diet

Ejo #130 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Chris Diprose

I first met my friend Chris in 1995 when I was living with The Boys (shoutout to Andy, Matty and Mike) in a share-house called Delmore Mews. One day this tall, lanky 19 year old rookie cop just turned up and became part of the furniture (I’m assuming one of the guys invited him over, but who really knows, it was so many years ago 😉). Twenty five years later, we’re still in each other’s lives (and you might even recognise him from our big Vietnam motorcycle adventure of 2012). It’s funny, when you’ve known someone that long, you see them change and evolve and grow. Over the years I’ve watched Chris metamorphose many times, but a common thread in all of his evolutions has been his intensity and commitment to whatever he sets his mind to do. We may not always see eye to eye on everything, but something I’ve always admired about him is that he puts in the hours, he puts in the work and he goes all-in on whatever he focusses on. And I find that extraordinary. Which is why I wanted to talk to him for this ejo.

So Chris, you weren’t in the police force for very long before you moved into computer programming. And I’ve always been fascinated by how you then pivoted that into building a very successful online sex toy store. Walk me through the full three acts of that business.
So, I started out programming in 1998, and in 2006 I went travelling for a year. While I was away I got interested in search engine optimisation (SEO), which is structuring and marketing your website in such a way as to harness the traffic from search engines. When I returned from overseas I got more heavily interested in that, and it led me to work for a digital agency, as head of their Online Marketing, working with Honda, Bunnings, Myer and the like, to help them with their SEO strategy. When you’re helping other companies really push their brands, driving traffic to their websites, it’s not such a long jump to think, maybe I should be doing this for my own business.

So, I first started an online business with a good friend of mine, Pip, selling UGG boots. We grew the business so quickly that our boot supplier, Emu, actually withdrew supply of boots to our little company because they were worried about the impact our huge orders would have on the physical shops in the UK that were buying the same product. So one of Pip’s other friends bought my share (I made a bit of a profit from it) and they went on to manufacture their own brand.

After this experience I was thinking, “What is the most highly sought after product online?” Actually, it’s two things, more closely related than one might think! Baby stuff, and sex toys. Baby stuff includes clothing (which can be problematic for online sales due to sizing) and prams. Sex toys, in comparison, are small, light, discreet and people want them delivered. The choice was obvious to me. I started the business and quickly grew it to be in a very dominant position. We were #1 for all major terms in the search engines. We had big numbers of web traffic and sales. We were turning over large volumes of orders, and had around 8-10 employees at one point.

I did that for more than 12 years, and achieved so much running that business. It was an amazing time, and I swore I’d never work for anyone ever again. You should never say never! January 2020 rolled around, and I was on a plane back from Europe and business wasn’t doing great. The two biggest sex toy retailers in the world were now in the Australian market, they were importing container loads of product from their bases in the US and UK, they were undercutting me on prices with some products being sold below my wholesale cost price, and they were leveraging their big marketing power to push smaller players like me out of the market.

So yeah, in January of this year on that plane home I decided enough is enough. Time to draw a line under it, and try to find a role doing the same job for a larger company. Covid-19 put a pause on all of that, but I’ve been hunting on and off since March and meanwhile spending heaps of time with my son, running home-school, cooking, cleaning and trying to do my part for our house. Oh, if anyone knows of a position for Head of Digital or eCommerce Director, let me know!!

In my last ejo, you mentioned your health wake-up call which happened eight years ago when the doctor prescribed you statins. I can’t remember you ever being 40kg overweight, but your physique now is definitely closer to what you looked like when I first met you all those years ago. What happened in between?
I think because I’m 6’4″ I just didn’t seem that big. But I was 112cm around the belly, and 115kg on the scales. It wasn’t like it happened in one day. It was a slow creep in weight, every year adding a bit more, and a bit more, until whammo, I was “technically” obese. My BMI tipped into the 30 range, and then a few blood tests later the doctor was saying, “I think we might need to put you on statins”. Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, it happens because people wear their bodies down. It’s hormonal, and if you tax those hormones enough, you start to stack it on. I actually have a picture on the shelf from my graduation day at the Police Academy. I’m trimmer, and probably fitter now than I was back then. Much healthier too.

So tell us about the changes that you’ve made to your diet over the last eight years.
Holy moly, where do I start? So, about eight years ago I just started trying to eat more healthily. That meant cutting out fast food and eating more vegetables. I ate well, I ate organic, and I ate good home cooked foods from the food pyramid. So what happened? I put on more weight and ended up with a herniated belly button, insomnia, anxiety, inflamed glands on my neck and the back of my head, headaches every week, plus a whole raft of other health issues.

About five years ago, my wife Nicole and I watched “That Sugar Film” and I read the books “Pure White and Deadly” and “Sweet Poison”. Immediately after watching the movie we ditched all added sugar. Overall though, it wasn’t enough. I was still eating bread, potatoes, rice and pasta. These are the backbone of all weight gain problems, not table sugar specifically. Sugar and treats are obvious, but those four foods are core staples in the food pyramid (which, in my opinion, is so flawed it should probably be inverted). I kept reading many more books, and I managed to convince Nicole that we should try a low carb, ketogenic diet. And that massively improved everything. It was the step I needed to take to improve my health, and it worked 90%. It jumped my knowledge and understanding up a huge notch, and made dramatic improvements in all of my health markers, but more importantly I felt better – I felt more alive, more energetic, my brain fog lifted and there were plenty of other benefits. One year ago, after reading more and more, and thinking about things logically, from an evolutionary perspective, from a nature point of view, we went 100% carnivore. We now eat only animal products, and I have to say this last step sealed the deal, it nailed the final 10% of body and brain improvements. I’m now a 78-79cm waist, and I weigh 75-76kg on the scale.

