Weight Loss

Back in 2009 I had this whole weight-loss, getting healthy, curing disease thing licked.  All except for one little thing.  What happens between my ears and in my heart, both literally and metaphorically.

I have written about this stuff before, and I’ll make a little “mind and emotions” index at the bottom of this post, but a recent BBC Program, “The Truth About Personality” re-ignited my interest, that and some posts in other people’s blogs, and some thoughts of my own … but let’s start with the BBC.  The programme is presented by Michael Mosely, of whom the BBC says:

Michael Mosley is a science presenter, writer and executive producer.  After training as a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London, Michael switched course and joined the BBC. He has produced a wide range of science-based programmes … and he was named Medical Journalist of the Year by the British Medical Association.

and of the programme, the BBC says:

Michael Mosley explores the latest science about how our personalities are created – and whether they can be changed.  Despite appearances, Mosley is a pessimist who constantly frets about the future. He wants to worry less and become more of an optimist.

He tries out two techniques to change this aspect of his personality – with surprising results.  And he travels to the frontiers of genetics and neuroscience to find out about the forces that shape all our personalities.

I found the programme fascinating, and I believe there’s a lot here that can help those of us for whom getting lean and healthy is more than “just” a problem of metabolic disorder.  It’s easiest if you take some time, get comfortable, grab a coffee or a gin and tonic, and watch the programme (it takes an hour).



You can see the actual “smiley faces” exercise used in the programme, online (the Cognitive Bias Modification), right here (just click the link).


There are a number of apps for the iPhone and Windows–I haven’t yet checked out for other platforms.

  • PsychMeUp, is from Mindhabits (the link goes to the app store).  Mindhabits also have a number of games on the web, some demo, some for purchase.

PsychMeUpMindHabits also has a Windows-Based app, with a free demo version, and a downloadable Windows Version.  Here’s the demo version.  The free, downloadable version only lasts for an hour, but that’s long enough to get a sense of it.  You can play PsychMeUp on your iPad or iPhone, forever, for free, so that should help you decide if it works.  The full MindHabits Windows app costs $19.95.  I haven’t tried any of them long enough to report personal experience over the long term.

AnxietyMint have a paid-for app (£1.69 in the UK).  Click for AnxietyMint on the App Store.

Jason Pegg, the author of the app uses the same basic structure for two other apps: (they are all £1.69).

These apps are fully editable: I am already working on editing Diet Mint to be more of an aid for the Ketogenic Diet.

I have all of these (except SmokingMint) and will review them as soon as I have got used to them.


Still To Come

  • Pzizz to aid mindfulness,
  • Other Mindfulness aids
  • Further thoughts if your mother didn’t lick you enough (if that’s a mystery, you haven’t watched the video!)
  • Index to blogs already touching this subject.
  • etc


Arnold Schwarzenegger

Michelle Davis

It is true that if you look like either of these two people then your BMI will be pretty meaningless, so, before you read any further, please undress and either stand in front of a mirror, or in front of a good friend, and ask them whether, in all honesty, you look much like either of these pictures.

If the answer is “no”, and if you are concerned for your weight or you health, then BMI can be a useful metric, provided that you understand it.  So what is  the body mass index?

Consider this: the taller you are, the more you would expect to weigh.

The shorter you are the less you would be expected to weigh.  But what about a short and very fat person?  They may weigh more than a tall, thin person.

BMI is the measure that evens that out, so that we can compare like with like.  It is your body mass (or weight: only a physicist needs to know the difference between mass and weight) divided by the square of your height.  For all the gruesome detail, check the Wikipedia article, “Body Mass Index“.

You derive the number directly if working in kilograms and meters: you need to multiply by 703 if working in lbs and inches.  And then those numbers fall into broad bands just to give a description to where you are, and to turn the raw numbers into descriptive words.  Here are some charts to give you an idea.

BMI, Kg and Metres

BMI, Pounds and inches


Now you think that would be all very simple … but it isn’t.  Let me tell you my own story, by way of illustration.  Back in June 2009 I weighed 22 stones (308lbs, 140kg).  I am 6’4″ tall.  That falls off of the chart above, but let’s use the calculator that’s in the right margin of this page.  It gives a BMI of 37.5, classed as “Obese Class II”.  Back in 2009 the description was more blunt.  It was called “morbidly obese”.  I accepted the verdict.

The pharmacist who was guiding me into weight loss using Lipotrim asked me what I thought I should choose as my goal weight.  I didn’t know, so he looked on the BMI chart (I had never come across it before).

Look across from 6’4″ until you get to the green zone.  Somewhere between 190lbs and 200lbs looks about right.  In English stones, 14 stones is 196lbs.  So he suggested 14 stones as a goal weight.  ROFL, LMAO, and other such tags came to mind.  That was patently ridiculous!  I hadn’t been that weight since I was in my early 20s, which was before the metric system had even been invented!

He wasn’t fazed by my mirth, and asked what I thought was reasonable.  Well, once, back in the mid-1970s, I had made a concerted effort to lose weight and had come within a whisker of 15 stones (210 lbs, 95.5 kg).  But that was 35 years earlier, and I was older and wider now (I wish I could say older and wiser, but I’ll stick to the truth), so I figured I’d shoot for 16 stones (224 lbs, roughly 100 kg).

