Brian’s story: retired airline pilot who went low carb

Brian’s story was first published on this website on 31 Jan 2016. He says:

I am outraged that the introduction of the dietarily-wrong food pyramid continues to cause so much misery to so many people worldwide. I am outraged that governments support research into cures for so much that could be fixed by reversing bad dietary advice. I am outraged that young people, particularly young women, believe (as I did and my son still does) that they are meant to be the shape they are and, unable to fix it, rebel and wear ever larger clothes encouraged by an evermore greedy industry masquerading as ‘caring’.

Here’s his full story:

Firstly, I should introduce myself. My name is Brian and I am a 69 year old retired airline pilot. I have no medical qualifications but, for the reasons I shall describe, I now have a very strong ‘low carbohydrate, high fat’ (LCHF) eating ethic.

All through my working life, my first wife and I were overweight – she more so than I. We were frustrated because we both ate ‘healthily’, consuming plenty of carbohydrate and avoiding fat like the plague. We knew we weren’t feckless, junk-food consuming layabouts. On the contrary, we were active and busy people so we could only assume that our weight gain was just the way it was; something in our genes. All around us we were surrounded by people with something in their genes too; it was normal to put on weight with age – or so we assumed. We, like everyone around us, had spells of counting calories; and like so many others found it did nothing for us beyond making us pretty miserable. Whenever I had the opportunity, I used to run. There aren’t many parks in Western European capital cities that I haven’t lapped at some time. I hurt my hips and knees. I got a little bit quicker over time but I didn’t lose an ounce. We regularly played badminton but didn’t lose weight. That was alright, we thought, we were just another overweight couple looking after their hearts and eating sensibly. Like all the rest.

In those days, there was plenty of information available to convince me that I was a model of good health. As well as the flow of ‘fat-bad, carbohydrate-good’ articles in the media, we had dietary ‘experts’ everywhere telling us we should exercise more and eat less, which we believed we were doing. My trade union issued a pamphlet extolling the virtues of raising blood sugar to keep us focussed at the end of a long night flight: ’A mug of strong sweet tea is good’. It worked. I was buzzing and focussed for the landings but the drives home were purgatory as I fought the urge to sleep when my blood sugar level dived. Packets of pasta and grains from a local supermarket had a message, along with the food value breakdown, that read ‘The government recommends that you eat at least one serving of starchy food a day’. To this day I don’t know whether this was a genuine government message or a well-placed bit of advertising. In short, we were doing everything right. We were model citizens, admittedly overweight, but so was everybody else. Then it went wrong.

My wife, by now extremely overweight, became ill and I retired early to spend time with her. Around that time, I read Dr Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and wondered if there was something in it for us. Unfortunately my wife had read a newspaper article at around the same time in which our then-Health Minister had condemned Atkins and his diet as dangerous nonsense, so my suggestion that we should try it was vehemently and angrily rejected. I still wonder if I could have tried harder even though I truly know I did my best; one husband versus the government isn’t great odds.

She died aged 54 after 31 happy years together. I stopped thinking about dietary matters. Some time later I had the amazing good fortune to meet someone, fall in love and subsequently marry. I was by then somewhat larger – which I thought was normal – and I was (and still am) very happy. At the back of my mind I continued to have a niggling concern about history repeating itself. Consequently I read Trick and Treat by Barry Groves which, along with Natural Health & Weight Loss by the same author, I highly recommend. Both are about low carbohydrate, high fat eating and for the first time I found out about Ancel Keys’ deception and also the way that the food pyramid was foisted on us. My interest was aroused. I read many more books on the subject and my Kindle bookshelf is full of them by Taubes, Moore, Bland, Colpo, Harcombe and others. Because of these books, my journey into reversing all of my dietary preconceptions and starting an LCHF life began. Fortunately, I didn’t share a fear of fat unlike many people of my generation and that was very helpful. It hasn’t been easy. I can’t remember how many times I have had – and still have – conversations like this:

Well-meaning person (WMP): “Would you like something to eat?”
Me: “No, thanks.”
WMP: “But you MUST be hungry.” Phrased more like an instruction than a question.
Me: “Really, I’m not.”
WMP: “Just a piece of cake or a couple of biscuits then? Or would you like some fruit?”

I’m sure you get the picture. Despite this well-meant concern, I started low carbing and in a relatively short time lost 12kg and felt better and more alert than I had for some time.

Then it went (a bit) wrong again. My second wife and gravity fell out and in the space of about 18 months she had a fall on the stairs breaking both arms and, soon after her arms mended, she fell over on holiday and broke an ankle. As chief cook and bottle washer for several months, I wasn’t able to indulge my – what is still seen here as ‘faddy’ – eating because I was cooking expressly for my wife. Luckily, by then I knew enough to avoid putting on too much weight and limited the increase to about 2kg over a year.

My wife is now fit and well and I have started low carbing again and have already lost that small gain. I also got through the festive season (relatively) unscathed. For a Christmas present to myself I bought a copy of the Real Meal Revolution book, mainly for the recipes. As a bonus, I found the excellent article by Prof Noakes at the back. In it he summarises beautifully all that I have come to believe and because he is a doctor, he has an authority I will never have so it is an invaluable tool to present to doubters. I am now Banting properly and I have two targets. The first is what I call my ‘OK weight’ which will put me in the normal BMI range; that is still some way off but getting closer by the day. Further along the road, I aspire to my ‘Speedo weight’ – probably enough said! I now don’t see this as a diet nor even a lifestyle. I see it as the way I am intended to be – and I like it. Recently, I have joined the Real Meal Revolution on-line course which keeps me up to date with the latest science and, perhaps more importantly through its forum, allows me to share the experience with others; my dieting life is much less lonely.

I am outraged that the introduction of the dietarily-wrong food pyramid continues to cause so much misery to so many people worldwide. I am outraged that governments support research into cures for so much that could be fixed by reversing bad dietary advice. I am outraged that young people, particularly young women, believe (as I did and my son still does) that they are meant to be the shape they are and, unable to fix it, rebel and wear ever larger clothes encouraged by an evermore greedy industry masquerading as ‘caring’. I see these people as victims every time I meet them (but can’t tell them for fear of being thought judgemental). I am sad that I can’t convince my wife to join me as I suspect her various food intolerances might be less of a minefield; all I can do is lead by example and hope it rubs off on her. I am massively outraged by the probable links between the food pyramid and so many other diseases and illnesses. My parents had long, mainly healthy lives but both died of illnesses probably linked to large amounts of carbohydrate in their diets. I won’t argue that they would have lived any longer but maybe my dad would have been knocked over by a bus when out on one of the walks he enjoyed rather than in an opiate-induced coma as his sugar-nourished prostate cancer metastasised into his spine. Maybe my mum wouldn’t have turned into the dribbling wreck she became, unable to tell the time or recognise her children; Alzheimer’s disease is now being described as Type III diabetes. Maybe my first wife …

Do it. And when people ask why you are so slender, well and full of energy? Tell them. And tell them again.

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