Something Came Up | Issue 8

Something Came Up | Issue 8

Weighty matters

I’ve always been chubby. “Big boned” according to my mother, and just “fat” by my brother. I am no stranger to the diet fads that sweep through the western world.

There are the big international diet organisations which weigh you weekly, and have an individual or group counselling session. Examples are:

Jenny Craig: Lots of expensive carbohydrate laden pre-cooked meals.

Weight Watchers: Protein rules. Fish, cheese, fish and cheese, with a cameo appearance of meat. I’m a life member. 

System Slim: Menu plans, I could write them in my sleep.


Then there are the diet additives and medicines that offer to melt the kilos away, which haven’t shifted a gram for me personally. Examples are: 

Garcinia cambogia: Said to be an extract from an exotic fruit. It allegedly magically melts fat by some chemical interaction not replicable with a Bunsen burner. 

Chia seeds: At least quite tasty.

Laxatives: Empties out the bowel to give an initial weight loss, followed by diarrhoea.

Xenical: Reduces absorption of the fat in your food intake. Not useful for alcohol and carbohydrates. And the “oily anal secretions” sound like a delight!


There have been lots of medicines over the years, but currently the only diet medicine available in New Zealand is phentermine. It’s an amphetamine derivative, and a prescription only medicine. It sounds like it would keep me awake most of the night. I have heard some success stories, and I’m sure it decreases appetite. But it has a wicked rebound effect, so that you feel sleepy and hungry once it’s stopped.

In the last year my blood glucose has crept up, and so has my blood pressure. Both indicators that my extra kilos are impacting on my health enough to put me on a lifetime daily diet of medication. Strangely, I found avoiding medication more motivating than not being able to fit a size 12.

I’m a trend follower and an optimist. So I’m really excited about the latest craze, which has caused a significant drop in membership for the international diet companies. It’s a free online smartphone app called My Fitness Pal (MFP). You get to log your calories on a daily basis, and balance them against energy output. What really appeals to me is the handy little doofer that scans the calories into the diary. Just focus your mobile phone on the barcode and voila! Calorie count added! What’s more, it travels across borders. I had a friend visiting Japan last week, and she had this for a snack;

ブルボン - アルフォート<ミルクチョコ>, 6 枚

I have no idea what it consisted of, but it was 300 calories!

You can have friends on MFP where you can read about their daily intake and watch their progress. MFP will also send you a reminder to give positive words of encouragement. It may be a symptom of my current ennui with the American election, but find reading the random bits and pieces of my friends’ daily food intake more interesting than the news. And if you have a blow out and exceed your calorie intake by several thousand: no problem, don’t enter it, and it never happened.

But the real icing on the hypothetical cake is another little gadget I love; my Fitbit. It straps around my wrist, records every step I take, and sends it to MFP. So you can have the beautiful words “you have earned 2000 calories from exercise today” magically appear. I find myself scanning the calorie count of food before I scoff it. It’s been a revelation what a deterrent it is - apparently I don’t like chocolate enough to go on another 20 minute run.

With my two best friends, MFP and my Fitbit, I’m on a downward trend. Wish me luck!

This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2016.
Posted 12:03pm Sunday 24th April 2016 by Isa Alchemist.