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'Weigh yourself every day': The secrets of Peter FitzSimons' Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down

ABC News logo ABC News 20/12/2016 Ben Pobjie

Former Wallaby and author Peter FitzSimons has released a new book — The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down © ABC News/Supplied: Peter Morris Former Wallaby and author Peter FitzSimons has released a new book — The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down What makes a successful, distinguished man, a man who has scaled the heights of sport and literature, a man with a loving family and everything to live for, suddenly go completely off his rocker and decide to get "healthy"?

Such was the question fizzing in my mind when I sat down to chat with Peter FitzSimons, the ex-Wallaby, accomplished journalist and acclaimed author, who recently took a wild detour from the worlds of sport and history with his new book, The Great Aussie Bloke Slim-Down.

In the book, FitzSimons asserts that he has found the secret to sustainable weight loss — cutting out sugar and alcohol — and that he wishes to share this secret with chubby fellows everywhere.

As the interview began, I got straight down to brass tacks.

Ben Pobjie: So, why do you hate us fat people?

Peter FitzSimons: I don't hate you fat people, I used to be one. I looked at wankers who went to the gym, and wankers who talked about vegetables and salads and not drinking alcohol and thought, god, what's wrong with you people? Just live a life, will you?

I came out of school at 105 kilos, played test rugby at 114 kilos, married Lisa [Wilkinson] at 126, walked the Kokoda Track at 133 kilos, and yo-yoed up and down until four years ago when I found myself at 152 kilos, and thought, "I am just HUGE".

I read David Gillespie's book [Sweet Poison] and he talked about how the natural human intake of sugar was two kilos of sugar per year, but then the industrial revolution came along, industrialised food processing came in, and the intake went to fifty or sixty kilos.

What really screamed out at me was that [Gillespie] said, "Stop the sugar, stop the hunger". That was the lightbulb moment for me — I stopped the sugar, and I wasn't hungry anymore.

What about the old line, 'Everything in moderation'?

I'm not a moderate person. A lot of dieticians say, "You've gotta be moderate", to which my answer is, "Thanks scoop, you put the kettle on, I'll hold the front pages".

You are a man of enormous appetites.

FitzSimons is down to 106kg after hitting a peak weight of 152kg in 2012 © ABC News/Supplied: Peter Morris FitzSimons is down to 106kg after hitting a peak weight of 152kg in 2012 That's right, I am a man of enormous appetites. Moderation is simply not in my nature. With the greatest respect to people who are 150 kilos, I suspect that moderation is probably just not in your nature.

On grog, I'd understand the virtues of moderation — but back when I was doing breakfast radio, I was exhausted, the only way I could get to sleep was to drink a bottle of wine.

The breakthrough for me was when someone said to me the magic words: "One bottle of wine equals one Big Mac."

It's shocking how far this once jolly, Santa-like figure's evangelism goes; not only is he trying to prevent us drinking wine with our dinner, now he wants us to stop having a Big Mac with dinner as well! The conversation turns to the subject of exercise.

I've turned into the kind of gym junkie I once despised. At the beginning of the year I was 126 kilos and I could deadlift 100 kilos. Now, I'm 106 kilos and I'm deadlifting 130 kilos. Now, in my regular life, there is no need for me to ever deadlift 130 kilos...

But you never know, Peter!

You never know. You and I may be in a house one time, there may be a fire, you'll collapse, and I put your massive girth over my right shoulder...

And hopefully, on that day, I will have got myself down to 130.

What do you weigh?

[REDACTED]

I'm gonna give you a pep talk, OK? It starts now.

My opening remark is, stop being a fat f**k. I'm careful to say this in the book: it's not fat-shaming. There are people who are perfectly happy being of large girth. To them I say, go for your life, no problem whatsoever.

But I reckon nine out of 10 people that are very big actually want to lose it. And for those who do want to lose weight, it's really simple, and those wankers who talk about veggies and salads were actually right.

I liked your description in the book of leaning out to the right on the scales — that's a handy tip [Peter recommends leaning out to the right when weighing oneself, in order to take a few crucial grams off the reading].

