Success is a Journey


Sally’s Weight in Kilograms – red line is the trend

Serious and sustained weight loss is not an easy thing to achieve. It takes time, you need to apply yourself to it and it takes dedication. If you are obese, however, it is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and prospects for a long life. The co-morbidities associated with obesity seem endless – cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, musculo-skeletal problems and metabolic syndrome are some of them. Maybe Alzheimer’s should be in my list too. Given that we know all that, you might think it should be the case that the body would want to get rid of excess body fat and in general I think it does, but 3 things get in the way:

  1. Homeostasis – the desire of the body to stay in the state it is currently in;
  2. The addictive nature of carbohydrates; and
  3. Our bodies are made for starvation and body fat is our insurance policy to ensure we survive.

The human body doesn’t like change and when you try to change a bit of it, it employs systems to resist that change i.e. temperature goes up, we sweat to bring it down. It does the same thing with body fat. If we eat less the body has fewer calories to play with so it either does less (slows down movement for e.g.) or does something less intensively (turns down our body temperature slightly). Researchers have shown this by attaching movement sensors to people on a calorie restricted diet and have measured less movement, even though the dieters reported that they moved the same amount.

The Addictive Nature of Carbohydrates
The action of fast acting carbohydrates is shown in the right-hand graph below and slower acting foods on the left. You will note that fast acting carbs crash blood sugar below its normal fasting level. This will make your body want to rebuild that blood glucose to the level it should be quickly, and irrespective of what your overall nutritional status is, it will decide you need to eat and eat something that will replace the missing glucose quickly – i.e. more carbohydrates – and the cycle therefore begins again. That’s addiction in my book.


Our Bodies are made for Starvation
As a pretty vulnerable animal, we are astonishingly successful. Partly because of our big (although smaller than they used to be) brains and partly because we can do without food for a long time when hunting is bad and food is scarce. When calories are in short supply, we tend to move less we are not so warm and we hang on to all the resources we can and the most important one of these is body fat. We therefore keep hold of it for as long as we can and use it only when we have to or, crucially, when can replace it easily – i.e. there is plenty of fat in our diet. The longest recorded human fast (no food at all) was 382 days without any ill effects.


Which brings me to the graph at the top of the page. This is a record of the weight in kilograms of one of my clients. We can call her Sally. Sally came to me three years ago with a BMI of nearly 40 and a weight of 17stone 10lbs (248lbs), which was a lot for a woman of 5 feet 7 inches. I asked her how much weight she wanted to lose, and she said she didn’t know exactly but that a weight of “11 stone something” (154-167lbs) seemed about right. I agreed. I think I said it was achievable but wouldn’t be easy. If I did say that, I was right, but this week Sally has achieved it. She weighed in at 11stone 11lbs (165lbs) with a BMI of 26. A loss of 6 stone or 83lbs. It’s interesting to me to note that, as she has come close to her goal, her weekly weight losses have been some of the fastest ever. That appears to be the function of the introduction of some intermittent fasting (skipping breakfast in the main) and the re-introduction of coconut oil in coffee. Sally took out the coconut oil as she felt it was slowing her weight loss. It looks like the opposite was the case, which won’t surprise my Primal Health Coach colleagues. Convincing your body that it isn’t starving is key to persuading it to give up its stored fat and if you feed it fat, my interpretation of the evidence says the body responds to that fat intake with “good hunting, no worries, burn fat don’t store it…”

What a fantastic achievement!!
As you can see from the graph there have been setbacks, but Sally has achieved her dream of turning around her health. She did it all on a primal/paleo diet with no calorie restriction and just a bit of intermittent fasting in the last few months. Because of Sally’s honesty, we know that the times her weight increased were the times where, for various reasons, she fell off the primal wagon. But she always picked herself up and got back on again. There was another interesting issue that was associated with coming off and going back on a primal diet. When Sally came to me three years ago, one of the issues she had was arthritis in her hands, which isn’t good for a jewellery maker like her. While she was strictly primal however, the arthritis went away, when she wasn’t, it came back. It was a regular as clockwork – primal, no arthritis; not primal, arthritis. Sally is currently 100% primal and 100% arthritis and pain free. It’s not the first time I have seen this in my clients.

Sally now wants to get her BMI a bit below 25 in time for Christmas before entering the maintenance phase and I think she will do it. What a Christmas present that would be! Well done Sally, I am very proud to have had the opportunity to work with you over the years to achieve your goal.

To succeed, you only have to fall down seven times and get up eight.

I’m hoping Sally will share some photos soon…


Gary Taubes fails

The Gary Taubes london seminar is cancelled. No idea why.

Let’s have some input #garytaubes 

It simply works…

10 days and just over 3kgs lighter. The top chart shows my weight the lower one my %age body fat. This was a slight weight correction for me after a gradual upward drift over the summer – probably caused by to many home grown vegetables!  🙂 

Intermittent fasting on a Whole30 regime. It simply works.

And if you thought Coke Zero was the answer, you may need to think again.

Even taking the sugar out and replacing it with other super sweet chemicals may not help that much as this article about new research from Australia explains:
It seems that artificial sweeteners may also impair the body’s ability to control glucose. It’s only one study, but, given that the insulin response to food intake begins when you pick up a menu, it makes sense to me that eating any sweet things (and artificial sweeteners are really sweet) is going to mess around with your insulin.

If a sugar free sugar drink was ever an answer, what on earth was the question? 

