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I am a New Zealand registered nurse and nutritionist (Grad Cert Sci: nutrition, Massey Univ). I am a Certified Zone Instructor, and have worked teaching Zone diet principles to hundreds of clients over the last 10 years. More recently after finding that eating Paleo food choices was the "icing on the cake" health wise, I have become a Paleo enthusiast and teacher. Follow me on twitter @juliannejtaylor

How did Simon Gault lose weight and shrink his pancreas and liver fat? In “Why Are We Fat?”

If you watched the series called “Why Are We Fat?” on Prime TV in New Zealand over the last 3 weeks, you would have followed Chef Simon Gault’s journey as he talked to experts around the world in a bit to find out why we have an epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Note: This series is also showing on Qantas Airways flights, and you can also watch all 3 episodes on Prime TV Catch-up here

You would also have seen Simon’s results:

  • Waist measurement 11cm less
  • Fat loss 8.5 kg, muscle gain nearly 1 kg
  • BMI 31 to 27.5
  • Body fat loss 40% to 33.5%
  • Superficial fat no change (not a problem as this is not the dangerous fat)
  • Visceral fat 14.5% to 9.5%
  • Liver fat 33.7% to 25.3%
  • Pancreatic fat 10.8% to 5.7% (normal healthy level is 5% or below)
  • Increase in fitness from below 15th percentile to 42nd percentile

The big question that most people are asking is “how did Simon do this?”

Simon got spectacular results, even more impressive when you see how crazy busy his life is; a large amount of travel for both filming and his life as a chef, developing products, running a business, and not to mention a busy family life as a dad to his little girl.

Here I outline the advice that Simon was given – this was to focus on reducing his visceral fat and organ fat, reduce his blood sugar, and increase his insulin sensitivity.

(Note – I am in the process of finishing an E-book with a lot more detailed advice, however these basics should answer your questions)
The advice also took into account his gene test results – Simon did the Carb Choice test for copies of AMY1 salivary amylase genes (See this post:Your carbohydrate tolerance – is it written in your genes? AMY1 copy numbers) 

He also did the FitGenes Health and Wellbeing test – available through FitGenes trained practitioners in New Zealand and Australia. (FitGenes DNA testing)

Information gained from the gene tests:

  • Simon does not tolerate starchy carbohydrates (low AMY1 copy numbers)
  • Saturated fat is not a good choice for fat (FTO genes)
  • The message to stop eating is not heard strongly by his brain, this means portion control is useful to make sure he doesn’t overeat
  • Exercise is crucial for results, general activity, high intensity exercise and weight resistance exercise, however due to a propensity to higher levels of oxidative stress – it should not be overdone.

Dietary Advice from Mikki Williden nutritionist:

1. Eat about a palm size of protein (eggs, poultry, meat, or seafood) at every meal – this helps with satiety – i.e. stopping hunger. It is also critical to maintain a good level of protein while dropping calories as it stops you losing muscle mass, and as Dr Stephan Guyenet said – your body does not think it is starving when there is adequate protein. It also keeps up your metabolic rate. Protein is the building block of muscle, and eating protein 3 times a day in addition to resistance exercise ensures that muscle has the best chance of being built. Simon gained muscle which is great (most people lose muscle when they diet) this was entirely due to adequate protein food and resistance exercise.

This graph gives a you an idea of how much protein food is needed at each meal to ensure that you have 30 grams net. We are told that legumes and nuts are good sources of protein, while they are sources of protein you need to eat a lot to get to 30 grams – and in the process you eat a lot of carbs (legumes) or fat (cheese and nuts), and that comes with extra calories, not a great idea if you need to lose weight. In Simon’s case Mikki recommended leaner cuts of poultry and meat, eggs, and seafood for omega 3 the anti-inflammatory essential fat.

2. Cut out all refined carbohydrates and added sugar. All carbohydrates turn to glucose and people with type 2 diabetes cannot easily remove glucose from the bloodstream. (This is insulin resistance) Refined grains, processed foods like cereal, crackers, bakery products, pasta and rice are particularly concentrated forms of rapidly digested starch that turn directly into glucose, as Mikki said – best avoided. And of course, avoid ALL food with added or free sugar. Eat vegetables freely, especially the low starch ones instead. Eat your fruit whole, never juiced. Fruit is best limited for people with type 2 diabetes as the sugar content of your diet can affect blood glucose.

