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Alistair Donnell Blog

Weight Loss Training HULL

Posted on October 8, 2013 at 11:17 am


I have a weight loss training and coaching programme coming up on Saturday the 26th of October. It will consist of a training day at the Artlink centre on Princes Avenue and 8 hours of personalised one to one coaching. Watch the video below to find out a bit more about the programme itself.

Before you find out more about the programme this video will outline who will benefit the most from the programme and who will more than likely not benefit from it.

What will I be learning?

On the training day you will be learning about what your body does with the foods that you eat. By understanding the biology behind nutrition you are then in a strong position to start learning what kind of diet works for you. It is not about calories in, calories out and exercise. Exercise does help weight loss but not for the reasons you think. When you understand what your body does with the foods that you eat you become your own diet expert. On top of that we will be learning how to organise your psychology to help you implement these changes. We will be tracking your habits, finding out what is driving your cravings and using psychological tools to change them. Through making changes in your diet along with making changes in your psychology you are in a very strong position to lose the weight and also keep the weight off.

This article that I wrote will give you an idea of the biology behind your diet. It does get technical in places. On the day I will be teaching this in a much simpler and easier to understand way.

The one to one coaching you receive will be tailored to your own particular circumstances and challenges. For example some people may experience challenges with comfort eating. Other people might be struggling with particular cravings. Some people might be finding it difficult planning their time. Dealing with stress can also affect weight loss. It really depends on your own circumstances. In this following video I outline one of the coaching processes that I will be teaching you.

How will it work?

You come for the days training on Saturday the 26th of October at the Artlink centre on Princes Avenue. The training starts at 10am and finishes at 5pm. You also get 8 hours of personalised one to one coaching after the training day. You can “cash in” your coaching hours as and when you need to.

How much does it cost?

The cost for the full programme which includes the full days training and a full 8 hours coaching is £100.

How do I sign up?

You can contact me by phone, my number is 07983 652610. You can send me an e mail through the contact form on the top right of the site. When you contact me I will arrange a time to speak with you over the phone. The purpose of the call will be for you to ask me any questions and also for me to see if the programme will be a good fit for you. I can also tell you more about the programme itself and how you can expect to benefit from the programme. If you have any questions get in touch and I can clarify anything for you.

Alistair Donnell



There Is No Such Thing As Good And Bad Cholesterol

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 4:54 pm


Current health advice has etched the notion of “good” and “bad” cholesterol in our minds like a pair of naughty lovers carving their initials in a tree. In the previous article (1) we looked at some statistics about the almost meteoric rise in heart disease over the past 50 years and also how saturated fat consumption has plummeted. That in itself is irresistibly curious. We’ll come back to that. First, it is useful to understand what is meant by the terms “good” and “bad” cholesterol that we keep being reminded about. Low density lipoproteins (LDL’s) are known as “bad” cholesterol and high density lipoproteins (HDL’s) are known as “good” cholesterol. There is already a problem with calling lipoproteins cholesterol because a lipoprotein is a lipoprotein, a lipid and a protein it is not cholesterol. I cannot emphasise this point enough because even what we are being taught about good and bad cholesterol isn’t even cholesterol. It doesn’t make sense to talk about or think in terms of good and bad cholesterol. It does make sense to gain a better understanding of HDL’s, LDL’s and what they do. Once we have a good understanding of that we can then look at how they are implicated in their role of heart disease that we are dutifully trying to avoid by consuming a highly refined high carb, low fat diet.

LDL’s transport essential fatty acids into cells so that they can function healthily (2). Essential fatty acids are called essential because the body cannot produce them, they need to come from our diet therefore they are termed essential. The body produces LDL’s so that they can carry essential fatty acids to cells along with life giving oxygen that the cell also needs. Those essential fatty acids in the LDL are attached to cholesterol. The essential fatty acids, ones that are absolutely vital for healthy functioning are transported through the bloodstream in LDL’s so that they can be taken to sites of need. LDL’s provide the means of transporting life giving essential fatty acids and cholesterol. If you didn’t produce LDL’s you would be dead. Again, it is probably worth driving this home now to get you thinking about advice that encourages us to get as low a LDL count as possible.

HDL’s carry toxins and spent cholesterol out of the cell and back to the liver to excrete the toxins and recycle the cholesterol (cholesterol is so vital to the body the liver recycles it). It is called “good” cholesterol because it carries the “bad” cholesterol back to the liver and away from the artery wall. It is called “good” cholesterol is because a build up of “bad” cholesterol in the artery walls are believed to be the cause of heart disease. It is no wonder everyone is confused, the basic biology behind it doesn’t even hold up.

