stevejohnston

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About stevejohnston

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  • Birthday 08/13/1963

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  1. stevejohnston

    The China Study

    I'm half way through the book at the moment, and there is nothing 'junk' about it. If you want to get a feel for the criticism that does or doesn't exist for it, you should have a read of the extensive Wikipedia editors talk page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:The_China_Study I'm struck by the fact that the book has been published for ten years and there is the same small number of blogs being argued about, in terms of whether they are credible sources to include in Wikipedia. I.e. not self published by non-experts, or by organisations that have an agenda (e.g. Weston A Price and Cholestoral-and-health). Where is the real science one way or other? If you are going to read Denise Winger's article, you have to read Campbell's (the author) rebuttal: http://www.vegsource.com/news/2010/07/china-study-author-colin-campbell-slaps-down-critic-denise-minger.html It's not as accessible as Winger, but then maybe its more complicated than she makes out. This too is on a site with an agenda. For the record, animal products are the last thing I want to stop eating, so I'm much more likely to side with those criticising the China Study than I am to adopt its recommendations, but I'm really struggling to find criticism I can believe in. And having something of a science background myself, I am finding the science to be humble and compelling.
  2. Not many men are contributing to the Whole 30 Success Stories, which probably means they’re all a bit shy. So, I thought I’d buck the trend. Below is my success story, I hope you find it helpful. Warning, it’s a bit on the long side. In my early thirties, my super-human ability to eat as much as I liked without it affecting my weight (or, noticeably, my health) began to fail. I had acquired the nickname ‘gannet’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gannet) in my late teens and continued to live up to it despite starting to gain weight. My first ever attempt to lose that weight happened in as a result of two incidents; the first was seeing photos of myself at my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party at the turn of the millennium – I was 36; the second was the physical trauma I experienced attempting to catch a train home at London Bridge station (in London, unsurprisingly), having run up out of the underground station below it, which involved running up two sets of escalators and along 200 yards (almost the same as metres) of platform. The photos showed my 6 foot 3 inch (190cm) frame masked by a layer of fat, most conspicuous in my neck and face (I was fully dressed, I hasten to add); my self-image to that point was that of a tall, somewhat skinny teenager. This was a shock. The run for the train left me wheezing and sweating on the platform, almost fainting, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of horror at what I’d become. I was only 36 FFS! When I got on the scales afterwards – I have no memory prior to that year of ever weighing myself, so I have no idea what I had weighed in my youth and as a younger adult - I weighed in around 240lbs/17stone/108kg, it was the year 2000. I was so upset by these two experiences that I decided to do something. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), my wife Sarah had gained a few pounds of her own, so we decided to diet together. I had never attempted to lose weight previously, so had no idea what to expect or what to try. 2000 was the heyday of the Atkins diet – very low carb – so it was an obvious one to start with. And boy was it successful. At the end of three months, when we decided to stop, I was weighing 198lbs/14st 3lbs/90kg. The diet was quite an adjustment – we were allowed only up to 35g of carbohydrates per day – which meant the almost total absence of sweetness in our diet, but we did like how we felt, most noticeably a lack of the bloated feelings after meals that come from eating lots of pasta, pastry, bread or potatoes. For the year or two that followed, our diet gradually slipped back to normal and we didn’t really pay attention to the weight slowly returning – we always had fat clothes to get back into – and besides we were trying to move house, which took a couple of years of high stress, which, as any fule kno, quickly converts to comfort eating. My weight over 14 years since this first weight-loss experience has a predictable yo-yo quality to it. As a couple we went through a difficult period from 2004 to 2009 both in terms of our relationship, but also financially – oh and we have three kids who were 13, 11 and 9 in 2004 – so our weight and personal physical health were way down on the agenda. By 2010 we were out of the worst of both difficulties, the kids were more independent, and, surprise, surprise, we were both back up to our heaviest again. This time Sarah found another low-carb diet, the Pig to Twig diet, which we jumped on. This one also required we gave up caffeine. From April 2010, I have some proper weight records for the journey since then, up to (and including) Whole 30, which I’ve attached as a graph. It makes sad, predictable reading. Diet, lose weight, happy, stop dieting, gain weight, sad, diet, etc. During this period I started playing more sport, both as an effort to improve my health, but also because I simply loved it. My sport of choice is (English) football (or soccer, if you must). I wasn’t very good at it, but that didn’t matter. The gradual improvement