Episode 83 Summary
- Brendan Reid - Brendan lives and works in Dunedin, New Zealand. He has a background in broadcasting, in teaching, and in software development, and more recently has gained certificates both in health coaching and in nutrition from PreKure. Until the age of about 37, Brendan was a stereotypical fat ginger nerd. For the first four decades of his life, for 90% of that time, he was fatter than 90% of those around him, with the idea that he could ever lose any weight at all, let alone keep it off afterwards, nothing more than an impossible dream. Yet that dream eventually, finally, became a reality as Brendan has lost 50 kg and maintained his weight loss for 5 years by eating low carb.
- Brendan's book, “The Fat Ginger Nerd” - during the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the world had already convinced itself that eating less and moving more was the simple solution to its burgeoning obesity epidemic, Brendan grew up having committed the cardinal sin of being fat. Then in 2015, his health failing and with both time and options running out, one fateful encounter finally set in motion a personal journey of discovery that would see him achieve and maintain a healthy weight for the first time in his life. Brendan reflects on his own weight loss transformation and speaks out against the continuing one-size-fits-all dietary dogma that had previously condemned him to decades of unnecessary suffering.
- The myth that overweight people are lazy and/or greedy - as an overweight child, Brendan was told that he was fat simply because he was overeating and if he just ate less, he wouldn't be fat, as well as being labelled as greedy. Having visited a dietician and been introduced to the food pyramid, Brendan stuck to this diet of cereal, toast, sandwiches, fruit, and vegetables, but frustratingly found that he remained constantly hungry and did not lose any weight.
- Being introduced to a low carb diet - at his heaviest, Brendan weighed 137 kilograms in his mid to late 30s. He decided to join a gym, where to his surprise the personal trainer he saw prescribed him a low carb diet. Although he thought there was no way this diet would result in him losing weight, he decided to give it a shot.
- The results of the low carb diet - Brendan lost around a kilo a week for the first few weeks and despite seeing these results it was hard for him to grasp that this diet was actually working as it went against all the expert advice he had received throughout his life. Two months into the diet he had lost about 10 kilos which was a phenomenal amount of weight for him. At this point, he decided that this was clearly working and was real. He also found over a gradual period of several months that his hunger also dissipated.
- Brendan's total weight loss, weight maintenance, and improved health through eating low carb - Brendan went from 132 kg to 82 kg in the space of about 15 months and has only regained 2 kilos of that weight. Brendan also experienced being pain free having previously had chest pain, as well as a drastic reduction in his C-reactive protein (CPR) test which tests for inflammation.
- Food freedom and feeling liberated - by being able to think about food on a regular basis without it making you hungry and without being hungry all the time, you can feel liberated and achieve true “food freedom”.
For more information about and to purchase Brendan's book, “The Fat Ginger Nerd”, visit https://www.thefatgingernerd.com
The fat ginger nerd
Dr Mary Barson: Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Burns: And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. Good morning, lovely listeners, it's Dr Lucy here. This week I am without my fabulous Dr Mary, but I have another wonderful, wonderful guest for us to chat with and you'll notice that on our podcast, we don't have many men. I think that Brendan might be our third. But he has such a wonderful story that many of you will be interested to hear and potentially resonate with, and I think it's a story of hope for many of us as well. So I am super excited to introduce to you today, Brendan Reid, friend, and thank you for coming on the podcast.
Brendan Reid: Morning, Lucy. Good to be here.
Dr Lucy Burns: Wonderful, wonderful. So listeners Brendan is, he's from New Zealand, you'll pick this up soon as he speaks. He's got a New Zealand accent. And he has I guess defied the odds in many respects because for a lot of, I guess weight management people out there, they will tell you that you cannot lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off. And to be honest this is why they say that you know, 90 to 95% of diets fail, because for a lot of people that is true. But Brendan is a story that goes against that because he's lost over 50 kilos and kept it off for over five years, and I'm super excited to hear his story behind that. And the other thing that he's done, again I can bang on a bit and as you know, I love banging on. But he's also written a wonderful book, which we'll be talking about further on in the podcast. So Brendan, I would love if you could share with our listeners your story.