That would get me down from Morbidly Obese, through Obese, to merely overweight.  And I wasn’t looking at his chart.  And he didn’t want to put me off by holding me to what I obviously thought was an unachievable target.  To help someone lose 84 lbs (6 stones, 38 kg) was a huge improvement, after all.

But here’s the thing.  When I hit 16 stones I did the test above: the jumping up and down naked thing.  Not only did I not look like Arnie, I didn’t even look like the 7-stone (97 lb) weakling in the Charles Atlas ads of my youth.  I still looked like a fat guy, just not as fat as I had been.  I realised that the BMI scale is pretty accurate.

Yesterday evening a friend wrote to me, convinced that the BMI calculator over on the right is wrong; giving false information.  So let’s check it out.  First I’ll use my measurements.  6’4″ is 76 inches.

22 stones comes to 308 lbs.  So, my height squared is 76 x 76 = 5776.  308 ÷ 5776 = 0.05332409972299168975069252077562, times 703 = 37.48.  Which is what the calculator gives.  So it works for this tall, heavy man.

Now, my friend is a woman, and she’s shorter and lighter.  She tells me that she is 5’5″ (65 inches, 165 cm), and that she currently weighs 154 lbs (11 stones, 70kg).  Let’s do the sums: 65 squared is 4225, and 154 ÷ 4225 gives a BMI of 26.23, which makes her in the lower third of the “overweight” band.  It also gives her a range of goal weights to aim for.  The lighter end of the normal band for her height is 110lbs (7 stone 12, or 50kg) and the upper end is 140lbs (10 stones, 64 kg), which is quite a range.  Only you (or your best friends) can tell you whether you are truly big-boned, or whether you are kidding yourself.

And, of course, the BMI won’t tell you if you are fit.  Even when you are at a BMI rated as “normal”, it is interesting to see what happens if you jump up and down naked in front of the mirror.  Can people bounce coins of your butt, or would they vanish.  As you head towards your goal weight, getting some muscle tone will help a lot, and BMI has nothing to say about that!

How surprised people are when told of the goal weight that would give a “correct” BMI is, I believe, a measure of how overweight we have all become.

(An earlier version of the calculator in the right margin gave incorrect values lower down the range.  I have switched to a different calculator.)

I recently published a post called “How Do We Know What We Know“?  I think it’s important that we think about how we come by the knowledge that we use to manage our lives.

Some people believe what they are told; “I read it in the newspapers”, “I saw it on TV”, “It must be true”.

Some people believe what they are told by authorities: their doctor, religious leader, etc.  Some people work off of a gut feeling, and some trust scientists.

But what is science?

What it isn’t is a bunch of (mostly) men in white coats with clip boards peering into microscopes and test tubes.

Science is a process of coming to know: of justifying a belief.

Beside me as I write I have what Brits call a torch and Americans call a flashlight. It doesn’t work and I want to know why.  My guess is that the battery is flat, so I take out the old battery, shove in a new one from my drawer, and the torch lights up.  That, in a nutshell, is the whole scientific process.

In science we start with a problem (torch doesn’t work); we form an hypothesis as to what the cause of the problem is (formally, according to Wikipedia, an hypothesis is a “proposed explanation for a phenomenon”.  Or a guess as to what is causing the problem).  We then design an experiment to test the hypothesis (hypothesis is that the battery is flat; experiment is to replace old battery with a new one.  If the torch then works we will declare that our hypothesis was the correct one).

There are a few problems with this experiment.  What if the problem wasn’t a flat battery, but a loose connection, and that taking one battery out and putting another back (or even the same one back) restored the connection?  Then we would have a “false positive”.  And we’d probably chuck away a perfectly good battery (and the torch would probably fail again next time it was shaken, and we might decide it was going through batteries too fast and chuck the torch out as well as the batteries.)

So to make the scientific process a bit more likely to produce good and useful knowledge, we come up with a whole set of hypotheses, and try to design experiments to test all of them.  For instance, hypotheses for our non-functioning torch might be:

  1. Flat battery
  2. Dead bulb
  3. Loose connection
  4. Alien invaders have stopped electricity working on earth.
  5. etc.

If we have an electric meter or tester we can use it to measure a brand new battery, straight out of its packet.  If that works then we know that the tester is working, and we can also rule out hypothesis number 4.  We can then use the tester on the battery.  We may need to test the battery and the bulb, and the connections, because the problem might be 1, 2, or 3, or any combination of the three variables (or four variables if we haven’t yet ruled out the alien invasion).

I’m sure that I am labouring the point, and that you get it by now.  But you may also be getting a sense that, to an outsider, science looks glamorous while actually it involves a lot of care and pains-taking step-by-step rigour.

In the science of nutrition, as in all other science, when we do experiments we need to “control” for all the variables.  If we think that eating chocolate is what is making someone fat we could take two groups of people, feed one group chocolate and the other not, and measure them.  But to be absolutely sure the problem is the chocolate, the two groups must eat exactly the same apart from the chocolate.  And exercise the same, and sleep the same, and drink the same, and live at the same altitude (I’ve just got back from a week in the rocky mountains: you’d be amazed at the difference it can have on you; even how often you need to wee!)

So, anyway, that’s what science is: it’s just a way of thinking about solving problems, of producing knowledge.

But here’s an interesting thing: it’s the science of finding things that will make people well.  On the face of it, if you developed a pill that stopped people getting smelly feet you might think you’d get a large group of people who have smelly feet, divide them into two groups, give one group the pill, the other group no pill, and see how smelly the feet were of the two groups.

