Archive | March, 2013

Being fat is a self-inflicted handicap.

25 Mar

Being fat is a self-inflicted handicap. But, unlike other handicaps which I imagine occur mostly suddenly, those of us who were or are fat know that the weight piles on gradually and we manage to lie to ourselves about our condition for so long that, over time, we become used to the new normal.

Being heavier than we need to be isn’t normal. It isn’t normal to have to check if a chair will hold our weight before sitting on it, it isn’t normal to break toilet seats. It isn’t normal to have to use a hand-held shower to wash between our legs because an overhead shower won’t reach nor is it normal to dose ourselves with drugs simply to keep ourselves alive.

I remember talking to Dr Winston Shaer, a surgeon I was meeting with to discuss publicity. He had changed his view about diet so radically that he now lives and promotes a limited vegan diet free of sugars and other addictive foods. He said to me that if I followed his diet, within three months I would have normal blood-sugar readings and shed sufficient weight to take me out of the morbidly obese danger zone I was in. His diet, like the one I eventually followed, was such a radical departure from what I considered normal eating that I thought he was a crackpot just for suggesting it.
He was, and is, of course, right. But for me adopting a vegan diet seemed so totally impossible that I wouldn’t even allow myself to consider it carefully. So I know that for many of you, never eating starch again or making the kinds of changes that I have made to my diet also seems crazy.

I know that I saved my life by changing the way I eat and it is only now that I am at a healthy, normal weight, that I am totally free of the chronic drugs I took for diabetes, hypertension, back ache and gastric reflux. All the money I spent on doctors, chiropractors, psychologists, physiotherapists, not to mention pain and discomfort, could have been saved had I changed my diet and physical activity.

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is the silver bullet that will impact every aspect of your life, as it has mine. It isn’t easy to change your life and your habits. But if you internalise that being over-weight is killing you, that eating or drinking the foods that make you fat is poison for you, that you will cure yourself of the lifestyle diseases you probably have if you’re heavy, then making the change is easier than you think it will be.

Know what your next steps towards health will be

21 Mar

Knowing myself, as I do, I’ve accepted that I will always have some anxiety or another. At the moment I’m anxious about having sufficient money and the time to do all the things I believe I must do. I’m also anxious about food options when we travel to Madagascar in April for our Kayaking Adventure and when we cruise to Europe in June how I will cope with food available 24/7 on the ship.

Body dysmorphic disorder is, according to Wiki, a psychological condition where sufferers believe something is wrong with the way their body looks and this becomes the basis for anxieties, obsessions etc. I first heard the term when I attended the Bariatric Support Group meetings while I was still in the running for the procedure and one of the speakers warned that people who shed lots of weight sometimes developed a dysmorphic view of their bodies.

I am actually eating now more than I naturally want to, and here’s why there are alarm bells about me skirting around the edges of dysmorphia.

I weigh myself every time I’m at the gym, which is sometimes twice a day, and over the last while my weight has been pretty constant between 81kg and 83kg. Remembering that my excess skin weighs, according to dietician Judy Kotze, between 5kg and 7kg, my true weight is actually as low as 76kg, so there isn’t a lot of room for me to lose more. What’s worrying me is that even when I eat more than a naturally want to; my weight doesn’t increase by much. It is as if my metabolism has been reset and I don’t have to worry now about the calories I consume. What I do have to worry about though is losing still more weight – please don’t tell me that I’m looking gaunt – so I’m supplementing my diet with protein shakes from Kauai or Supreme Protein bars adding an additional 600-odd calories to the mix.

When I look at myself in the mirror I see what I think is actually hanging skin as a fat roll which I want to get rid of. One part of me wants to remember that I once weighed 153kg but another wants to be slender and wear things like skinny jeans and skimpy underwear in which, and I own this, I look a bit like a stuffed doll.

The job now is to handle my stress about money by increasing billings, work smart rather than hard, and, thanks to SleekGeek, Eat Clean and Train Dirty.

How are you getting on with your journey towards health?

Trendspotting, PR 2.0 with Rebecca Cronje

19 Mar

In recent years, the well-established practice of PR has performed a few major somersaults, so much so that some may not even recognise its modern self. Yet despite all its fancy footwork and digital diction, PR is, fundamentally at least, the same as it has always been: It develops and spreads a message to a set of key influencers on behalf of a client. What has changed however is the road travelled to get there.
Rebecca Cronje, Atmosphere Communication’s Head of Strategy shared key trends and experiences from a recent visit to three UK PR agencies and what it could spell for the local industry at PR-Net. Themes include the changing agency model, traditional’s role in a digital world, the increasing need for strategy, research, creativity and evaluation and the buzzword du jour, integration. If you’d like a copy of Rebecca Cronje’s PR Trends presentation emailed to you, please email me.

Next challenge – Kayaking in Madagascar

16 Mar

Had fate not intervened, one year ago today I would have had bariatric, weight-loss surgery making a tiny pouch of my stomach and re-routing my intestine. I want to honour myself for having made the transition from being morbidly obese to reaching a healthy weight rather by changing my eating and physical activity.