Brendan Reid: Well, where to begin, I guess we'd be going all the way back. I've written a whole book about the story, I sort of gotta be mindful of how much detail I go into here. But to try and compress it down as best I can, I was one of those kids growing up who was overweight for basically as long as I could remember. When I look back at the earliest photos of myself, I don't appear to look too bad when I sort of look and, “Oh, yeah, he doesn't look that chubby or anything”. But it was enough for the kids of the time, my peers at primary school and so on to call me out on it and you know, not in a nice way. And it wasn't just the kids either. It would be the grown-ups, the teachers, the doctors, the dietitians, in various ways. You know, teachers for example, I did reasonably well in class, just hopeless outside of it. They would say to me things like, “You know, you're a smart kid. How is it that you don't understand that you just need to stop eating so much and you wouldn't be so fat”? And the answer at face value to their question was just that, “Well, I get hungry”. And that was just the fundamental thing that I struggled with for so long that you know, I wanted to do the right thing to quote unquote, “Be a good boy, do as I'm told, listen to the experts, my elders, my betters”. They're all telling me I'm eating so much and that's why I'm fat. Okay, so let's just stop eating. Let's just take that to its logical extreme. Well the first thing that happens as soon as I stop eating is I get hungry. And at that point, that's where the argument broke down in my mind right away, because the idea of, “Well, if you're eating less then your body's just going to start burning the fat that you're already carrying”. But if that were true, then why am I getting hungry? Why do I still get hungry when I'm already fat? And that was, was such a key question in the early stages of my life's journey that it's, it's actually the tagline on the back of the book. It took me another sort of 30 plus years before I would finally figure out the answer to that question, but that's where it begins at least, my story. It goes back a long way.
Dr Lucy Burns: And I think what you've highlighted there is the idea that people think hunger is like a character flaw. If you're hungry, well there's some sort of weakness. You're just not disciplined and you know, you just need to ignore it and carry on. And not realising that hunger is, you know proper physiological hunger is your body's way of telling you, you need fuel. You know, we need some sustenance. You know, maybe we need some nutrition, but we're told, “Oh no, just stop. You know, you're just greedy. Stop being so hungry”. Just stop being so hungry actually is the answer.
Brendan Reid: That's the key word. That's the key word you use there, greedy. That was the one I heard a lot. You know, “Why do you have to be so greedy?”. And I never consciously felt greedy, you know all I ever felt was hungry. And it didn't make sense to me that, you know I would get hungry so easily so soon after a meal. It wasn't like I was eating the wrong things. I was introduced to the food pyramid at the age of about 12 after my first meeting with a dietician. You know, this was sold to me as my new best friend and again, I'm wanting to do as I'm told, do the right thing, listen to the experts. And so I'm living off cereal and toast in the morning, sandwiches for lunch and vegetables for dinner. And you know, I can still inhale entire bread rolls as snacks and you know, fruit salads for snacks in between those meals as well. So it's all of these things, the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, that I've been taught to eat since childhood. But none of it really kept me satisfied for anything more than an hour or two at a time so it was really frustrating.
Dr Lucy Burns: Ah, frustrating. And I'm just thinking as a little boy, how devastating to be told that you're just fat and greedy.
Brendan Reid: Yeah, I mean it wasn't, again it wasn't something that I ever consciously felt. I certainly didn't deliberately set out to be that way and that's perhaps the biggest misunderstanding perhaps, that an observer of somebody who looks visibly overweight might assume about that person that they have made a conscious decision to not look after themselves. That these character flaws, “You're lazy, you're stupid, you're gluttonous, you're slothful”. And none of these things are true at all but it's such an easy assumption to make, because that knowledge that we understand about what it is to do weight is just so commonplace. You can ask anybody on the street you know, “How does someone lose weight”? Well, just stop eating”. It's ubiquitous, it's everywhere. Everybody, quote unquote, knows that. And so for someone to see someone who is overweight, they think, “Well, you know there's clearly something wrong with them. If they're fat, then it's their fault”.
Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. And listeners as you know, Mary and I are always saying that being overweight is not your fault. It isn't. We have been taught to eat food that doesn't always help us with fat storage and there's so much misinformation out there about what is going to be helpful for losing weight. And one of the biggest things that comes up from time to time is you know, juice cleanses as being something that is going to a) detox your liver and b) help you lose weight. And you know, we'll talk a bit further about that in the podcast, but that's like, just absolute rubbish. So Brendan, tell us a little bit further what happened then? So you were doing, as you said you're a good student, so you're a good learner, wanting to please, listening, seeing the experts and eating your grains and fruit salad and then presumably, you got thin doing that.
