7 Paths to Mental Illness

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Stimulant drugs like opioids, cocaine, meth and alcohol are devastatingly effective pathways to addiction, but there are much more subtle everyday routes to the same destination, and they all start with overstimulation of dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurochemical that motivates us to take action and focuses our attention.  It makes us run towards pleasure and away from danger.  If, however we overstimulate dopamine our brain becomes semi-permanently rewired into a significantly more fragile state. In that state we overestimate both the probability of receiving rewards and the danger posed by threats.

The rewiring for extreme alertness helps us cope with the high dopamine environment, but it is only meant to be a temporary fix. When we hold ourselves in that overstimulated state for too long we will initially become clinically anxious and then, eventually, depressed.

We can do that by using chemicals that we know stimulate dopamine but many more of us are achieving the same result without consuming any of these.

Social media and dating apps stimulate oxytocin, our socialisation hormone which in turn gives us a hit of dopamine.  Porn follows a similar path with the assistance of testosterone. Gambling and danger simulating games like Fortnite get to the same destination by stimulating cortisol, the same hormone released when we are in real-life danger.  Chronic uncertainty caused by housing insecurity, job insecurity or, say, COVID has the same effect.  As does exposure to trauma, pain or violence.

All these starting points promote overstimulation of dopamine. Because both stress and addiction produce the same state, stress makes us easier to addict and addiction makes us more susceptible to stress. Our brain adapts by decreasing our sensitivity to dopamine by dialling up an epigenetic control called DelatFosB.  Unfortunately, that leaves our brain in a fragile state which makes us overestimate rewards (craving more dopamine) and risks (high anxiety about everything).  Even worse, any dopamine stimulating behaviour will temporarily provide relief but ultimately make the problem worse.  This is why addiction is so hard to break and anxiety is so hard to cure.

In between dopamine hits, the edgy state of our brain biochemistry leads us into low dopamine states we recognise as depression (a lack of motivation) and ADHD (a lack of focus).

It doesn’t matter (to our biochemistry) if the next dopamine hit comes from looking at Facebook, or playing Fortnite, or smoking a ciggy, or inhaling cocaine, or hitting the booze, or being evicted, or stress about COVID, or being a victim of violence, and of course any combination of these.

The affect is the same, the effects are cumulative and left unchecked, over time, will continue to drive the growing epidemic of anxiety, depression, and mental illness.

Excerpt from Brain Reset

By | Books, Mental Illness | No Comments

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Introduction

If I were to call you an addict, I doubt you’d take it as a compliment. Addicts are nasty people. They steal, they cheat and lay unconscious in the gutter, oblivious to the world around them. Am I right? Yet, in the sense I will use that word in this book, you probably are an addict.

You probably wouldn’t be too keen on me describing you as having a mental illness either. But according to the latest statistics, if you are standing in a room with four other Australians, one of you currently has a mental illness such as anxiety or depression, and two and half of you will, at some point in your life. It is even worse for younger people. More than one in four people aged 16–24 currently suffer a mental disorder. Between 2005 and 2019, depression in the US in people under 25, the age group most easily addicted, increased by 73 per cent. One in eight US teens is depressed and twice that many suffer from anxiety. The Australian statistics are similar. Those numbers tell us that every family is in some way dealing with mental illness.

This is a book about how addiction, anxiety and depression are all part of the same spectrum. It is a book about mental health but it is not an attempt to explore the vast universe of mental illness; just a very important part of the equation. It is a detailed look at the way seesawing dopamine, caused by stress, uncertainty and addictive behaviours (smoking, drinking, gambling, screen use, eating sugar and many more) create imbalances in our brains. This in turn causes anxiety and depression. This matters a lot because it is rapidly creating an epidemic of mental illness the likes of which we have never before experienced. If we do not stop it, it will have disastrous consequences for each of us and our communities.

This is not to say that addiction or stress causes all mental illness. Like all human disease states, there is an underlying level. The power of sexual reproduction continuously recombining our DNA is that every one of us has a different propensity to any given disease to the person next to us. Some people can drink 50 cans of Coke a day and live to 127. Some people put on 400 kg merely by reading the word ‘Coke’ in the preceding sentence. We are all different. What we can say with confidence is certain factors take disease states from background noise into population-wide epidemics. That’s what sugar consumption did for type 2 diabetes when it went from a non-disease in the 70s to affecting one in ten of us now. And it is what addiction and stress is doing to our mental health.

I am not a doctor. I am a researcher. I write about evidence with the singular motivation of providing you (and me) with information that helps us make better choices about our health. I firmly believe that knowledge gives us the power to change our lives for the better. There are many very large, very rich companies making very good money out of keeping that knowledge from us and keeping us addicted.