But that’s not what pill researchers do.

They make a second pill that looks exactly the same as the first pill, but which does absolutely nothing.  It’s probably just made of chalk.  And no one knows which pill is which (except the people designing the research).  In particular, neither the folks taking the pills know which is which, nor do the folks handing out the pills.  This is called a “double-blind” trial and it is to prevent the outcome being influenced by the placebo effect and researcher bias.  The placebo effect is when people who are given the “sham” pill, but who believe it to be real, get better anyway.

Very many scientists tend to dismiss all sorts of things that are outside their paradigm as “just the placebo effect”.  But hang on … are you telling us that just because people believe they are getting treated, they actually get better?


There’s even placebo surgery.  People with a knee problem were anesthetized, the surgeon made an incision, then just sewed it up without doing anything, and people got better!

So what do they mean by “just” the placebo effect?  This is amazing!  While many scientists sniff at the placebo effect, they clearly recognise that it exists, or they wouldn’t have designed the blind trial.

But just a minute here.  That’s why they designed the blind trial.  But what about the double blind trial?

Well, that’s because they also recognise that what the experimenter believes can also effect the outcome of the trial.  Hmm.  Weirder and weirder, don’t you think?  Obviously, of course, you can’t have double-blind knee surgery, but still …

So, we have our sweet-feet pill, and we design a double blind trial.  You’d think, if the pill worked, one group would have sweet feet and the other group smelly feet.  No: doesn’t work like that.  What we are looking for is for a “statistically significant” number of the sweet-feet group to see some improvement.  You never, ever get 100% cured with the real pill and 100% not cured with the placebo.


Here’s a fun one; some researchers wanted to test out the claims of some herbalists that the herb ginkgo biloba can help with sexual problems.  They found that it didn’t.  But they didn’t find that no-one got better, they found that equal numbers of people got better in both groups!

The aim of this study was to examine the effect of Ginkgo biloba on antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. The Ginkgo biloba (n=19) and the placebo groups (n=18) were divided; each to be administered with Ginkgo biloba and placebo respectively for 2 months by means of a randomized placebo-controlled, double-blind study. The results of this 2 month trial were: (1) there was no statistical significant difference from the placebo at weeks 2, 4 and 8 after medication; (2) in comparison with baseline, both the Ginkgo biloba group and the placebo group showed improvement in some part of the sexual function, which is suggestive of the importance of the placebo effect in assessing sexual function.

A placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction

Last point before I get to why I am telling you all of this.

Some people suddenly realised that, because all drug trials are done using double-blind trials with placebos, there was an awful lot of clinical trial data about placebos.  If you analyse it, you see that some people are “placebo responders”: pretty much they will get better whatever you give them, whether it’s the drug or a chalk pill.  And then there are the placebo non-responders.  They won’t get well whatever you give them.  I bet you are already thinking of a few grumpy people that you know for whom nothing ever works.  And a few Pollyanna types for whom everything is always wonderful.  If you’re a placebo-non-responder you probably spend your life wanting to slap some sense into the Pollyannas of this world.

If you find this stuff fascinating and want to know, this may be the place to start: What Is the Placebo Effect? By Kendra Cherry, About.com Guide.


Well, it’s taken me long enough to get to the point, but here it is.  I would be willing to bet that, for every diet, nutrition plan, weight-loss pill that’s ever been invented, however crazy, there is at least one person for whom it was a miracle cure and changed their life.

And for every serious, perfectly researched, based-on-pure-science-and-nutrition, life-style change that’s ever been invented, there are a whole host of people who got fat and sick and died a horrible death using it (well no, probably not that bad, but you get my point).

All of this is because, in my next post, I am going to try to create a map of the dieting, weight-loss, lifestyle territory, and I want you to understand that, while I may sneer at some things, and exalt others, I just know that there are people for whom the silver-bullet capsules filled with floor sweepings worked like a dream, and I’m sure that there are people who have eaten a Big Mac, fries and a full-fat Coke with extra sugar every day of their lives and went on to win Olympic Gold in the Ultra-Marathon.

But I’m also willing to bet that neither of those people are you!

Susan and James, Walking for Happiness

Well, yes and no … mostly no!  If you’re a 200lb person (220lbs is 100kg, or around 14 stone in English), and you walk at 2.5mph, which isn’t bad for an unfit, overweight person, you would need to walk more than 30 miles (on the flat) to walk off one pound of fat.

But by the time you’ve walked 30 miles you will have worked up one heck of an appetite! About.com has a good article about walking to lose weight, and says

 A rule of thumb is 100 calories per mile for a 180-pound person and 65 for a 120-pound person.

Bear in mind that a pound of fat contains 3500 calories, so a 180lb person needs to walk 35 miles, and a 120lb person will have travelled 53 miles before they’ve burned one single pound of fat!

So does that mean we shouldn’t exercise when aiming to Live Free From Obesity?  Not at all.  Back in 2009 I Nordic Walked well over 200 miles as part of my regime, got trained as a Nordic Walking Instructor (so did Susan) and we founded Walking for Happiness.