Brendan Reid: Ah, you're funny. No, absolutely not. As I say, overweight since childhood, in and out of doctors' offices, dieticians’ clinics. You know, by adulthood that had extended to the odd visit to hospital. At my heaviest by about 2015, I'm in my mid to late 30s at that point, and at my heaviest I'm 137 kilograms or 302 pounds and I was not in a very good place. I mean at that weight, I'm 175 centimetres tall or five foot nine, that gives me a BMI of 45 so I am off the chart. I don't know what class of obesity that is, but it's very, very high. And in addition to that weight, I'm dealing with physical pain as well. Chest pain, which is not a good part of your body to be experiencing pain in, you know you expect the worst. And everybody around you is just sort of thinking, “Well, you know, it's just a matter of time now”. And I was just one of those people. And in desperation that year, what I decided I would try and do was let's see if I could walk to work. It's a few blocks, well several, but it was too many for me at that size. You might think, “Well, you know, why couldn't you have just done that all the time? Why don't fat people exercise”? The answer to that is because it's too hard. If you can imagine, you know strap on a 30, 40, 50 kg weight suit and imagine never being able to take it off at all hours of the day and night, every day of your life. Everything is hard. That's why it doesn't happen. But I tried to push my way through that for a period of about six months, lost a few kilos, not many, about five kilos over six months. And I thought, right well at that point I'm seeing that this exercise is working, though I'm really not getting much reward. Maybe I need to refine my routine a little bit. So deep breath, let's go and make an appointment at a gym, which for me was just you know like stepping into the lion's den. It was just the most horrible prospect imaginable in my mind. Scary, super scary. And I never told anybody about it beforehand because I didn't want anybody to know. I was just so, you know ashamed of how I'd let myself go, et cetera. So I turn up at the gym, and I figure I'm going to be the easiest sell ever, right? He's just going to sign me up to a gym membership and I'm just going to do all the talking for him. It's not going to, he's not gonna have to work for this at all. But instead he did something totally unexpected and he said, “Mate, there's nothing I can do for you. You know, I could sign you up, you might lose a little bit of weight. But I think in your case we need to look at your diet. We need to look at what you're eating”. And I'm thinking oh, here we go, you know another one of these “eat less” types. But he put me on to a diet that I recognised was sufficiently different from what I had been told before, this idea of a low carb diet. And it wasn't totally new to me either, like I'd heard about it in the news back when Atkins was doing the rounds as it does periodically every few years in the media. And I first heard about it in the early 2000s, I suppose. And it got me curious at that time, but all the experts, the usual people, are coming out and saying, “No, no, no, you know, you don't want to be doing low carb, that's bad. Saturated fat will clog your arteries and you'll be dead of a heart attack before you know it. It's this crazy, unsubstantiated, unscientific, fad diet. Do not do low carb”. And that was what I'd taken on board for so many years. And so to finally have this low carb diet put to me by someone in person for the first time, I just, I wasn't sure what to do. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting, so I wasn't very happy about that. But then I thought, you know what, I'm just gonna give it a shot anyway. It can't possibly work because if this is the way to go, then all of those experts are wrong and that's just in my mind, impossible. So I made a start without actually any expectation that it would work at all. If anything, you know it could very well have been the end of me in my mind and you know, I was surprised as anybody when it turned out to be a whole new beginning.
Dr Lucy Burns: I just love that, I love so much about it. What I love is your initial resistance, and I think it's quite normal because it's, and to use a pun that everybody uses, it is against the grain. And I remember when, same when I first was introduced to it, which was by another doctor who, a gorgeous friend who I love and trust very much. But when she said to me, you know and I was sitting there piously eating my carrot sticks and she said, “Oh, well you tend, you don't really eat carrots and there's not a lot of fruit”, and I'm thinking, what? What sort of rubbish diet doesn't have fruit on it, I'm not doing that? And then I just saw her, and I just kept thinking, and I was watching what she was eating and I'm thinking, just maybe I'll give it a crack. So it sounds a little bit like you, you just thought what have I got to lose?