This pic was taken in May last year when we were in the Maldives. First time in a Kayak.

This pic was taken in May last year when we were in the Maldives. First time in a Kayak.

I am fundamentally changed. People don’t recognise me. But I also don’t recognise myself. As a travel writer I have often turned down invitations which would stretch me physically out of fear that I would be uncomfortable. In April this year, I am stretching myself physically and emotionally by accepting a very generous invitation from Jenman Safaris to join them on a Madagascar Barefoot Luxury Kayak Adventure which, over the course of a week, will see us kayaking in the South East of Madagascar, camping in forests and on the beach and also staying at beach lodge accommodation.

Taken on Pringle Bay Beach, March 3, 2013

Taken on Pringle Bay Beach, March 3, 2013

There will be many firsts for me along this trip but I am looking forward to them with excitement and some anxiety. I think I have missed out on many enriching experiences in my life out of fear of not being able to cope and accepting this trip signals another new start.

The power of self belief

15 Mar

I made a small video of myself after climbing to the top of the Kogelberg for the first time. Tonight I will climb to the top of Lion’s Head for the first time. 

Being A South African Male

14 Mar

Being SAM, a website decided to South African men so that we can live longer, healthier, more fulfilled lives did a great interview with me. You can read it by following this link. See

This pic of Japie Swanepoel and I was taken at The Taj Hotel, Cape Town by Stacey Klerck.

This pic of Japie Swanepoel and I was taken at The Taj Hotel, Cape Town by Stacey Klerck.

Find a happy place and go there often

12 Mar

Every time I visit Pringle Bay Beach I see something new around me and in myself,

Every time I visit Pringle Bay Beach I see something new around me and in myself,

The Palmiet River feels like a sacred place to me.

The Palmiet River feels like a sacred place to me.

Undeserved recognition is like meringue – briefly sweet and then gone.

11 Mar

Probably more than other babies, I was born wanting to be famous. This led to lots of tantrums and a precocious childhood. I think what drew me to working in media was this need to be seen by many. And, over more than twenty years working in the media, I’ve had a lot of attention. In most cases, it was because of who I worked for, rather than what I personally achieved. Recognition was a bit like a meringue – large and lovely for a few moments in the mouth, a few seconds of lingering sweetness and then hunger for the next one.  The recognition I’ve received recently for shedding 70kg and transforming my life is, by contrast, a huge steak dinner – the feeling of satisfaction stays and stays.

The long lasting pleasure of being recognised for something that I have actually achieved is worth so much more to me than just being recognised. Although the debate about the appropriateness of commenting about the way people look is for another time, I get a buzz being told how good I look.

Perhaps the scale is different but you, like me, could feast on the positive attention you’d receive if you got yourself into better shape. The risk is pretty small as few people, in my experience, anyway, will tell you when you aren’t looking good but the reward, if you believe you deserve it, is wonderful.

Change is not easy. But it isn’t impossible and it begins with a decision that you will make your health your first priority. The rest, and the accolades, follow from that first decision. Once you decide to do it, you find the route that best suits you – will you take a zero-cheat approach as I have or go for the 80/20 rule – eat and exercise optimally for 80% of the time and allow 20% cheats.

This weekend past, while not cheating in my book, did come with more calories than usual and the scale proves it. More important for me though is that this morning’s mountain hike was more difficult than before. I think it will help to keep more stringently to my eating plan if I remember that the impact of living off-plan is greater than watching the needle move on the scale – the real impact is not feeling as strong and well as I can.



Achieve small goals to re-educate yourself to what you can achieve.

4 Mar

Pringle Bay path and handklip in distance

The most amazing thing about the experience as I was running up the mountain (yes, I said running) is that never in my wildest dreams did I believe it could ever be possible.

Let’s face the truth: if change for the better were easy, everyone would do it. It isn’t easy but it isn’t impossible or as difficult as I imagined it would be.  I think what shifted for me which allowed me to keep to my weight-loss plan was that I had a clear short-term goal to lose 10% of my body weight in anticipation of the planned surgery. I was motivated by the possibility of reducing the risk that I would die during surgery. Of course I “knew” the risk my obesity placed on my health but I continued to lie to myself that I had no choice in managing it.

When I realised that I could lose 10% of my body weight, 15kg at that time, I knew that I could lose more. I am so grateful that fate dealt me the delays to the intended surgery dates that it did which allowed me to make this transformation myself, without the need for bariatric surgery.A YouTube clip of me on top of the mountain

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) I am able to make life-affirming decisions rather than life-threatening ones.

2) I am able to shake off the need for any prescription medication by eating and exercising differently.

3) I am able to not only endure but also to enjoy physical challenges.

4) I’m not a wuss.

5) I can still enjoy eating and preparing food even though I don’t eat starch, sugar or drink alcohol.