How I lost 70kg: My weight-loss journey from Day 1 (July 2011)

3 Jul

I began blogging about my weight-loss journey on another platform which I am no longer using. I’ve cut and paste the posts from over a period of about two years into one combined post below for those who are interested in how and where my journey started.

My journey began in July 2011 with the fear that my diabetes and high-blood pressure would kill me. I weighed 153Kg, more than ever before and was in almost constant pain from a tight lower back that would hurt so much when I tried to turn around in bed while sleeping that it would wake me.

Beach before and afterSitting opposite my physician Dr Malcolm Sandler I asked him if there was anything that could be done to assist me. He suggested I investigate bariatric or weight-loss surgery and referred me to discuss my options with surgeon, Dr Etienne Swanepoel.

For the first few months I kept to a tight formula.

One cup of cooked oats porridge made with fat-free milk, a tablespoon of dried cranberries and half a sliced banana for breakfast.

One smoked chicken breast (about 125g) with steamed broccoli (lots of it) and salad greens dressed with fat-free yogurt and a teaspoon of basil pesto or mustard for lunch.

For dinner a chicken breast or grilled tuna fillet or canned tuna with broccoli and salad as before.

No sugar, no wheat, no alcohol, few carbs.

One of the most useful things that Cognitive Therapist Bradley Drake suggested was to list the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight. I revisit the list regularly and suggest you create one too if you are on the journey.

Why I eat healthily and stick to my eating plan.

I can participate in walks and hikes with JP.

I have reduced the risks associated with being diabetic like gangrene and nerve damage.

I have minimised the risks of high-blood pressure like death by stroke or being a vegetable.

I can fit comfortably into an economy plane seat and not spill over onto the person next to me.

I don’t have to ask the airhostess for an extension belt.

I can turn over easily and without pain in bed.

I no longer have nerve pain in my leg.

If there’s an emergency and I can’t walk down stairs, a stretcher could take me.

I will help avoid cancer and Alzheimer’s in later years.

I practice not satisfying immediate wants.

I have the opportunity to learn new social behaviour (ie. Not around food).

I have the stopped taking 15 pills every morning and seven at night.

I have stopped damaging my joints.

I no longer stand out in a crowd just because I’m fat.

I can engage fully and not use the excuse of “being fat” to opt out.

I can practice tolerance for feeling hungry and feeling unfulfilled.

I avoid back pain/immobility.

I practice tolerance for not getting to eat what I want to eat.

I continue to develop the skill of being satisfied with food limited in quantity and variety.

I continue to learn to be at a table with the smell of freshly baked bread and not eat it.

I continue to get better at differentiating between hunger and cravings.

I continue to develop a greater acceptance to saying no, thank you.

While I wish it weren’t this difficult to keep to my plan, there is no rule to say it shouldn’t be.

While it is difficult for me to give this up, there is no evidence that it is too difficult. The fact that I have already lost 60kg is proof of this. I can do this.

It is worth tolerating discomfort purely for the sake of improving my tolerance for discomfort.

While I, too, can fail, it is important that I learn what to do differently so that I succeed the next time.

I practice leaving food on my plate so that I become better at saying no when it is so easy to say yes.

I can cut my toenails myself.

I have energy to climb the stairs at home

I can fit into clothing that I haven’t been able to for a long period and can buy off the rack at any store.

I continue to become healthier and stronger with each day.

I’m able to stand for more than 15 minutes which I couldn’t do when I was 60kg heavier.

I can kayak and snorkel and ride a bicycle.

An article in The New Age Newspaper helped me recognize for myself how much weight I’d actually lost. One of the reasons I am sharing my experience here is because the affirmation I receive from people, who feel inspired by my journey, reminds me how much I’ve achieved.

Now, at 92kg, I feel the anxiety of what happens if I pick the weight up again? Although I’ve never lost this much, more than 60kg to date, before, I have lost 20kg before and picked it up again. Being reminded by the way you see me helps me internalize it. I’m still surprised when I see myself reflected in a full-length mirror.

While I was obese I objected to people telling me what they thought about my body. Now I rather like it.

One of the most useful things Cognitive Behavioral Therapist Bradley Drake said to me was to think about meal times differently. I now recognise that much of the time that I was eating I was distracted – by watching something on TV, sitting at my desk working, busy with my phone/iPad etc. You know what I’m talking about.

I agreed to make some changes which I have kept to.

1) I only eat while sitting at the table.

2) I have no distractions – no TV, radio, phone, music.

3) I only have one plate of food (I would routinely have seconds and thirds so this is especially hard for me to do.)

4) I plan ahead. Of all the new behaviours  I think that planning my next three meals in advance and either having them ready or having the ingredients I need in the fridge for them, protects me from running out of time when it comes to preparing food and opting for something quick and easy which, more often than not, is also high in energy and not in support of what I want to achieve.