So if we’re trying to lose weight, and exercise doesn’t really do it, why bother?  Well, I never said that exercise wouldn’t improve your general fitness, improve your circulation, tone your muscles.  It will do all these things, and these all will help your weight-loss efforts.  Perhaps best of all, walking (especially Nordic Walking, which works the major muscle groups in your upper body, as well as your lower body) pumps your lymphatic system and helps with the general de-tox process that goes with (both as pre-cursor and as a result of) weight loss. There’s an interesting article about cleansing your lymphatic system on Livestrong.com,  but boy, do I think they have their priorities upside down!  They have Step 1, “Book a lymphatic massage from a licensed massage therapist” and Step 7: “You can walk briskly”.  Well.  Which is most available to most people?  A licensed massage therapist skilled in lymphatic drainage, or going out of the front door and taking a brisk walk?  And given that you can buy a pair of Nordic [simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B0020GDA6S" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/316mqHjoeeL._SL160_.jpg" width="33"]Walking poles from Amazon, probably for less than the price of a single message session, and can learn [simpleazon-image align="right" asin="073608178X" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51kOXmq%2BMnL._SL160_.jpg" width="112"]Nordic Walking from a book, a DVD, or even You Tube videos (that’s all we used for the first 250 miles of Nordic Walking), I know which I’d go for!

If you’d like some inspiration, check out these videos on the Walking for Happiness website. Best NW Video, Nordic Walking 101, What The Drs Say, What People Say About Walking for Happiness.

Of course there are other considerations.  If you exercise hard and consistently you will convert fat to muscle.  You may actually tip the scales a little higher (muscle weight more than fat) but you will have improved your Fat Body Mass / Lean Body Mass ratio, which is what you really want to do.  And you should see an increase in the weight loss brought on from other things that you are doing, because muscle has a higher metabolic rate than fat.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1934030902" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51EXEmIArEL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"]They tell me (and I will be finding out for myself) that Crossfit is the way to go.  I’ll keep you posted!

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B0081TIGQM" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51HVIoakooL._SL160_.jpg" width="124"]In the meantime, I just discovered and bought this book on my iPad/Kindle.  Now my head is really spinning!

Why We Get Fat

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

My lovely friend, Kali Harmen, recommended that I read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and I sighed, deeply!

It is an occupational hazard of being overweight (in America the current politically correct term is “a person of size”!) that every second person wants you to read their favourite book, and when you run a website called Live Free From Obesity the frequency rises dramatically!

Why We Get Fat: Kindle Edition

Why We Get Fat: Kindle Edition

But I rate Kali’s opinion, so I thought I’d at least follow the link to Amazon, discovered that it’s only £4.05 on the Kindle (or on my iPad), thought “what the heck” and downloaded it just before Susan and I jumped into the car to head to Gatwick to catch the plane to Florida (to look after her sick Mom).

I had wanted to go to bed early, because we had to be at the airport early, but I started reading it in bed in the hotel and had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep at about 01:00am.  By the time we landed in Orlando the next day I had read it one and a half times.

Gary is a science writer, but/and a very good one.  He has been fascinated by all the bad (or non-existent) science behind nutritional advice, both in the USA and the rest of the world.

Gary’s theme is that we “people of size” (not his term) don’t get to be this way because we eat too much and exercise too little.  And in the first half of the book he completely demolishes “gluttony and sloth” as adequate explanations for obesity.  Gary says that we don’t get fat because we eat too much, but that we eat too much because we are growing fat.  Does that scramble your brain?  It did mine, until Gary talked about teenage boys.

We all know that teenage boys have growth spurts.  We know that teenage boys eat a lot, and any of us who have had anything to do with teenage boys know that they can appear very lazy.  But no-one would think to say “my son is growing tall because he eats too much”.  We wouldn’t think of saying that the boy is growing tall because he never gets out of bed.  We know that his hormones have triggered the growth spurt, and that his system craves more energy to fuel the growth spurt … and takes so much energy in making him grow tall, that he frequently doesn’t have the energy to get out of bed.

So why would it be any different if we’re growing width-wise as opposed to height-wise?

But why do we get fat?  Popular wisdom says that it’s all down to the 1st law of thermodynamics, and that you can’t deny the physics.  Take more calories in than you expend through exercise, and you’re bound to get fatter.  Hmm, says Gary.  Imagine there are a row of rooms and each of these rooms has an entrance door and an exit door.  Now imagine that a crowd of people is moving through the rooms.  But one room has many more people in it than all the rest.  You ask me why, and I say it’s because more people are entering that room than leaving it, and you look at me as though I’m losing the plot.  ”Well, obviously!”  but why?  I have just stated the obvious, without any sort of explanation.

That’s the same as saying that I’m fat because I ate too much and didn’t exercise enough.  Yes.  Obviously.  But Why?  Again, popular wisdom would say that it’s obvious that I’m a greedy, lazy slob.

Well, maybe.

But nowadays we get children as young as 6 months old who are obese.  Can it be that they are already greedy and lazy?  Unlikely.

Gary explains how it’s all down to our endocrine system, and gives us a series of lessons: Adiposity 101, Endocrinology 101, etc.  I can’t reproduce the entire book here: go get your own copy!

But if you’d like to sample Gary’s writing before lashing out a whole £4.05 for the Kindle edition, or a massive £4.49 for the paperback, try some of his New York Times articles:

A good place to start is with “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie“, published in the NYT in 2002.

Next try “Is Sugar Toxic“, a response in the NYT (April 2011) to the runaway viral success of Robert Lustig’s You Tube video, which I wrote about in my “Truth About Sugar” blog post back in early April.

