Book Reviews

I have recently read David Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison and also his follow up book The Sweet Poison Quit Plan.

My interest in these books came from an article on the Sunday show on TVNZ I saw which followed a reporter as he lost 20kg while eating what he wanted but taking sugar out of his diet.  You can view the story here.

He interviewed David Gillespie and there were various quotes from him etc.

That show aired on May 6 2012 and I decided to buy the book and read further about it.  So I bought the first book and devoured it.

It’s pretty interesting actually and very detailed but essentially the prime messages of the book for me were:

– Sugar hasn’t been available to humans in large quantities for very long, in fact less than 100 years.

– Sugar is now in just about everything we eat.  Sweet, savoury or in-between, if it’s a manufactured product, it will almost certainly contain some sugar, and probably more than you think.

– We are all addicted to sugar to some degree or other.  In the western world we are fed sugary treats as kids from an early age and so begins our dependence…

– The table sugar we eat is half glucose, half fructose.  David Gillespie reckons it’s the fructose part of this that is harmful.  Because our bodies have only evolved to deal with the small amounts of fructose found in nature, mainly via fruits.

– He further contends that fructose is responsible for many of the bad diseases that have been blamed on fat such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity etc. And that it’s not really the fat making us fatter, it’s the sugar!

David Gillespie recounts his personal journey which entails hims constantly trying various diets and still gaining weight so deciding to investigate why, and having found out the things above, going on a sugar free diet which led him to shed 40kg and keep it off.

And David is not the only one to make these points.  Here’s the equivalent US story. And here‘s just one of many internet pages on the topic.

So anyway, I thought I’d give it a go.  So I’ve been off sugar for around 7 weeks now.  It’s actually been friggin’ hard, much harder than David implies in his books.  At first I felt really hungry and so for several weeks I just ate everything in sight.  And so I gained around 3-4 kg in weight.  Which was not what I wanted or expected at all!

The hardest part for me is not having desert after dinner.  I usually like to have something sweet in the evenings, like a bowl of ice cream, or some sweet yoghurt or some chocolate and lollies etc.

However since then I have slowed down what I’m eating a bit and seem to have maybe lost 1 of those 3-4 kg again and am not feeling as hungry as I was.  It maybe that I feel a little happier or more positive mentally too, but the effect would need to last longer for me to be able to tell.

So I’m going to stick with it for the time being and see how it goes.  I’ll do it for another 5 weeks, i.e. 3 months in total and see how it feels, see if there’s enough of a difference to bother continuing with it.

Now to be fair, David Gillespie has his fair share of knockers.  The Australian Skeptics society has written a response to his view which you can find here.  I have read it and I’m still thinking about it.  They seem to think sugar is not nearly as dangerous as David Gillespie and others say.


Update as at 12th August 2012:

Well I’ve totally given up on the idea of being sugar free.  It’s a very hard thing to do.  I just found myself hungry all the time, feeling deprived not being able to eat what the rest of the family are eating and so on.

David Gillespie says he got a few headaches, for a few days and felt hungrier over that time too, then those things went away, his appetite lowered and he started losing weight.  Well I think this might be the case for a few people but not for a lot more.  A quick read through his forum site shows that there are many people who struggle with this diet.

I think this non sugar diet can safely be put in the whole ‘Fad Diet’ area, with it really just being a sensible eating program dressed up as something else.  What I mean by this is that the whole idea of this is simply “Don’t eat sugar and stop eating when you’re full”.  Well not eating sugar limits the calories you take in and stopping eating when you’re full is just basic common sense.

But who does this?  Who in the westernised world only eats when they’re hungry?  When they really need to eat? I would guess maybe 1 in a 1000 people do that nowadays?  Most of us just eat because it’s a very pleasurable thing to do.

So anyway, I’m a few kgs heavier after this diet and so just need to get back to eating sensibly.


Prosperity Without Growth

15th Jan 2013


Well I’ve just finished reading this book, and my first impression was that I didn’t really get it!  The reviews are all sort of gushing about how important it is, how ground breaking the message and so on.

I really just thought it was a good description of the problems facing the world and very short on solutions.

So I had to read some other people’s reviews of the book, and then I understood it a bit more.

Essentially what Tim Jackson is recommending here is that we return to a different kind of economy.  One he calls the ‘Cindarella Economy’.  This is where instead of everyone working in extractive, resource intensive industries, more of us are to be employed in low carbon economic activities that employ people in ways that contribute to human flourishing.

And he defines human flourishing as more than just earning a lot of money via a big salary so that you can buy lots of stuff (what he refers to as the time-poor, materialistic, supermarket economy).

And the seeds for such an economy may already exist in local or community-based social enterprises: community energy projects, local farmers’ markets, slow food cooperatives, sports clubs, libraries, community health and fitness centres, local repair and maintenance services, craft workshops, writing centres, water sports, community music and drama, local training and skills. And yes, maybe even yoga, martial arts, meditation, hairdressing, and gardening

And at first that looks totally ridiculous.  I’m reminded of the latter parts of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where the ‘middle men’ of earth such as hairdressers, telephone sanitisers, advertising account executives etc. are all sitting around having baths wondering what it is they’re supposed to be doing.  The don’t realise that they were jettisoned from earth because they are of no use to anyone!

But then, I started to think about this a bit more, and re-read the bits in the book about labour productivity and how this relates to economic growth.  This is a term you hear bandied about a lot and I’ve never really thought a lot about what it really means.

What it really means I guess is getting more productivity (more in $ sales at the end of the day)  out of each labour unit (i.e person). And so to increase production, you either increase labour productivity, or you employ more people at the same productivity level.  Now all the focus over the last 30 years has been on the former, i.e. you get more and more out of each person through technological innovation, better work practices and so on. But what does this lead to?  Well it’s supposed to lead to higher wages, costs being driven down and a positive cycle of expansion. But what it really leads to is unemployment, because less people are employed to produce the same output.

As long as the economy grows fast enough to offset this increase in ‘labour productivity’ there isn’t a problem.  But if it doesn’t, then increased labour productivity means a loss of jobs.

And so this highlights the lunacy at the heart of the growth-obsessed, resource-intensive consumer economy. Low productivity is seen as a disease. The set of activities that I mention above, could provide meaningful work and contribute valuable services to the community are denigrated because they involve employing people to work with devotion, patience and attention.

So what would this ‘Cindarella Economy’ look like? Well this is an economy where people would work at something that provides them with a bit of meaning, perhaps they’re using some creativity and they find a credible place in the world for themselves.  And people would have more participation in society, a degree of security and a sense of belonging.  Equality is also important, something sadly lacking from our societies at the moment.

And of course this must all be within ecological limits.  The nature of production in such and economy must satisfy these 3 things:

  • Positive contribution to flourishing
  • Provision of decent livelihoods
  • Low material and energy throughput

And the Cindarella economy is problematic in conventional terms because its potential for productivity growth is almost negligible, which means an end to endless growth…

So actually, this is quite an important book.  I’ve read that people have been saying some of this stuff for years now, but even so, this is a very good presentation of the information in this field.