Because I have no relevant qualifications, I really have to know my stuff. I am very aware that my lack of formal training in the area means anything I say is open to criticism. This is how it should be, but this important reality forces my research to be more thorough, my references more current and my conclusions more defensible. My outsider’s view allows me to connect silos of knowledge where the evidence says it is necessary. The only relevant skill I bring to the table is knowing nothing about the area. This means I can’t accept a fact until I see the evidence. I can’t operate on the basis of ‘this is what my lecturer told me’ or ‘this is what everyone knows to be true’. Everything you are about to read is referenced. You can read all of it in the original journals. It is all there for everyone to see, but nobody is laying it out for us ordinary people in a way that makes any sense.

I have researched sugar, education, seed oils, psychopathy and teenage addiction and, as disparate as they are, a common theme has consistently emerged. There is always someone who will try to profit from human vulnerability. It could be the private school network pressing parents’ status anxiety button. It could be the processed food industry adding sugar to everything to increase sales. Or it could be Facebook harvesting our need to be liked.

When it comes to your brain there are loads of people fighting for your neural real estate. There is a reason the processed food, alcohol, gambling, social media, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries account for the lion’s share of our business landscape – and they are just the legal addictions. And they don’t stop at addicting individuals either. They make sure our leaders are addicted to their money. Our governments believe they would struggle without the rivers of gold generated from taxing our addictions. For all the nice feel-good campaigns about mental health and addiction, there is a very strong financial undertow pulling all of us in the other direction.

Addiction is not just messy drunks, coke-heads or junkies. The biochemical reality is we can become addicted to many things that are much more subtle and that are so socially acceptable, we’d happily give them to a toddler. In 2009, an advertising campaign kicked off on the side of London buses that said, ‘Nice People Take Drugs’ in large bright red letters. The campaign was paid for by a charity campaigning for the decriminalisation of drugs. It was immediately banned and removed. The UK was not ready to hear that nice people are addicts too, and things have not changed much since then. Denial is one of the first signs of addiction. It is a reflexive defensive mechanism aimed at keeping the addiction alive and hidden from view. That’s worth remembering as we look at the nature of everyday addiction.

Addiction is a loss of self-control when presented with potential rewards. Our brains operate a biochemical reward system to make us get off our bottoms and do stuff that keeps us alive long enough to produce the next generation. Without it, we wouldn’t get out of bed, we wouldn’t eat even if food was put in front of us, we wouldn’t go to the trouble of meeting other people and we certainly wouldn’t bother with getting to know them well enough to have children with them. This same system keeps us safe from danger by providing us with the motivation to run away or stand and fight.

That reward system, however, can be broken. We can like things too much for our own good. This can happen if we do rewarding things at very high frequency, or use substances to mess with the biochemistry of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter responsible for messaging in our reward system. For most of the history of addiction, substances have been the only path to addiction. We discovered pretty early on that the alcohol produced by overripe fruit made us feel good. As the centuries passed, we added to the collection of stuff we knew would give us a buzz – tobacco leaves, tea leaves, coffee beans, kola nuts, opium poppies, coca plants and, of course, sugar.

I was addicted to sugar. I didn’t know I was addicted to sugar until I wasn’t. Had you asked me at the time, I would have denied it till the cows came home – and then bought a Coke instead of water because it was more ‘fun’. When I compare the way I felt about food before to the way I feel about it now, I definitely was. Sugar pushes exactly the same biochemical buttons in our reward system as cocaine, alcohol, nicotine and many others. Just because the cravings are less intense and it has stayed under the regulatory radar doesn’t mean the biochemistry is any different or it is not addictive.

When we consume one of these substances, we ratchet up our need for reward. The brain is not evolved to deal with this. It foolishly assumes our environment is largely free from anything that can mess with its biochemistry because until very recently in evolutionary terms, that was true. To make things even more dire, in the last decade, we have invented and deployed powerfully addictive software to every person on the planet. While this software doesn’t administer a substance that breaks our reward system, it manipulates our brains into doing it.

In just a decade, software that simulates the most common real-life rewards, like sex, gambling or the oxytocin-enhancing feeling of being liked, has become ubiquitous. Now addiction is not just for the adventurous few, it can be enjoyed in the bedroom, bathroom, on the bus, at work and school and during parliamentary question time. No one can have sex 100 times a day or meet real people 1000 times a day or place 500 bets a day, but with the high-speed simulations now available on every portable device, our pocket has become a seething cesspit of potential addiction. This is why the generation who have never known life without these devices will not know life without addiction.

In a similar way, our bodies and minds never evolved to be under extreme stress for long periods of time. We are fine with stress while we are running away from a woolly mammoth. We are not designed for the kind of persistent low-level stress created by constantly having $100 in our account when the rent is $500. Unfortunately, our brains save resources by using the reward system to handle chronic stress. This means that stress increases addiction and addiction increases stress and both flow through to anxiety and depression.

Addiction and stress are not the only ways to create anxiety and depression but they are now the dominant pathways for most of us. The good news is that knowing the enemy is the key to stopping it. Once we know exactly how our operating system works and how it can be manipulated, we can use that knowledge to give ourselves the edge.