To summarise and clarify; LDL’s carry essential fatty acids and oxygen to cells that need it. Those essential fatty acids are attached to life giving cholesterol as they are transported. HDL’s carry toxins and spent cholesterol back the liver where the toxins get excreted and the cholesterol recycled. If these processes are essential to life, then what processes could be contributing to heart disease? We will explore this next.



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Saturated Fat and Heart Disease Rates

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm

The assumption that cholesterol causes heart disease is so pervasive in our culture that nobody thinks to question it. Why would we? If cholesterol causes heart disease then all we need to do is reduce cholesterol intake. We have been taught that in order to reduce cholesterol intake we reduce our intake of saturated fat because saturated fat increases cholesterol. Through reducing our saturated fat intake we therefore reduce our chances of developing heart disease. This is what we are taught right from the top from government level and through institutions such as the NHS in the UK and the National Institute of Health in America. This is reflected in the diet that we now eat which is a diet high in carbohydrates and low in saturated fat.

Saturated fat consumption has nearly halved in the UK since 1974. Red meat consumption, a source of saturated fat that we are advised to avoid is nearly a third of how much we ate in 1961. Our butter consumption is a quarter of the amount we consumed in 1961. Lard consumption has fallen from 59g a year in 1961 to a mere 3g a year today. We literally do not consume lard anymore. All of these foods contain high levels of saturated fat.

If cholesterol causes heart disease and saturated fat is a significant source of cholesterol then a significant reduction in the consumption of saturated fat should also lead to a reduction in heart disease. In 1961 recorded incidents of coronary artery disease was 45,770. In 2009 that number had risen to 265,667, a five fold increase. Cardiac procedures rose from 2,297 in 1977 to 22,846 in 2008. Between 1970 and 1991 rates of angina in men over 75 nearly tripled. Between 1994 and 2006 the rates increased a further 46%. Less people are dying from heart disease but the incidence of it doesn’t seem to be going down it looks like it’s going up. It looks like it is is going up a lot. A UK government report predicts that 3 out of 4 adults will suffer from heart disease, diabetes or related illness by 2030 (1).

If saturated fat is a driving factor in heart disease then how can consumption be going down while heart disease goes up?


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What Is Cholesterol And What Does It Do?

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm


Through this next series of articles over a couple of weeks we are going to dig deep into the controversies surrounding the “healthy” diet that we are being encouraged to eat. Once you have a wider understanding of the basic biology and deep systemic issues surrounding this so called healthy diet it puts you in a very strong position to decide for yourself what your own healthy diet should look like. If nothing else what we will be learning will be stunning.

A useful starting point for learning about healthy living is to have an understanding of what cholesterol actually is, what it does and why it is one of the most important substances the body produces. Cholesterol is found in every single cell in your body. Virtually every single cell in your body is capable of making it.  If you do not have enough cholesterol ingested from your diet your liver makes it. These three points are extremely important. Cholesterol is absolutely essential for a healthy functioning body. We have been told it causes heart disease and leads to heart attacks. Cholesterol is a waxy like substance and is involved a large variety of life giving processes within your body. It is extremely versatile in what it can be used for. Cholesterol gives cell walls the fluidity that animals need to be able to move freely. Cholesterol is essential for healthy bones and gives them fluidity. Cholesterol keeps us from getting dehydrated. Cholesterol is a vital precursor in the synthesis of hormones. If you do not have enough cholesterol you cannot produce adequate amounts of testosterone, oestrogen, cortisol and many others. The brain is extremely rich in cholesterol and this is essential for healthy functioning. If your brain is lacking in cholesterol it can cause a wide range of problems. Cholesterol is vital for growing children. Large amounts of cholesterol are found in the skin and perform vital functions including; making it flexible, providing resistance to water soluble toxins and producing vitamin D. Cholesterol is needed for the healing process of cells if any damage occurs. If you cut yourself or hurt yourself in some way the liver will produce more cholesterol to be transported through the blood so that it can be used in the healing process. Cholesterol is so important that once it is used in a metabolic process it gets picked up and carried back to the liver so it can be recycled and used again. Bottom line, you need cholesterol.

