Archive | December, 2012

My “Healthy Weight” Dream Team

13 Dec

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.


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.

Why cheating isn’t worth it

9 Dec

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.

Shedding: I gave away the last of my fat clothes today.

3 Dec


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.


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.