I know some people think, wow that’s restrictive, or weird, but everything that goes into my mouth is simply delicious. Sure I do miss some things sometimes, but then I have some bacon and… well, it’s bacon, enough said. I’m not saying we’re so chaste that we don’t have dessert; sometimes, we do. But we recognise how we feel afterwards, and that we should probably try and avoid it in future.

I think there are many diets out there, that remove a lot of the foods that are toxins and you can survive on those diets long term, and probably live a great life, but ultimately we rest firmly on the shoulders of our ancestors for what our body thrives on. The difference is survive versus thrive. When did humans start eating meat? Approximately 3.5 million years ago. When did we start monocropping agriculture and eating grains? About 11,000 years ago. Evolution is interesting. We haven’t always eaten modern fruit, rice, bread, potatoes or pasta. So why are these bad? The upshot is that our body breaks down all of these foods into sugar; and sugar spikes insulin in our body. When you have insulin circulating in your body, any fat you have ingested in that same meal gets stored in your adipose tissue, and while you continue to feed your carbohydrate addiction, you’ll keep holding onto that fat, stacking on more and more over time. Possibly the worst thing someone can do is eat several high carbohydrate meals per day, but unfortunately that is precisely what dietary guidelines tell us to do. The interesting thing in my particular journey is that I eat nearly the same amount of calories that I used to eat, but I weigh 40kg less. It kind of makes you realise that calories, in terms of human nutrition, aren’t very informative. I should also note that weight loss has nothing to do with exercise. I did less exercise in losing that 40kg than I did before.

You grow, butcher and make a lot of the food that you eat, right? Tell us more about that.
Yes I do. I avoid all of the additives and processes that food from supermarkets goes through to reach the shelf, and stay there for months without refrigeration. Not all food is created equal and if you judge a food by price alone then you are missing the point of what healthy food really is – that’s not to say healthy food is more expensive, I personally save heaps of money by buying bulk and preparing my own food, but I always buy the best quality ingredients. I like to know where my food comes from, how it was produced and grown, and I like to know what it is made from precisely. Why? If we find that we are overweight, sick or unhealthy, then it is most likely linked directly to the inputs we have going into our body, and in my opinion 95% of that is food related. People don’t realise that getting older doesn’t mean you need to be fat, tired, unfit, anxious, sleep deprived or foggy minded. These are not normal, and you don’t need medications to “fix” them. The path of pharmaceuticals, as a solution, is a lifetime sentence of medication after medication, without end. The big pharmaceutical companies are not interested in curing your ills, they want you as a lifetime customer.

By self-analysing and correcting your path with a healthy diet of the most nutrient dense food you can buy, you get yourself off that conveyor belt to misery, you take control of your life, you liberate yourself from the clutches of the pharmaceutical industry. Why does this matter? People see their doctor maybe once or twice a year (if lucky), for about 15 minutes at a time. Doctors have little clue about you, about your health and at best, after pleasantries, they have 12 minutes to solve your ills. They take some blood tests and have no concept or understanding about what caused any of the issues that might crop up in those blood tests. The doctor won’t ask you what you eat, even though, as I said before, we have so few inputs that 95% of ill health has to come back to food and what you put in your mouth. So what, you might say? The doc said I’m fine. Well, yes, you’re fine until you’re not fine. You might be surviving, and you may or may not get sick. Or sometimes (like some friends of ours) you get that stage 4 cancer diagnosis, and given less than 12 months to live.

A while back, when I started thinking more deeply about health, I took it upon myself to study the leading causes of death. If I’m going to die of something, then I want to know as much as I can about it, and find out if there are ways that I can mitigate, or prevent it. The leading five causes of death in Australia? Coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, cancer and diabetes. How much do you know about them? And, why should you care? Death seems so far in the future. But the facts show that over the course of our lives 50% of us will get cancer, 13% will get coronary heart disease (and 50% of those will die from it), 35% will get diabetes, half of us will get Alzheimer’s and 40% of us are obese. We might well live to a ripe old age, but the last 20 years of our lives will be sick with disability.

One thing that these ills have in common is that they are all driven by chronic inflammation. In simple terms, inflammation is when your body is unable to differentiate good cells from bad, putting your body into a constant state of attacking itself. This is all driven by the inputs that we have going into our body, that confuse and distract our immune system. Imagine you’re in your castle circa 1066, and an army walks up to the front gate and starts attacking you. Meanwhile another army walks up to your western flank, and then your eastern flank. Your immune system is now forced into fighting battles on three fronts, on an ongoing basis, forever. Forces and defences are divided. Is it any wonder that the immune system might then miss the single assassin who scales the southern wall, that single cancer cell which is left unnoticed and is able to enter the castle and assassinate the king.