It’s Not Your Fault You Are Fat

Posted on September 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

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They used to think the earth was flat then somebody did science and found out it was round. They used to think weight loss and weight gain was due to calories in, calories out and exercise. Then somebody did science and found out that was bollocks. If you go to your doctor and ask him why you are overweight chances are he will tell you that you are eating too much and not exercising enough. This is bollocks. This kind of sloppy thinking stems from the first law of thermodynamics which is a law of energy balance. The first law of thermodynamics states: “The energy within a closed system remains constant”. This is then erroneously applied to weight gain as “If you eat it (energy intake), you must burn it (energy expenditure) or you will store it (weight gain)” (1). Which can translate into “Eat too much and your body stores it you lazy little glutinous fatty costing me the tax payer more money than tobacco smokers. Get off your fat tv watching biscuit troughing lard arse and get some exercise.”

Some people actually think like that and even kinder more compassionate people that don’t think like that still essentially believe that you are eating too much and exercise too little. That notion is deeply flawed and it is not your fault you are overweight. It is flawed because the law of thermal dynamics that supports that hypothesis is a law of physics not a law of biology. You can’t directly apply the laws of physics to biology, not yet and more than likely not in our lifetime anyway. Our bodies do not work in a simple and linear energy in energy out fashion. It is the kind of energy coming in that affects our metabolism and how it creates, stores and uses fat. It has nothing to do with calories it is a question of what affects the natural hormonal system responsible for maintaining a healthy weight. A calorie is anything but a calorie and an empty one is anything but empty.

The modern diet that we have been cajoled into eating has completely knocked the natural homeostatic system for maintaining a healthy weight out of balance. Obesity is a hormone disorder and that is not your fault, it is certainly not your choice either. We have a rising obesity epidemic in children we are even beginning to see it in 6 month old babies. No child chooses to be obese there must be other factors at play driving this pandemic. To understand what is driving the pandemic we need to turn to biology and how the body metabolises glucose, fructose and fat.

Are you ready? Take my hand and I will swim you gently through the arteries of obesity

The process of maintaining a healthy weight

I’m going to keep the process as simple as I can. As I researched this and dug deeper and deeper it gets complicated and extremely technical. Keeping it simple will allow you to understand what is currently happening. What we will be learning here is the systemic cause for weight gain and obesity. A systemic cause is not a single cause, it is the biggest cause that is driving the system, the biggest cause that is driving weight gain and obesity. Smoking for example is the systemic cause for lung cancer but it is not the only contributing factor. However we know enough to know that smoking is the leading systemic cause of lung cancer. Staying with the smoking analogy it does not affect everyone in the same way. Everyone knows someone who had a granddad that smoked a hundred a day and lived to a ripe old age of 90. Everyone knows someone who at least knows someone that died of lung cancer and never smoked a cigarette in their life. People are unique and we do not all respond to things we put in our bodies in the same way. When someone smokes they are taking a risk with their health. For some people the risk pays off, for others they die. Even for the ones that don’t die smoking it will affect their health significantly. This is not controversial.

When the body is consuming and utilising food in an optimal way you eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full and feel fit and active. The two main players that allow this process to happen are the hormones insulin and leptin. When we ingest food insulin rises as much as it needs to to store any excess energy, mostly in the form of fat and the fat cells then produce the hormone leptin which travels up to the brain which tells the brain that the body has enough energy telling the body to stop consuming food (this is known as satiety; a feeling of fullness). When this is working optimally the brain signals the sympathetic nervous system to increase energy expenditure to start using the fuel we have just ingested and we feel good, we feel energised. At the same time the brain also sends a signal down another pathway which blocks the action of insulin which then stops shunting fat into the cell leading to a gradual reduction of leptin. When leptin levels fall low enough the brain says “I’m hungry” and the process starts all over again. No calorie counting, no calorie reduction, no fat build up, no hunger, a perfect negative feedback system which keeps the body at optimal levels of energy storage and energy expenditure (1).

The process of gaining excess fat

If the body is designed this way then how is it possible that we put excess weight on? There must be something we are doing with our system that is knocking it out of sync leading to excess weight gain. That something lies in the role of insulin. The easiest way to think about the role of insulin is literally the body’s energy storer. If we have excess energy in our system insulin will be secreted by the pancreas which signals the liver, skeletal muscle and fat cells to store energy. The liver can create fat from excess glucose, store glucose in the form of glycogen, muscle stores glucose in the form of glycogen and fat cells store fat. The amount of glycogen that the muscles can store is relatively small and the amount of glycogen that the liver likes to store is also relatively small. Fat cells however can store absolutely staggering amounts of fat. If glycogen stores are full, which they almost always are for sedentary lifestyles then all excess glucose gets converted to fat. Under normal conditions muscle at rest burns fat to release energy except when excess glucose is circulating in the blood. Excess glucose in the blood means that there will be insulin present which prevents fat from being released from the fat cells. Insulin also tells the fat cells to convert excess glucose into fat. So not only is it fat not getting used, more and more fat is filling the fat cells. Take a moment to let that sink in, reread and reread if you have to. The next paragraph tells you precisely how weight gain occurs.