in fitness – I also started cycling the 13 miles to work on occasion from mid 2013 – across this yo-yoing picture masked the fact that by the beginning of 2014 I was back at my very heaviest again. Sarah too. It is fair to say we were pretty miserable about this fact. We were not really experiencing any health issues that may be related to being overweight, at least not as we could tell, so didn’t feel any sense of urgency, but were miserable about how our clothes did or didn’t fit, how we looked when we saw ourselves in photos, etc. you know the story. So, earlier this year Sarah started doing some research in the background – didn’t share it with me – into what to do next with our diet - oh, it’s worth mentioning that Sarah has thyroid problems and is currently underactive and is being ‘replaced’ by taking thyroxine. She had wondered about the relationship between her hormones and her weight previously, so was more motivated than me to look into it. Anyway, suddenly, one day, there was this hardback book on the kitchen table called It Starts With Food. As a former bookseller, I interpret a lot by the choices publishers make in the design and packaging of the books they release, and was pretty sceptical to begin with, particularly when it appeared to be written by a couple of ‘all American’ sporty types. Trust me, us Brits do have a bit of a problem at first contact with the enthusiastic and confident American, particularly who is trying to sell you something. But, hey, before you reach for the keyboard to tell me what a dick I’m being, I was quickly converted, and to my surprise, hooked. I have a science education, both at high school level and at university – I’m a Psychology BSc graduate – so was quickly engaged by the scientific rigour and humility of the book, but, more importantly, I had my mind very fully opened by a modern science education in how our bodies work with what we stuff down our throats (I must have read the Hormones chapter about ten times by now). I realised how old and out of date my ‘knowledge’ was. I found the information engrossing. So, getting started was a no-brainer. Sarah started a little before me, but I began in earnest at the end of May 2014. Having been through exclusion diets like Atkins previously, and having quit caffeine back in 2010 (we didn’t restart caffeine after the Pig to Twig diet, having loved escaping that particular rollercoaster), we knew the sorts of things to expect in terms of changes to our guts, bowels, brain etc. And that all happened. Sarah wasn’t motivated by weight loss; she just wanted to feel healthier, while I found the experimentation and change fascinating, so was keen to track what happened. That said neither of us remembered to weigh ourselves at the very beginning, and both of us stuck to the recommendation of not weighing ourselves during the first 30 days, so my starting weight is an estimate (237lbs/16st 12lbs/107.5kg). Okay, so following that lengthy preamble, what happened next? Well, for those of you have been on this journey already, you will not be surprised to hear me say it has been life-changing in many wonderful ways. I feel so, so good pretty much all of the time. I feel a genuine and profound hope for my future health and well-being. And boy do I love being on the football pitch right now! While I didn’t have any significant medical issues to begin with, a couple of quietly significant things have changed for me. For a start, I was a snorer. Not anymore. Within the first 30 days, around the third week in, I simply stopped snoring. At the same time, I no longer suffered from the daily nasal congestion that I habitually treated with decongestant sprays, particularly at night. Even when decongested, I still snored, so they are related issues, but not necessarily the same thing. These two simple things have had a big impact on my quality of life (and Sarah’s). Sarah is a great cook, so the restrictions on what we can and can’t eat didn’t faze her, and I’ve started to cook more myself as my engagement with the programme grew. We enjoy the privilege of being able to spend what we want to on food, and prioritise it as a key to our family’s health, so have not struggled with any cost implications of the diet, however, since eating Whole for months now, I’ve worked it out: we don’t spend any more than we used to, despite the freshness and quality of what we eat. All that pre-packaged high-profit crap no longer cluttering up our cupboards. At the end of our first 30 days I enthusiastically got on the scales, knowing I was losing weight pretty quickly from what was happening to my waist band, and discovered I had lost 20lbs/9kg! More importantly, I was feeling really good. I felt sharper, clearer, more positive and, not sure quite how to describe it, but ‘lighter in my being’ feels like the right expression; not lighter as in weight, but in spirit. Felt so good (yes, I’m repeating myself). The last thing either of us felt like doing at that point was stopping. Sure we were missing some of those banned foods, particularly the odd sweet, cakey, creamy treat, and yes, we were still struggling with sugar cravings and between meal urges. But stopping was simply not an option. And so it continued. I play football for an hour twice per week; a dads and lads, for fun, activity, that, because we are playing alongside our teenage and adult children, us older guys have to work pretty hard (I’m now 51). As the second 30 day period drew to a close, something magical started happening to me while playing. Not only was I benefitting from the loss of weight – after 60 days this was around 30lbs, just imagine running around with a backpack filled with 