Now that I’ve reached my goal weight (89.3kg this morning) I feel I can be a little more lenient with my intake. I will continue to avoid carbs (other than the oats porridge for breakfast) but am introducing low-fat Feta from Woolies into my lunch salad) as my dietitian is concerned I’m not having sufficient calcium. I’m now making myself a vinaigrette with 1 TBS olive oil and 1 tsp balsamic instead of the dressing with fat-free yogurt which, frankly, I’m getting tired of.

I had to own that I had made myself sick before I could make myself better.

In July last year when I sat across from Dr Malcolm Sandler and asked if there was anything he could suggest to help me lose weight, I was on the maximum oral dose of three drugs to manage Type 2 Diabetes and on three drugs to manage my high blood pressure. We were already discussing the need for me to have insulin but he wanted to postpone it for as long as possible as it would make me gain even more weight.

Today the only drugs I take are Supradyn A-Z multi-vitamin, iron in the form of Cheliron-Forte and Omega 3. Not only have I saved Discovery a whack every month in medicines but I also don’t have to spend time counting out a week’s medicine into little boxes. I kid you not, I was taking up to 20 tablets a day. Now I take three.

All of this is to say that in my case (and I’m prepared to bet in the vast majority of cases too) that I had made myself sick. What I had put into my mouth had given me diabetes and high-blood pressure. Let’s not to mention the near constant pain I was in from backache.

Perhaps because my father was a pharmacist I have always felt comfortable being on medication and seeing doctors willy-nilly. It is a fact that in my soon to be 45 years of life that I have spent (and caused to be spent) zillions of Rands on doctors etc. I’m probably the most over-treated person I know. And don’t get me started on psychotherapy! I’ve had so much therapy and analysis in my time that there is hardly anything about myself that I don’t understand. If the goal of therapy was to help me accept myself and view my insecurities with affection then it has worked. I don’t, however, credit any of my long term therapy, for the change in my behaviour. And, while my behaviour around food has changed, its appeal hasn’t dissipated. Food still calls to me. I now enjoy the idea of it – I still read little other than recipe books and bake something at every opportunity. What stops me eating a delicious looking and smelling peanut butter chocolate-swirl brownie is not a lack of desire. It is the knowledge that it will make me sick. For me wheat and sugar are poisons. Not because I’m physically allergic to them but because they are my gateway drugs – a puff of the joint that leads straight to heroin in the veins.

Now that I’ve reached my goal weight I’m giving myself more freedom when it comes to the kind of protein and the amount of fat I allow myself.

Each day I weigh myself at the gym and register the impact of the food I’ve eaten verses my exercise. I’m beginning to learn that if I spend 20 minutes on my bike and walk to and from Hook, Line & Sinker restaurant, that I can fully enjoy mussel soup and kingklip with cheese sauce with no change to my weight.

I bet that if you engage deeply enough with anyone you will discover that they, too, have psychological baggage. Heavy and light people both. It doesn’t matter why I might quell my emotions with food. All that matters is that I don’t do it now, or tomorrow or the day after that.

My mantra must be that I made myself better and that I can make myself sick again too.

It was almost a year ago when I wrote my last restaurant review. What made it hard to do was that I was closing the door on an aspect in my life that I’d been most publicly associated with.  For more than 10 years I had been writing about restaurants – where to eat what.

I still believe in many of the things I wrote about: eating local; creating dishes from the best possible ingredients with the least possible fussiness; selecting artisan producers over commercial ones and having respect for produce and livestock and the conditions under which they are grown and raised.  I also promoted gluttony. For me the prize at a quality buffet was to manage three or more helpings. Free-flowing Champagne was something I celebrated. Oyster quaffing at breakfast was a reason to visit. If I was dining with someone with a smaller appetite I’d swop plates to finish their food in addition to my own. I even recall one media lunch where I wolfed down five lobsters, just because I could.

I’m sorry if the way that I wrote about food, or indeed if reports of my behaviour, made you eat more than you had to. My wish to promote foodie excellence may also have meant I promoted gluttony. I’m sorry for this.

I often criticised the recent trend of “molecular gastronomy” or “deconstructionist cuisine” because it was, more often than not, badly executed. I now object to it on different grounds – the world over our relationship between ingredients and the food we consumer is more skewed than it has ever been. Despite accurate ingredient labelling we have become lulled into accepting that bread that doesn’t go mouldy in a week is a good thing or that the convenience of shoving a pre-prepared meal from the freezer into the microwave in two seconds, represents an advance. In this environment, where we are desensitized to what we consume, I think making an art form out of presenting ingredients in a way that makes them hard to recognise is not “witty” or “innovative” as I once described it. I celebrated the way chefs hoodwinked us.