Brendan Reid: Yeah, it's hard to argue with results, right, and when I was getting started, I was losing about a kilo a week for the first few weeks. And even after sort of about a month or so I suppose I was thinking, “Ah, this could be anything, this could just be a total coincidence”. I was seeing the results, but I'd had it so deeply ingrained into my brain beforehand that low carb was wrong, that it does not work, that I was struggling to believe what I was actually seeing on the scales. I was losing a meaningful amount of weight for the first time in my entire life and all I had to do was exactly that which all of the experts up until then had told me exactly not to do. So it was such a mental turn around. Everything is just upside down, you know. Nothing makes sense anymore. Your whole perception of reality is challenged when you, when you find that you know such a thing that you're told is wrong in every conceivable way, is exactly what is actually working for me.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah, and I think this is the word you know, epiphany. So many people use that. They go, “Oh my god, it's like an epiphany”. They just suddenly can't believe it.
Brendan Reid: It wasn't, yeah, it wasn't so much of an epiphany for me as it was just a gradual realisation. I don't think there was ever one moment for me. I would just step on the scales and, “Okay, I've lost a little bit of weight, that's great”. But it's still, you know there still could be anything, still just a coincidence. I'd step on the scales again, and another week and “Oh, I've lost a little bit more weight, okay”. And the following week, “I've lost a little bit more”. And it was just sort of a gradual coming to terms with what was happening. This is real. The number on the scales is dropping in a way that I had never seen before in my entire life and it wasn't really until about December 2015, I started October, so it was about Christmas, about two months in towards the end of 2015. I've lost about 10 kilos by the end of that year, and this was a phenomenal amount of weight for me. I still had so much more to lose of course, but it was enough for me to decide at that point that this is real. This is something that I need to start taking seriously and let's just keep doing what I'm doing. It's clearly working. I don't fully understand it yet but let's just ride it out and see where I end up.
Dr Lucy Burns: Fantastic. And what about your hunger during this time?
Brendan Reid: Well, the hunger at first didn't change at all. All I had done when going to low carb was I was simply changing what I was eating. I had been given these lists, you know the green list and the red list and etc. and I'm thinking, “Okay, well this is what I'm supposed to be doing and this is what I'm not supposed to be doing”. I still had a house full of what I realised was primarily junk at the time and I didn't want to throw it all away, so the way I got started was very gradually. I still, I ran down all of the bad old food, the bread, and the noodles, and so on. But I knew enough now to know not to buy any more. So nothing really went to waste, I just ran it down. I would say goodbye to each of these individual things that I knew I was just not going to be able to have any more. That whole transition period took maybe four to six weeks and it was during that time that I guess I had the opportunity, I gave myself the opportunity to really learn what it is that I need to be eating in its place, what things to be looking for in the supermarket and wandering down a few aisles I've never been down before. I'm stopping and looking at food labels on everything to see how many carbs per 100 grams are on the label and if there's anything higher than X amount, I'd set myself this limit, then it stays on the shelf and that was my approach. The hunger didn't really start to noticeably correct itself for about three or four months. So even in the beginning, you know I'm having multiple steaks or chicken breasts per meal, because I was just that hungry. But by about three, four months in, sort of early 2016, I noticed I was going through my backpack one day, and I used to like take a banana to work every day for morning tea, and I'm cleaning up my backpack one day and there's this rotten banana at the bottom of the backpack. It was, it was horrible obviously and I'm saying, “What's going on here”? And that's when I realised, “Hey, I haven't been snacking for weeks and I haven't even noticed”. I'm just not so hungry that I need to snack at morning or afternoon tea anymore. And the next step after that was at lunchtime's, there was this cafeteria buffet that I would go to, and I would always have two big plates of whatever they had on offer. It was, you know I knew enough to avoid things like the rice and that sort of thing, and it would just be meat and veg primarily. But it would still be these two big plates of whatever meat and veg was going. And I remember very clearly the day when I'd had one plate and just out of habit, I went up to get plate number two and then I just sort of sat back down as I realised, “Hey, I don't actually feel like another plate anymore, I'm okay”. I'm not hungry, you know to such an extent that I need to be eating as much as I was before. So it was a very gradual thing for me with the hunger, but it was at that point at the cafeteria that day that I realised, “Hey, this is where low carb can be reconciled with one key aspect of that dietary advice”. It's not so much necessarily that just eating less is wrong, but when you, when that's all you say, that's all that people take on board with that idea. They assume that when it comes to food and losing weight, that it's purely and simply about quantity and there's no regard at all for the quality of what it is that we eat. But I'd changed the quality of what I was eating. I'd gone to low carb, and that in turn, in effect almost enabled me to eat less and so at that point, it just becomes this, this feedback loop if you like. You know, you could argue maybe it's a chicken and egg kind of situation. “Oh, well you lost weight on low carb because you were eating less”. Well, are multiple steaks and multiple chicken breasts for starters those first few months, really anybody's idea of eating less? I was eating a lot, but it was just the carbs that I got rid of for starters, and it was then just over a very gradual period of several months that the hunger eventually just started to take care of itself, and it felt great.