So, viewed from that lens of knowing we have very few inputs (with a huge impact), then it makes perfect sense that I’d want to know what is going in, and knowing that it’s the best I can possibly get – and making my own is the only way to do that. Fortunately, the best foods are produced at home, from quality ingredients, so I choose to do that. Over the last few years I’ve learned how to make many different kinds of cheeses: ricotta, hard cheese, soft cheese. I make salamis, prosciutto, and pancetta. I make Greek style yogurt, I have butchered a steer, a lamb and a pig in the past, and I’ll continue to do things like that. I plan to get a gun licence, to hunt deer and possibly slaughter and butcher a steer myself. In the past, I have also made sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and sourdough bread, but these all went by the wayside when we turned carnivore. I also make chicken liver pâté, I smoke many different meats (bacon, brisket, burgers, sausages, etc.), and I bought a griddle not that long ago, which gets a big workout every day for burgers. We also have a lot of berry plants and fruit trees, for those occasional desserts.

Another aspect to this is, what are we evolved to eat? Are we evolved to eat apples, which were only cultivated 5000 years ago? That equates to just a minute on the evolutionary clock. Apples used to be small, sour and unpalatable, but they have been cultivated in the last few hundred years to be big and sweet. Are we evolved to eat that? Bananas are five times bigger and sweeter than they were even just 300 years ago. Are we evolved to eat that?

Now consider meat, which is the reason we came down from the trees 3.5 million years ago. Our brains grew, and we evolved to hunt animals. Are we to believe that our oldest food, the food our brain evolved with, is to be lower on the list of things to eat than bananas, wheat, corn, soy or pea-protein? According to the food pyramid, it is. That doesn’t make sense to me. The question I ask is, are we adapted to thrive on those foods, or are we capable of just surviving on them? A great resource on the topic of what humans are designed to eat is Dr. Barry Groves.

So, what does a typical day of eating look like for you?
Around 10am I eat my main meal, which is typically 600g of ground beef in six burgers, on the griddle. It’s all local, regenerative beef. Then, eight eggs yolks, raw; local and direct from the farmer. Also 100g of homemade chicken liver pâté made from local chickens, free range, organic and no soy.

At around 2-3pm I whisk up the egg whites that I didn’t eat at brekky, and I turn them into meringue (no sugar or anything else added). They’re probably too plain for those who eat sugar normally, but they’re awesome to me. On some days, if I’m still hungry I might also have a bunch of chicken wings. Or some homemade scotch eggs, or some sausages, or bacon, or salami or cold cuts (I made smoked brisket the other day, nom nom), or maybe some more burgers or other animal product.

Do you think you’ll continue to eat like this for the rest of your life?
The other side to this question is what would be the consequences of returning to the way I ate before? Pretty dire if you ask me. At every point in my diet, as I’ve moved more towards animal-only foods, I’ve become healthier. And at this point I’ve never been healthier, never felt better, never been fitter, never been stronger, never been able to put on muscle so quickly or easily, never recovered from physical exertion so quickly, never had a clearer mind or been more calm. I cannot see myself changing the way I eat, I eat like a king! Having said that, I am not so dogmatic as to think that my way is the only way, or that I am the only healthy person. But I do know what is working for me. I’ve found a comfortable spot, I listen to my body and how it responds to foods, and I react accordingly. I do occasionally have non-animal food that really adversely affects me, and that simply reinforces the need to avoid it.

You mentioned something while we were chatting for the “(It’s Easy) Bein’ Green” ejo that intrigued me and I’m curious to learn more about that, if that’s OK. You said, “To explain the natural carbon cycle and why cows can save us – that’s another ejo unto itself”. What did you mean by that?
Okay, so I’ll explain this in simple terms. Cows are bad, right? Most people think so anyway. They produce methane, therefore we should stop, or reduce, eating meat. But the reality of the situation couldn’t be further from the truth. Cows can, and are the only proven way to, sequester carbon back into the soil, which is the best way to lock it back up.

Why is cow-produced methane/carbon not as bad as thought? The oil and fossil fuels that we dig up from the ground have no natural way to be sequestered back into it. These are simply dug up from where they were sequestered 50 million years ago, and they are burned and released into the atmosphere. There are no simple or natural pathways for that 50 million year old carbon to be stored back in the ground where it came from. It’s just added to the carbon in the atmosphere.

On the other hand, herbivores like cows and sheep are part of a natural carbon cycle, which means that when used in combination with their natural environment they are carbon negative (or at the very worst carbon neutral). A cow cannot produce more carbon (methane) than it consumes; it only produces what was already stored in that grass. If cattle populations remain stable, and the cattle are fed grass (their natural diet) then it is impossible to be net positive methane/carbon.

OK, I’m not entirely sure I understand how that works. Can you break it down for me?
Okay, so the rumen on a cow is a digestion tank, it is simply a vat that contains the plant material chewed and swallowed by the cow as well as a whole bunch of bacteria (which the cow has a symbiotic relationship with). That bacteria breaks down the fibre and plant material, and then through the process of moving through the four chambers, the cow’s stomach consumes the bacteria. Believe it or not, cows don’t actually live on grass, they live on the bacteria. Their diet actually yields about 60% fat, which is amazing because grass contains practically 0% fat. And the bacteria inside the cow’s rumen is identical to the bacteria that digest and consume organic material outside of the rumen, out on the field, under trees, in grasslands and all around us.