But maybe you’d like to see and hear Gary.  He did a lecture at Crossfit (a physical training outfit for people serious about getting fit: that Crossfit link is scary, but Crossfit is actually for everyone: check out this story in Sydney, Australia.) and the lecture was videoed and posted in three parts on You Tube: here they are:

Gary Taubes Cross Fit Talk, Part 1


Gary Taubes Cross Fit Talk, Part 2


Gary Taubes Cross Fit Talk, Part 3


The Diet Delusion

The Diet Delusion

In that lecture Gary referred several times to his first (500 page) book, called Good Calories — Bad Calories in the USA, and The Diet Delusion in the UK.

If you want to study this stuff in depth, or you’d like to see what a serious scientific investigative journalist can get up to for five years, then this is the book for you!

It arrived Friday morning (today is Saturday) and I’m just a couple of chapters in, but already I am enthralled.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1439190275" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51C4YyKhT2L._SL110_.jpg" width="73"]Just by way of interest: having read Why We Get Fat on the plane to Orlando, I decided (despite having two week’s worth of Lipotrim in my case) to try Gary’s eating plan.  I ate really well: eggs and bacon for breakfast (with mushrooms and tomatoes), cold meats and salad for lunch, and steaks, broccoli, salads for dinner.  My weight dropped slightly (I had been worried it might soar!).  My blood sugar continued to fall, and my blood pressure fell slightly.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0345484045" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51-h3UmqMEL._SL160_.jpg" width="127"]I will return to Lipotrim, just as soon as I have the psychological and emotional support I need in place, to go through what Atkins would call the Induction Phase.  I will be writing blog posts about Atkins, The Gabriel Method, and about T-Tapp training, and will then start to tie all these together.

Watch this space!

I have been following up some Internet research for a good friend of mine who has followed the “Radical Nutrition Programme” of LFFO, has lost close on 60lbs and looks FABULOUS, but still has some problems.

Some of those are in the mind, and we’re working on that together, but this person also has all the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome:

  • Can’t shift the weight around the middle, even though the BMI says you’re at a good weight
  • High Blood sugar that medication has difficulty shifting (insulin resistance)
  • High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
  • High Cholesterol

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1468161776" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ZUxuOCjLL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"]There are other symptoms, but this is enough.  Susan found an article in “The Week” that was a summary of a longer article in the Daily Telegraph, called “The Bitter Truth About Sugar“.  It’s not a long article but it certainly inspired me to Google the scientist behind the article, Professor Robert Lustig of UCSF.  His video on You Tube (below) has had 2.25 million hits and makes compelling viewing: I just watched it in one go.  He argues that sugar is as toxic as ethanol (alcohol).  The table above summarises the argument: I still think it’s worth watching the video.

At times it gets a bit technical when he delves into the biochemistry, but he’s entertaining and keeps us with him, but if you’ve ever worried about your weight, you owe it to yourself to find the times to watch one of these videos.

Nobody chooses to be obese,” says Lustig. “Nobody. Especially not children. This is a global pandemic. D’you think, all of a sudden, everybody in the world became gluttons and sloths at the same time? Get with the programme!

Read the article and if it catches your attention, and either watch the short version of the video (26 minutes)


… or the long version (89 minutes)


This isn’t just scare stuff: he suggests what we can do to help ourselves:

Lifestyle Intervention

  1. Get rid of all sugared liquids–only water and milk
  2. Eat your carbohydrate with fibre
  3. Wait 20 minutes for second portions
  4. Buy your “screen time” minute-for-minute with physical activity.

Also, get some exercise: not because you’ll burn the calories (it takes a LOT of exercise to burn a Big Mac!), but because:

Why is exercise important in obesity?

  1. Because it improves skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity
  2. Becasue it reduces stress and resultant cortisol release
  3. Because it makes the TCA cycle (the basic process that digests food and produces energy) run faster, detoxifies fructose, and improves hepatic insulin sensitivity.

Also, he’s heavy on making sure that you have plenty of fibre in your diet:

Why Is Fibre Important in Obesity?

“When God Made the Poison,
He packaged it with the antidote”

Fructose is a poison, but wherever it appears in nature, it’s packaged with way more fibre.


  1. Reduces the rate of intestinal carbohydrate absorption, reducing insulin response (Fat or Fart)
  2. Increases speed of transit of intestinal contents, raising PYY 3-36 and thus induces satiety signal sooner
  3. Inhibits absorption of some free fatty acids to the colon, which are metabolized by colonic bacteria to short-chain fatty acids, which suppress insulin

So, here’s the summary of the message:

  • Fructose consumption has increased in the last 30 years, coinciding with the obesity epidemic
  • A calorie is not a calorie (fructose is not glucose)
  • You are not what you eat, you are what you do with what you eat
  • Fructose metabolism in the liver leads to Metabolic Syndrome
  • Consuming fructose interferes with obesity intervention
  • Fructose is a chronic liver toxin: it’s alcohol without the buzz.

Here’s an excellent infographic from an article (The Amazing Similarities Between this Toxic Sugar and Alcohol) on Mercola’s website with a wealth of info:
fructose overload infographic

Discover the fructose content of common foods, beverages, sauces, and even sugar substitutes in our infographic “Fructose Overload.” Use the embed code to share it on your website.

fructose overload infographic

Discover the fructose content of common foods, beverages, sauces, and even sugar substitutes in our infographic “Fructose Overload.”