Part of the reason I didn’t think I was addicted to sugar was that I didn’t think I was eating that much of it. Then I started reading food labels. I found out that just by eating a bowl of Sultana Bran and a glass of orange juice, I had consumed 20 teaspoons of sugar before I pushed back from the breakfast table. That was just the start. BBQ sauce can be half sugar, some yoghurt has more sugar than ice-cream and there is often more sugar in low-fat mayonnaise than Coke. Knowing how much I was eating, and reading the science of exactly how it addicted me to make sure I kept eating, was the key to me stopping. I am hoping this book can do the same for all of us, with the addictions we may not be aware we have.

Addiction is loss of control. It is not being able to say ‘no’ when offered just one chocolate. It is settling down to a quick look at your socials and then wondering what happened to the last three hours. It is having just one more game, then realising the night has disappeared. It’s putting on one more multi-bet because you are sure your luck has changed. We may not feel like rats in a cage being manipulated to press the lever for reward, but that is the subtle art of addiction. If you want to see if you really are exercising free will, just try to stop.

Anxiety and depression are a direct result of dopamine signalling. Too many dopamine hits too often will lead to mental illness as certainly as night follows day. We can get those dopamine hits by becoming addicted to substances or behaviours that deliver them or by living in a state of stress. Both of these processes are significantly accelerated by uncertainty. Uncertainty takes an interesting and rewarding experience and at least doubles the perceived excitement and the size of the consequent dopamine spike. Equally, when bad things may or may not happen, the uncertainty at leastdoubles the dopamine hit, to make sure we are on full alert. It is like a free supersized dopamine hit for no extra effort.

Either way, the reward system turns uncertainty-boosted dopamine hits into a semi-permanent change to the brain biochemistry that helps us cope with our high-dopamine environment. Unfortunately, that coping mechanism comes at a cost – our mental health. Dopamine-adapted brains are anxious and depressed and work much less well than brains that are not in this state. They are irritable, have no impulse control, have weak memory, make poor decisions and are able to contribute much less to our overall welfare. If we allow that mental state to go on indefinitely, we place ourselves and others at mortal risk, either from the addictions or from self-harm, domestic violence or suicide.

The key to undoing the damage done by addiction or stress or, usually, both is to reset the biochemical switch, ΔFosB (DeltaFosB). This controls how we react to a surge in dopamine generated by reward or danger and amplified by uncertainty. It would be really nice if we could just access the neurochemical program that runs our brains and flick the switch to reset DeltaFosB to normal. While that is possible, it is nowhere near that easy or quick. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch in biochemistry. Resetting the switch flicked by years of addiction or stress takes a bit of effort. To do that, we need to delete addictive behaviours and substances, replace them with rewarding real-life experiences that are not addictive. We also need to remove as much stress and uncertainty from our lives as possible.

Once we know how our reward system works and how it is manipulated, we can regain control. We can push the profiteers out of the driver’s seat and own our destiny once more.

This is not a book about stopping pleasure. You will not be told all fun must end. Our reward system works perfectly well when it isn’t being messed with. We can enjoy life and do things that provide us with shots of dopamine without the risk of addiction, anxiety or depression. The catch is we need to do a system reset before we get to that point. This is a book about how to do that. I will guide you through what the science says about how to reduce and remove the substances and behaviours that drive addiction and how to increase the behaviours that recalibrate our reward system. The pay-off will inevitably be reductions in levels of anxiety and depression or avoiding them altogether.

You don’t need to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression to find value in these pages. A common pathway to diagnosable mental illness starts with insomnia, feeling low, feeling trapped, feeling like we are not living the life we want to lead (and can’t work out why) or worrying about things that never used to bother us. For many of us, our reward system has been broken for so long that we have no idea what life can look like on the other side. I didn’t know I was apathetic, moody and low on energy until I wasn’t on sugar. Life without addiction can take us to a new level. Suddenly, we can concentrate better, think through complex situations, set and reach goals and get more enjoyment out of life in general. Our moods will be less volatile, we’ll be more motivated, sleep better, lose weight and have better health overall.

There are also dramatic benefits for the higher functioning addict, one who feasts on a smorgasbord of smaller addictions but isn’t incapacitated by any single one. They will experience high of contentment, less reactivity, better focus on work and more connection with family and friends.

And it is not just you who will benefit. As a society, we are neck-deep in addiction for profit. Governments are as addicted to revenue from the addiction industries as we are to straight bourbon and unfiltered Camel cigarettes. If governments divest themselves and genuinely try to help, we will all benefit from living in a society where there is less violence, less addiction-driven death and less preventable disease. Our businesses will be more productive because of the massive reduction in mental health costs and our families will more robustly handle any stressors they encounter. The local leagues club will be a lot smaller but, then again, it won’t need to house so many pokies. And there won’t be as much money for pork-barrelling the local pollie into power, but there will be a lot more money for community services left over from our taxes because society will be relieved of the costs of addiction.

This is a book about mental health. It is about what we can do to decrease our levels of anxiety and depression and the many disease states that can cascade from them. It is a book about real science and practical outcomes. It is not a book about being nice to yourself or talking yourself out of depression or herbal gerbil knit your own pseudo-scientific counselling techniques. It is a book about neuroscience and hard, knowable, measurable outcomes.

