Skip’s open letter to Professor Tim Noakes was first published on this website on 28 Oct 2015. Here Skip reflects on his first Banting anniversary: 365 days and 40kg down.
Before .. and after
Thank you Professor Tim Noakes and the whole Banting team for giving me the tools to truly change my life. I have much to thank you for. The Real Meal Revolution provided that kind of spark. As Bruce Springsteen puts it: “You can’t start a fire without a spark” (watch Amy McDonald’s rendition).
And Banting works. Throughout your trials and opposition, Banting clearly works for me. Einstein had this quote that reminds me of Professor Noakes: “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.”
One year ago today, my wife handed me the book ‘The Real Meal Revolution – Changing the World. One Meal at a Time’ and announced that ‘we’ are going on this diet. That was it really. Just a red book filled with recipes. One year ago and now an astounding 40kg lighter, fitter, more active, even promising signs of being athletic again. Certainly much healthier with a new spark and a zest for life. 40kg is really two packets of tile cement. I cannot physically carry two packets of cement, yet that is what I carried around each day.
But what happened to that lean 20 year old provincial sportsman, weighing in at 70kg that made him at 60 a morbidly obese male, sick with the metabolic syndrome, weight of 158kg? Statistically I had a short life expectancy.
From about my late twenties, I started to gain weight and really weight gain continued throughout my life. Always I struggled to lose weight. I was active, but it was like I was destined to be chubby, just like my parents and siblings were. Slowly the weight went up, seldom down. Looking back, the real change came when I developed severe gout in my mid 40s. I was advised by the medical doctor to change my diet to a low purine diet. He gave me a list of the types of foods I must eat and what to avoid. It was dietitians advisory and FDA pyramid based. I was told ‘Avoid foods with a high purine content’, foods that contain 100 to 1000mg of purine nitrogen per 100g. Foods that I must avoid included many red meats; I could eat chicken and low fat fish, avoid saturated fats and alcohol, and eat low fat dairy products, loads of fruit, breads and cereals. So I did. For 15 years I ate a high carbohydrate, high fruit and low fats diet, starting most mornings with a generous helping of SA Heart and Stroke Foundation’s healthy ‘heart mark’ Weet-bix in the morning, yet often hungry before lunch; eating fruits and then at supper always hungry and eating more carbs. I loved the healthy fruit and fruit juice. I honestly thought all this was healthy food. It looked healthy. It tasted healthy. The Heart and Stroke Foundation promoted it as heart healthy. It had all kinds of healthy active lifestyle people promoting it. The Meal Tracker estimates my daily carbohydrate intake at that time as being over 200g per day and much of it fruit-based fructose.
Looking back now, it is no surprise that on that medically-recommended diet and being Insulin Resistant, I just continued to gain weight, could never lose weight, and the more weight I gained the less active I became to the point at 60 I was morbidly obese.
And this medically induced obesity is recognised today. This gem is from an article on gout by the Nutrition Institute Centre of the University of Stellenbosch (NICUS):
Fructose. Interestingly, it was over 100 years ago that Osler prescribed diets low in fructose as a means to prevent and treat gout. In his 1893 publication he wrote: ‘The sugar should be reduced to a minimum. The sweeter fruits should not be taken’. Conventional dietary recommendations for gout have focused on restriction of purine intake (mainly from animal protein sources), although low-purine diets are often high in carbohydrates, including fructose-rich foods. Recent data support Osler’s 1893 claim that fructose poses a substantial risk for hyperuricemia. Fructose intake is also associated with increased serum insulin levels, insulin resistance and weight gain. Since patients with gout are more at risk for other co-morbidities such as the metabolic syndrome associated with insulin resistance, the overall negative health impact from fructose is expected to be larger in gout patients: ‘It is even postulated that the conventional low-purine, high carbohydrate diet approach that allows fructose consumption may have contributed to the high prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among gout patients (NICUS, p.3).
And then I found this 2012 Brazilian study called ‘High plasma uric acid concentration: causes and consequences‘ by Erick Prado de Oliverira and Roberto Carlos Burini. It sets out how gout happens. Essentially fructose is metabolised in the liver at different speeds.
Diet. During fructose metabolism, the phosphorylation of such monosaccharide into fructose 1-phosphate occurs by means of enzyme fructokinase. Next, enzyme aldolase B breaks fructose 1-phosphate into dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP) and D-glyceraldehyde. When high fructose intake occurs, fructose phosphorylation into fructose 1-phosphate is fast, but the reaction with aldolase is slow. Hence, fructose 1-phosphate accumulates, and inorganic concentrations of intracellular phosphate also decrease. The low availability of phosphate limits ATP formation (ADP + Pi), and ADP or AMP resulting from such metabolism is catabolized, thus leading to hyperuricemia .