Although I don’t choose to eat Foie Gras now on account of its high-fat content, I’m not sorry for promoting it. I still maintain that an animal that is raised well for most of its life, before being fattened so that its liver tastes better than ordinary liver, is ethically no different from a child that is taught ballet from an early age so that as an adult they can contort their bodies into unnatural positions for our entertainment. I do, however, object to the way battery chickens are raised and how used to purchasing skinless, boneless chicken breasts that we’ve all become that it has no connection to the animal that produced it.

I was wrong that I needed more. In fact, I needed less. We all do.

Know why you want to lose weight before you start.

One of my biggest anxieties now that I have reached a healthy weight is that I will gain the weight I’ve lost. I think it was the crushing disappointment of losing weight in the past only to gain it with interest was that paralysed me into believing that the only solution for me to lose weight would be radical weight-loss surgery.

I had to get my thinking clear.

Although all the supporters I connected with to help me on this journey contributed, I think the sessions with Cognitive Behavioural Therapist Bradley Drake made the single biggest contribution to me getting my thinking right. I can remember me telling him that was not possible for me to leave food behind on my plate and becoming very angry when he asked that if someone were standing next to me with a cocked gun threatening to shoot would it still not be possible for me to leave food on my plate. What made me so angry was that I thought he was being trite. Obviously, with a gun to my head, I would leave something behind on my plate. What he was illustrating was that it wasn’t impossible. It may be hard to do but it is not impossible, given the right motivation.

Me getting clear about why I wanted and needed to be at a healthy weight was the equivalent of the Godfather “making an offer he couldn’t refuse”.  I first had to accept that I was killing myself by the way I was eating and then the motivation became clear. I chose life.IMG00199-20120114-0953

If you’d told me, even offered a money-back-guarantee that I could and would shed excess weight; be able to be without medication for blood pressure and diabetes and, moreover, have energy and lightness that made me want to be active, I wouldn’t have believed you. That is how compelling my self-beliefs were. As someone who has achieved a healthy weight, I can offer you that guarantee. However, I imagine that you, like me before, will have to find that motivation yourself.


I like the verb To Shed. It feels liberating to need and want less than before. Today I shed my fat clothes. Other than a few choice pieces that I will have made smaller and just one outfit that will remind me how very large and obese I once was I have given away my entire fat wardrobe.

I started a few months ago with black bags of things for St Luke’s Hospice shop in Bellville but today was the final clearance. I feel lighter because of it. It also means that there is no easy going back to being obese, which is the way it should be.

Shedding also means, for me anyway, that there are fewer protective layers between me and the world. The impact of this is that I am more short-tempered than ever before. The opposite is also true, I find that I’m feeling happier when I’m happy, so all emotions are more intense. I mentioned this to a friend recently who shared his own journey from addiction to health and said that he and other people in recovery commonly experience this. So, please consider this a warning and explanation – if I snap your head off at the slightest provocation this is why.

I had to muster all my “nice-guy” mojo recently when a friend brought his brother, who is obese, to see me in the hope that he might begin a healthier lifestyle. I offered coffee and placed a jar of cookies for those what wished to, to help themselves. Of the five of us there only the man who, two moments before in reply to my question Why Does He Want To Lose Weight listed a myriad reasons, took the cookie.

My mother was an early Weight Watchers adopter. She talked about the “witch of a woman” who ran the meetings who said that if you cheat it is like throwing your money out of the window and, Ma said, would throw people’s money to illustrate the point. I’m not sure why this anecdote stayed as clearly in my consciousness as it did – this must have happened more than 30 years ago – but I thought immediately of that when he took the cookie and it took all my “be pleasant” strength not to say what I thought: “you obviously don’t want to lose weight: if you did, you wouldn’t take the cookie.”

Of course this makes me hugely judgmental and lacking in empathy for how hard it must be for him but I think it is also the truth. This is why Knowing Why, being 100% clear about what really is the motivation to lose weight; stop smoking; stop drinking excessively;  gambling uncontrollably and a hundred other compelling but destructive behaviours, is essential if we are to succeed. Perhaps, as my recovering friend suggests, he hasn’t yet reached rock bottom.

I know that I can be cutting, severe and too easily dismissive of the struggles we all face but what worked for me is treating myself with the same severity – the tough love approach worked for me and if, in time, I get called a witch (or worse) for saying how I see it, I will just have to live with that.

Yesterday we celebrated two friends’ birthdays that both had fabulously catered events. In anticipation of an unusual eating day I doubled by cardio exercise doing 40 minutes on the treadmill and had no carbs for breakfast.

Despite not being hungry I had more to eat than I needed to at the lunch and I know this because aside from obsessing about the food that I eat, I watch what others eat very carefully too and I was way ahead in the grazing stakes. The fact that the food was very delicious and interesting made it all the more difficult but the biggest difference was that I wasn’t eating a single plate of food but rather eating from platters as they arrived. This makes portion control very hard. A strategy for next time is to keep things on my plate until I have filled the plate and only then start to eat.

