their products to maximise customer cravings (read addiction) and therefore industry profits. It is called “the bliss point”.

Does this sound like the tobacco industry?

The processed food industry has successfully played us for mugs for decades.

What to do?

The New York Times reports that in 2002, 231 million Europeans attempted some sort of diet. Of these 1 percent achieved permanent weight loss.

Diets don’t work. Instead change your diet. Quit sugar.

When the body is looking for fuel it first burns up carbs, then fat and then protein. If you eat less than your body requires to function you will lose weight. Simple.

Fibre is important to your diet. All food has a level of fibre content. Fibre is that part of the food that is not broken down and moves through the digestive system taking with it waste products causing our bowel movements to become more regular. Processed food has most of its fibre removed.

Eighty per cent of your weight is determined by your diet and twenty per cent by your level of activity (exercise).

Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.

Commitment is keeping to something, even though the mood you were in when you made that commitment has passed.

It is important to remember that for a large part of the population moderation simply does not work. If you belong to that group that cannot stop at one Tim Tam or one can of Coke, then being asked to moderate your diet will not work….at least not in the long term.

As the saying goes “Abstinence is as easy for me, as temperance is difficult”.

If you fall into this category then quitting altogether is what you need to do. Yes quit sugar (and salt).

When you do then you will find

  1. Your level of hunger will drop

2. You will eat less

3. You will lose weight

4. You will be healthier, with a healthier liver and heart.

Be mindful of what and how you eat.

The banquet is in the first bite. Savour the flavour.

Michael Pollan said

Most of what we’re consuming today is no longer, strictly speaking, food at all, and how we’re consuming it – in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone – is not really eating.

Eat mindfully. Concentrate on your food and not on your phone, the paper, the computer or the TV.

It’s okay to feel hungry. For the vast majority of human history we have lived in a state of hunger. The sensation of hunger is the sensation of weight loss.

Remember a moment on your lips, a lifetime on your hips

Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.

Do not reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog.

Gluttony is an emotional escape that is not about us eating things but about something eating us.

Don’t add sugar to anything. For example, if you cannot drink coffee without two or three lumps of sugar, then it’s not coffee you like, it’s sugar.

If it’s a plant eat it. If it’s made in a plant don’t.

Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (fowl), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows, pigs and other mammals)

Final tips

Think about exercise. A half hour work out is only 4 per cent of your day.

Stop the sugar

Stop the takeaway

Sleep properly

Stay hydrated

As for Fitzsimons’ suggestion that we give up alcohol, this is absurd and I would not entertain it.

My story

As a young man I was fit and athletic. I had a flat tummy and a good weight. I had no trouble finding clothes to fit me.

However, in my late 30s I developed a paunch. It was annoying at first but as I grew older, it grew bigger, as did my sense of disappointment.

Then the scales tipped over to the wrong side of 100 kilos.

Since Christmas 2016, I have made a concerted effort to reduce my sugar intake.

I only drink coffee, alcohol and water. No soft drinks, juices, power drinks, flavoured milk etc.

No chocolate, sweets, cakes, ice cream, chips etc.

I eat a sugar free or low sugar breakfast. Lunch has no or little carbs. And dinner is whatever the family eats.

With less sugar in my diet I am not as hungry as I used to be. I don’t eat between meals and don’t crave snacks like I used to.

I am not a fanatic. I could be eating less sugar. I still put honey in my coffee (but not always). I do eat desserts, sometimes. I still eat takeaway.

I have not embarked on an exercise regime.

The result.

Since Christmas I have lost about 7 kilos and for the first time in 15 years my weight has dropped below 100 kilos.

I still have a paunch (maybe it will never go away) but I’m liking what I see on the scale.

Today you are You,

That is truer than true.

There is no one alive

Who is youer than You

Dr Seuss