Dr Lucy Burns: I know. I think we use an analogy called the woodshed and basically when your hunger stops, your woodshed is open. So your woodshed, for those listeners who haven't listened to our earlier episodes, is your stored fat, which for many of us has been locked away because of high insulin levels, like a padlock. And once you lower the insulin, you can open your shed and access that fat stores, which means that you can then go periods without needing fuel because your body has its ability to draw on its own supplies and that describes exactly what happened to you, Brendan.
Brendan Reid: Yeah, exactly right. The supplies were always there, the body just wasn't able to access them, as you say. So, you know get rid of the carbs from the diet, that reduces the insulin to a point where the body actually recognises what it already has, and you know it becomes accustomed to this idea that, “Hey, I can actually be burning fat”. And when we think about you know what we want to do when we want to lose weight, it is fat that we want to lose. So low carb just absolutely fits the bill as a weight loss diet because it removes that, that barrier to fat burning that we would otherwise all have.
Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely, and I often joke with my patients and I'll say “Oh, you know, yeah you can lose 10 kilos, I'll just chop a leg off”. But that's not what we want to do, we don't want to just lose the number on the scales. It's about the fat loss, not any other loss. And I think for a lot of people too, they you know, they do extreme things in the quest of getting lower numbers that can result in harm, you know with very severe low calorie diets that end up causing protein loss and muscle mass loss. And you know, those things particularly for older people and you know, when I'm talking older I'm talking sort of 50 plus, it's really important to prioritise your protein.
Brendan Reid: Yeah, I'm not there yet, I'm still in my 40s. But it's something I am mindful of, that as I'm eating less over time because I'm not getting so hungry so easily, I haven't had breakfast now for about four years and my lunches, you know sometimes I won't even have any. I didn't have any lunch yesterday, all I had was dinner yesterday. But it's usually a small lunch and then my main meal is dinner. So I'm clearly eating so much less now than I ever was before. But as you say, protein is one of those things that we can't afford to neglect and let go of, so over time I've realised that as I'm eating less, I can't afford to let the protein go so low. So you know, I'm still making sure that I get the protein sources, the meats primarily, some dairy as well, so that the muscle mass is retained one hopes.
Dr Lucy Burns: Oh, absolutely. Now, tell us a bit about your book. I love the name, so I'd love you to share with the listeners the name of your book and explain perhaps the title for them because it's a goodie.
Brendan Reid: So the title of the book is “The Fat Ginger Nerd”, subtitled a weight loss story. The Fat Ginger Nerd, it is, you know some people they hear that and they think, “Oh, gee, that's kind of a bit on the nose, don't you think? Is it okay to use the word fat in this context”? And for me, I am okay with it because the expression “Fat Ginger Nerd”, those three things, they're all references to myself. They were the three things that I used to get the most grief for while growing up. There's the hair colour, which you know people weren't too hard on. Everybody's aware that there's not much you can do about that when you're young, that sort of thing. That's just ha ha, jokey jokey. The fat though was a very different story. People would tell me that I was fat and I would hear it as is if they had said you know, “You're fat and that makes you a bad person”, which comes back to what we were talking about before. It's your fault that you're fat. And I think there's room for a bit of a decoupling there. I don't feel that the word itself is inherently bad, because in my case it was objectively true. I was horrendously overweight, I was fat. But it's this idea that there's this stigma attached to it that we can remove and as we said before, it's not necessarily that person's fault. It certainly wasn't in my case as I now know. So as a self-reference, it's a representation of how I was. I was all three of those things, a fat ginger nerd. I'm only two of them now and give it a few more years, give it a few more years, I'll probably be down to just the one. The nerd won't be going anywhere, but the hair will be next I'm sure.
Dr Lucy Burns: Oh, that's funny and you're very funny, as a nerd. So your nerd is a reference to your ITness. Is that what that is?
