The GI Diet Guide


Rick Gallop on Healthy Eating

In May 2008 Tim Wiffen interviewed Rick Gallop for the GI diet guide website. Rick Gallop is the most prolific advocate of the GI diet having written more than eight books on the subject. He was previously the chairman of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and still continues extensive studies into the issues surrounding healthy eating, dieting and weight loss. He also pioneered the GI traffic light system that categorized foods into red, yellow and green (eat less red light foods and more green). He has recently published a new book "The Gi Diet Clinic" in which he reveals a weight loss plan devised whilst followings the progress of a group of women who have struggled to lose weight all their lives.

You published your first GI diet book in 2002 is that correct?

Yes, in Canada and I guess it came out in 2003 in the UK.

What changes have you seen in the world of healthy eating in the last six years?

I think the biggest change has been the recognition by people like myself, yourself and South Beach that the kind of foods we are recommending, the low glycemic foods, are in fact important in people's diet; which is something that wasn't even registering a few years ago. That's a big change and I think we have to credit South Beach for some of it, although they haven't pushed GI to the extent that you and I have.

Yes, I guess there has been a mental shift and an increase in public awareness.

I think so and in part this is to Atkins credit, by starting this revolution in terms of people thinking about what they are eating back in the 1970s. Obviously we have a lot of issues with Atkins, along with everybody else, but never the less it got people thinking. I think we owe him a lot of credit as he had a whole lot of rethinking in the nutritional field and what constitutes weight loss and how we achieve that.

I see two of the biggest blockers to healthy eating as time and money, in the clinic that you ran for your latest book did people struggled in these area?

Not so much; no. I wouldn't say they were primary ones. Time [hasn't been an issue] in the sense that it's a pretty straight forward way of eating and it doesn't require a huge amount of preparation. From a time standpoint it's never really became an issue, the main issue was planning time, that you need to think ahead about what you need to have in the house or if you're going out on the road travelling, you've got to make sure you can take some green light foods with you because the chances are you won't find them at your local fast food [outlet]. So there was some planning in terms of the time required. In terms of money, it does get raised occasionally because of the increased number of fruits and vegetables that we advocate. My response to that is that the nutrition value of frozen fruits is the same as fresh, and most of the supermarkets have these large family size bags of frozen fruits and berries which you can buy all year round. And because they are picked at the right time they probably taste better than the fresh stuff and they have all the same nutritional value. So I tell them that from a cost standpoint, apart from fruits and vegetables there is really nothing that is more expensive. As you know, we advocate less processed food. It's the processing that costs the money usually so have your old fashioned oatmeal porridge for breakfast don't go for the fancy breakfast cereals that cost a lot more anyway.

Will we be seeing a GI diet for the impoverished to accompany the GI diet for Busy People?

Well it's an interesting thought. I could write two pages, but the problem is I don't think there is enough material there.

Do you think an obsession with healthy eating is a healthy thing?

Yes I do. I just wish it was more of an obsession. I think its fine for people like you and me and people in the know and for people who follow your website and follow my book, but unfortunately it's a small number. From an obesity stance we are not making much headway, in fact it's been quite the reverse. Up until recently we've been losing ground. So I wish there was more angst about healthy eating. I think there is a lot of media coverage, but I just don't know how much is being read or how much in penetrating because the end results don't seem to support that.

What about people who obsess about healthy eating to an extreme?

Tell them not to obsess about it but I'm glad when they are a little obsessive we need more people who obsess a bit. I think the other area that people struggle with is this whole area of exercise. What fitness clubs are recognizing is that most people join because they want to lose weight. But they get disappointed because it's probably not the most effective way to lose weight, because your diet has got to change [too]. Their recognizing that there is such a huge turnover [of people] at these fitness clubs because people are finding it doesn't work that well and then give it up. I do try and preach the fact that it's 90% diet and 10% exercise when you're trying to lose weight, but when trying to maintain it exercise becomes critical. But for those trying to lose weight exercise it is a pretty inefficient way. I often point out to people that you need to walk 62 kilometers briskly in order to lose a pound of fat, if you look at trying to lose a stone that's an awful lot of exercise. When people are obese they are lugging around an enormous amount of extra weight and I wonder how they do it quite frankly.

So it keeps them fit just by the weight they carry round?

Yes, if you can do it. If you're obese and you've got 60-80 pounds to lose and you think those people couldn't even lift 60-80 pounds if they had it in a bag on the floor. Yet they carry it around all the time. I do make the case in one of the books: do people know what weight weighs. People talk about losing 20, 25 pounds and have no concept what that actually weighs. I've given them a dumbbell weighing 20, 25 pounds and said walk up and down the stairs a few times holding that then put it down. They'll do that then they'll say, "Oh I'd no idea. Gee that's really heavy.", and that's what you're carrying around all the time and you can't put it down. And it dawns on them; it's like a light going on.

I had an Irish woman write to me and she said she used potatoes. One of my things I suggest is that people put a bag alongside their scales and as they lose weight they put a book into the bag or a can of food or a water bottle, to show what they lost. And when they get discouraged or plateau then they should go down three flights of stairs carrying the bag with the weight you've lost. And then you'll realize, boy, that's a hell of a lot I've lost and it reinforces it for people. She was using potatoes and she got so many potatoes in her bag she said she had 70 pounds and she couldn't even lift it. She got a friend to lift it; which made a point. She just had no concept of what she was carrying around.

Next page - The interview continues with Rick Gallop on the Gi Diet
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