Simon Gault's journey of self-improvement in Why Are We Fat?

by Fiona Rae / 09 September, 2017
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Simon Gault in Why Are We Fat?, Sunday.

Portly chef Simon Gault discovers the shocking truth about his health in new documentary.

Simon Gault, usually seen fixing a gimlet eye on a MasterChef contestant, is the latest chef to use his powers for good. In Why Are We Fat? (Prime, Sunday, 8.30pm), he tackles the crisis that is taking years off our lives and stretching our healthcare systems.

A shocking number of Kiwis are now overweight or obese, and it has happened in a generation. “We literally have more fat people than slim people,” says Gault.

“When you look at TV footage of people on the beach 50 years ago, you don’t see fat people. Whereas now, our children are obese, and that says a lot about us as parents as to what we’re feeding our kids.”

But if you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better get on the treadmill. Gault begins the doco with the admission that he has loved every minute of his “life of food”, but “unfortunately, I’ve become large”.

Mixed in with all the experts telling us exactly where we’ve gone wrong, Gault goes on a journey of self-improvement, especially because, like a lot of people nowadays, he has developed type-2 diabetes. This means putting his portly body on the line for science, having a battery of tests that reveal information he’d almost rather not know.

“Do I want people to see me running around with all my fat hanging out? No. I’m just like everybody else, a bit overweight and not really very proud of it. But hopefully it will help people,” he says. The most shocking test is his visit to Massey University’s “BodPod”, which measures body fat percentage. Let’s just say that Gault comes in under half.

Lifestyle changes follow, as well as investigations into gut bacteria, sleep, exercise and diet. “You see the improvements that I have in visceral fat and fat around all the organs. It’s better than having a gastric bypass,” he says. His weight loss has also made a huge difference to his diabetes.

Experts in the series include the illustrious Dr Robert Lustig, who has been campaigning against sugar and processed foods for nearly a decade. The US professor and endocrinologist says sugar is, like alcohol, an energy source but is not nutritious and we’re overwhelming our systems. “We consume three to four times the amount of sugar per day that our body can metabolise rationally,” says Lustig.

“It’s a cheap form of getting people to love something,” says Gault. “I mean if our grandparents wouldn’t recognise it as food, then we probably shouldn’t be putting it in our mouths.”

This article was first published in the September 9, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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