The evening event started with canapés being served with drinks and then main courses served to the table, family style. I noticed a growing sense of pleasure and pride each time I refused something being offered. One of my rules is to only eat while sitting at the table but the fact that everything was carb laden made it clearer for me what to refuse.

To say that I relaxed when it comes to eating dinner is an understatement. The mains – hot-smoked salmon and Asian-style steamed prawns with innovative salads, were incredibly delicious and I lied to myself that because I’d been virtuous by refusing the canapés I could have seconds and thirds.

If only this story ended here.

As I’ve reached my goal weight I’m more allowing than before in terms of what I eat and although I’d refused cheese during my initial phase, I’ve now started adding Woolies Low Fat Feta to my salads. I spied the cheese board and, just by looking at it, I knew this was a selection of cheese from France and probably cost a fortune. Yes, I’ve eaten fine French cheese before but I was overwhelmed with that Fear Of Losing Out and rationalised to myself that it would be a long while before again having such cheese available to me.  A connoisseur might have the tiniest piece of cheese to experience the flavour of it but as I’m a glutton I probably had half a kilo of cheese. And then the strangest thing happened. I was overwhelmed with disappointment at my failing – I felt shame that I had behaved just as I had promised myself I wouldn’t.  The extra calories I can deal with at the gym (and I went first thing this morning and did 40 minutes of cardio at an average 140 heart rate.) I still feel disappointed in myself and I have growing self-doubt that when faced with a similar situation I again won’t be able to refuse. I feel that I have cheated myself. I have been unfaithful to the promise I made myself and while I can fix the short term damage to my weight, I’m not sure how long it will take to trust myself again.

For those who have asked for the contact details of the team who helped me reach my goal weight here they are, in no particular order.

Johannes Janse van Rensburg, Bio-kineticist at Virgin Active Tyger Valley: 0824085281.

Most useful aspect: Slowly built up my fitness and strength while avoiding injuries.

Dietician Judy Kotze, Durbanville. 021 975 2336

Most useful aspect: Demonstrating how little we really need to consume to be healthy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, Bradley Drake, Monte Vista 021-558-7252

Most useful aspect: Helping me get clear about why I wanted to be at a healthy weight and trouble-shoot potential environments where sticking to my plan may be more difficult.

GP and Diabetes programme, Dr Louise Spruyt, Kenridge 021 914 1222

Most useful aspect: Providing lots of research and in-depth explanations so that I fully grasped what I was dealing with.

Physician and specialist endocrinologist Dr Malcolm Sandler, Panorama, 021-930-5050

Most useful aspect: Keeping me alive despite my best efforts to the contrary!

Brian Berkman, that’s me.

While all the above contributed, I’m the one who did the work. I know this is an obvious thing to say, but I stress it here because many people who speak to me about their need to be at a healthy weight list reasons why they can’t be. Unless you are being chained up and force fed there is no valid reason for not being able to lose weight, if you want to. I am the only one who decides what goes into my mouth and how much physical activity I do. I suggest that you are, too.

Every moment is a new beginning but New Year’s Day’s new beginning feels even more laden with expectation than any other new start. While I’ve managed to maintain my weight at around 85kg while being on holiday but I notice that, based on how my clothing is fitting me, my body shape is changing. It’s not that I’m bored nor that I’m hungry but I am eating more than I usually do while I’m not in my usual “work” routine although I’m trying not to be too hard on myself providing that the scale keeps me where I want to be.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Despite having a detailed exercise programme I’m not working out hard enough at the gym unsupervised. Look, it’s not a train smash – I’m still training almost every day and getting in about 30 minutes of cardio and doing bicep curls and triceps kickbacks, but I can see that my tummy is flabbier than it has been recently and my shoulders are not as strong as I’d like them to be.

Planning ahead is my proven solution to not overeating. I took along my own meal to last night’s old-year’s dinner even though I didn’t end up eating it then. Knowing that I had a meal with me allowed me the opportunity to choose wisely what to eat and not to succumb to making bad choices because I was hungry.

I have to train first thing in the morning. Even if I manage a second bout of physical activity later in the day my window of willingness closes the moment I’ve had breakfast so I have to plan to get to the gym, onto my bike or both along with the sparrows.

The more people hear my story and affirm the way I’ve changed my life, the more anxious I feel about regaining the weight. Without exception, everyone who tells me how they’ve lost weight continues to say they’ve regained it. I hope that by sharing my experiences here that I will stay conscious and keep up the healthy lifestyle that I’ve worked so hard for.

If your new beginning is about becoming healthier in 2013 I hope that I’ll be able to contribute to helping you achieve that.

No one likes the taste of pickled herring or whisky the first time as they are known to be acquired tastes. In thinking about how it has been possible that I am able to enjoy foods now that I didn’t before, I find that the answer is that I am able to acquire a taste for anything.