(updated) Sugar – first corruption, then illness and now madness… and maybe an additive drug…

An interesting book from James Walvin on the history of sugar from its beginnings as a luxury item of the then super rich, to the creation of the slave trade and its mass marketing to Europe and North America, to the role it plays today in the human diet across the globe. The influence of sugar has been catastrophic for the people whose lives were destroyed first by slavery and then by indentured labour but also for the environment of the  tropical areas taken over by sugar cane production that were utterly changed forever by sugar plantations. Its effect on human health has also been catastrophic first on the teeth of the super rich followed by the teeth of everyone as this noxious substance became a staple food. Walvin makes the point that even after all the years of free dental health for children in the UK, their oral health has not improved. The number of teeth that are extracted from children because they are rotten is going up not down. That surely must make people stop and think. The link between sugar and rotten teeth isn’t theoretical, it’s real, and a point that has been made over and over and over again…

… this survey echoes the need to urgently reduce the amount of sugary snacks and drinks…


He ends by considering the role that sugar is playing in the global obesity/T2 diabetes crisis that is currently engulfing the world and whether human beings’ craving for sweetness can ever be constrained. He talks about the sugar taxes that have been tried around the world and their varying level of effectiveness. We are about to begin our own experiment in the UK with the so called “soft drinks levy” on sugary drinks. He marvels that Coca-cola is now proudly advertising itself for what it DOESN’T contain – sugar – than what it DOES contain (not much that you would want to put inside you in my view). However this morning I think I encountered true madness in a free handout at my train station this morning… sugar free Lucozade. My 150ml freebie can says it contains a feeble 6 kilocalories.

Wikipedia tells me that:

Lucozade is a soft drink marketed as a range of sports and energy drinks. Created in 1927 as “Glucozade” by a Newcastle pharmacist, William Owen, as an energy source for the sick, it was renamed Lucozade in 1929 and acquired by Beecham’s in 1938.

Hospital visitors in the UK would regularly arrive with a bottle of Lucozade. The product is a glucose–water solution; as of 2016 a 500 ml bottle contained 62 grams (15.5 cubes) of sugar, more than Coca-Cola. Beecham, known since 2000 as GlaxoSmithKline, rebranded it as a sports drink in 1983 to associate it with health rather than sickness, switched to a plastic bottle, and introduced a range of flavours.

So there you have it, the UK sugar tax’s first triumph, the creation of an almost completely energy free, energy drink!! I won’t be drinking my free sample.


And right on time, along comes a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggesting that sugar acts in some ways like a drug of addiction:

“Consuming sugar produces effects similar to that of cocaine, altering mood, possibly through its ability to induce reward and pleasure, leading to the seeking out of sugar.”

And just for completeness, it may cause depression too but strangely only in men…

So there you have it. Corruption, illness, madness, addiction and (if you are a man) depression. One lump or two?




You can actually feel this doing you good as you eat it! 

Chilled beetroot soup with soured cream and garnished with fresh dill on a summer’s day.

And it’s so easy! 

For six generous servings you need about 1.5 pints of good chicken stock (bone broth), one medium red onion, 3 large-ish cooked and peeled beetroots, a couple of bay leafs, soured cream and fresh dill. 

I take the fat from the top of the stock (the layer of fat has sealed the stock and kept it fresh) and fry off the finely diced onion. If you have had to buy the stock you can fry off the onion in lard or butter. As the onion frys roughly dice the cooked and peeled beetroot. I roasted my beetroot the day before for about and hour wrapped in foil and just put the in the fridge still wrapped in the foil. The skin just falls off when you peel them.

When the onion is soft – don’t let it brown – add the stock, chopped beetroot and bay leaf and boil for 5-10 minutes. Fish the bay leafs out (don’t forget to do this!!) and blitz the soup until smooth. To get it really smooth I then push the soup through a fine mesh metal seive with the back of a spoon and discard the fibrous bits that won’t go through.

Take your soup to the fridge and chill until really cold. 

Serve garnished with soured cream and chopped fresh dill. Delicious.

Summer in a soup bowl. You’re welcome! 

Are you a carboholic?

As Re-Find Health are frequently reminding me, the journalist and author of among other things The Case Against Sugar , Gary Taubes will be in London in November speaking at a seminar held over two days. Should be interesting!

One question my clients frequently ask me about cutting out refined carbohydrates is whether it is possible to just have a bit… the odd piece of toast, a croissant, maybe some jam? To which the answer is “Yes, of course it is but once you have weaned yourself off processed carbohydrates you’ll pay for it if you eat them. Symptoms may include nausea, diarrhoea, bloating, headaches, water retention and unexpected and sudden spikes in your weight. Still want a slice of toast?” To which the answer is frequently “Yes I do.” And they eat what it is they crave and all my dire predictions as to what will happen to them come true. They then have a miserable few days feeling awful while they repair the damage and wean themselves off the carbs again. Why put yourself through such self-inflicted torture?

Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times written by Gary Taubes where he suggests that carbohydrates may actually be addictive and sugar particularly so.

He suggests that for most carbs it may be the insulin response that causes the addiction as insulin both stops fat burning and clears sugar from the blood stream, removing the body’s two main sources of energy and causing the desire to eat more carbs. I think it goes a bit deeper than that in the case of wheat. I think there is enough evidence out there that suggest that the gliadin protein in modern wheat acts on the brain in the same way as opiate drugs (such as heroin) do.

Supermarkets exploit this by taking the vapour from the in store “bakery” and injecting it into the ventilation system so that you can smell the bread all over the store. It’s particularly noticeable at Easter when the whole shop smells of hot cross buns. The shop is simply reminding you that you are addicted. 

So when my clients come to me complaining of feeling ill after eating bread after they have tried so hard to come off it, I don’t criticise, I sympathise. They have a real addiction that is terribly hard to conquer.