15 bags of sugar, and then taking it off! – but something energising was also happening, which I’ve come to discover via the forums here is referred to as ‘tiger blood’. I’m an enthusiastic armchair follower of the Tour de France (a 2000+ mile professional cycle race over three weeks across France in July every year), and have been fascinated by the blood doping exploits (drug cheating) of many of the highest performers in that sport. They talk about a substance called EPO which increases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, giving the cyclists a turbo boost. I think I now know what they feel like, because this is what having tiger blood is like; a turbo boost. Stamina, speed, endurance are all suddenly enhanced as a result of eating the Whole 30 way. It is truly remarkable. Sadly, it hasn’t miraculously turned me into a better footballer, just a faster and fitter one, which compensates for some of my technical shortcomings! As the second 30 days came to an end, neither of us wanted to stop, and I had been 100% on the programme, without deviation! Worked hard at that. One of the biggest nuts to crack on the programme for me was not eating between meals. Re-reading the Hormones chapter (yes, again and again) it seemed clear that I just needed to be brave and patient, and my body would learn to fill the gap during those lulls in blood sugar level, releasing it from my bodily stores. And brilliantly, it did. By the end of the second 30 days, this was completely a thing of the past, and now I don’t even think about food until I’m hungry at a full meal time; this little experience alone has been one of my Whole 30 revelatory moments! You are ‘hungry’ between meals because you eat between meals, not the other way around! At 60 days, I looked at my weight loss – I now weighed 207lbs/14st 11lbs/94kg having lost 30lbs/13.5kg – and thought that 196lbs/89kg/14st was a sensible target, but also that my 51st birthday was looming. So on my 75th day of the Whole 30 programme, I stepped off to have a chocolate coated ice cream to celebrate my birthday. It was wonderful and delicious. Then got straight back on! Since the 75th day of the programme – it is now the 180th – we have continued to eat very largely on the programme, and 100% when we are in control of our own meals. For the last month or so, I have been more relaxed when I haven’t been able to be 100% compliant with the rules, occasionally eating some grains, or dairy, or legumes, or tolerating a bit of added sugar, but for the most part we continue to be Whole 30 and I have no great desire to change it. In fact having these principles behind my diet gives me such hope and confidence going forward regarding my health and fitness. For the record, as I write this on day 180, I weigh 189lbs/86kg/13st 7lbs (47lbs/21.5kg down from my starting weight) and am still losing weight at the rate of about a 4lbs/2kg per month. At some point, my body will stop me losing weight, I have total faith in it – that Hormones chapter again! – I can still see the pounds left to lose around my waist and on my gut, but it’s a shadow of its former self, and as far as anyone else is concerned I am now that tall, somewhat skinny middle-aged guy. The transformation has been so rapid that I still jump when I see myself in the mirror; who is that thin person?! When I reflect on some of the details of what we have eaten during these six months, I think we’ve eaten more fruit than the plan recommends – that’s my fault for misinterpreting the food planning bit of the book, that I only read the once – so our sugar dragons may not be completely slayed, which means we’re on a watching brief and take care when around it. Also, we haven’t done a proper reintroduction process. Never been motivated to. But Sarah is curious about it so we are planning to do a proper 100% compliant 30 days after the Christmas holidays and then do a full reintroduction process. Frankly, I’m not too bothered, but I’ll give it a go. I’m very happy where I am ☺ Naturally a lot of our friends and colleagues have noticed the change in us, in terms of appearance, mood and energy, and many are curious. When that happens I switch into full evangelist mode advocating buying the book and giving the programme a try; I do a fair bit of sales in my job so I can be pretty convincing when I put my mind to it. And when the benefits are so conspicuous and the logic so compelling, it’s an easy sell! I’ve stopped short of buying a pile of the books so I can give them away to such friends, but I’ve come close. We have converted about six other people into post-Whole 30 enthusiasts, and continue to encourage others. Attached are some photos I took on day 75, my birthday, not taken any since, and have attached them to some photos taken of me earlier in the year, mostly just a couple of weeks before we started, so you can see the transformation – well, the stuff that’s obvious from the outside; the inside stuff you’ll just have to take my word on. Fat Steve stares out at me in those photos and I can’t quite believe where I am. I imagine I’ll stay eating like this indefinitely. I look at what we eat, the fact that the house is full of fresh food, and that we feel so good, and I am genuinely content. Oh, and while Sarah has her own story to tell – maybe one day here – I will steal her thunder and say that after a couple of months in, she reduced her thyroxine dose as she was feeling over replaced; this from a woman who spent most of the last few years trying to get her doctor to increase her prescription. Best wishes to everyone who’s been where we are, and to those yet to try. Steve p.s. I did warn you it was on the long side...