So, no matter if the cow eats the grass or if we leave the grass to be consumed by bacteria those same gases contained within the grass are released into the atmosphere. The bonuses of running that grass through the cow is that we produce food, we produce high nutrient fertilisers (urine and manure), we produce soil (undigested fibre and plant material), and we do this in an environment where other animals are welcome and can thrive. Leaving the grass on the ground does nothing to sequester the carbon contained within the grass back into the soil. The grass just sits on top of the ground, it decomposes, and those gases are released into the atmosphere. If however the cow chews and trims the top of the grass, then the grass plant has to root prune, meaning that the plant selects some of its roots to “shut off” and rot in the ground. It no longer has the need for so many roots, and that equals carbon now being stored in the soil. Basically, cows eating grass equals carbon sequestration, and if managed properly can become a huge carbon sink.

Sustainability is no longer a saviour for our environment. We need to have ways to regenerate our land, and regenerate our soil. We only have about 30-50 years of harvests left in our croplands. I hope that sinks in; 30 years of wheat left, and that’s it. And, 90% of current arable land is already in use, so we cannot simply move to the next field and just start doing the same thing again. The current growth of crops is utterly dependent on NPK fertiliser, produced with fossil fuels – which is unsustainable. When you eat corn, soy, wheat, peas and oats, that’s all grown with petrol. Without that fossil fuel you would not be able to produce the crop in our modern food systems.

What we need to do is change the way we think about soil. Were it not for soil we would not exist. That 15cm of topsoil surrounding our planet is why there is life on earth, and why we are able to live. Soil grows our plants, it filters our water and it provides carbon storage to keep our atmospheric temperature stable. Soil is a living organism, with billions of living things in every teaspoon of it.

One of the biggest criticisms of cows being on pasture is that they degrade the land, and this is why proper management with regenerative agriculture is so important. It keeps the cattle moving, not allowing them enough time in one place to degrade the soil. It mimics nature, in that the cattle eat the grass, drop urine and manure, and then move on within a matter of days. This is how predator and prey work; the predator keeps the prey moving, not allowing it to stay in one spot for too long. Unfortunately most of the big predators are gone, and so we need to step in and move cows in paddocks frequently. This is regenerative agriculture, and combined with crop production it fertilises the soil for crops, produces beef and sequesters more carbon in the soil than is emitted.

When you talk about sequestering carbon, the first thing that comes into my mind is trees.
Trees burn. The roots of plants don’t. A tree stores most of its carbon above ground, and when you have the 2019 tinder-dry conditions that we experienced in Australia and California, then you end up with a years’ worth of Australia’s carbon emissions being burned into the atmosphere in four months – just from those trees burning. And that’s on top of our usual power generation and fossil fuel burning emissions. Prairie grasslands sequester their carbon into the soil with root pruning, root exudates and soil life. So, if a fire sweeps through a grassland, sure the top of the grass gets burned, but soon enough that grass is growing again and is often refreshed and renewed, with more vigour. Grass is far more efficient in growing than trees, and grass is far more efficient in storing carbon than trees. Perennial grasses penetrate the soil deeply, allowing for more water storage, more resilience and better drought resistance for land. Forests and trees have their place, but they are not the solution to sequestering carbon in the soil, and they are not fast enough, nor bankable enough, long term. Grasslands coupled with cattle are our bankable, and proven, way to sequester carbon back into the soil, regenerate those soils, regenerate landscapes and feed people.

People might rightly ask the question, so how can I use this information? Well, if you want to be good for the planet then you need to buy local, buy directly from farmers, buy in-season food, buy food that helps improve the environment (regenerative beef, chicken, eggs) and recognise that food which is grown overseas or far away is not only grown with fossil fuels but also needs to be transported to your location, and is likely grown in ways that you have no control over.

OK, but if everyone were to buy local there wouldn’t be enough to go around, would there? How can we fix the problem of supply, without the farmers having to increase their output to the point that the quality of their produce is compromised. It seems like the huge number of people that need to be fed on earth make it difficult to escape that cycle.
There are a couple of fallacies here. That more natural growing practices are somehow less productive, and that we need to produce more food to feed the world. Regenerative agriculture land is actually more productive because it can be stacked and utilised in non-traditional cropping seasons for other food production, e.g. grazing animals in the off season. Not only that, the soil is also more productive and is known to produce more bushels per acre than non-regenerative agriculture land. The current methods are leading to collapse, where croplands will no longer be usable. So, how can we continue doing the same thing? That’s the very definition of insanity!

A factory-farm setup, where animals are crowded into pens, fed feed and then marched off to a slaughter house, is arguably one of the most destructive production systems. While you might only see the small spaces the animals are kept in, and as exploitative as they are, they are only part of the picture. In that factory-farm, the steer are fed corn because it fattens them up the fastest. That corn is grown in a monocrop environment (and, as Jared Diamond puts it, the single most destructive thing humans ever did to the planet was inventing the plough). They kill all the animals on that land, they churn up the soil, they grow annual plants that again ruin the soil, they spray the crops with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, they shoot any large predators, they poison mice, and then when they harvest the crop they leave nowhere safe for any of these animals to live, so predators (like snakes or birds of prey) finish off the ones that are left.

And, not only that, cattle aren’t even evolved to eat corn. The animals get sick, and if they were fed corn for much more than a few months they would likely die of some kind of illness anyway. Meanwhile in a regenerative farm, the steer is on grass, eating its natural food, in its natural environment, with no stresses. It’s not standing in its own manure day after day, it’s healthy, and it doesn’t need hormone and disease shots. Sure it takes about two to three months longer to grow to a mature size steer ready for slaughter, but you’re seeing the entire system all in one place. This environment encourages other animals, and the soil flourishes with life. And the cows are about as close to their natural evolved environment as they can possibly be. Then they have one single bad moment on one single day, when they are killed and turned into the most nutrient dense food on the planet.