I first wrote this post a year or so ago.  Since then I have learned some things that I didn’t know back then, which means I need to make a few changes.  There are a number of “great debates” in the weight loss world, and one of the biggest is “CICO vs GCBC”.  That is, the “calories in, calories out model” (eat less, exercise more: you can’t gainsay the physics) versus the “Good Calories Bad Calories” model (not all calories are created equal … some foods will have a worse effect than other foods).  Intellectually I have come to believe and follow the GCBC model … but my personal experience says that CICO is also true; you can’t gainsay the physics.  Even when you’re eating exclusively good calories, too many of them will make you fat!

This post was, originally, based exclusively on CICO … I will make notes where I think we need to make an adjustment.  To get an idea of why all calories are not created equal, check out my post on my number one nutritional-science guru, Gary Taubes: “Why We Get Fat“.


When I first started this odyssey I was “morbidly obese”: I had a Body Mass Index (BMI) just over 40. That meant I was 9 stones (126 lbs, 57 kg) overweight.

Conventional wisdom suggests a safe rate to lose weight is 1 lb per week. At that rate it would have taken me about two and a half years to get to goal weight. Actually, on the sort of nutritional regime that achieves a one-pound-a-week weight loss, it will take forever, because the last few pounds just won’t come off.

The first time I did this, I lost 7 stones (100 lbs, 45 kg) in 30 weeks, cured myself of various problems along the way (like Type II diabetes), and was never healthier in my entire life.

That same conventional wisdom that says only lose a pound a week also suggests, variously, only weighing yourself once per week, or once per month, or throwing the scales away altogether.VLCD

Nonsense. Weigh yourself every hour for two days, then every day.

I guess I better justify these bold assertions. After all, I am not medically qualified, and I’m not a professional nutritionist.

I am a fat bloke who wanted to stay alive. I am also an intelligent man, capable of reading, researching (I have a Master of Philosophy, M.Phil. degree; that’s a sort of “PhD Lite”), and forming reasonable hypotheses that I can test on myself.

Safe Rate for Weight Loss

So let’s examine where this “1 lb per week safe limit” argument comes from, and to do that, we need to get into a little (very simple, I promise) science.

Our bodies need food. I want to use the a metaphor: “The Body is Like a Car”.

The body (I’m just considering physical stuff here; mental, emotional, creative, spiritual, social and cultural considerations I’ll deal with in “Together We Can”) needs food for three things:

  1. Fuel (Petrol, Diesel, Gas)
  2. Maintenance (Spare parts)
  3. Getting maintained (the motor repair person)

Fuel is calories. The body uses it up doing absolutely everything it does, from just staying alive, through thinking hard, to running a marathon, and everything in between.

Maintenance is vitamins, minerals and amino acids. These are the building blocks that are used for constantly repairing, growing and rebuilding our bodies.

The “repair person” function is carried out by certain enzymes and other substances that catalyze (cause to happen) changes in our bodies.

All foods contain these three components in different proportions. The reason why people criticize “junk food” is because it contains loads of fuel and almost no spare parts or repair people.

The body, like a car, can store fuel for later use. However, a car has a fixed-size fuel tank. When it’s full, adding more just causes a mess on the filling-station forecourt.

The body, however, just grows the fuel tank to contain all the extra fuel you add. In extreme cases that means the body is almost nothing but a great heaving, wobbling fuel store. The trouble there is that the body becomes so ungainly and difficult to move, that it’s really hard to actually use up this excess fuel. That means you have more fat (which doesn’t use fuel) and less lean muscle (which does use fuel), so your fuel consumption drops whilst your fuel store goes up.


Another way that your body is unlike most cars is that your body can have a reserve fuel tank that has a one-way valve.  You can add more fuel to your reserves, but then be unable to actually use it up.  More of that later on.


How much fuel do we need?

Well, that depends. If you were lying in a coma in a hospital bed, you’d still be using fuel.  They say that your brain uses up around 600 calories a day (although I know some people where I would swear it’s less!)

When I first owned a car, cars were very simple things. If you turned off the lights and the ignition … that was it; it was totally inert.

But my big blue Mercedes uses electricity all the time, whether I’m driving it or not. The clock, the car’s engine computer, the security system are all using power, whether I’m driving it or not (as I learned to my cost when I came back from a three-month trip and had to pay £200 for a new battery, and silly money to the Mercedes garage for resetting all the systems so they worked again–I’ve got rid of that car now!).

This underlying rate of energy consumption is called your “Basal Metabolic Rate”, and differs, based on your gender, weight, height. Here’s how Wikipedia defines BMR:

Basal metabolic rate (BMR), and the closely related resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of daily energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting in humans).
The release of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of the vital organs, the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, intestine, sex organs, muscles and skin.

BMR changes with age, gender, height and weight.

On top of your BMR requirement is the energy you need for normal daily functioning: getting up, getting dressed, washed, fed, to work, etc. This total amount of energy is called your Daily Calorie Needs, and can be anything from 1.2 to 1.9 times your BMR.

And here’s the simple truth. Eat more calories than your Daily Calorie Needs, and your body will store the excess energy. Eat less and your body will make up the difference from the energy store.

In even simpler and balder language: eat more than you need and you’ll get fat, eat less than you need and you’ll get thin.


