He ain’t heavy any more

By Esther Lewis Time of article published Aug 30, 2013

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Comedian Stuart Taylor and restaurant critic Brian Berkman tell how they shed the kilos.


COMEDIAN Stuart Taylor remembers resembling a well-fed “tenderpreneur” just a year ago. But since then he has lost 20kg… the equivalent of a small child.

Taylor, who weighed 91.2kg, says there were two things that spurred him to lose the weight: a head-and-shoulders photograph of his heavier self and an incident with his two young sons, now aged two and five.

He was next to the pool, bending over to tie his shoelace. “My stomach was in the way, and I was struggling to breathe,” he says.

While bent over, his boys jumped on his back. His first thought was to swipe them off his back. Instead, he realised that he was faced with a choice: “I could either be that father who runs around with them and spends hours climbing trees and jumping on trampolines. Or I could be the father says: ‘You go and do that’, while I sit down,” he says. Taylor chose the former.

He says that weight was never an issue for him in the past. But by last year it was catching up with him.

At the end of June last year, he went to gym and did a body assessment. Fortunately, he showed no signs of the usual health issues that go hand in hand with being overweight. His blood pressure and cholesterol were normal.

He then read about the Dukan diet and bought the book. The diet is made up of a high protein, low-fat and low-carbohydrate diet. It works in four phases, and aims to change eating patterns in the long term.

“I psyched myself up. The weekend before I started, I was in a food court and pigged out.”

He says anyone who starts a diet should go to his favourite fast food place for the last time, and eat all they can handle. Because that really will be the last time.

Once he started the diet, being barred from drinking any alcohol in the beginning stage was the most difficult, he says.

He started seeing results immediately. It took him two-and-a-half months to lose 20kg.

And, together with a good exercise plan, he’s managed to keep it off. Taylor trains three to four times a week. Of these sessions, one is with a personal trainer and one is spent in a Pilates class. “I’ve become more aware of what I eat. It’s become a way of life,” he says.


TWO years ago it seemed like media man and restaurant critic Brian Berkman was living the dream: a great job, many travel opportunities, and positive attention.

But, weighing in at 153kg, his health was failing, and he suffered in private.

Berkman says the only period he wasn’t overweight was between the ages of six and eight.

After that, he was so overweight he had to have his school uniform tailored to fit.

It was in his early twenties that his health started suffering. He started taking medication for high blood pressure, and then later for type 2 diabetes. At his heaviest, Berkman took 23 pills daily.

Meanwhile, Berkman had a high-profile job in public relations and media. “I always thought I was living the life I dreamed I would be. In private, though, I suffered not being able to move easily. My back was always sore, and at times I could not get out of bed to go to the loo at night without agonising pain,” he says.

As far as relationships went, he initially dated “chubby-chasers” – those who were especially attracted to his size.

Most other people, Berkman believes, have been socialised into pretending that weight doesn’t matter.

“The truth for me is that I always judged myself more harshly than anyone else did… I think we do ourselves and those who are obese a disservice by not speaking the truth of how we see it.”

In July 2011, his diabetes was out of control and he was taking the maximum doses of high-blood pressure medication.

“I decided to investigate bariatric surgery. I didn’t believe I could lose weight any other way. I was wrong,” he says.

Berkman believes fate intervened.

He was scheduled for the operation twice, but each time it was postponed. At that point, he was already starting to shed weight on his own.

The biggest change Berkman made was to remove starch, sugar and alcohol from his diet.

“I believe it was my addiction to sugar and the sugars created by carbohydrates that prevented me from sticking to a ‘balanced’ low-calorie eating plan.”

He also signed up with a cognitive behavioural therapist to help him develop strategies when faced with difficult eating situations, and a biokineticist to improve his physical fitness gradually, and without injuring himself.

“The hardest part of the process was changing my behaviour,” says Berkman.

The former restaurant and food critic announced publicly that he would stop writing about dining out. He told family and friends that he would eat a limited diet, which he would prepare himself.

Part of his process included giving away clothing that no longer fit. There was no going back.

Among Berkman’s biggest challenges was the death of his mother in June last year.

“It gave me the opportunity to prove to myself that, if I could stick to my eating plan in these circumstances, then I could do so in any circumstances,” he says.

Berkman’s hard work paid off. After18 months, he had shed 73kg and is now at his goal weight of 80kg.

He is no longer diabetic and his blood pressure is normal.

Berkman went from struggling to move to mountain climbing, mountain biking, and kayaking. He is testing his new limits.

Berkman is blogging about his journey at www.BrianBerkman.com, and will also be giving motivational workshops in September. More information is available at [email protected] - Cape Argus

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