By Peter FitzSimons, Sydney Morning Herald

Oi! You. Fatty Boomka. Yes, you.

Don’t look around at others. I am talking to you, bloke. And don’t be offended at being called “Fatty Boomka” either, precious, because I used to be you … And, just like you, my weight yo-yo-ed up and down for thirty-odd years … 

Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons says quitting alcohol has given him more ‘blissful’ days in his marriage to broadcaster Lisa Wilkinson, on Mamamia’s No Filter podcast.

Oh, come on. You have been on exactly the same yo-yo weight plan – very fat … pretty fat … not-so-fat-but-still-a-whole-lot-to-love … VERY bloody fat – and we both know it.

So began an article I wrote for Fairfax last New Year’s Day, before going on to detail how I had lost a quarter of my body weight simply by stopping the sugar and the grog – and, if I do say so myself, it was well-received in the first few days after publication. Far more arresting, however, was what happened in the next few weeks and months. Emails and tweets started arriving from people around the country, noting how, following that simple formula, the weight had simply fallen off them too!

They were every bit as stunned as me how – after bloody DECADES – of getting ever heavier, and slower, the solution was so bloody simple.

Soon enough my publisher was on the blower – OK, OK, I called them – and a book was underway, with my wife suggesting the title: The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down. For, you see, the guts of it was NOT to go on a diet. It was to <<change>> my diet. It was to get it through my thick melon, two truths that had previously escaped me:

  • When it comes to food, if you stop the sugar, you stop the hunger.
  • When it comes to grog – at least for heavy drinkers like I was – total abstinence is much easier than moderation.



 Illustration: John Shakespeare

The third tier to now having lost a third of my body-weight was the more obvious one of engaging in regular exercise. This year, particularly, I have turned into the very gym-junkie I once despised. They were right, and I was wrong – it is a better life to be working out, to be fit, to be strong. To my delight, even though now aged 55, I am actually growing muscles where there had previously been only flab, and my torso, which once looked like a hairy-mud-slide, now has a couple of discernible abs!

Far more important than the way I look, however, is the way I <<feel>>. Dropping all the weight, stopping the grog outright, and getting my arse moving, has made me feel, I kid you not, like I was 25 again. Instead of dragging myself out of bed, trying to clear my head, I am up and out and moving fast, and hitting the day with a gusto I had long forgotten was possible.

Peter Fitzsimons on the Kokoda Track in 2003.
Peter Fitzsimons on the Kokoda Track in 2003.  

So why doesn’t everyone do it?

One obvious reason is that the messages people are bombarded with are so bloody complicated, and frequently contradictory, that people get lost in a morass of solutions that don’t work in the long term – everything from complicated diets to magic wobble boards, to magic pills to surgery – and can’t see the most important truth.

FitzSimons in December 2005.
FitzSimons in December 2005.  

That truth is that it IS the sugar that is doing the damage!

Knock that out, and you are half-way home.

Peter Fitzsimons has lost a third of his body weight.
Peter Fitzsimons has lost a third of his body weight. 

I am certainly not the first to say so, and my mentor in the field has been David Gillespie who wrote the book Sweet Poison, which is the first to send me down the path of cutting sugar from my diet. People like him and Sarah Wilson – author of the I Quit Sugar series – tend to take flak from the very powerful Big Sugar lobby, as they have their credentials or lack thereof, attacked.

Well, they’re in for a nice surprise when they try to attack my credentials.

See, I don’t have any! Attack that, you mongrels!

As I make clear in the book:

In no way am I a nutritional expert, but I respect those who are.

I am not an expert on human movement.

I am not an academic.

What I am is a bloke who was once fit enough to be in the lead after five events of a 60 Minutes special on “Who is Australia’s Fittest Athlete?” to play Test rugby at 114 kilograms, before blowing out to a shattering 152 kilograms four years ago … who has now made his way back to 106 kilograms.

Yes’m, I have lost, now a third of my body weight, and am as light as I have been in 32 years, simply by changing my mindset, and grasping those few basic concepts that had previously escaped me.

With the help of experts – some of whom speak complicated gibberish, but I’ve translated into the fluent “Aussie bloke” I’ve been mastering for donkey’s years – I’ve worked out how to get my weight down so it bloody well stays down, and live a whole lot healthier life to boot.

As to the grog, that is one of two areas where I differed with Gillespie. It’s not quite that he gives a free pass to wine and other alcoholic beverages – it’s just that as he was never a big drinker, he didn’t focus on it. Well, I was a big drinker and the breakthrough for me was someone pointing out that there are as many calories in a bottle of wine as in a Big Mac. How many times, then, at restaurants was I having a two or three course meal, and washing it down with a Big Mac, if not two, and then getting on the scales the next day to wonder why I was so HUGE?

The revelation for me was that, once I stopped it, how little I missed it – not at all – and how many benefits there were beyond just health.

Let’s go with relationships. As I also noted in the original article, and in the book, while I have been happily married for 24 years, my marriage is not a Hallmark Greeting Card one, it is a real one. By my reckoning, over that time, we’ve had on average 300 pretty good days together a year, 50 fabulous days and … 15 shockers.

What causes the shockers? Broadly, I would say, like everyone, it comes down to the struggle to juggle. When you have too many things on, too little time to get through them, balls are dropped. Whose fault are those dropped balls?

Well, when pissed, I not only would have said they were her fault, but frequently did say so!

Sometimes loudly.

Now … not so much.

Without grog in you, you are much less often a bad-tempered prick, and I really mean that. I am not a moody bastard by nature, and was lucky that when I had too much grog in me, the primary effect was to make me more inclined to laugh, or lie down for a sleep. But, there really was another side to it, looking back. I never used to think grog could affect my temper, but, on sober reflection, I now get it – it did.

For starters when I am sober, I am no longer inclined to tell my wife, wit’ shum detail, now you lishen to me … a few things she DESPERATELY needed to be told at the time!

Why bother? With sobriety, I am juggling better and dropping far fewer balls. I have more energy for her and our children, I am calmer, and when things do go wrong, as they inevitably will, I am much less likely to blow up in frustration.

Bottom line?

At the very least, at the bare, hungry, sniffin’ MINIMUM, you should give giving up the grog, entirely, a try. Not moderation, just … stop.

Peter FitzSimons’ new book, The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down, is published by Penguin Random House on November 19 (RRP $24.99).

Peter FitzSimons is managed by The Fordham Company.

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