Village(s) on a Diet

I want to talk about two villages on a diet. I have had a hard time watching the CBC series, “Village on a Diet”, as it seems to be mainly focussed on exercise as a weight loss strategy for the people of Taylor, BC. It is becoming increasingly clear that the approach being used is not science-based but designed for maximum emotion and drama. Watching overweight and unfit people being pushed to exercise beyond their capacity to the point where they are often in tears gives me no pleasure. This is especially true since I know from reading the science in this area that it is not helping and may even be counterproductive.

My wife and I watched a recorded episode last night where the fitness guys are personally affronted by the fact that the townspeople are ungrateful for their efforts to whip them into shape. The number of people willing to subject themselves to their abuse was rapidly dwindling. It looked like only a couple of dozen were still trying. I thought the townspeople were reacting normally to an unreasonable intrusion into their lives, but I suspect I am in the minority with that opinion.

The part of the show that was really offensive, however, was the interaction between the “professional chef” and the lady who runs the local pizza parlour. After showing the school kids how to make “healthy” granola bars that were over 50% dried fruit (!) he goes to the pizza shop to demand that “healthy” thin crust pesto pizzas be put on the menu. The owner, rightfully, points out that he doesn’t know her business. She had already tested the recipe he provided and it tasted like cardboard. This doesn’t stop him from berating her until she has an emotional meltdown (great TV!) and ends up closing up shop and leaving town. He effectively drives her out of business! This is a single mom with kids to support! WTF!

Now, I could understand how this would be defensible if she was the local crack dealer . And I am not a big fan of pizza because there is too much carbohydrate in the crust for me. But, I will feed it to my son who has a higher carbohydrate tolerance. And, when he has some, I sometimes will eat just the topping of cheese, tomato sauce and pepperoni. My son gets virtually no sugar and his pizza would be accompanied by a glass of water, not a soft drink and it won’t be followed by an ice-cream sundae. If you eat only the pizza and you don’t have a carbohydrate intolerance, like I do, it’s not going to hurt you.

Try telling that to the team in Taylor, though. It’s as though the pizza lady was personally responsible for the weight problems of the whole town. They even have pizza lunches at the school! The horror! Good enough reason to ruin her livelihood and drive her out of town. I can’t believe the CBC is party to this travesty.

Okay, that’s my rant on Village on a Diet … for now. Let’s talk about another village. This is where CBC redeems themselves by reporting on the amazing work of a young South African doctor, Stefan Du Toit, who has been getting people to lose weight in Valemount, BC. Stefan lost about 40 lbs using a very low calorie, low-fat, low-carb diet before moving to Valemount from South Africa a couple of years ago. When staff in his clinic learned of this they asked him to put them on the same diet. It worked so well that patients began asking for it, too. Stefan now has treated over 100 people with this diet approach and has had amazing results. Their total weight loss is over 3000 lbs! The really interesting thing about this, when compared to the approach used in Taylor, is that Stefan expressly forbids his patients to exercise until they have reached their goal weight. He says, accurately in my opinion, that exercising makes dieting more difficult because it stimulates your appetite. He has many people who have lost over 90 lbs using this approach and they are encouraged to exercise once they have lost the weight but not before.

I have visited his practice and talked to some of his patients. Their stories are remarkable. They get off virtually all their medications and stick to a diet that even I find somewhat extreme for months on end. Stefan doesn’t swear or bully them and there is no drama and emotion so it would make for boring TV, but the joy these people exhibit is a wonderful testament to their amazing accomplishments.

Here is where you can see the news clip on the REAL Village on a Diet: