The Big Issue: How the Harcombe Diet came about

The Big Issue: How the Harcombe Diet came about.
The book has just been launched in Australia and I did an interview with the Illawarra Mercury – a first and likely a last! The journalist, Emma Spillett, most interestingly focused all questions on how the diet came about. As I was answering the questions I realised this may be an interesting Big Issue to share, as there is a chapter called “my personal story” in “Stop Counting Calories”, but I have never before set out the step by step process to describe how we got to this way of eating. I hope you enjoy the journey, as much as I enjoyed remembering it...

There were three key events in my life that led to me doing what I do today:

1) My interest in anything to do with food and what we eat first started when my brother developed type 1 diabetes – he was 15 and I was 13. I witnessed him drop 20 pounds in as many days right in front of my eyes. Looking back, the diagnosis took unusually long – the symptoms of being a teenager, dramatic inexplicable weight loss and insatiable thirst should have been so obvious, but this was 30 years ago and we were probably less switched on to diabetes then. Before long, mum, dad and I had been called in to the hospital to have a family training session to understand the difference between Adrian having a hypo (low blood glucose levels) vs. hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels). As soon as he came home, I was then helping my big brother inject insulin into his body and starting to make the obvious connection between insulin, carbohydrate and weight.

The family diet also changed overnight – gone were the high teas and scones, cake etc from my parents’ upbringing and in came ‘meat and two veg’ kind of meals; much better for the whole family.

2) I developed anorexia when I was 15. My personal view of anorexia, from experience and research since, is that – especially when developed in child or teenager years – it is a psychological condition. It is fundamentally about low self esteem and a high need to control something and food in and exercise done become things that one can, and does, control.

I now also know that, for many anorexics and for so many calorie counters who just didn’t get as far as anorexia, under-eating leads to over-eating just as night follows day. When people ask me how they stop bingeing I say stop starving; when they say how do I stop starving I say stop bingeing – these are the yin and yang of dieting.

3) The final trigger event, which started my years of research, was having bulimia whilst studying at Cambridge University. What should have been the time of my life was being wasted bingeing on crisps, cakes, chocolate, biscuits and all sorts of junk. I asked myself the question – I’m more than half bright – why am I doing this? Why do I overeat when all I want is to be slim? That was the title of my first book and Stop Counting Calories is the practical diet book that follows from that first question.

Why do we overeat?
When I set out to try to understand why I couldn’t stop eating when I wanted more than anything to be slim, there was no internet and research was no where near as easy as it is now. I trotted off to book shops and libraries and looked for anything that seemed to provide a lead...


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