Brendan Reid: To a point, yeah. The whole nerd side of the personality I suppose was almost like a by-product of my having been fat, because you know with everybody of all ages knocking me for my appearance, for my weight, for my health, I sort of reached a point in my life while I was growing up that you know, people are overrated. It's so hard to make friends with people if they're just going to be knocking you down all the time, so let's just not engage with them. Let's just retreat and hide away inside. Don't go out into the playground, you're just going to get bullied. You're just going to get pointed and laughed at you know, so hide away from the outside world. Explore you know, the inside world, whatever that means. You learn to make friends with things instead of people. Books, TV, movies, music, video games. Video games was a big one for me growing up and as I reached adulthood, the jobs I've had in my career have kind of followed on from that trajectory. It's not hard to imagine how with that kind of background growing up, how I would end up becoming you know, an IT person. I did broadcasting for a while, I worked in radio for a few years as well, but again that's another inside solitary job. You're surrounded by technology and equipment and it's not so much, you know dealing with people face to face. So between that and the IT, you know it's not hard to see how that's come out over the years.
Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely, and I can see actually that there's another myth that you've just busted in there, and the myth being that kids are fat because they spend all their time on computer games. And in fact, there's more chickens and eggs going on here because clearly, already fat.
Brendan Reid: I was already there.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah, so the video games provided a sanctuary away from the bullying of, you know children are vicious, they really are they, and it can be relentless.
Brendan Reid: I write in the book, there's 12 chapters in the book all together and the second chapter is called The Escape. And it's a chapter about the various video games that I got used to playing over those years, and how I describe them as being collectively kind of like, you use the word sanctuary, I use the expression coping mechanism. You know, I lose myself in this virtual world. If the real world is just rejecting me as it seemed to be, then I don't want to be part of that. I will find my own world, invent my own world. You know, explore the imagination, explore video games, you know the internet, whatever, so that you don't have to deal with this reality of the situation. And yes, I do write a little bit about that.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah, it's amazing. It's amazing. So the book is “The Fat Ginger Nerd”, which again, I just, I think you're right, it has some sort of slight irreverence to it, but it makes me smile that you just own that outright. And the idea I think, Mary and I talk a lot about stigma that comes with being overweight and the fat shaming that occurs from the public and health professionals. And the fact that there's, I mean look, I could bang on about it for hours between, you know just navigating I think the world with diet culture, which is you know, you must be thin at all costs and if you're not, then you're not worthy, versus, well there's nothing you can do about it, you're overweight, you just have to learn to live with it and accept your body as it is. And there's actually a middle path, which you've just described beautifully, and the idea that you have lost, how much have you lost altogether?
Brendan Reid: So at my heaviest, I was 137 kgs. The exercise prior to low carb took me to 132. I started low carb and I went from 132 to 82 in the space of about 15 months. From there to today, I'm currently 87, but about 3 kilos of that is due to a change of scales. My old scales, they broke, and they told me I was whatever I was, and so I went out and bought a new set and weighed myself that same day, and they were telling me I'm 3 kgs heavier than what I was. So the numbers I'm giving are just what I saw on the scales at that time. So I've regained all of 2 kilograms out of 50 plus. I don't know that I'd call that a failure. Some people would say, “Oh, you've put weight back on”, but really, only 2 kilos out of this much.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah, absolutely and I think it's, you know again, that the scale numbers, it's a guide. Like, we like to say they're, they're a tool. The scales are actually reasonably rudimentary, like they don't tell you the whole picture. They're a guidance tool, but they're not the only thing. I think the thing that you're describing is that you know, that reduction in hunger, and I'm imagining that you reduced, your reduction in pain.
Brendan Reid: The pain was one of the first things to go.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah.
Brendan Reid: It was a couple of years after I'd lost the weight, I had the idea to go to my doctor and ask him for a copy of my medical history to see if I could, you know understand for myself just how bad things were. I knew I was obviously horrendously overweight, but were there any markers and blood testing and all that sort of thing in my history, that I could use as additional points of reference to indicate you know, where I was and where I am now. And the history is actually not as complete as I would like. A lot of the earlier records were lost during the Christchurch earthquakes. Not everything was yet being kicked electronically and I was in Christchurch for the earthquakes, so a lot of the history prior to that isn't so much there, unfortunately. But there's enough for me to connect a few dots and make a few interesting observations. The big one for me was not so much the blood pressure, not so much the blood sugar, not so much the lipids, the triglycerides, the HDL, cholesterol, none of those things were really major causes for concern. They would only ever be slightly out of whack at most. The big thing for me was the C-reactive protein, the inflammation. Depending on the scale that you use, you know any number above a really low number is cause for concern. The highest CRP that I had taken when I was still really big was something like 170.