Carbohydrates are what are causing significant fat storage especially carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) and the carbohydrate sugar. We are being advised that we should be eating a low fat high carbohydrate diet for healthy living even though it is not the fat that is making us fat it is carbohydrates (2). When we consume vast quantities of high GI carbs and sugar our insulin levels sky rocket. They sky rocket due to the speed that glucose hits the blood in large quantities. Given that most of us lead sedentary lives our glycogen levels in the liver and muscle are almost always full and that excess glucose needs to go somewhere so it goes to fat under the command of insulin secreted in response to the excess glucose. The problem with this is that if you continue to pump your body full of high GI carbs and sugar along with your recommended daily allowance of fat you start getting fatter and fatter. This is how you get fat. Full stop. This is precisely the mechanism that allows people to put weight on. Weight gain explained.

Another problem with this high carb, high sugar diet is that you almost immediately lose a proportion of your calories to fat storage tricking your brain to think it has consumed less than it has leading to an even greater intake of food with feelings of lethargy and tiredness (3). Find someone who has been on a low fat diet, ask them how they felt on it and how much binge eating they ended up doing. Ask them straight faced and pay attention to their signs of embarrassment as they try to answer as truthfully as they can to secret binges while on a diet. It is actually not their fault at all, even though they think it is and punish themselves for it with lashings of shame and self loathing.

The process of becoming obese

This is where things get interesting in terms of the obesity pandemic that we are now witnessing worldwide. Some of the dangers of this process can apply just as much to someone who is thin as much as it does to someone who is obese. The simple reason for that is because you can be thin outside and fat inside. You can still be careening towards type 2 diabetes and nurturing an internal environment for the cascade of diseases collectively referred to as metabolic syndrome. Just because you are thin do not think these risks do not apply to you. Also please think of the children.

Obesity is a hormone disorder. The suggested mechanism, the systemic cause of this hormone disorder is an excess consumption of fructose. Fructose is 50% of sucrose. Sucrose is simply referred to as sugar. Given that the industrial food system is biased towards processed imitation food, sugar is in everything. Following years of misguided demonization of fat as the leading cause of obesity and heart disease, sugar has been used as a replacement for taste in “low fat” foods. I put “low fat” in quotation marks because they are anything but low fat due to the amount of sugar which is highly fattening and toxic for us in the vast quantities that we consume. Even if you stop drinking sugary drinks, fruit juice and fruit smoothies and eat processed foods you will still be taking in diabolical amounts of sugar along with the high GI processed carbs that come with them.

The liver is the only place that fructose can be metabolised and a number of interesting things happen. When consumed in high quantities, fructose induces hepatic (liver) and skeletal muscle insulin resistance. This means the pancreas has to work harder secreting higher levels of insulin leading to hyperinsulinemia. When the liver becomes insulin resistant it cannot turn glucose to glycogen leading to hyperglycaemia (excess glucose in the blood) which needs even more insulin to be secreted by the pancreas. That is a lot of glucose in the blood, a lot of insulin to deal with it and rapid conversion to fat to get rid of the glucose. This puts increasing strain on the pancreas as it works over time to produce elevated amounts of insulin (4). With the liver and skeletal muscle insulin resistant and increasing levels of insulin needed eventually the pancreas becomes exhausted and a person develops type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes pandemic explained.

This isn’t the only thing that happens when we have excess insulin secretion. Once the level of insulin reaches a threshold point it makes the brain leptin resistant (5). If you cast your mind back it is the absence of leptin that tells the brain it is hungry, to conserve energy and to consume more food. For an obese person who is in a perpetual state of insulin resistance this means that they cannot register the fact that they are full by registering the leptin signal. The absence of leptin signalling in the brain triggers the energy reduction response so obese people suffer from a distinct lack of energy even though they have it in abundance in the fat cells. For an obese person to enter a calorie restricted diet not only do their leptin levels drop they are also resistant to it so the brain enters starvation mode kick starting the urge to consume sugary fatty food and conserve energy  even though they are already packed with it. Obesity pandemic explained.

So the next time you blame a fat person for being lazy and glutinous remember that this is a hormone disorder and it is not their fault. With that in mind listen to a couple of minutes of wisdom from forward thinking Nobel peace prize candidate Katie Hopkins which was posted on the Slimming In My Attic Facebook page.






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