For me this means two things: while I didn’t get the same pleasure eating steamed broccoli and smoked, skinless chicken breasts that I once did from eating steaming bowls of pasta carbonara, I was, pretty soon in the scheme of things, able to be satisfied by it. I’ve also learned that my desires for foods that I’ve added to my “Verboten” list can very easily be rekindled and the cravings and wonderings about them can become an unnecessary distraction.

Now that I’m at my goal weight, I feel freer about adding calories to my diet. Broccoli, for example, is even more delicious when I make it with a satay-inspired sauce of peanut butter, soy and sesame oil for smokiness. While this addition of calories isn’t harmful to me, it has made the idea of naked, steamed broccoli seem boring. Alarm bells are ringing.

I’ve also noticed that I’m not stopping to eat when I naturally feel sated, but picking at this or that which remains on the table. This breaks my rule of one-plate-only-food but also reminds me how compelling I find left-over food to be. I know that it is important that I remain vigilant. What the scale says and the way my clothing fits is the ultimate arbiter but I don’t want to make the challenge of keeping to a healthy weight more difficult than it already is.

I think I’d better re-acquire a taste for naked, steamed broccoli and get used to the idea of throwing food away in the bin, rather than discarding it in my body.

I think it is true that as an addict I have replaced an addiction to food with an addiction to exercise but I also note that I’m needing more coffee than ever before, especially as a replacement to dessert which other people around me are eating when I’m not.

Marika Sboros did a brilliant interview with me for Business Day. Here is a link to it if you’d like to read it:

Having hard and fast rules about what I will and won’t eat and drink helps me maintain my healthy weight. While my behaviour has changed dramatically, my desires haven’t. I notice, especially when eating with other people who are having desserts when I am not, that I eat more than I need to.

I was very inspired by a documentary, Forks Over Knives, which, among other things, pushes a plant-based diet as the solution for best health. That wasn’t, however, what resonated with me. Two things did: One, the correlation between the Food and Sex motivators linked to our evolutionary imperative of avoiding pain and increasing our species and the other, how because of the increase in the density of calories in processed food (think about the calorie density of corn syrup relative to cane sugar, for example) that we are all unknowingly consuming more calories. Because we are evolutionarily programmed to seek out high-value foods, those that are protein, vitamin and mineral rich and will sustain us for the longest possible time, our bodies report feeling satisfied when we eat high-quality calories and, conversely, not when we eat junk.

I am aware that I continue to eat even when I feel full when others around me are still eating. As I’m an All-or-Nothing kind of guy, it is easier for me not to eat at all than to temper my consumption, albeit of “good quality calories”. My challenge is to find a way of just responding to what I need.

Another thing that Forks over Knives suggests is the insidious and creeping impact of small increases. A little more today and every day onwards very soon amounts to a lot more. When I look back at the many times I lost weight and regained it, it was because of small increases and loosening of my rules little by little.

Obesity is being blamed, according to a report out of Davos, for 2.8 million deaths a year.  The report is from Sapa-AFP and published online by Times Live  It claims that 1.4 billion of us are overweight and that it is likely to increase to 60% of the world’s adults in two decades.  Among the reasons cited for what is being considered by Linda Fried of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University as a pandemic, are the ease of availability and the relative cheapness of high-calorie foods.

I think it also points to a deeper problem that may also explain why divorce rates continue to climb. Somewhere in our recent history we were told, perhaps by Madison Avenue or as a response to post-war life, that things should be easy. I think we must fundamentally change the way we think about this: if we believe life ought to be easy and that if it is easy we are somehow rewarded, I think we believe that when things are hard that they shouldn’t be. Have we lost our ability to tolerate discomfort?

Losing weight, especially for those of us who have been obese all our lives, cannot be remotely considered easy and, yet, I believed it should have been and that experiencing difficulty and discomfort was a signal that it wasn’t meant to be.

Do you think this is why we end relationships as quickly as we do, rather than work hard at them to find a resolution? I get a lot of fulfilment from the challenge of leading a healthy lifestyle and refusing to eat something that I’d like to eat but isn’t good for me. I’ve come to like that it is difficult because it means that I achieve more than maintaining a healthy weight – I achieve a solid sense of being hardworking and achieving something in challenging circumstances.

What spurs me on to increase my fitness now is the affirming feeling of getting better at something. I like the feeling of being stronger and the discomfort in my muscles tells me I’ve worked hard and will be rewarded.

Perhaps if we thought that life ought not to be easy, we might better tolerate the effort and time that it requires to do a good job of it.IMG_2585

Although on separate sides of the pond, my brother Steven and I both excelled at physical endurances today. He completed the Watford Half-Marathon in 1 hour and 58 minutes while I cycled 34km today to The Palmiet River and back to Pringle Bay. Previously cycling about 20km was my record. I mention this because it proves that we Berkman boys have the genes of athletes and what I had to do was to shed excess weight and get fit to succeed at it. I was pretty tired when I got home but not so tired that I couldn’t have done an extra 10km which is what I’ll aim for next time. Maybe this time next year I will also be able to run a half marathon.

