Health Kick 2014

Just after Christmas, I went to put on a pair of jeans and discovered that they would no longer fit. I stood on the scale, and discovered that my weight had hit 88kg.

My height is 1.84m. That means that according to the minimum risk curve, my optimum weight is 80kg. You might be aware of the fact that some studies suggest being slightly overweight leads to lower mortality. That’s true, but only across the entire male population; if you separate it into smokers and non-smokers, the non-smokers have a minimum mortality at a lower BMI, around 23-24. I’m a non-smoker, so that’s my goal. I’m aware that BMI is a flawed measure, and my doctor has told me that given my build, I might be best aiming for 81-82kg. However, I decided to trust in the statistics.

Anyway, 88kg was clearly too high, and being a cheapskate I didn’t want to say goodbye to the contents of my wardrobe and buy new ‘fat guy’ clothes. It was time for some serious action.

By May 9th, I had succeeded. My weight was back down to 79.9kg (BMI 23.6), and I was sitting down comfortably in my 34 waist jeans. Furthermore, I’ve made changes to my diet and behavior which I expect to be permanent, and I think I will be able to keep off the added weight.

I learned some things during the process, and decided I would write about it once I had (at least mostly) met my goals. Why only afterwards? Because experiments suggest that talking about your goals makes you less likely to achieve them. If you start any kind of self-improvement kick, don’t tell everyone until you succeed with it.

But right now, I want you — yes, you — to go and watch Dr Robert Lustig’s talk Sugar: The Bitter Truth, by way of introduction. Yes, it is 90 minutes long, but if you can’t even be bothered to spend 90 minutes watching a video that might help you dramatically change your health for the better, then you simply aren’t serious about improving your health and may as well close this browser window and go have some doughnuts. I’m not kidding, it’ll probably be the most important 90 minutes you ever spend sitting on your ass watching a video.

skully pannacotta
chotda via Compfight

Also worth watching is the followup video, which is a bit lighter on the science. I think the science is important, though, so I suggest watching the first lecture. Even if you don’t understand it all, it’s important to see it, and believe that everything I’ve done to change my own diet, everything I’m going to write about, is rooted in solid science, at least as far as I can determine. (I welcome corrections, particularly when accompanied by links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.)

I also want to be clear that every life change I’ve made has been towards a goal of good health. Weight and waist size are just proxies, things I can measure easily in order to evaluate my likely health. And if it was actually healthy for me to be 95kg, have a 42″ waist and subsist on a diet of pizza and curry, I’d invest in some baggy pants and live the dream.

Finally, the important disclaimer: I am not a physician. There was a time when I studied the stuff in those sciencey diagrams in the middle of the Lustig talk, but the details are all a distant blur now. I am not offering health advice. There may be really good reasons why the stuff I’ve done myself would work badly for you. Consult your doctor before making any radical life changes.

Now, go watch the video.