The difference in the Good Calorie – Bad Calorie model is that our endocrine systems can get damaged, in which case eating less may not make you thin, and even eating small amounts can make you fat.  If your waist measurement is larger than your hip measurement, then this may already have started happening for you.


HOWEVER … if all your requirements come from food, then eating less calories means you are also eating less spare parts and “maintenance people”.. To avoid linguistic clumsiness, from here on I will just divide food into fuel and nutrition.

Here’s the danger; cut down on food in order to cut down on excess calories, and you’re in danger of cutting down on nutrition, too. Do that and you’ll get ill; maybe even die.

Where does the boundary lie between reducing calories to lose weight and not endangering your health? Let’s do a little sum.

A pound of fat contains 3500 calories. So, to lose a pound a week you’ll need to consume 3500 calories a week less than you use. A woman who needs around 1250 calories per day, or 8750 per week would need to cut her food intake by about 60% to lose a pound a week. If all she does is stay on the same diet, but just reduce quantities, you can see she’s going to be in BIG trouble: 60% less calories, but also 60% less nutrition.

But how about if there was some way to get 100% of the nutrition you need, at very low calorie levels?

Welcome to the Very Low Calorie Diet, or VLCD. My diet is incredibly well formulated to give me all the vitamins, minerals and enzymes I need to get top-notch, fabulous nutrition, but only 500 calories per day.

I’ll do a worked example, but, for the math-phobic among you, I’ll put all the sums in an appendix. It comes out that on my 500-calorie a day VLCD I will, based on my today’s weight, lose 6.6 lbs a day.

Of course, tomorrow I’ll be about a pound lighter, so the BMR equation will change, so I’ll either get very good with a calculator, or I’ll build a spreadsheet (which I have; have a look at it or download it from here).

There’s one more thing to explain.

How The Body Stores and Uses Energy

The body stores energy in two forms, one available for quick access in the short term, and one for longer-term use.

The evolutionary need was for, on the one hand, a rapidly available energy store that could be used for flight or fight, or chase, or sex. On the other hand, we needed a slower-release energy store to get us through the winter and spring, when there wasn’t much food around.

For short-term, rapid uptake use, our bodies store glycogen in our liver and our muscles. For long term use, energy is stored as fat, which has a second use to keep us warm.

When we start a VLCD the glycogen is the first thing to go, and glycogen bonds with five times it’s own weight of water, hence for the first few days we pee every 90 minutes, morning, noon, and night, and the weight absolutely falls off. It looks exciting on the scales, but it is only water!

How do we know when the glycogen is all gone? We enter a state known as “ketosis” (not to be confused with ketoacidosis). We know we are in ketosis when:

  1. We stop feeling hungry,
  2. We stop peeing every 90 minutes,
  3. If we pee on a “ketostix” strip (get them from our store) it goes purple,
  4. Our teeth start to fur up, and we start leaving toothbrushes and toothpaste around the house for immediate use,
  5. Our weight loss conforms to the above equations.
  6. Our brain starts to get sharper.

It’s important to stay in ketosis for reasons 1 and 6. And you do that by sticking strictly to the diet. Any little extras (not so much as a slice of lemon in a glass of water) are liable to kick you out of ketosis.

I have experienced (6) above. Apparently it’s because ketones fuel the brain instead of glucose.


Since then being in ketosis and ketogenic diets have become even more important to me.  Check out my blog posts “On Ketogenic Diets” and “203 Comments on Mark Maunder’s ‘Basic Ketogenic Diet’“.


I’ve Been Told to Throw My Scales Away

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B002JE2PSA" locale="us" height="103" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zH94zSuwL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"]No. Check out the Withings scales in our store. (We commute between the UK and the USA: in America I use the FitBit Aria scales[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="B0077L8YOO" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/314fN8XxK%2BL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"]) They are not cheap, but they are very accurate scales that will weigh you and measure your body fat percentage, as well as calculate your BMI. They are worth every penny, because they are WiFi, and will report your weight on line.  You can keep that private; but we recommend making the details available to your doctor, and to your Live Free From Obesity group: when we are all monitoring each other’s weight, it has a highly motivating effect!

When you get them, weigh yourself every waking hour, day and night (and when you get up for a wee). They record your weight on a central website (only you can see it, unless you allow your Dr access), so you can do it half asleep.  Do this without dieting; just your normal lifestyle. After two days, look at the results. You will find that your weight can fluctuate by as much as 5-8 lbs (2-4 Kg) during the day.

This means that you can “lose” a pound simply by weighing yourself an hour later! And it means that a target weight loss of 1 lb per week can’t be detected … it’s lost in the “noise”.

Would you trust an airline pilot who didn’t look at his instruments? I wouldn’t. Your scales are your instruments: they tell you how you’re doing. And when you’re feeling all miserable because you can’t eat your favourite food, go weigh yourself; you’ll be so excited at another couple of pounds lost, that all your motivation will come back!

Won’t a VLCD Damage my Muscles?

No. I went from obese couch potato to walking 500 miles with Walking for Happiness. I did my first 200 miles whilst on my VLCD, and my longest walk was 15.5 miles in a day. VLCDs (ketogenic, low-carb diets) are known to be “muscle sparing”, or to even increase muscular endurance, and that has certainly been my experience.

Won’t a VLCD Cause My Metabolism to Slow Down?

No. That’s why weight loss is so rapid. It does that by sparing lean muscle mass. Something like 25 year’s research on Lipotrim has shown you can stay on it as long as you need to, to get to your healthy body weight.