Farmers already feed the world. But a lot of that food goes to countries that don’t need it, and waste it. There are countless examples of poor countries shipping their main staple of cropped food to rich Western countries because it can be sold for more money than locally. This is food inequality, and it’s not sustainable. There is already enough food in this world to feed everyone, in fact we can probably feed up to ten billion people without any increase in production. We just have to waste less, and give food to the right places.

My question is, knowing this, how can we continue to do things the existing way? How can anyone continue to support that kind of system? We have to escape that cycle of thinking that humans are smarter than nature, of thinking that we know better, that we can improve on nature and spray chemicals and fossil fuels on things to defeat nature. We cannot defeat nature, and it’s complete hubris to think that we can. Most wheat is sprayed with pesticide right before harvest to make it dry up and to make it easier for processing. Yum! Rice is sprayed several times during growing. A strawberry typically has over 40 different chemical compounds on it while sitting on the supermarket shelf. If you’re not buying spray-free, then all grains, fruit and vegetables that you consume have numerous pesticides, insecticides and herbicides on them. So do we keep producing food this way or do we look for ways to produce foods that are safer and better for humans, while regenerating the environment? Nature has shown us the way, we just need to get off the chemical bandwagon and observe nature, mimic the ways it produces food. There is a better way, it’s productive, it’s beyond sustainable and it’s already being practised by many producers. We, as consumers, just need to make those smart choices to choose to reward the farmers and ranchers who are producing food in a way that benefits our environment and produces quality nutrient dense food.

There is a sense, to me, of huge cognitive dissonance when it comes to what people eat, and the effect it has on the planet. It seems like it’s easier to just not worry about it, and to live in ignorant bliss. How frustrated do you get?
Cognitive dissonance implies that people have investigated, and then ignored, the facts in reaching a conclusion counter to all logic. Everyone wants to believe their way is right, that they cannot be wrong. A vegan will see plant-based food on their plate and think that no animal died for them to eat it. That this makes them the best human being they can be, a force for good. Unfortunately life is vastly more complicated than that, and just because you don’t see an animal product on your plate doesn’t mean many animals didn’t die to grow that plant food. The truth is that growing and eating vegetables, grains and fruit results in far more death than eating animals as your main food source.

I don’t think it’s cognitive dissonance on the part of most people though, I think it’s just not understanding, or really needing to understand. “Everyone knows oats are a healthy breakfast!” “Fruit juice is so healthy!” Why bother investigating that oats turn into sugar, if your doctor hasn’t told you that you’re a diabetic? Why bother finding out that those oats are grown in monocrops, and how many animals died to grow them? Why investigate cholesterol if your doctor hasn’t uttered the words, “We might need to put you on a statin”? But it makes sense that people need to be prodded, or pushed into change. For instance, the food pyramid must be right, yeah? I mean, experts investigated it and produced a pyramid of food. Most people don’t realise how much impact lobbyists, bad science and politics had in producing that dodgy food pyramid. Most people don’t know that for 99.999% of human history we have never eaten so many carbohydrates. And then there’s all the crap nutritional “knowledge” out there. That all calories are equal, saturated fat is bad, fruit and vegetables are necessary, cholesterol is bad, you need fibre, you can be a healthy vegan and plenty more.

I just don’t give much of a hoot what others think, or what they do. On social media, I used to debate vegans. I don’t do that anymore. Now, when I think about commenting online, I try and live by the Warhol quote, “When people are ready to, they change. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them”. We all live such privileged lives, in such a privileged country, and it’s easy to forget that we are all a part of nature, we are just animals and because of that we have weaknesses. One of those is our inbuilt desire for certain foods, and unfortunately there are many companies and forces working against us, against our health, trying to manipulate us into eating their foods.

So, it’s not frustrating for me per se. Everyone has to live their own life, and live it the way that they want to. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not their own set of facts. I guess my ideas might sound like fringe theories or concepts to some, but all of what I’ve said about diet is being practised by many thousands of doctors with great success for their patients, and what I’ve said about farming methods is being practised at large scale with great success by thousands of farmers around the world. These are not new concepts, they are old concepts being practiced in the modern era.

So this has been a pretty intense, but really informative chat. Thank you Chris. For those who are interested in learning more, can you recommend some resources for people to read up on?
Watch Allan Savory’s TED Talk. Read “Dirt to Soil”, by Gabe Brown, “Sacred Cow”, by Diana Rogers, “Cows Save the Planet”, by Judith Schwartz, “Defending Beef”, by Nicolette Hahn Niman, “The Vegetarian Myth”, by Lierre Keith, “A New Green History of the World”, by Clive Ponting, “Guns, Germs and Steel”, by Jared Diamond and “On Eating Meat”, by Matthew Evans.

Happy and healthy.

Ejo #107 – My Diary: I’m Sweet Enough

DAY #1
Today was supposed to be Day 2 of giving up sugar but yesterday I caved in and ate all the chocolate in the house after dinner. It’s best to not have chocolate in the house if you’re trying to give up sugar and so it just seemed like a good idea to start today instead.