These 2 carbohydrate graphs give you the amount of carbohydrates per 100 grams of food. Stick to the lower carbohydrate vegetables and fruit. Avoid all the foods at the top half of each graph, those above 20 grams carbs per 100g. A good amount of fruit and vegetables to aim for is 800 grams a day, so this would be best from carbohydrates with 15 grams of carbs or less per 100grams.

A little tip: eat carbohydrates nearer the end of your meal, after your protein to decrease the effect on blood glucose.


3. Eating the right fats is shown to reduce diabetes. Dr Rinki Murphy talked about the Predimed study which showed eating nuts and olive oil were very favourable for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Due to Simon’s genes, he was told to avoid saturated fat (typically fats solid at room temperature like butter, palm oil, meat fat, and coconut oil) and eat sources of fat high in monounsaturated oils – olive, avocado and nuts are best. Whole food fats are preferable. The nuts rather than their oil for example. Avoid vegetable oils which are high in omega 6 PUFA which is pro-inflammatory. Eat plenty of seafood high in omega 3 which is anti-inflammatory. (This post will give a lot more detail about fats to eat and fats to avoid Omega 6 and 3 in nuts, oils, meat and fish. Tools to get it right.)

Alcohol – it goes without saying that cutting right down on all alcohol is critical, as it is empty calories and contributes to fatty liver. Also, some drinks are made with sugar or are artificially sweetened, neither should be used. Give your liver a break and cut out alcohol completely if you want to reverse fatty liver.

Exercise:

Push some weights and do short stints of high-intensity exercise – you will notice Simon did several 30 second sprints on the rowing machine – egged on by his personal trainer (Luke Sniewski). High-intensity exercise and weights are particularly important for increasing your body’s ability to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into the muscles. This is called increasing your insulin sensitivity. This exercise also reduces visceral or internal fat, preferentially over superficial fat. Resistant exercise increases muscle mass, the more muscle you have the more energy you burn – even when you are not exercising. Strength is linked to a healthy old age. (Here is a cool look at muscle compared to fat and what happens when you exercise)

Simon did a lot of general activity too – walking, taking the stairs etc, or ‘snacktiviy’ as Dr Nigel Harris calls it – little bits frequently all day – it all adds up. A good tip is to walk around for a few minutes after every 20 minutes of sitting. Simon did formal weights and high-intensity exercise 3 times a week for about an hour.

Sleep

Next point – sleep – absolutely crucial that you prioritise getting a good sleep – according to Dr Kirk Parsley 7.5 hours a night is needed, lack of sleep increases hunger by increasing your hunger hormones, particularly for junk food. Lack of sleep also increases insulin resistance (basically making you pre-diabetic, and this means you don’t move glucose properly from bloodstream to muscles).

Gut bacteria

Feed your critters – you have 2 kg of bacteria inside your gut – eat lots of high fibre food – vegetables, TRUE whole grains (oat bran is good for example), to be honest there are not really any true whole grains in supermarket food,  legumes (beans and lentils), nuts and seeds, also some berries like blackberries are high in fibre. Have a look at the carbohydrate charts above and eat food that has a high ratio of fibre to carbohydrates (Fibre is brown). Be careful of the amount of starchy veg you eat though as it turns to glucose, so keep amounts smaller if you have type 2 diabetes. Vegetables high in fibre fill you up and have many anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Meal ideas

Here are some simple meal ideas, use every day food with minimal human interference.(These are my tips based on the guidance Simon was given)

If you have type 2 diabetes, minimise the starchy vegetables and fruit and eat the more low carbohydrate vegetables with the addition of some fat at your meals.

Breakfast:

Eggs –  (3 or 4)  whole eggs scrambled,  boiled, poached, or an omelette. Have with sautéed veggies, grilled tomatoes and / or a bowl of fresh fruit.

