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The best weight loss drug is food

If you've ever tried to lose weight before, you know your Famine Reaction. It's the survival mechanism that protects you from wasting away in times of scarcity, and that includes diets.

The focus of my on-going medical research is to find ways to block the Famine Reaction so that people can lose weight more efficiently.

I'm currently investigating three ways to block the Famine Reaction:

1. By developing new and improved weight loss drugs.
2. With gastric surgery.
3. With food.

Of these three strategies, blocking the Famine Reaction with food is my favorite because it's pleasant, it's cost-effective, and it's totally free from side-effects. More importantly, food is emerging as the most effective means of blocking the Famine Reaction.

Indeed, the Australian Government has recently awarded my collaborators and I a grant for $771,000 in order to prove the effectiveness of food for switching off the Famine Reaction and boosting weight loss efficiency.

While the results from this study are more than 18 months away, readers of my book The Don't Go Hungry Diet are already reaping the benefits of these novel scientific insights.

One such person is Jacinta, who ditched her diet drugs in favor of food and has never looked back. I'm sure you'll be inspired by her story

On the 2nd day of June this 2007, Jacinta, 44, went to her GP for a routine blood pressure check. She had kept her high blood pressure under control with medication since the birth of her third child twelve years ago, but at this check up it was on the rise again.

Weighing in at 98.8 kilos for her 1.7-meter frame, Jacinta and her doctor both knew that losing weight would help get her blood pressure back under control. But although she was desperate to lose weight, Jacinta felt powerless to do so.

Since the age of 28 when her first-born was 3 years old, Jacinta had tried all manner of weight loss methods. Home delivered meals, joining the gym, fiber capsules, a cabbage soup diet, five different diet clubs, low carb, high protein, meal replacement shakes, visualization, hypnosis tapes, Xenical, as well as just trying to 'be good and eat very small portions and as little fat as possible'. Despite her exhaustive attempts to lose weight over the past 16 years, Jacinta would only lose a few kilos (13 at the most) before springing back to her set point of around 98 kilos.

Jacinta's doctor suggested she try Reductil (sibutramine hydrochloride), despite some concerns that it would exacerbate her high blood pressure. Reductil is a weight loss medication that increases the amount of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain, thereby reducing appetite and boosting metabolic rate. Jacinta writes of her early experiences with it.

'I had the prescription made up and started taking it. I had such high hopes that this would work for me, and to tell you the truth, I think it did serve a purpose at first. It got me started. I went on the internet and looked up all the horrible side effects. They were awful, but I was desperate. I had the headaches, sleeplessness, terribly dry mouth, constipation - but happily, very little appetite. It was such an effort to eat a full meal. IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE!'

Jacinta was elated to lose 7 kilos within six weeks of taking Reductil. That's why she was stunned by what happened next.

It stopped working.

'I couldn't believe it! I had read on some of the Reductil forums that other people had also said it stopped working for them and that was OK, they admitted that they just had to try harder to resist their hunger. It was madness - pay $114 a month for this drug and still have to try and resist my hunger??'

It was at this point that Jacinta happened upon my book The Don't Go Hungry Diet. She'd seen it in a bookstore a couple of months previously, but at that time she had not bought it. 'I flipped through the pages and thought how nice the recipes were (yep, straight to the section that told me of all the yummy things I could eat!), but I put it down and thought no, I can't do this, I've done it all before, it won't work, it's just another diet, I know everything there is to know about nutrition and dieting etc'. This time, seeing The Don't Go Hungry Diet again, she bought it on impulse.

'I jumped into bed early that night and read and read and read. I couldn't put it down. I had all of those "aha" moments you wrote about. The whole book was about me! The Famine Reaction didn't care about Reductil - my body was starving!'

Ditching her diet drugs, Jacinta began The Don't Go Hungry Diet in mid-July.

Some two and a half months later, while I was sitting at my computer writing e-mails one evening, I was thrilled when the following message dropped into my inbox.

Date: Tuesday 2nd October 2007 10:00:44 PM
Subject: Thank you!

Dear Dr Amanda

I just wanted to say thank you for your very readable, helpful and fascinating book, which has given me so much hope. I've loved finding out how my body works - and realizing that I am not some freak of nature, that my body is designed just like most other people's bodies and that I CAN lose weight and keep it off once and for all.

I have lost 9 kgs since mid July - and not regained any! My largest loss was 1.8 kgs one week, my smallest loss 0.2 of a kg another week. I know I shouldn't weigh myself weekly - it is probably the one thing I still struggle with. However, in all this time I have not once gained weight.

My energy levels are through the roof.

I am having a love affair with a very suave pedometer! I can't leave the house without it. I love forgetting something at the other end of the house - it's a great excuse to walk back and add steps to my daily total!

I'd like to lose another 10 kgs and I really believe for the first time in my life that I can do it. I can't believe I used to think that it was ok to eat 10 rice crackers for a snack because my diet club said they were great value at "only 1 point for 10". So why not eat 20 - for only 2 points! And I did, all the time. And then I'd be hungry again half an hour later. You, on the other hand, really know what you are talking about. I am proof of that.

Thanks again, and I will be seeing you at your workshop in Oatley library on the 18th of October.

Kind regards,

Jacinta

Jacinta's e-mail made my day. When I hear this kind of news from readers, I always feel satisfied to be fulfilling my mission in life. But it wasn't until I started corresponding with Jacinta that I realized the extent to which my teachings have influenced her life.