So why am I even giving up sugar in the first place? Listen guys, I’ve known for years that sugar is bad for me. Not just because of what I’ve read about it, but by the way my body responds when I eat it. That shit is pure poison!!! It creates so many health problems and the fact that it is so devilishly addictive should ring alarm bells for anyone who’s unable to resist it. It’s basically the legal version of cocaine. If you’re not sure about that, take a look at this PET scan of the brain after dosing up on both drugs. They stimulate the EXACT same regions of the brain, dumping dopamine galore into your system – that’s the reward neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. Only problem? You feel pretty shit, pretty soon afterwards with both substances. And… you always want more.

sugar coke

Is it just me or is sugar even MORE potent than cocaine in this picture?

But just like a coke addict that decides to go clean, if you make the choice to give it up then you can. I’m sure it’s not going to be super easy, but I know I’ll reap many benefits. Come along for the ride, why don’t you!

DAY #2
Not a bad day. My sugar weakness tends to rear it’s disgusting head mostly on my days off work. But I worked today so it just wasn’t a problem. I got home from work at 10.30pm and the sugar danger moments have usually passed by then. I’m glad I have another afternoon shift tomorrow because I think Day 3 is when the cravings start, if I remember correctly. Eek!

I have given up sugar before, a couple of times. The longest time, by far, was in the early 2000s when I went on a pretty strict Atkins diet. For a couple of years I didn’t indulge in much (if any) sugar at all. I remember not even eating birthday cake on my birthday. I mean, REALLY!!!! I would go to fancy restaurants and either have the cheese plate for dessert, or ask them for a bowl of strawberries or even go without (GASP!!!). This kind of behaviour seems a lifetime ago now, but I sure would love to get back to a place where it’s totally natural to not even crave sweets. That’s my end goal here. Wish me luck!

DAY #3
So, I’ve decided to give up booze at the same time as I give up sugar. Yay!! Life is fun.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the lack of booze, or the lack of sugar, but I am experiencing insane energy. It’s nearly 1am in the morning, after a long-ass day, and I’m writing this post bouncing around like an Energiser bunny listening to disco music. If I could harness this shit, I’d be fucking queen of the universe! It’s an amazing feeling. Especially as whenever I do drink alcohol and eat sugar regularly, I just feel like shit. And so lethargic. You’ll find me napping constantly. It’s such a drag. Why the hell do I put myself through that?

DAY #4
For the record, even though I am probably the chubbiest I’ve been in several years that’s not the reason I’m giving up sugar. Of course I am also working on losing those extra kilos, but the sugar thing is 100% to do with my health. Over the years I have become hyper aware of the effect it has on my body and my state of mind. When I eat sugar, my heart starts racing and I feel jittery. Shortly afterwards my mind invariably fogs over and I can’t think clearly. I become irritable and unmotivated. Things slide. I wake up puffy and achy every damn morning. And I just can’t say no to more.

Look, I know there are conflicting studies regarding what sugar does inside our bodies. And I know which ones I believe. I believe them because I’ve seen the undesirable effects of sugar on myself. And that’s good enough for me.

DAY #5
I am really tired today after working a night shift last night. Like REALLY tired, but I’m still up at 11pm and not feeling the brain tiredness that sugar gives me. I’m tired, but my brain is still switched on. The sugar tiredness is something that totally overwhelms me, like my body is shutting down. And why wouldn’t it? You realise when you give something like this up, how delicately balanced your internal systems are, and how much you can really fuck them up with what you put in your body. I really do hope that this challenge is paving the way for me to permanently give up sugar.

In case you’re interested, I’m avoiding all types of sugars. I’m not eating anything processed – no white flour, no white rice, no breads or cereals (all of which are converted into glucose in the body if not immediately used for energy). No chocolate, no lollies, no cakes or cookies. No fruit, even. And certainly no fruit juice. No soft drinks. Nuthin’!!!! As I mentioned earlier, I’m even avoiding alcohol right now. That’s how fucking dedicated I am to doing this. And I need to be. I simply can’t do moderation. I’m an all-or-nothing girl and I always have been. Nothing half-assed for me! I do plan to reintroduce alcohol at some point. Natch! But I don’t need to eat ice-creams or chocolate. Not ever again.

DAY #6
When I’ve given up sugar in the past, someone might offer me something sweet and when I politely decline, they’ll say something like:

“Go on, one won’t hurt you.”

“Honey is natural, it’s not like processed sugar.”

“But it’s fruit! Fruit is good for you.”

“Everything is OK in moderation.”

“But it’s Easter/Christmas/your birthday!!!”

But when you give up sugar that means ALL sugar. Including honey – once it’s down your gullet, your body can’t tell the difference between sugar and honey anyway. And including fruits, especially the high fructose ones like watermelons, bananas, cherries, apples and mangoes. Why do you think they’re so delicious!! Coz they’re packed full of evil sweetness is why! Just because something is natural doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Or that it’s good for you. Every single date has 4.5g sugar. That’s over a teaspoon. A medium banana has the equivalent of nearly four teaspoons of sugar. Mangoes? They come in at over 46 grams of sugar each. So every time you feel like eating a whole damn mango you might as well put down the fruit, shimmy on over to the sugar jar and dip your teaspoon into that about eleven times instead. ELEVEN!!! Isn’t that craziness?

Listen guys, I don’t expect you to listen to me – I’m doing this for me, not you. And I’m no expert on the matter either. Also, this is not a “wellness” blog. This is a Chryss blog. I’ve read a lot on the matter. I’ve experienced a lot on the matter. And I know that sugar is bad, for me (I also know it’s bad for you but I’m not here to kick any heads in – you’re old enough to make your own decisions).