The most extraordinary thing about this is that in May 2012, when the picture of me was taken in The Maldives, not only would this have been impossible for me but I would also have considered you crazy for even suggesting it. If ever you needed proof that what nothing is impossible, I must be it. The second image was taken in Pringle Bay in January 2013.

On re-reading Prof Tim Noakes’ thinking, ,I’ve stopped eating porridge for breakfast and instead eating eggs or left-over supper. He also suggests that the notion of eating three meals a day may not be the best for us and admits that he is experimenting with just one meal a day or only eating when hungry. Broadly speaking, a low carbohydrate diet is the single biggest change to previous eating plans and I believe 100% that this has been the key to unlocking my 70kg weight loss. But, and here’s where I’m rethinking things, I used to routinely start my day with cooked oats porridge, a table spoon of dried cranberries and half a banana and I’m also not having artificially sweetened drinks like Sprite Zero which had become my tipple of choice to see if my body functions even better because of it.

Another article, in Time Magazine, suggests that the time of meals may make a significant difference to weight gain/loss and repeats the old age wisdom that we should breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.

I’m also reading Breaking The Food Seduction by Neale Barnard which suggests that there are addictive substances in dairy and meat as well as the better known ones in sugars. So, if I follow their plan, I’ll end up eating mung beans and tofu instead of meat and dairy which, frankly, doesn’t appeal to me.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been sexing up my broccoli with a peanut butter sauce. I know that most brands of peanut butter contain sugar but as I only use about two tablespoons for 700g broccoli I don’t think it is too worrying. What is worrying, however, is that I find myself craving peanut butter which makes me think that perhaps Prof Noakes is also right in suggesting that peanuts are not good choices in terms of their carbo-load.

Now that I’m working to maintain my healthy weight and increase my cardio fitness and muscle strength, this goal has replaced the desire to eat and drink the things I once loved. What I’m getting now is worth so much more to me than what I’ve given up. If you also found a way of internalising this it may help you on your journey to a healthy weight.

Know Yourself.

When I was an active Freemason, one of the central tenets was to Know Yourself and now that I’m on this healthy-living journey, this advice seems more relevant than ever. I’m a worrier – always have been and probably always will be, but fortunately I know this about myself so I can manage the impact. Being such a scaredy-cat was quite an impediment growing up and I think I missed out on a whole bunch of exciting things because of it. Anyhow, among the many things I’d worry about was my obesity but, true to form, I’m now worrying that I’m too underweight.

My weight dipped below 82kg which, given that my dietician said 90kg should be my goal weight and that people as obese as I was typically carry between five and seven kilos in excess skin, that means I’m actually about 75kg. Rather than worry – I’ve had a whole bunch of bloods done to confirm that I am a picture of health and am seeing Judy Kotze to discuss my lightness on Wednesday.

But I’ve decided that the only way to overcome my fears is just to, as the sages say, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. Pretty soon I will be able to tell you about an experience that will be testing my physical and emotional fortitudes. The most amazing thing is that I would not even have considered something like this six months ago. But, having successfully completed my second long bike ride, this time a roundtrip from Pringle Bay through Rooiels to the Kogelberg Beach Resort on Clarence Drive, I feel I can overcome any obstacle.

The great thing about overcoming challenges is that it gives me courage to take on even bigger things – whether I worry about them, or not.

LCHF prawn & Avo salad

16 Mar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuccess in the kitchen has more to do with planning than it does with creativity or skill.

My biggest culinary lesson was how to prepare basic essentials in advance. The french call this mise en place but I call it being prepared.

This dish, smart enough for company at short notice, requires the following:

A batch of Banting Mayo

Chopped garlic

A packet of sun-dried tomatoes in oil

A packet of leaves

One Avo per person

Frozen prawn meat.

Olive oil

Hot sauce

Malden Salt and pepper

Here’s how you do it:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

Toss the still frozen prawns (10 per portion if they’re small) on a baking sheet, douse in olive oil, salt and pepper and liberal amounts of crushed garlic to keep vampires away.

Just as soon as the oven has reached 180, bung them in and roast for four minutes. Remove the tray, turn them over and roast for another four minutes. They should be coral in colour and firm but cooked through. Try one and add a minute or two more if they aren’t cooked all the way through. Prawns overcook easily and become mealy so take care.

Save the cooking juices.

Again, quantities here depend on the number of people you are serving, but prepare the avo by cutting them in half and removing the pip. Sprinkle with a drop of something acidic – lemon/vinegar etc or rub with an onion to prevent them going brown while oxidising. Arrange the lettuce leaves that you’ve tossed with olive oil and a splash of vinegar, on a plate with the two halves looking upward.

In a food processor or with a hand-held blender blitz the drained sun-dried tomato and now add, a tablespoon at a time, to the mayo and then the cooking juices and a dollop of hot sauce, if you can take it to make the sauce.