What we know about how our brains work has advanced significantly in the last decade but so far very little of that knowledge has made it past the cover of a medical journal. Our society is struggling to contain a tidal wave of mental illness and addiction that disables families and dismantles communities. Worse, turning our teens and young adults into addicts robs them and our society of a future. Once the young have no vision beyond the next dopamine hit, human civilisation is in real peril. This is not hyperbole. There needs to be an honest desire to fix this. There needs to be an uncomfortable accounting for the true costs of generations burned at the altar of addiction for profit.

This is a book about what the evidence really says so that you can apply it, if you wish, in your own life. This book will not eradicate all mental illness alone, but if we listen to the science, we can remove the static and clear the white noise driven by corporate profiteering so resources can be freed to help those whose illness would exist even in a world free of addiction.

This book takes a good hard look at the science behind resetting our reward and punishment pathway and what that science implies about how we should behave. But it isn’t all science. At the end, you will find an actionable plan to help you to reduce your addictive behaviour and set you on a path towards understanding your mental health.

The solution is in your hands.

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What seed oils are really doing to your body

By | Books, Cookbook, Recipes, Vegetable Oils | 9 Comments

VEGETABLE oils are highly unstable.

When they interact with oxygen, they release neurotoxic, DNA mutating chemicals which are known to cause cancer (at least).

Recent improvements in measurement technology have now thrown a spotlight on the quantity of these chemicals released by normal use. And the results are truly terrifying.

Cheap vegetable oil made from seeds (canola, sunflower, corn, safflower, grapeseed, rice bran and soybean oils) is a new addition to the human diet. Unlike animal fats and oils made from fruit (olive, avocado and coconut oils), they’re very high in polyunsaturated fats and in particular something called an omega-6 fat.

A recent study found that when seed oils containing these fats are heated at a normal cooking temperature (of 180 degrees celsius), they create highly toxic chemicals known to be involved in cancer causation.,

And each time the oil was re-used the concentration increased massively. The study showed that by the fifth day of oil re-use, it had five times the concentration of these chemicals that it had on the first (which was already alarmingly high).

But worse than that, the researchers also made the point that all they could measure was the amount of these chemicals left in the oil. Since they are highly volatile, they are constantly escaping into the air around us when the food is being cooked.

According to another recent study, it is likely that this volatility explains the stubbornly high rates of lung cancer among women in Asian countries (where smoking is rare among women, but wok frying with Canola oil is a daily task).

Those toxic molecules are dangerous because they are interact destructively with our DNA. This significantly increases the chances that cancer will develop.

These seed oils are now a core component of our food supply and Australians are sicker now than at any time in our history.

We are almost four times as likely to have thyroid cancer than just three short decades ago. We are more than three times as likely to have liver cancer. We are twice as likely to have melanoma, Motor Neuron Disease, kidney or anal cancer.

Men are more than twice as likely to have prostate cancer and 60 per cent more likely to have testicular cancer. Women are 43 per cent more likely to have breast cancer. And children are paying even more dearly.

A child is 6 times as likely to suffer from leukaemia than at the start of the 20th century. And they are more than four times as likely to suffer from a life threatening allergic reaction than they were just 20 years ago.

The chronic disease tsunami is upon us.

Every day there are thousands of teenagers standing over vats of frying canola oil for eight hour shifts at every fast food restaurant in this country. Every day, there are people cooking with high temperature seed oils in woks and frying pans. And every day there are industrial quantities of heated seed oil being poured into commercial baked and frozen foods.

A century ago, exactly none of these fats were added to our food supply.

Every day 312 new cancer sufferers are diagnosed in Australia. That this is allowed to continue when the science is so clear on the likely cause, is not merely a shame or an embarrassment. It is an outrage and a tragedy.

It is reasonably safe to assume all the fat in processed food comes from seed oils. The good news is that this only applies to food made by others (and usually shoved into a packet with a picture of real food on the front).

Nobody can stop you making and eating real food. All you need is a little know-how.

Also published on news.com.au


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Cookbook bundle540Get the new Eat Real Food Cookbook OR the Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook OR BOTH for 25% OFF.

Just Enter the discount code ERFCB25 at checkout

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Why we need to eat real food

By | Books, Cookbook, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 8 Comments

It turns out that avoiding Type II Diabetes, Obesity and Fatty Liver is the easy bit.

Sugar is very bad news. It destroys (in this order), our teeth, our gut, our liver, our ligaments, our pancreas, our kidneys our blood vessels, our heart and eventually our brain. The science on all of this is now so uncontroversial, that many countries (including the UK) are implementing sugar taxes to help pay for the accelerating damage. But sugar is the lesser of the two dietary evils that have infiltrated our food supply. The other is vegetable oil. And it makes the consequences of sugar consumption look like a mild case of the sniffles. This stuff doesn’t just destroy our lives, it takes out the next generation as well.