I now understand that being Insulin Resistant and following the conventional cure I was prescribed, filled with fructose and which I followed for 15 years, added with a daily alcohol intake which slows this process further in the liver, effectively works to slowly killing the patient. If you are Insulin Resistant, if the gout does not kill you, the commonly prescribed low purine diet high in fructose and the resultant weight gain surely will.
What could be wrong with eating loads of fruits, pears, peaches, mangos and heart healthy grains? My medical doctor kept me alive with prescribed medicine for high blood pressure, gout and high cholesterol. Looking back he did not cure my problem; he only treated the symptoms.
No diet I tried was successful or sustainable. Because I had Insulin Resistance, the standard FDA pyramid type diet high in carbs means weight gain is inevitable. At the end, I had the symptoms of being pre-diabetic, possibly even at early Diabetic Type 2.
Reading The Real Meal Revolution was an immediate learning moment for me. Wow. That’s it then. I was Insulin Resistant! That would explain why I was quite ill. I struggled to walk up two flights of steps. With my excess weight, I lived a sedentary lifestyle. It was after all a problem moving all that weight around. And the solution was the green listed foods. That day, one year ago, my wife and I started eating only green listed foods and avoided all processed foods; we started losing weight and, just as simple as that, Professor you and the Banting team changed our lives.
Dropping the weight
I am reminded of Albert Einstein’s quote: ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’. The Banting Diet I started was a complete about-turn from the medically-advised diet. And it worked from Day One. I started at an embarrassing 158kg. I lost rapidly at first, 6kg a month, just following the green listed items in the book, cutting out all carbs. Then later at a slower pace. I did the second Beginners Banting course in Jan/Feb 2015 (at that stage 140 kg) and started a more formal Banting lifestyle, concentrating on the percentages of fats, carbs and proteins. The Banting Meal Tracker is my very best friend and has been hugely educational and life-changing. The foods I eat today are HUGELY different from anything I have eaten in the past. Rarely having hunger, I decide when I eat, what I eat and how much. The weight consistently comes off without discomfort. It is like I am designed to eat this way. Today I am proud to be weighing in at 118kg, 34% lighter after only my first Banting year.
The greatest sign or symptom of obesity is a person’s body mass index (BMI). A lean person has a BMI of 18.5 or less. At a BMI of 25, a person is considered to be overweight. The higher the BMI, the higher the health risk. Obesity is further defined as follows:
- Class 1 obesity: BMI 30-34.9 kg/m2
- Class 2 obesity: BMI 35-39.9 kg/m2
- Class 3 obesity: BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2
Class 3 obesity is further broken down into:
- Class 4 obesity (super-obesity) BMI 50-59.9 kg/m2, and
- Class 5 (super-super-obesity): BMI > 60 kg/m2.
My BMI index has shifted from Class 4 Super Obesity at 53 to Class 2 Obesity at 39 in just a year. My waist size has reduced by 31 cm. Six months ago, I dumped all my prescribed pills.
Modern medicine is not a science and modern clinicians and medical researchers are not scientists. Modern clinicians may use scientific techniques but in the way that they treat their patients they are still quacks … Medicine is no longer an independent profession. Doctors have become nothing more than a link connecting the pharmaceutical industry to the consumer (Dr Vernon Coleman).
How did I drop my weight on a consistent basis?
I am often asked this and this is what worked for me:
- Drop your carbohydrates below 25g on a consistent basis. This is all in food choices. Eat green list. Within days this mops up excess glucose in your blood and moves you into early ketosis. Your body may detox, mine did. Make sure you have enough salt. You need about 5g a day. The Pink Himalayan salt cures most things Banting. Use a good probiotic if you need one, with the most strains, and do the full course.
- Up your Fats to 70% to 75% of daily calories and you will lose your appetite and in time you will find your appestat. Again this is food choices. You need to learn and unlearn food choices. This takes ‘a bit longer’ to ‘a whole lot longer’, as you have much to learn. High fats will keep you in ketosis if you consistently keep your carbohydrates below 25g.
- Then as you eat high fats; as you lose your appetite and find your appestat, you can adjust your portions of protein so that you eat enough to remain healthy but also consistently lose weight. Keep protein to 20-25% of your daily calorie intake. You need to eat moderate protein. Adjust protein again as you lose more weight. Then again and again. On Banting with low hunger and using the Meal Tracker tools you simply eat less. And a true benefit is that you don’t need or want more foods.
- The Meal tracker is HUGELY important in order to get the correct food choices, ratios and portion sizes right. After some months, I adjusted to eating twice a day. At home we have developed our own range of ten or so easy-to-prepare and delicious foods that comply with the right Banting balance, so really it becomes easy to Bant.
- For weight loss make sure you create a constant deficit between what you eat and what your body consumes. In my case being Obese 4 (Super Obese) at the start, I limited my daily intake to 1700-1800 calories against my requirement of 2500-2600 calories for my weight and age. I use a Calorie Calculator.