Tumble the warm prawns over your avo and top with a generous mount of my version of Marie Rose sauce.

Add more prawns and another avo to turn this into a main course. I like to serve bowls of Banting mayo and blitzed tomato on the side along with Tabasco or whatever your poison might be.

This dish can be made and eaten in 30 minutes if needs be.


Roasted fillet recipe – perfect LCHF

23 Feb

Was great to see my #LCHF recipes in Die Burger newspaper. If you missed it, here is the recipe for my roasted fillet.

All Recipes serve six with leftovers.

Roasted beef fillet.
1 Whole grass-fed beef fillet
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Maldon salt
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns 

Preheat your oven to its hottest temperature or prepare a hot indirect Weber fire.
Take the fillet out of the fridge one hour before you plan to cook it. Either slice the raw fillet into three so that the thickest part stands on its own or tie it up so that the whole piece of meat has a similar width once tied.
Dry the meat with kitchen paper. Grind the salt and pepper into a fine powder and make a paste of it with the oil. Cover the whole fillet with the paste and place it on a baking tray.
Roast for 25 minutes, removing the smaller cuts after 14 minutes for rare.

Cover with foil and allow to cool before slicing as thinly as you can and arranging, overlapped, on a platter. Garnish with  sprinkles of pomegranate seeds and a bunch of green herbs. Serve at room temperature.

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Decide to be happy

8 Feb

Decide to be happy.

I’ve decided to remind myself how lucky, blessed, whatever you call it I am to have this life and live this life where I do. Deciding to be happy doesn’t make our President a man of integrity, it doesn’t change our shrinking economy, it doesn’t keep the lights on nor does it impact the poverty around me. What it does do, for me anyway, is not weigh me down with the heaviness of it all. When I decide to be happy I celebrate all I have. I celebrate the beauty around me. I celebrate the many opportunities I have to be amongst nature without paying a hefty price for it. I celebrate the mountain. The sea. Life.


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Relationships matter more than all the luxury in the world

26 Dec

Don’t get me wrong: I still love luxury but what this recent trip has confirmed for me is that it is the interactions with people while travelling that matter more, much more than all the luxury in the world.

I am blessed to have strong family connections and deeply-held friendships but I  also value the new relationships that we can make if we allow ourselves to take the first steps. These last weeks I’ve been conducting an experiment: do I have a better time when I take the risk and make the effort to connect or do I sit back and wait for someone else to make the first step? Even though it requires a fair amount of effort to reach out, the rewards are palpable.

In selecting images that represent our most recent trip – this time to The USA, The Caribbean, England and Switzerland, the photographs that best describe the experience are not the ones of the deep-pile luxury but those of people. If we allow it, travel not only educates us about what to look at but also allows us to feel the excitement of human connections.

I hope you enjoy this six-minute snapshot of our trip.

Banting while travelling.

25 Nov

The great news is that if you also follow a #Banting or #LCHF diet you can now travel with impunity knowing that your culinary needs will, with advance notice, happily be taken care of.

That was certainly my experience on our recent Kwa-Zulu Natal visit, the highlight of which was our Pretoria to Durban Safari on board Rovos Rail. Our cuisine and accommodation highlight was our stay at Fairmont’s Zimbali Resort while our biggest disappointment, not of their making but of the weather’s, was our visit to Rocktail Bay to see the Rocktail Turtles.

If you’re staying in Durban our first choice is Suncoast Towers and in Pretoria we choose to stay at Protea’s Pretoria Manor Hotel while sanctuaries at the airports must be the SLOW lounge. Bon Voyage.

Our epic KwaZulu-Natal safari

21 Oct

They say one should be careful of what one wishes for: I wished for a mega storm – the sort that rattles windows and lights up the skies up with lightening bolts, as we rarely see such climate in Cape Town. Well, I got what I wished for while on our KZN Safari but it did mean we couldn’t do many of the things we hoped to – seeing Turtles lay their eggs in the sand and snorkelling the reef among them.

Here is a visual taster of our trip – I will post links to the articles I write about it once they’re published.

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See Rovos Rail  Fairmont Zimbali Resort & Lodge, Rocktail Beach Lodge, Protea Manor Hotel, Hatfield, Riverside Hotel & Spa, Hotel Verde at CT International  SunCoast Towers Hotel, Durban

#LCHF PR-Net Trade event and #Banting while out

18 Aug

The conversation around Prof Tim Noakes’ 25g or less of carbohydrate a day with quality fat from olive oil, fish and meat in every meal and the hash tags  #LCHF and #Banting seems to be as angry as our world at war.

Rather than refute his theories in a constructive way that also educates us all, his naysayers describe him as criminal. For me the truth of his diet is irrefutable. I know that I can continue to eat pretty much what I like while maintaining my healthy weight but just slightly increasing my carb intake – from 100g of cashews, for example, reflects heavily on the scale the very next day.