Frittata: 1 – 2 cups of veggies both colour and starch (leftovers are quick), heat through. Add seasoned beaten eggs and cook until set.

Cooked fresh fish e.g. salmon. With sautéed veggies (leftovers make this easy) and wilted spinach.

Smoothie – make with egg white or unflavoured whey powder, fresh or frozen fruit (berries are best), flax, olive oil or avocado oil. You can add greens too.

Salmon,  tuna (or any type of cooked fish) patties – make with flaked fish, mashed kumara, egg to bind, season and add herbs like parsley. Then brown on each side.

Breakfast hash – any left-over meat and vegetables all sautéed together.

 Lunch:

Cold meat / poultry and large mixed salad with avocado or nuts, olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic dressing. Follow with a piece of fruit.

Sashimi (raw fish) and seaweed salad plus a few rolls of sushi. The sashimi will give you extra protein for satiety. Best avoid the rice with tyep 2 diabetes and stick to sashimi and salads

Make extra dinner from night before and take to work and heat.

Soup – home-made vegetable soup with extra meat / fish or chicken added. Use a mix of starch and non starch vegetables.

Make large muffin sized Fritattas, or mini bacon and egg pies. Have with salad.

Root vegetable salad – there are many varieties, add a palm of protein like chicken, tinned fish, eggs, some greens and dressing

If you tolerate grains, use thin slices of whole grain bread and pack with protein like cold meat or chicken and a big load of salad veggies. Alternatively use a wrap but pack with protein and vegetables.

Dinner

Try this recipe for Paleo or low carb recipe: Sweet and sour fishcakes with konjac noodles

Your plate should be about 3/4 vegetables; some starch (if tolerated) and lots of colour, plus 1/4 meat or other protein food (about a palm size) Legumes are okay if tolerated, they are high in fibre and digest slowly to glucose. Make sure they are prepared properly; soak for 24 hours and cook well.

Any type of typical dinner can be adjusted to suit, add more veggies, remove or reduce the refined grains, or replace grains with root vegetables.

Curries, use coconut cream, not too much, and curry powder or paste with the meat. Have with lots vegetables and a small portion of rice, or make cauliflower ‘rice’ (This is finely chopped and cooked cauliflower, cauliflower rice is perfect if you need to cut your starches – this is a good recipe)

Stews or Casseroles (thicken with arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch if avoiding wheat) Standard stew: meat, onion, carrot, parsnip, stock, wine, canned tomatoes, herbs.

Slow cooker meals – use all your usual recipes and adjust ingredients so they are full of vegetables and meat / poultry of choice

Roasts, use kumara, pumpkin, courgettes, carrots, capsicum, eggplant, garlic, red onions, beets, leeks etc. (you can roast many different vegetables), and meat or poultry of choice. Tip: make a whole pile of extra roast veg that you can toss with dressing and eat for lunch the next day.

Stir-fries, with a range of veggies and meat of choice, have with a little rice or cauliflower “rice”.

Fish and seafood – pan fry, baked or foiled, not deep fried. Eat regularly. Eat with lots of vegetables or salad.

Bouillabaisse is a delicious way to use a variety of seafoods in one big pot

Meat loaf, add some minced organ meats (very very nutritious), lots of herbs but no bread, instead add grated vegetables like carrot.

Meat balls, home-made, tomato sauce over veggies instead of pasta. Try zucchini noodles. 

Spaghetti bolognese over sautéed strips of courgettes or other vegetables instead of pasta

Bacon and egg pie or a quiche (no pastry). With a large mixed salad.

Shepherd’s pie, top with creamed cauliflower or mashed kumara.

 

Sauces and gravies

Sauces like tomato sauce often contain a lot of sugar so use low sugar varieties, make your own pasta sauce without added sugar

Simon Gault now has developed a tomato sauce sweetened with vegetables, and not sugar.

Snacks:

Fresh Fruit (in moderation, berries are great – the colour is full of nutrients)

Carrot and celery sticks, nuts or hummus

Home-made beef jerky, or biltong

Boiled eggs

Cold meat

A small can of tuna or salmon with vegetable sticks

Cheese and apple

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