Don't you do that?

I try to stay off the scales.

Serious nutritionists say things like, "Only weigh yourself once a week".

But with the greatest respect to nutritionists, I reckon I understand the psychology of men who get really fat, and I say to blokes, weigh yourself every morning, and no matter what happens, promise yourself you'll be 0.1 of a kilo lighter than the day before, and get obsessive about that.

And the result is that come Wednesday night, when you have the chance to reach for that extra slice of apple pie, you don't.

What would you say is the most convenient way to lose weight: giving up sugar, walking the Kokoda Track, or playing Test rugby?

Peter FitzSimons was 133kg when he walked the Kokoda Trail in November 2002 © ABC News/Supplied Peter FitzSimons was 133kg when he walked the Kokoda Trail in November 2002 For me, the quickest weight loss was walking the Kokoda Track — I lost a kilo a day.

I tell the story of Buddha Handy, the former Wallaby prop who went two years after me, and the native porters gave him a silver shovel — he was the heaviest to do the Kokoda Track — and they made a speech to him in Pidgin, which translated to: "We wish you well, big boy, but if you drop dead we're not going to carry you out, we're going to bury you where you land."

You were a rugby player. I was a rugby player, too — we both played the same position [second-row, the wild yetis of the rugby team]. Is it possible that rugby causes obesity?

I think you don't get to play rugby unless you have a certain bulletproof feel about you. It's not really a sensible thing to do.

One of the preconditions of playing rugby is you've got to think that the normal rules don't apply. So there's probably a case for that. You have the Coke and the Maccas and the grog and you think it doesn't apply to me.

Right, so we've found a root cause there. Now, have you considered the counter-argument to your case, which is that sugar, when compared to, say, salad, tastes very, very good? Is that something you've borne in mind? Because that's a stumbling block for me.

When I was in your headspace I would look at a stick of celery and go, "Why can't celery taste like Kit-Kats?"

But the truth is, I haven't totally lost my taste for chocolate, but I have totally lost my taste for soft drink. I don't want that anymore — the same way I lost the taste for milk and sugar in my tea — I just can't stand it. So the idea is you lose your taste for sugar.

The other day I was watching a David Attenborough documentary, and there was a polar bear that had emerged after a long winter, and had to go hunting for food. It had lost half its body weight because it hadn't eaten for five months. Is part of this process overcoming our animal nature and the ancient instinct that says, when there's food you eat as much of it as you can because your hind brain is telling you, what if you don't get any more for five months?

That's a very interesting notion. Where sugar fits in nature: if you or I were lost in the jungle, and we find a strange berry, if it's poisonous, it's bitter; if it's good for us, it's sweet.

So the food industry has hijacked that and triggered that sensor in everything they do.

Why did Tim Tams wipe Arrowroots off the shelves? Because there's more sugar in them. How did Pepsi compete with Coke? I think you'll find it has even more sugar in it.

We're gorging ourselves, and we're just not meant to do that. The other thing is that even though I've been abusing my body for 25 years, it hasn't taken 25 years to come good — it's taken two or three years.

You can undo the damage, if you get onto it quick enough, in three-fifths of bugger-all time.

And giving up alcohol, besides the weight benefits, has made you nicer?

I always heard about how alcohol can affect your mood, and thought, well that may be true for some people, but it's not for me. But now I look back, I get it.

It's amazing [how] you see the world with different eyes when you're sober. You see people at parties making total dickheads of themselves and you think, did that loud dickhead used to be me? Well, the short answer is yes, it probably did.

Would you say that now, with your current lifestyle, were you to be pitched into the Bledisloe Cup tomorrow, are you less likely to be sent off?

Yes, that's certainly true. I'm tragically proud of being the only Wallaby ever sent off against the All Blacks.

I think you should be! The final word?

As twee as it sounds, I feel young again. When I was feeling old and fat and slow, it was the fat part that was making me feel old and slow. Now that I've lost that weight, I feel younger and faster.

Postscript: the polar bear died.


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