Because I’m never really hungry doesn’t mean that I eat tiny portions – I wish I did, as it may be better for me. I still eat more than I need to because I enjoy the pleasure of it. I still eat emotionally when I feel overwhelmed. I’m behaviour hasn’t changed so very much. What has changed is what I eat and I continue to be disciplined in selecting low-carb foods that are sugar free.

I don’t mind engaging a server, like I did recently at Woolworth’s Willowbridge and Tasha’s at the Waterfront recently, to ask the kitchen to adjust a dish to meet LCHF.

There is regular news of new restaurants and suppliers joining The Banting Bandwagon and the high fat, but flour-free Gravy Train. As wonderful as it is to know restaurants are offering LCHF menus, we must remain vigilant. When it comes to maintaining my weight nothing is more important.

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I’m not sure how some of the items on Bread & Butter’s  Sunningdale LCHF menu got there. A liberal sprinkling of cashew nuts and apple slices is not what the doctor orders nor is the addition of fresh peas to a dish for people on low-carb, low-sugar diet.

PR-Net Trade, a JV between Andrea Desfarges of PublicitySA and I, recently hosted Prof Noakes and LCHF suppliers to a meet-the-media event. It was great to see many that are already entrenched in my kitchen like Crede (say kra-day)  and Lancewood but a wonderful treat to connect with Cold Gold Ice Cream and fab yogurt supplier Curds & Whey and my school friend Denise of Caring Candies, who first introduced me to xylitol.

Janine van Zyl, of Cold Gold Ice Cream also helped the chef at the stellar Coopmanshujs Hotel and Restaurant create a #LCHF dinner for us Saturday. What a treat and proof that with advance notice and a willingness to accommodate fussy diners, miracles can and do happen.

Travel during low season for the best of everything

19 Jul

Our May trip along the Garden Route is proof how much more pleasurable it is to travel during low season.

The biggest appeal is, as you would think, fewer other travellers, but in truth, the milder temperatures and low wind conditions made, for a more comfortable visit when compared to summer ones.

Click on the hotel names to read my reviews of each individual property. Grootbos just two hours from Cape Town is a good place to start. Next stop was Gondwana in Mossel Bay. The Grand Cafe and Rooms was our first in Plettenberg Bay before also visiting The Plettenberg Hotel and The Beacon Island Resort. A visit to The Cango Caves and overnight at The Queen’s Hotel, Oudtshoorn made the trip back to Cape Town, with a lunch stop on Montagu an easy one.

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Test the Reasons You Think you will Fail and Plan to Succeed

7 Jul

In the 12 Steps How to Stick to a Healthy Eating plan I talk about testing the reasons you think you might fail and planning ahead to succeed.

I thought about these while climbing the Kogelberg this morning. It was a beautifully clear day but with a frosty blast following yesterday’s snow. Because I had planned ahead and, over time, purchased gear that would allow me to be comfortable outdoors irrespective of the weather, I couldn’t give myself the excuse of not going out in the cold or even in the pelting rain.

It seems hard to believe that I would ever say something like this but I have found it true. It is better to climb the mountain in the rain and wind than to spend the time in the gym, or worse, not be active.

My body has become so used to the feeling of exerting itself that on days when I don’t, I don’t really feel like I’ve woken up properly.

I’m a fan of gear from Columbia Sportswear as theirs were the only jackets that managed to keep me warm when I first shed weight. Now, although I also have thermal undies from Woolies, I still prefer my Columbia base-layers as the mirror-ball fabric reflects my body heat and keeps me more comfortable than regular thermal.

In Columbia Sportswear from top to toe.

In Columbia Sportswear from top to toe.


I’m not telling you to buy Columbia but I am telling you to get waterproof boots and a jacket that you can zip right up to your neck along with gloves and a hat that will cover your ears.

Because the shirt and pants I wear are made for hard-wearing excursions and I get sweaty while in them, they’re washed every second day, at least. I mention this as you want to have  no-iron gear you can wash and wear without it falling apart. The thing about technical fabrics is much more than just a marketing ploy. I know this as in Plett I did the Robberg hike wearing a beautiful, organic cotton t-shirt which after about 30 minutes was chafing me as it was drenched in sweat. I would have enjoyed that hike a whole lot more wearing a moisture-wicking garment.

You also need to find gear that allows you to vent as you get warmer. My jacket has velcro cuffs to adjust how much air I allow in or out. Something with a full zip is also better than a pullover. If you can find a jacket with zipped back vents I’d recommend that, too.

Finally, look out for a jacket that has deep pockets as an hour into your climb you will be too warm to wear your scarf and gloves and will need somewhere to stow them.

Don’t give yourself the opportunity to find reasons why you can’t get out and exercise.

You may also want to look at two previous posts about outdoor gear, this one about using the right knife for the job or this one about shopping on sales – I always do.