Twelve years ago I removed sugar from my diet. I didn’t change anything else. Yep, I still ate meat pies (just without sauce). I still drank beer. And I still didn’t exercise anywhere near enough. I did it because I was obese and the evidence told me that the reason was my sugar consumption. So I stopped eating sugar. It changed my life permanently. I lost 40 kilograms and regained a passion for participating in the lives of my six kids, something that up until then was fading as fast as my weight grew.

Then, a few years into my sugar free life, I discovered something that made it immeasurably harder. Sugar isn’t the only thing that’s been added to our diet in large quantities by the food industry. The other is oils extracted from seeds (usually described as ‘healthy’ vegetable oil).  It isn’t the occasional splash of oil you add to your salad or fry your steak in.  It’s the industrial quantities of the stuff added to your bread, your biscuits, your frozen meals, your sauces and dressings and everything you buy in a restaurant or your favourite take-away.

Cheap vegetable oil made from seeds (canola, sunflower, corn, safflower, grapeseed, rice bran and soybean oils) is a new addition to the human diet. Unlike animal fats and oils made from fruit (olive, avocado and coconut oils), they’re very high in polyunsaturated fats and in particular something called an omega-6 fat.

When omega-6 fats are heated (in a deep fryer or in the human body) they produce highly toxic molecules. Those end-products are dangerous because they are incorporated into every cell in our body and interact destructively with our DNA. This significantly increases the chances that cancer will develop.  But that’s by no means the least of it. Because of their neurotoxic capabilities, these molecules are likely to be heavily involved in motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. They’re also implicated in chronic inflammation, the massive recent increase in allergies, stroke and heart disease. And, less predictably, they probably lie behind the sudden mass decline in male fertility and the massive increases in childhood cancers, Down syndrome and Autism.

Australians are sicker now than at any time in our history and it is getting worse unbelievably quickly.  We are almost four times as likely to have thyroid cancer than just three short decades ago.  We are more than three times as likely to have Liver Cancer.  We are twice as likely to have Melanoma, Motor Neuron Disease, Kidney or Anal cancer.

Men are more than twice as likely to have prostate cancer and 60% more likely to have testicular cancer.  Women are 43% more likely to have breast cancer.  And children are paying even more dearly.  A child is 6 times as likely to suffer from leukemia than at the start of the 20th century. And they more than four times as likely to suffer from a life threatening allergic reaction than they were just 20 years ago.  Sperm counts halved in the 50 years (to 1990). Pregnancies are three times as likely to be affected by Down syndrome over the same period and a child is twice as likely to be autistic.  The chronic disease tsunami is upon us.

These unbelievably cheap sources of fat are even more deadly than sugar and have now infiltrated everything on the supermarket shelves. If I avoided the 99% fat free but high sugar mayo, I was jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. The full fat version had no sugar but was made using sunflower oil.

A century ago, exactly none of these fats were added to our food supply. Now unless you made it yourself, it is reasonably safe to assume all the fat in your food comes from a seed. Avoiding these fats is several orders of magnitude harder than avoiding sugar. Our food supply is stuffed with two ingredients that are more likely than not to cause a slow, lingering and painful death. The good news is that this only applies to food made by others (and usually shoved into a packet with a picture of real food on the front). Nobody can stop you making and eating real food. All you need is a little know-how. And that’s what the Eat Real Food Cookbook is all about.

It’s an odd sort of a cookbook. It explains the science and gives you an easy guide to navigating the supermarket and your local eatery. It’s not the kind of cookbook you’d give to your best friend for her to put on her coffee table (and that neither of you having any intention of reading). It doesn’t show you how to cook flash cakes that look like Darth Vader. And it most certainly doesn’t show you how to make a salad in a jar.

My wife, Lizzie, and our six kids have been living off the recipes and tips in the book for the better part of the last decade. Don’t let the beautiful photography fool you. This is an intensely practical book designed to solve an intensely practical problem. How to create high quality food – simply, inexpensively quickly and every day – that’s completely free of the twin evils of fructose (the dangerous part of sugar) and seed oils (the man-made fats recently added to our food supply).


Eat Real Food Cookbook Launch Offer

Cookbook bundle540Get the new Eat Real Food Cookbook OR the Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook OR BOTH for 25% OFF.

Just Enter the discount code ERFCB25 at checkout

Both books are of course signed by David

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Eat Real Food now available

By | Books, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 17 Comments

Enter the great Book #1 Give-away. David will give away the first copy of Eat Real Foodsigned and personally inscribed as Copy #1 – to the winner of this competition. Enter below.
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In the last 100 years, we’ve become fatter and sicker with millions of people developing serious diseases from diabetes to cancer. Health gurus confuse us with complex diets and expensive ingredients; food manufacturers load their products with addictive and destructive ingredients causing our increasing weight and declining health. But help is at hand. Health and consumer advocate David Gillespie shares the simple secret of weight loss and wellbeing: swap processed food for REAL FOOD. Eat Real Food features:

  • An explanation of why diets don’t work and a provides a focus on what does
  • Information on how to lose weight permanently, not just in the short-term
  • Evidence-based science explaining the real culprits of ill health and weight gain.
  • Advice on how to read food labels.
  • Easy recipes to replace common processed items and meal plans that show how simple it is to shop, plan and cook Real Food.
  • Tips for lunchboxes, parties, and recipes for food kids actually like.