Dr Lucy Burns: Right. Yeah, wow.
Brendan Reid: Which is not at all good. The first time I had it tested after low carb, it was 2.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yeah.
Brendan Reid: And it's been 1, 2, ever since, and the pain in the chest, you know surely that's what it is. I was prescribed ibuprofen.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yep.
Brendan Reid: Anti-inflam. And the ibuprofen worked great for treating the symptom of the pain, if not necessarily the cause. Because as soon as I'd run out of ibuprofen, the pain just comes straight back. And okay, well this is treating the symptom, this is not treating the cause.
Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely.
Brendan Reid: But low carb, low carb it would seem has absolutely dealt to that. So yeah, pain free now for quite a long time.
Dr Lucy Burns: So wonderful, because I think also what you're being able, you're describing therefore is that, you know yes, you've lost weight, which is wonderful. But you have, you know changed some major parameters of your life in that you're no longer hungry, so food is probably not something that you think about all the time, and that you no longer have pain. So you know, such important measures for, you know quality of life.
Brendan Reid: It amazes me now that I can actually think about food on a regular basis just as often as I used to, but just thinking about food doesn't actually make me hungry. I might think about, “Well, what am I going to have for dinner tonight? Or what am I going to have for lunch”? or whatever. But just thinking about those things doesn't set me off. It doesn't get me thinking “Oh, I could do with that right now”, you know. I just, I feel just, okay and it's just this general mellow feeling of being okay, whatever that means, for lack of a better word is so...
Dr Lucy Burns: Liberating.
Brendan Reid: Liberating, yes. That's the word I'm looking for, liberating. You know, it doesn't sound like much when you've never been there before, but when you're new to it, it's just awesome.
Dr Lucy Burns: Absolutely. Mary and I call it “food freedom”. And I think for any listeners that are thinking, “Oh, well I've been doing low carb and I don't have it yet, this magical “food freedom” that Lucy and Mary kept talking about”. Well, Brendan, you describe that it took you maybe four or five months to get to that point, so again, I think people if you're, if you're not there yet, just keep hanging in there. Like it will come, it really does. And you know then what happens is that you're, when you're not so obsessed, you know your brain is not so obsessed with thinking about and obtaining food, because that's what it's really trying to do, just get fuel for your body, it frees up space in your brain to do other things.
Brendan Reid: The point I make about the issue of the time it takes to see the results you want to see, is that we have to remember that it's taken us our whole lives to get to where we were, when we start this plan. So we have to allow time. It is a major, major adjustment to lose, you know any amount of weight approaching what I've been able to do, and that's going to take time. The body is going to take some getting used to, to you know how it's, how it's going to be operating and how it's going to be metabolising as energy. “This, this new fat metabolism thing, what's all this about? I'm going to have to get used to something new here”. And that's going to take time if you've never really been a fat burner before, so you know as I say, if it's taken your whole life to get to where you were, you need to allow time to, to get to where you want to be. There's an old shampoo ad in New Zealand that did the rounds years ago: “It won't happen overnight. But it will happen”.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yes, Pantene. I often still quote it. There's two kind of cosmetic lines that I borrow from time to time. One of them is the Pantene and the other one is L'Oreal, which is “Because you're worth it”. I think those two lines are incredibly appropriate for changing your lifestyle. So Brendan, I think what your story offers for people is a story of inspiration and of hope, and if they wanted to get their hands on your book, how do they do that?
Brendan Reid: So there's a website, thefatgingernerd.com. There's a bit of a blog that I've got there so people can sort of try the writing before they buy, if you like. There's links to various online outlets where they can order it, Amazon and all the rest. It's available on e-book, and there's a print on demand paperback as well.
Dr Lucy Burns: Oh, beautiful. And I think, you know for lots of people, you know our brains, Mary and I often talk about the idea that your brain likes to play tricks on you, and it will come up with things that you know, “Well, I can't do this. It's all too hard”. And so often in times like that people will, they'll go and look at other people's stories for inspiration, for motivation, and it's so good to see a story like yours that is actually not just, you know for the short haul. Like, you've lived this way now for years and years and you've changed your life, your future, your trajectory, your whole, your whole life. Like, you've changed, you know everything for future you.