DAY #7
OK, so it’s been a week now and – well, it ain’t no thang! I’m yet to experience any withdrawals or weird symptoms. Nary a craving to be seen. What’s going on? Is it yet to come? I’ve been reading other people’s accounts of giving up sugar and they talk about headaches and visual problems, light-headedness and irritability. I’ve had none of those things. Others complain of muscle aches and pains, cramping and nausea. Even confusion and fever. I mean, for fuck’s sake – how much sugar were these people eating???

I binge on sugar, when I do eat it. But I don’t eat it often. So maybe that’s why the symptoms haven’t come. When I indulge, I’ll usually slam down a three or four day free-for-all, feel like crap afterwards and then come off sugar for weeks at a time, if not months. Then I’ll do it again. So while the amounts of sugar I do in those binge periods is A LOT, perhaps the irregularity of it means that my body doesn’t physically become addicted to it?? Of course I’m speculating. Maybe I’ll be hit by a semi-trailer of muscle weakness and confusion tomorrow. Maybe I’ll get pounded by a meteor of diarrhoea, chills and depression. All common symptoms of sugar withdrawal, apparently. Doesn’t that sound fun kids?!!! Who says sugar’s bad for you.

DAY #8
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Guess what happened this morning??

Yep, grogginess, puffiness, muscle aches, fatigue, headache and light-headedness. Oh yeah, and irritability. Oh my god, the irritability. I was a fucking nightmare all day long. Poor David, I don’t know how he put up with me. Hey, I just experienced sugar withdrawals, folks. I guess I’m human after all.

DAY #9
Well, thank fuck that’s over!! Yesterday was not fun. I actually got a little depressed. But you know what? Being armed with the knowledge of what was going on with my body and my mind really helped me deal better with all of it. I am certain now (and no longer in denial) that in the past I have experienced these withdrawals and just not known what they were. Just figured I was having a shit day. Now, I know.

DAY #10
Well, I almost feel back to normal after that major slump a couple of days ago – though my energy levels, sadly, still aren’t as high as they were before I got pummelled by the withdrawals. I’m hoping they do get back there because I was totally flying high on the amount of energy I had. It was supernatural!!! Certainly not the normal level of energy I’m used to operating with. Does everyone walk around with such an insane amount of energy? I bet the answer is NO! Because most people eat sugar in one form or another. It’s an epidemic guys!

DAY #11
Not much to say today. I did think about what a colossal commitment it is to give up sugar forever, and to be honest, after delving deeply into my psyche, I’m not sure that I can give it up forever. But I know I should. I feel so much better for not having had any sugar for eleven days. Why wouldn’t I want to keep feeling this way? I guess this is the psychological addiction kicking in now. It feels sad to think about never having my Mum’s galaktoboureko ever again. Or my mother-in-law’s coconut ice! I can’t reconcile living the rest of my life never eating another dessert. It’s just a bit depressing having to say goodbye to that stuff. Less for the sugar part of it and more for the ritual, social, celebratory aspect of it. I know I’m going through a phase of mourning. I can’t wait until I get to the acceptance part.

DAY #12
I had a shocker of a headache today. A real motherfucker of a headache. And no, friends, it wasn’t a hangover. How do I know? Because I haven’t touched alcohol in thirteen days. So what caused it? I go to bed early, I get up early. I’m not eating sugar. I’m eating a varied and nutritious calorie controlled diet (and actually sticking to it). I am exercising three to four times a week. SO WHY DID MY HEAD HURT SO BAD?????

David has suggested that perhaps those sugar withdrawals are still at play and I guess that seems to be the most plausible answer. I suppose this is the price you pay for giving up an addiction. But it’s a small price when you think of the myriad of health problems I’ll potentially be dodging down the line – diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, dementia, tooth decay, inflammation, obesity and (according to some studies) increased risk of some cancers. I’ll take a headache any day of the week.

DAY #13
I am still avoiding sugar. BUT….. today I had a flat white made with coconut milk. Is that cheating? I dunno. You know what else I did? I had wine. Is that cheating? Again, I dunno. If you want to be all technical about it (which, incidentally, I don’t) then yes, I fucked up. If you want to look at it from the point of view that I didn’t eat any goddamn gummy bears or a whole tub of Häagen-Dazs ice-cream then no, everything is cool. Make up your own minds.

DAY #14
Here’s what I found out while researching sugar addiction. You know when you eat a lot of something, eventually you have enough and just don’t want anymore? That’s called satiety. In other words, you’re satisfied. Nature, in all of her wondrous glory, designed the human body that way. So that we eat only as much as we need. But guess what? Way back when nature was shaping us, sugar wasn’t really something that was in large supply. A berry here, a fruit there – and it was good for us to gorge on the stuff. Mostly because there wasn’t that much around. So in those quantities, it was beneficial to eat as much as we could. It gave us the energy to outrun those sabre-toothed lions on the prowl. But, as an evolutionary result of that, the human body never developed an off-switch when it comes to fructose. Your body simply does not tell you when you have had enough, because it doesn’t know. And the sneaky thing about fructose is, when you have it you actually crave more. And in today’s world of sugar, it means that most of us are having WAY more of it than is good for us.

I honestly think that one day we’ll look back on sugar the way we now look at cigarettes. A ridiculously dangerous and addictive product marketed as something harmless. And we will shake our heads in disbelief.