Eat Real Food is the safe, effective and cheap solution to lose weight and improve our health permanently

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Fat school fees no guarantee for top results

By | Books, Education, Media, Print | No Comments

Monday, 29 September, 2014, 5:44pm
Karen Pittar life@scmp.com

Australian lawyer and businessman David Gillespie grew up in Brisbane and was educated at one of the city’s top private schools. But as he and his wife were mulling over where to send their six children, the “eye-watering sums” involved at elite institutions prompted them to consider alternatives.

It also led Gillespie to examine what it was that made a school, and an education system, effective. The result is Free Schools (Pan Macmillan), a book that challenges many widely held beliefs about quality education, especially in Australia.

“I wanted to find the answer to the question: if I spent millions of dollars on education, was that money well spent?” he asks. “Would it guarantee a better result for my children?”

His conclusion was an unequivocal “no”.

“Going in, I had no agenda and no preconceived ideas about what makes an effective school. What I did know was a lot of educational research is hard to understand and seems to be based on hunches – very little of it on hard facts and trials,” Gillespie says.

What surprised him most was that many factors parents assume to be important in schooling mattered very little.

Chief among these assumptions is that high fees equalled a superior education.

Wealthy families dominate in independent or private schools, he says, but “studies have consistently shown when you adjust for the socioeconomic status of children in independent-versus-government systems, both are equally effective. Paying more for education will get you nicer buildings and your child can hang around with kids of ‘his class’, but then we have to assume that’s a good thing?”

Similarly, Gillespie argues smaller classes do not necessarily lead to better learning and higher grades.

He refers to the Australian system as an example, where class sizes 50 years ago were double what they are today. Smaller classes meant increased spending to employ more teachers; yet Australia is slipping in the global education rankings.

“Classes need effective teachers who can manage students and maintain order,” he says. If behaviour is a problem and not well managed, there will still be a problem, whether it’s a class of 12 or 20.

Homework is another contentious area. A 2006 study at Duke University, in North Carolina, showed there was no benefit to assigning homework to primary schoolchildren. Gillespie says recent research suggests there may be significant downsides because it takes up teachers’ time with marking and setting homework.

However, he concedes some studies show that homework is helpful during high school.

Ultimately, Gillespie says an effective school depends on one thing – leadership: of the school and in the classroom.

Every four years the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, releases the results of its Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which evaluates the skills of more than 500,000 15-year-olds in maths, science and reading.

Hong Kong came in the top three for each discipline in the 2012 Pisa report – an impressive ranking out of 65 countries including the US, Britain and Australia.

Gillespie says schools that do well tend to adopt a collegiate approach, where principals and senior teachers still teach some of the time, but spend most time supervising junior teachers in the classroom, making sure they are learning to be better teachers. Senior teachers are not turned into administrators: they are turned into teacher-mentors. “This is what gets results.”

To retain good teachers, you need strong, accountable and involved leadership, he says.

Gillespie suggests parents visit potential schools and also interview the principal.

“What you want is someone who describes their team as professionals who work together to get the best results – that their role as a leader is to help teachers, to mentor them.”

His book also outlines other areas that parents should consider when selecting schools, such as its language and music programmes, communication and behaviour management.

“Look for a school that provides study skills – it’s all about learning to learn,” he says. “It is often assumed children learn by osmosis, but they don’t – they need to be taught the skills to do it effectively. Does the school offer language and music programmes? Consistently, study after study shows, that by just learning a language or a musical instrument – it doesn’t matter how good you are at it – this improves results.”

He says the general behaviour of students is another critical indicator because no one can learn or teach effectively if children are behaving badly.

“A great way to assess this is to look at the uniform. It’s [author] Malcolm Gladwell’s broken windows theory: if kids in a suburb break a window and it isn’t repaired, then they break another and so on – a small misdemeanour turns into a bigger one.

“Uniform policy is the same. You want a school where no deviations are accepted. Even if the school doesn’t have a specific uniform they will still have a dress code; find out before you visit what that is and make sure the children are complying.”

Finally, Gillespie says a successful and productive school is one that communicates with parents.

“An effective school will offer programmes that run parents through what is being taught and how it is taught – ‘these are the concepts and this is how to teach/reinforce it at home’.”

Parents should be active participants in education, he says. Rather than simply applying to elite private schools, parents should be focusing on those that can offer effective leadership.

Like any other organisation, the ethos and work ethic of school filters down from the top.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post.

Addicted to the sweet stuff? Here’s how to cut sugar from your diet

By | Books, Media, Print, Sugar, Sweet Poison | One Comment

Need to get the sugar out of your diet? Read this extract from The Sweet Poison Quit Plan by David Gillespie for tips.