In the three and a half months since she started The Don't Go Hungry Diet, Jacinta has lost 10.5 kilos. Combined with the 7 kilos she lost while taking Reductil, her total weight loss is 17.5 kilos and she had dropped from a size 20 to a size 14. Jacinta says the best thing about losing weight is the dramatic reduction in physical pain she feels.

'I have suffered shin splints, heel spurs, plantar fasciitus, bursitus. My hips, feet and legs would ache and throb for hours in bed at night and I wouldn't be able to sleep. If I had family or friends over, and it was a late night, I would collapse from exhaustion and pain when they all left. I would have to take painkillers before I went to bed, and the cleaning up would have to wait til morning. It would take me two days to recover. I thought this was normal for me! I felt like an old woman. I would cry and think "why me". Not anymore!'

Jacinta now knows that most of her pain was not because of physical problems (some osteoarthritis and hyper-mobility), but simply because her body couldn't cope with all that excess weight.

'My pain is only 1/10th of what it used to be. The more weight I lose, the easier it is to be more physical, the less pain I have. Wonderful!'

Jacinta loves being able to buy nice clothes and feel good in them. When I met her at my workshop in October, she looked so young and fresh in a pair of white jeans and a sparkly top, a dramatic difference from the older-looking woman in the "before" photos she had brought to show me.

'I also now like to wear lingerie for my husband and myself (and he's not complaining one bit!) instead of feeling stupid in something skimpy and lacey.'

Before she learned how to lose weight by connecting with her body, Jacinta felt like an anomaly. 'Everyone around me seemed to be able to eat what they wanted to, stop when they wanted to, and maintain a steady, healthy body weight. I truly believed I didn't have a satiety mechanism. I read somewhere once that some people just don't have one, and I thought, yes, that's me for sure, I'm one of "those people". I'm not like the majority of people. I'm meant to be fat because my mother is. I can't stop eating. My body puts on weight too easily and can't lose it without a lot of deprivation and punishment. This is my lot in life and it will never change'.

Now, Jacinta is confident that she will be able to lose those last 8.5 kilos and be done with them for life.

'I am not afraid of hunger anymore and I understand that exercise doesn't have to be hard and I can maintain these changes in my life. I now understand that my body is meant to feel hungry from time to time. It still scares me a little that I need to eat more sometimes, but it doesn't send me into a tailspin as it did in the past because I know my appetite will eventually settle down and my losses will be good ones when it does. I'd much rather eat this way than all the silly ways I tried to lose weight before.'

'I love the fact that I have no doubt changed my destiny. I've left the road that was taking me to a shortened life full of ill health. I used to worry all the time about being here for my children and husband. It is so awful to have that attitude, but it was always on my mind. Not anymore, hopefully I will be around for a long, long time!!!'

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What our readers say...

"Hi Dr Amanda, I bought your book at the start of this year (2008). I had decided to embark on a bunch of life changes as I was diagnosed with depression again, and losing weight (again) was one of them. I tried out the principles of your book just after a bout of low calorie dieting, so I didn’t really find they worked. I was straight into famine, so my weight didn’t go down, it actually went up after a month. So, I tossed your book to one side with all of my other weight loss books. After that, I tried a few other conventional weight loss strategies again, but with no luck. Stuff it, I finally declared, I’m just going to do the best I can with what I’ve got. I used to work as a cook and had always been good at cooking yummy recipes with fresh ingredients. I was over bouts of eating restrictive calorie controlled foods that weren’t very nice, or blowing the diet with bucket loads of McDonalds. I was just going to eat what I wanted and focus on getting good food into me, weight loss be damned. And then I lost two kilos in one weekend. I actually didn’t believe the scales, but I had my boyfriend check them for me and they were correct. After sitting on 134 kilos for months and months, I was now down to 130 kg. I picked up your book and reread it. In the past two months I have eaten whatever I wanted, as long as I am only eating because I am actually hungry, not to pick myself up, for fun, or just because it feels good. I find now that I don’t feel nauseous because I am forced to eat weird food combinations, or stuff I don’t want but know will fill me up. I still exercise and always notice extra weight loss when I do more exercise than normal, and hope to build myself up to an hour a day again and I am now down around the 127 mark. I lost 7 kilos in two months! All while eating more than I did on my calorie-controlled diet, not feeling awful and tired all the time, and instead feeling that my body and I are on the same side for once. I hit the Famine response two days ago, I woke up feeling like I had a cold, was so tired and cold (in Darwin?) and achey and more depressed and realized, this is just my body fighting the weight loss, I just need to hold tight and get through it. I ate wayyyy more than normal (home cooked and nutritious) and found I was almost nauseous if I didn’t get onto getting myself some food as soon as I realized I needed it. I fed the famine response and then today I woke up and felt fine. I felt happier, I felt more energetic (did a bunch of house painting) and a lot less hungry. I had pineapple for breakfast instead of a monster bowl of cereal and fruit. It just feels so great to be able to do right by myself and my health and not feel so awful. I am so glad I found your ad on Facebook and have found advice that so perfectly matches my symptoms and experiences, and shows me the way to deal with them healthily. And I am right in the midst of one of my crappier bouts of depression right now, which I hope means it is something I can sustain for life. Thanks so much. "

- Sally, Darwin, NT