I’ve Been Told to Come off a VLCD After Four weeks

NO NO NO NO NO! At least, not if you’re on a decent, nutrient-complete VLCD. That rule was invented by the US Post Office, 30 years ago, because, after a completely charlatan company poisoned people with a rubbish VLCD, they were worried that they could be sued if they delivered a VLCD to someone, and they died. Legal advice said that people could go with no nutrition at all for four weeks, so if they made that restriction, they were legally safe!

Why you shouldn’t come off, and go back to normal food is because there is a “re-feeding protocol” to use at the end of a VLCD, and then a “new you” protocol, for on-going maintenance. Ignore these and your food addiction will come back in spades, and you’ll pile all the weight back on. I know. I’ve been there!

Do it once. Do it properly. Follow the rules. Live healthily forever.


… and there’s more.  When you cut way down on your carb intake, as you do on either a commercial or home-made VLCD (I don’t recommend this, because I can’t, because I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist.  However, when I am in America I can’t get my VLCD, which is only available in the UK, so I make my own), your body takes some time to switch from expecting to be able to run on glucose to making up it’s mind that it has to break down your body fat stores and run on ketones.  The more you yo-yo back and forth, the more your body doesn’t believe that you won’t give it any more carbs.  The cravings get worse, and, during the period when you aren’t eating carbs, but your body isn’t in ketosis, you really don’t have any energy, your brain is totally fogged and your headache just gets worse!


What VLCD Should I use?

Ah, this is where I can’t recommend, only tell you what I did, and am doing. I followed, and am following the Lipotrim diet. The problem for anyone not in the UK is that Lipotrim is only available in the UK, and only through your GP or your pharmacist. There are two videos you can watch for more information, Lipotrim’s own video, and one made by Professor Dr David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum.




Beware: In America you can find a product called Lipotrim.  It is not related in any way to the Lipotrim that’s available in the UK, and works (if it does work; I have no idea) on an entirely different principle.


I have experienced all the advantages mentioned by Haslam in that video.

Originally, Lioptrim was developed by Dr Alan Howard, whose career at Cambridge University spanned 60 years. He has been responsible for developing a number of VLCDs, including Lipotrim, the Cambridge Diet, and, I believe, Lighterlife. Lipotrim is probably the most heavily researched of all the VLCDs; there’s masses of research documented on the Lipotrim website.

When I’m not on Lipotrim, I miss it. It tastes OK, and it is simple. I have tried varying Lipotrim with Cambridge, Exante, and Be-Yu. I only trust Lipotrim 100% because of all the research that has been done, because of the clinical supervision, and because it worked for me.

What Else Do I need?

You need psychological, emotional, cultural, spiritual and social help and support, and that isn’t provided anywhere in the world … which is why we are developing Live Free From Obesity, and Together We Can.


And you need to understand that for the first 1.8 million years that humans were around, our bodies ran almost exclusively in ketosis, we were hugely more healthy than we are today, and we were capable of feats that today we would regard as “super human” … but more of that elsewhere!


Appendix: The Maths

All this “maths” is in a  spreadsheet which makes it all very easy.  Check out the Live Free From Obesity maths spreadsheet here.

English BMR Formula

Women  BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men         BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) – ( 6.8 x age in year )

Metric BMR Formula

Women  BMR = 655 + ( 9.6 x weight in kilos ) + ( 1.8 x height in cm ) – ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men        BMR = 66 + ( 13.7 x weight in kilos ) + ( 5 x height in cm ) – ( 6.8 x age in years )

I’ll do mine, in kg (because that’s what my scales register). This morning I was 133 kg, I am 193 cm tall, and 63 years old.

So my BMR is:
66 +(13.7 x 133) + (5 x 193) – (6.8 x 63)
66 + 1822 + 965 – 428 = 2424.

That’s what I need just to stay alive; my BMR.

Next we use something called the Harris-Benedict equation to see what my daily needs are.

With this amount of exercise

Multiply the BMR by this

Little to no exercise


Light exercise 1-3 days/week


Moderate exercise 3-5 days/week


Intense exercise 6-7 days/week


Extremely intense exercise 6-7 days/week


(That’s the same for men and women.) I reckon I should multiply by 1.55. That gives me a Daily Calorie Requirement of 3758. Let’s call it 3800 to make life easier.

But on my Very Low Calorie Diet, I only get 500 calories a day. That means each day I am 3300 calories short. Over a week that’s 3300 x 7 = 23,100 calories short each week.
And at 3500 calories per pound of fat, that means I’ll lose 23,100 / 3500 = 6.6 lbs per week.


On 500 calories a day, you cannot and should not engage in heavy exercise; you will “run in to the brick wall” … something that long-distance runners experience if they haven’t “carb-loaded” sufficiently the day before.  I have experienced it twice: it’s a very weird feeling; you just have no energy to go on.

I like Nordic Walking (see our Walking For Happiness website).  I didn’t start walking until I was two weeks into the diet, and then built up slowly.  I will soon be posting an article on “How to Start Walking for Optimal Safe Weight Loss”.  Watch this space!

[maxbutton id="2"]

Ready to consider change?
Click here to find out more.
Health-care professionals: would you like to be able to help your obese patients, and save on your practice budget, too?
Click here to find out more.

BMI Calculator


You can download a healthy weight chart here.

Health & Beauty Therapy Directory