Project 4: Dying to try it –trying to diet

Concept: Reflections on food and nutrition and the pluses, perils and pitfalls of trying to adopt better habits and lose weight. What did i find that works for me and what didn’t.

Assignment 2 at Toastmasters


Two thirds of UK citizens are now overweight or obese.   The cost of obesity to the NHS is predicted at £4 billion a year and expected to reach £10billion. There are similar costs for employers and households. The UK diet industry is worth over £1 billion a year. Most of this business is repeat business with a c. 90% failure rate.

A year ago I was 26 stone I’ve had my share of yo-yo diets and their failures. However, I am a trained agriculturalist and have practiced as a stockman. I know my nutritional theory and can formulate rations to feed livestock. The optimal diet planning problem is a classic of my current profession as a decision scientist. I love my kids and would want to live long enough to see them fledged and flown as adults. I am British so must have the stiff upper lip of raw will power.  The human body is a machine…put in less energy than you take out and you lose weight. Simple! JUST DO IT.  Really? NO! That has failed.

Am I the Mechanic too busy to tend his own car, the doctor too busy to consult himself, the stockman to busy to husband his body? I feel very frustrated when people lecture dieting like that. Fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests I want to tell you another dieting story, the one that is working and I want to start before it all went wrong 12,000 years ago.


Let me take you on a journey back to life before the dawn of agriculture and the rise of civilisation. To our bodies that happened recently in our 4 billion years evolutionary history. We were a nomadic foragers living in communities of up to 150 adults. There are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world.  There is seasonality as well as gorges and fasts. Food is eaten mostly un processed except for fire.

Ploughing & Processing

Fewer than 20 species now provide 90% of our food.  We farm what we can store and process…seeds that we can handle and store. Archaeological evidence of agriculture is often found as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) deformities of skeletons as we began to do specialised jobs such as operating tread-mills. Food technology and our ability to process and store food has grown exponentially. Processed foods tend to emphasize tasty ingredients like sugar, salt and fat. To decrease transportation costs and extend shelf life, they contain less water, leaving each morsel of food more densely packed with calories. Processed food defeats appetite regulation leaving us free to eat to saturation not satisfaction. There is a quote that amounts to agriculture is a disaster from which humanity has yet to recover.

Product, pricing, placement, promotion: The Marketing mix

What do we understand about food today…we have the marketing slogan of the four Ps

Product –>sugar, salt, and fat. Supersized portions, Dieting clubs as reliant on processed food, but hey it is the right kind of added-value processed food. Commercial lock in!!

Pricing –> Least cost formulations readily stored so often cheaper and more convenient that whole foods

Placement –> Wherever you want to buy a mars bar you can. What about an apple or carrot.  This affects social demographics as access to mobility limits swaths of society to convenience store shopping.

Promotions –> When did you last see a carrot being the subject of an intense media campaign –no commercial intellectual property – no added value = media invisibility for whole foods. Dieting clubs marketed with how good you could look in a bikini, but that, sadly,  is not my kink.

What is working and why

Use to apply a management layer…It does the number I just have to remind myself to weigh food and give it help to learn exotic things and my typical meals.

1) Avoid processed food and restrict carbohydrates to the whole kind and cut back generally –avoid cereals after breakfast

2) Increase diversity and amount of fruits, nuts and vegetables

3) Increase protein and shift more to fish and white meats and go easy on the red meats


The late Steve Jobs, who was a genius behind Apple Computers, said “The whole of the world as you understand it is made-up and made-up by people no smarter than you or I” If it doesn’t work then change it! For me the key was to understand that the body is in fact a complex system in dynamic balance with the world around it.  Not only does the broad calorific balance matter, but so to does understanding what foods to eat and how they better sustain the body, provide energy and regulate appetite.  I’ve a strong naturalistic tendency so for me improvement means understanding how humans are meant to function within a natural environment in a language that I understand, which is science. I understand myself as the product of 4 billion years of evolutionary success and so need to act like I am. I lost 7 stone or 42 kilograms last year and intend to finish a return to full health and the lifestyle that sustains it. Thank you!

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