- If I drop my daily calories below 1600 or less my body appestat responds with a hunger call for more food to balance and it remains insistent over some days. So I stay hungry unless I eat more. I return to my balance. My optimal weight loss level of 1700–1800 calories per day (suitable for a large male) has been defined by my appestat.
- If I boost my activity by say 500 calories by walking, for example, I create a bigger deficit. So almost daily I do some activity such as walking, golf and golf practice.
- In Leon Steyl’s letter to Prof Noakes (Sep 2015), he indicates via research that you need to lose 7500 calories for a kilogram loss in weight.
- In my case, over a full Banting year I lose 1kg every 10 days on average, so my overall calorie deficit over the full year tends to be about 750 calories per day. Roughly 40%.
- The total reduction then is just over 100g per average day (think of a 100g NESTLE Bar One Chocolate Barlost each day or a bag containing 365 .. sorry 400 of them). This achieved by reading the RMR book, doing the Real Meal Beginners Banting course, understanding my Insulin Resistance, understanding what is in foods, making low carb choices; using no trainer, having no hunger, no weight loss aids, no prescribed medicine, no supplements, becoming active, keeping my insulin quiet, avoiding processed carbs, and eating real and good foods.
Changing the lifestyle
With the reduction in weight and having increased energy, I decided after four months of Banting to test if I could walk again, following the successful lifestyle transformations from others in my Banting, on-line support group. I found an old pair of ‘veldskoen’ and developed a 2.5km walk just in my neighbourhood. And so I started walking, ever faster, initially once a day, walking through the pain barrier as the muscles and body adjusted, and then pushing the old body into a morning and afternoon walk, always increasing in speed, working at beating my last best time, as I became more certain of my heart and cardio health. I was lucky because even though I was obese, I was physically healthy. It became a competition. Me against time. I eventually even jogged some parts of the downhills to make my time. I was still Obese 3 starting at 135kg and ‘bounced’ around a lot as I had a lot of weight to push around my neighbourhood. At the end of nine weeks I was doing a brisk 5.6kmh, without stopping once. I walked 88 times, in nine weeks a total of over 200 kms. And my shape had changed. I lost 5kg and my calf and leg muscles were tight and more defined. My puffy ankles had gone. My resting pulse rate was much improved. Sadly my old ‘veldskoen’ which pounded out over 264,000 steps from a determined and obese man, who even jogged the downhills, did not make it.
My first six monthly medical, normally a depressing moment, was an inspirational moment for both my doctor, who had kept me alive for 20 years, and me. At that stage I had lost 26kg. Except for a small increase in total cholesterol from 5 to 7 (not really surprising as I had dropped the statin medication some months before), every health marker was much improved. No signs of any gout. And best of all, I felt much better. More alive with more energy.
Because I am a curious person, I read a great deal and researched the LCHF internet, and YouTube and TED, and watched many medical videos. The videos hidden on the Banting website after reading ‘The Facts’ are outstanding, and a good place to start. I am much more knowledgeable on the science as well. The on-line Beginners Banting forum has been inspiring and a huge source of knowledge and support.
I started asking questions to many organizations such as the South African Heart and Stroke Foundation, questioning the current healthy choice ‘heart mark’ system if you are Insulin Resistant. “Why is it, that I who ate only South African heart mark and so-called healthy foods, such as Weet-bix for 15 years, ended up morbidly obese? And why I am getting so much better by avoiding all foods that carry their healthy heart mark label?” Obviously my problem is processed foods and fruits, including fruit juice, especially high fructose foods. We are still in discussion and I persevere with questions as there are many like me, caught by bad science, bad policy, flash marketing and the excesses of Big Agriculture, Big Foods Inc., Big Pharma and sadly a conflicted medical system that should know better.
Golf. The return of the sportsman
I was advised by the medical profession to give up golf as a sport seven years ago, due to a shoulder rotator cuff injury and a poor back. I certainly had excessive weight to push around the 10kms of a golf course, so I was using a drive golf cart. Most of my life I had been a single figure golfer (at an early stage I was scratch and played at provincial level). I thought my playing days were long over. But my best friend, also very instrumental in saving my life, had just started golf and wanted me to see how his game had come on. Strange to look back now, but only 6 months ago I was concerned that I would struggle to walk 9 holes (5km).