Sugar addiction is such an integral part of our society that we don’t even have a word (like “alcoholic”, “chocaholic” or “workaholic”) to describe people addicted to sugar. “Eaters” are addicted to sugar, but you can eat without sugar. So I’m inventing a new word for sugar addicts: “sugarholics”. Sugarholics today are in the same position that smokers were in the 1950s.

You used to be able to smoke any time at work. You didn’t have to stop work and stand alone in the middle of a field. You weren’t vilified for lighting up a cigarette in a restaurant. Quite the opposite; if you didn’t smoke, you were the weirdo. Today, sugarholics rule the roost. Everybody is addicted from birth. Not eating the birthday cake in the tea room marks you out as the weirdo. Make no mistake: the task you are about to undertake will not be easy, but it is not an exercise in willpower.

Despite what everybody tells you, if you are a sugarholic, you do not have a personality defect. You are not a glutton. You are not weak-willed. You are chemically addicted to a substance in the food supply called fructose. And until you treat that addiction as the powerful biochemical force that it is, you will never loosen its grip. There are five steps to breaking your addiction.

There are lots of downsides to sugar addiction and the only upside is that you feel normal when you have a hit. Do you really have cause to feel deprived? No, but willpower diets demand that you feel deprived. They ask you to “go without” and to “give up” a treat. Feeling deprived will simply drive you back into the arms of addiction.

If you want to succeed, you mustn’t feel you are being deprived of anything. You need to take pity on the poor hopeless addicts who are all around you ingesting poison. You need to view any offering of sugar not as a temptation to be overcome, but as an attempt to poison you (perhaps a little extreme, but you get the idea).

So, don’t feel deprived. You are not giving up anything. You are simply stopping a dangerous and harmful addiction. It really is that simple to break an addiction. If you have the right attitude, staying sugar-free becomes a lot easier than you could possibly imagine.

A critical step in breaking your sugar addiction is identifying the habits associated with the addiction. For me, watching TV was a means of relaxation, and it still is. But my sugar addiction had infiltrated that pleasurable experience and made it its own. Sugar had become an integral part of the relaxation process.

The pleasure I gained from watching TV was directly associated, in my mind, with the dopamine hit I got from the sugar. It’s possible to disassociate the two activities, but you won’t do it by abstaining from both using willpower. The trouble with addictions is that they frequently attach themselves to otherwise-pleasurable experiences and it becomes impossible to distinguish the two.

Those habits will really test your resolve because of the strong association, and in some cases the strong peer group pressure (such as at birthday parties, Easter and Christmas) to conform. In many instances, the only rational way to deal with the problem is to avoid the habitual events associated with consuming sugar until you break the addiction.

So, if you are in the habit of relaxing in front of the TV with a chocolate at the end of the day, stop watching TV and find some other way to relax in the evening for the next month. Or you could continue your TV habit but replace the chocolate with nuts, for example.

This step is all about giving you the shopping strategies you need to prevent too much fructose from contaminating your food supply. You are going to need some shelf space for all your fructose-free food, so the first thing you need to do is throw out all the food in your pantry and fridge that is too high in fructose.

Chocolate of any description must be sent to a happier hunting ground. The same goes for anything you picked up in the confectionery aisle at the supermarket. Sweet biscuits are slightly less bad than confectionery. To make your cupboards truly fructosefree, all the sweet biscuits should go in the bin.

The only drinks you should have in your cupboard or fridge are unflavoured water and unflavoured milk. If you prefer your water with bubbles, then by all means have unflavoured mineral water or soda water. Alcoholic drinks are okay for the recovering sugarholic as long as they don’t taste sweet and they are not mixed with other drinks that contain sugar.

You can keep the dry wines, beers and spirits, but you need to toss out the dessert wines, ports, sweet sherries, liqueurs and mixers (unless they are diet mixers). If you see honey or sultanas in the name of a cereal, it’s usually a good idea to check the sugar content carefully. Don’t be fooled by the branding of new ranges of flavoured oat cereals, either. Unlike their unflavoured cousins, they are usually extremely high in sugar.

Walt Disney once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” And that is the point at which we have arrived on our mission to break your sugar addiction. There’s nothing fun about the withdrawal period, but it does end. And once it does, you’ll be completely free from the desire to eat sugar ever again. A plate of bikkies will hold all the attraction of a plate of raw broccoli.

If you are going cold turkey, have one last supper of your favourite sugary treat. Get that Mars Bar or that can of Coke. Sit down and consciously enjoy the very last time in your life that you will eat (or drink) sugar. If you can just get past the next few weeks of danger, you will enjoy the health that sugar has sucked from your life to date. Then, all of a sudden, your desire for sugar will vanish. I know it sounds strange, but it just plain goes. Bang! And you will never want the stuff again.

Re-stock and live your life

Once you start the withdrawal, you’ll need to re-stock your now-bare cupboard.

Fruit: Whole fruits do contain fructose (the addictive and harmful half of sugar) – in some cases, very large amounts. But they also contain a fairly large amount of fibre and water.