Brendan Reid: Yeah, if there's one criticism that, that people have of my story, it's that I'm not an expert. I'm not qualified, I'm not a doctor or a scientist or anything like that, and that's true. I don't have a degree in anything. I've never been to university. But what I do have is experience. I have been there, I have lived that. It's the story of how, you know a fat ginger nerd finally fulfilled the simplest of dreams in life, which was to just be seen as being normal. And one of the greatest compliments somebody can give me is if they find out about my story, they would say to me, “I would never have known. I would never have known”. It just doesn't occur to anybody. They look at me now and they would, they would never know. And I love that. It's to me, that's kind of a sense of closure that, “Yep, that's my story. I'm leaving it out there and I'm ready to, to move on with my life”.
Dr Lucy Burns: Aww, absolutely. And you know what, I'm a tiny bit teary over that because it is, it's so, I think for so many people that the stigma and the results of being overweight and the life that they've led because of it, you know in a true and just society that there shouldn't be any need to change yourself to fit in. But we know that, you know I would love to be able to wave a wand and just to live in a fair and just society, but we don't. But I also love the fact that what it's done for you is not just about fitting into a society, it's about changing you know, your trajectory and the health path that you were heading down.
Brendan Reid: Yeah, well, now I have a trajectory. You know, in the past I wouldn't necessarily have cared so much about saving for retirement, because the expectation was I wouldn't necessarily live to see it anyway. But it's just opened up so many possibilities. There was a short sort of period of about three, three and a half years after I'd lost the weight, but before COVID, where I could do things like travel and get out there and see the world and attend conferences and meet people such as yourself and others. Engage with the world, learn to have conversations with real people, it's still something I'm getting used to. It's still quite new to me. But it's been good so far, just with the absence of what I used to have. I have to be careful about how I think about it at times because, you know I think, “Well, why did this have to take so long? You know, what life experience has my weight and health history cost me”? And I have to be careful about how I approach that. And what I try and do instead is rather than, you know be angry about the past, because you can't change it, right? Yes, it was a struggle, but I'm there now and part of my reason for writing the book in the first place was to help me process a lot of those feelings. It was very therapeutic as an exercise in self-healing if you like and coming to terms with what had happened. And what I like to do now is rather than be angry about the past, I can just be grateful and have gratitude for what I have now. I've had that brief window to be able to travel and see the world pre-COVID. I can't wait for COVID to be over so we can get out in the world again and do some more of that. But to have that freedom of opportunity to just live life that was just not an option for me before is something I can be grateful for.
Dr Lucy Burns: Ah, absolutely, and you know what you've just done there is that you have used self-compassion as a tool. So I think we sometimes talk about these kind of three parts of ourselves. So for you it'd be past Brendan, present Brendan and future Brendan. And sometimes what happens is that past Brendan, you know makes decisions based on the information he has at the time and he's making the best decision he can at that at that time. And then present Brendan comes along and gets really angry at past Brendon for being you know, “Why didn't you do it sooner? I can't believe you waited so long”, and can be really quite nasty and berating, which is kind of normal except to realise that when you look back with compassion you can actually say, “You know what, I did the best I could at the time with the information that I had”.
Brendan Reid: That's exactly right and it ties into the what we were talking about before with hunger. To try and starve myself upfront, that just never worked. People ask me how it is that I'm able to get away with eating so little now and it's just because I'm not hungry. And the way I try and explain it is that, you know back in the day when I was hugely fat, I was just responding to my signals that my body was telling me, that it was time to eat, that I was hungry almost all the time. And I'm still doing exactly that now. I was eating to my hunger then, I'm eating to my hunger now. But it's the hunger itself, that has changed.
Dr Lucy Burns: Yep, beautiful. All right lovelies, I think we'll end it on that note. What an amazing story, I would certainly encourage you to go and look up Brendan's website, thefatgingernerd.com and go and buy his book. It's an amazing story and I think that you will all be inspired from it. Thank you so much, Brendan, for joining us. I really, really appreciated you sharing your story.
Brendan Reid: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Dr Lucy Burns: All right, lovelies. I will see you all, well you know, I always say that I'll see you, obviously I won't see you, but you'll hear me next week and I'll be back with another episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. Bye for now. So my lovely listeners that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns.
Dr Mary Barson: And I'm Dr Mary Barson. We're from Real Life Medicine. To contact us please visit https://www.rlmedicine.com
Dr Lucy Burns: And until next time, thanks for listening. The information shared on the real health and weight loss podcast, including show notes and links provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.