And lo it came to pass that on that appointed Wednesday I arrived with my old dusty golf clubs, old golf shoes, loosely fitting golf shirt and trousers. I put a seven year old golf ball from my dusty bag on the tee and hit the first golf shot in seven years, not far but straight down the middle. My pain was gone! My best friend says he was surprised. He thought I would just walk with him. Take it slow. Rest often. And so I started playing golf again. My initial performance was poor. A sore, tired body after each game. Occasionally signs of a golfer ‘peeping out’ and then slowly – as I almost daily worked the driving range, playing and walking three times a week – I increasingly developed and found my old swing and also the required fine motor co-ordination skills of a good golfer. And the power in the muscles slowly returned. I am now as capable of hitting the golf ball as I was 20 years ago when I played scratch league. My rotator cuff and bad back a thing of the past. I work the long-neglected ‘core’, important to a good golfer. Today I touch my toes with ease. Nobody I play with believes I have lost 40kg and have not played in seven years, because it sure does not look like it. I am capable of hitting most par 5s in two shots now. My first official handicap was 13, then each month an improvement: 12, 11, 10, 9 and now 8. I have no trouble walking 18 holes of golf at a good brisk rate now, easily walking 12 kms in under 4 hours. My recovery time is more rapid. Last week I won the Club ‘night’ golf (using golf balls that glow at night) competition, my first formal club competition in seven years, and then I won the club A division medal competition, for club golfers with a handicap below 9. Of course I had a secret weapon, being the only player in the field who was fat-adapted. The Insulin Resistant sportsman long hidden under a layer or two of fat had returned.
Final 12 month medical
My second Banting medical was completed last week. My doctor who kept me alive at the height of my Insulin Resistance madness looked at my weight loss record over the past 12 months with surprise. He asked me if I was taking any of his prescribed pills. I answered no. He smiled. I am indeed a much changed patient. He did all the normal tests. I am basically much healthier. Not yet fully recovered from Insulin Resistance or the Metabolic Syndrome. Much fitter and stronger. Not what he gets to see every day. We had a fifteen minute chat on the Banting lifestyle. He asked me exactly what I was eating in types of foods, and grams and calories, and I answered this with ease as I am constantly tracking this by Meal Tracker. What do I eat in a day? What do I eat for breakfast? Lunch, supper? What is my daily calorie consumption? Less than 1800 calories which in his view is nothing. What exactly was my protein consumption? Less than 80g or 350 calories; again in his view nothing. I completely surprised him with a fat requirement of 70%. We had a long discussion on why this is so high. I responded that being Insulin Resistant on a very low carb diet I don’t have glucose as an energy source so I am fat-adapted using ketones and running on fats. At the end, having done the ECG, blood pressure and cholesterol, and testing my kidneys which he announced to be fine, no signs of gout, he said: “Look if it works, it works.” Not a convert yet but starting to work his way through cognitive dissonance. He told me as I left that I should carry a card and hand it out to obese people.
I believe anyone can do this. I have done nothing special, just 365 days of eating a low carb, high fat and moderate protein diet. Avoiding all processed foods, avoiding all hidden sugars. Choosing to eat real Green Listed foods. Being suspicious of what is really in all foods. Eat when hungry, drink when thirsty. Exercise if you feel you have the energy and you are ready. Getting active. Finding and pushing the body limits. Keeping focussed. I feel very well. Today I use no drugs or weight loss supplements. Pink Himalayan salt is my only Banting medicine. Even though I continue to drink a glass of low calorie wine each evening with my wife at dinner, weight has naturally and consistently dropped off at 3.3kg in an average month. I have had six plateaus where the body has adjusted, but always the weight continues to come down. I aim to stop at about 80kg; a new goal. I was last at that weight really in my late 20s, more than 30 years ago. I will achieve that goal just by continuing what I am doing.
I discussed this lifestyle with my wife who also successfully Bants. We see no reason not to make this lifestyle permanent. Thanks to Jonno Proudfoot, it is full of good tasty foods that are interesting and very nourishing. For once in my life I control my hunger and not my hunger controlling me. What is not to like?
In appreciation to Prof Tim Noakes, Jonno Proudfoot and the whole Banting team. May the FATS be with you.
More inspiration for you
I was inspired by this. Only 3 minutes long. You will find Brian Berkman’s Banting weight loss story here.
Need even more inspiration and motivation?
If you have read this and are looking for further motivation to start or continue with a lifestyle transformation, look no further than this award winner.
‘Unsupersize Me’ features Tracy Ryan who came in at 345 pounds (156kg) and came down to 145 pounds (66kg) in a year. The Zen Fitness trainer, Juan-Carlos Asse, spent seven years in prison for selling drugs at clubs. He became vegan because that way he got the best prison food. He worked out in the prison gym for seven years. When he was released, he had limited prospects so he started a fitness studio. This is a one-hour video but is shortened to four minutes here. It is really about human character and the amazing ability of normal people to respond to adversity. In some ways I was just like Tracy at much the same weight. At the height of the Insulin Resistance Madness the Medicross staff could not find a vein in my arm to take blood. I looked similar to Tracy in this video. They tried four times in one arm and twice in the other. I was a pin cushion. Such fond carb memories.
By Apr 2016, Skip had lost more than 50kg and is continuing his health and weight loss journey.