Vegetables: There is no such thing as a bad vegetable. All vegetables contain some level of fructose, but it is an insignificant amount and is vastly overwhelmed by the fibre content.

Nuts: Like vegetables, there’s no such thing as a bad nut. Some have more fructose than others, but even the worst of them, from a fructose perspective, have huge amounts of fibre.

Meat: Meat does not contain any sugar, so knock yourself out. The only possible word of caution is around some of the fancy marinated meats. The marinade is usually very high in sugar and this type of product should generally be avoided.

Eggs, yoghurt, milk and cream: Only choose the tartest of European and natural yoghurts and avoid flavoured milk or whipped cream that you buy in a can.

Cheese: Cheese will have sugar on the ingredients list, but it is all lactose, so there’s no need for concern.

Bread: All breads contain some sugar. All of the standard unflavoured white breads lie somewhere between 0.5 and four per cent sugar (two per cent fructose). Multigrain and brown (wholemeal and rye) breads are low-sugar and have approximately twice as much fibre.

 

This is an edited extract from The Sweet Poison Quit Plan by David Gillespie (Viking).
Originally published in Body+Soul

The 2014 North American Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide

By | Books, Sugar | No Comments

The 2014 North American Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide is the must-have navigator for your local supermarket if you plan to buy anything in a package.

The guide contains comprehensive listings of the most commonly purchased categories of packaged food available in US stores. Each category has been scoured for brands that have less than 3 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

It’s a guide that removes all the bad products from the supermarket shelf and makes it easy for you to select simply and quickly from the good ones that are left.

But wait. There’s more. It also includes a similar analysis of the popular fast food options on offer in most US cities.

Buy Now(Paypal also accepted just click the button)
Also available for Kindle – click here
 

Use the buttons above to get the guide for the introductory price of US$6.45 (normally US$9.95).  You’ll be emailed the PDF immediately so can have it on your smartphone, iPad or tablet or print it out if you prefer and have it with you all the time.

Alternatively you can subscribe to howmuchsugar.com and not only get the shopper’s guide (and updates as part of your membership) but also detailed sugar guides to the sugar content of all foods in a given category, great recipes that you can make at home, the members forum to share your experiences and extras such as the Vegetable Oil Ready Reckoners and other handy shortcut tools that I regularly create and share with members.

Like this product? Spread the word about it and earn 30% of the purchase price on sales you refer. Click here to join David Gillespie’s affiliate program »

The 2014 British Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide

By | Books, Sugar | No Comments

The 2014 British Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide is the must-have navigator for your local supermarket if you plan to buy anything in a package.

The guide contains comprehensive listings of the most commonly purchased categories of packaged food available in British stores. Each category has been scoured for brands that have less than 3 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

It’s a guide that removes all the bad products from the supermarket shelf and makes it easy for you to select simply and quickly from the good ones that are left.

But wait. There’s more. It also includes a similar analysis of the popular fast food options on offer in most UK cities.

Buy Now(Paypal also accepted just click the button above)
Also available for Kindle – click here

 

Use the buttons above to get the guide for the introductory price of £3.95 (normally £6).  You’ll be emailed the PDF immediately so can have it on your smartphone, iPad or tablet or print it out if you prefer and have it with you all the time.

Alternatively you can subscribe to howmuchsugar.com and not only get the shopper’s guide (and updates as part of your membership) but also detailed sugar guides to the sugar content of all foods in a given category, great recipes that you can make at home, the members forum to share your experiences and extras such as the Vegetable Oil Ready Reckoners and other handy shortcut tools that I regularly create and share with members.

Like this product? Spread the word about it and earn 30% of the purchase price on sales you refer. Click here to join David Gillespie’s affiliate program »

The 2014 Australian Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide

By | Books, Sugar | 28 Comments

It’s Finally Here!

The 2014 Australian Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide is the must-have navigator for your local supermarket if you plan to buy anything in a package.

The guide contains comprehensive listings of the most commonly purchased categories of packaged food available in Australian stores.  Each category has been scoured for brands that have less than 3 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

It’s a guide that removes all the bad products from the supermarket shelf and makes it easy for you to select simply and quickly from the good ones that are left.

But wait.  There’s more.  I’ve also included a similar analysis of the popular fast food options on offer in most Australian cities.

Buy Now(Paypal also accepted just click the button above)
Also available for Kindle

 

Use the buttons above to get the guide for the introductory price of $6.95 (normally $9.95).  You’ll be emailed the PDF immediately so can have it on your smartphone, iPad or tablet or print it out if you prefer and have it with you all the time.

Alternatively you can subscribe to howmuchsugar.com and not only get the shopper’s guide (and updates as part of your membership) but also detailed sugar guides to the sugar content of all foods in a given category, great recipes that you can make at home, the members forum to share your experiences and extras such as the Vegetable Oil Ready Reckoners and other handy shortcut tools that I regularly create and share with members.

Like this product? Spread the word about it and earn 30% of the purchase price on sales you refer. Click here to join David Gillespie’s affiliate program »