DAY #15
I generally eat a healthy diet. I don’t eat a lot of fast food or candy or sugary desserts. Good for me, right? Not really. There are shitload of hidden sugars in food generally considered “healthy”. We’ve already talked about the fruit myth. But I’m talking about other stuff that you might not even realise is packed full of sugar. Don’t believe me?

A small tub of flavoured Yoplait yoghurt packs a ridiculous seven teaspoons of sugar. How about we stick to plain Greek yoghurt.

Some muesli bars are sweetened with up to three TABLESPOONS of sugar. Let’s grab a handful of nuts instead.

Instant oatmeal contains up to 14 grams of sugar. Better make our own.

Fruit smoothies might sound like a healthy choice but may be loaded with up to 70g of sugar per serving.  I’ll have a glass of water, thanks!

What this means is that if you truly want to avoid all sugars, you need to check the label. In an ideal world none of us would be buying processed food anyway. Stick to the fresh veggie, meat and fish sections and it’s much easier to really eat healthily.

DAY #16
I have fallen off the no-booze wagon a couple of times since giving up sugar. I’m not super thrilled about it, but I am pretty happy that even though I’ve been tipsy I haven’t succumbed to the lure of sugary treats. That’s usually when I slip into those binges I mentioned earlier. And that makes sense because, let’s be honest, when you’re drunk you don’t really make the best decisions. Your inhibitions are out the window, and suddenly you can find very logical reasons for doing things that you know you probably shouldn’t. What I’m proud of this time is that even though I did drink alcohol I didn’t even think about having something sweet.

DAY #17
Fuck you sugar!!! Who’s the bitch now???

DAY #18
Big Sugar. That’s what the sugar industry is known as – part of the Big Food behemoth that influences governments, writes their own policy and publishes studies that are skewed towards showing their products in a good light. Whether you agree that sugar is bad for you or not, you should probably be aware of the role that the sugar industry plays in your life.

Thirty-one countries have implemented a tax on sugar drinks in the hope of reducing what is now a global obesity epidemic. Australia? Not so much. And I wonder why, because we are now amongst the fattest people on earth. Yep, I said it. Australians are fatties.

sugar graph
So, let’s look at the reason that Australia hasn’t even considered a tax on sugary drinks when experts project that a 20% hike in sugar drinks could net a $1.73 billion dollar saving in healthcare costs over the current population’s lifetime. That is an enormous benefit that seems relatively easy to achieve! So why is the government not jumping on board the potential $500 million dollar tax windfall (being the tax-hungry entity that it is). In Australia, the Beverages Council spends millions of dollars every year in political donations, lobbying and wooing politicians. What do you think they want in return for that investment? What’s in it for them? Guess! All those dollars are spent so that they can control the politicians who supposedly represent us, the people. And the people are getting more and more obese and sick as time goes on. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark (or Australia, as the case may be).

Sure, it’s a free world, and we can all stop eating sugar if we want – no-one is shoving the stuff in our gobs. But so many people don’t even know the health risks that sugar actually poses. Or how addictive it is.  What’s sickening is that the government does know.

DAY #19
So, I’ve avoided sugar almost completely for 19 whole days. But… I have started drinking wine again. Does this mean I’m consuming HIDDEN SUGARS????? Am I a big fat hypocrite? Who am I trying to fool? Am I fooling myself? What’s going on? I don’t know!

I decided to do a little research.

Turns out that wine, beer and most spirits are actually OK to drink if you are avoiding sugar because all the fructose they started off with when they were grapes is converted into alcohol during fermentation. Huzzah! That doesn’t mean they aren’t high in calories or carbs or whatever other thing you might be counting that day. But it’s good to know that it isn’t affecting your blood sugars. Or mine, anyway. Fortified wines, champagne and sparkling wines on the other hand – I need to stay away from those. It’s a small sacrifice to pay. I’m not saying I’ll never drink champagne again – we all know that would be a lie. But for now, I’ll steer clear.

Day #20
So tonight, David and I went on a walking food tour of Dubai (stand by for an ejo about it). Unbeknownst to me when I booked this tour, it was extremely dessert heavy. Which was a shame; but also awesome. Because I actually managed to say no to all the delicious sweeties that were offered throughout the tour. I am so proud of myself that I didn’t succumb. I’ll be honest – I almost did give in to temptation. I even rationalised that I could write about my transgression and kind of dissect the reasons why I succumbed. But then I thought about how the biggest test of giving something up is not when it’s easy to give it up, but when it’s hard. And I feel amazing for it. Yay, me!

DAY #21
Only three more days left of this challenge and I’m really feeling like it’s something that I will continue with. Unlike giving up alcohol, which never feels like it’s going to be a permanent thing for me, this one feels good to give up for good. And of the two evils, sugar is definitely the one that I think is the eviler.

The evilest??

The mostest evil!

DAY #22
I’m so excited to have broken (or gone some way towards breaking) the spell that sugar had on me. I don’t think it’ll be worth it to slide back into eating it. This is a better way of life. I have even (accidentally) lost a couple of kilos along the way.

DAY #23
Writing a blog about giving something up definitely helps keep me in check. I’m wondering if I’ll be as disciplined once this experiment is over. I intend to be. I’m at the age now where I really need to start thinking about what the quality of my life is going to be like over the next twenty or thirty years. And I know it will be a lot better for giving up sugar. It’s decision time.