Unlike his identical twin brother, Xand has struggled with his weight. His new book explains how he lost over 6st by tackling the reasons for putting it on
You went from 12½st to 19st in 2009 – what was the reason?
I was having a child with somebody and it was unexpected. Back then, I was doing my degree and it was a time of uncertainty –I wasn’t sure how my medical career was going to change. I love my son very much and was worried he was going to be living too far away. All those things added up to a great deal of worry, which translated into overeating, as these things do for lots of people.
Which foods contributed the most to your weight gain?
I was just eating constantly! I can remember feeling full all the time. I’d say half my calories that year came from ordering Chinese food online. I could see in the app how much I’d been having. That was one of the shocking things for me.
What was the trigger to getting healthy?
Realising the health consequences of gaining so much weight. My shoes had gone up an entire size, and my feet were squished out and painful. I couldn’t go for a run without my thighs getting raw from chafing and I was getting quite severe indigestion most of the time, too. My blood-sugar levels and cholesterol were disordered and my blood pressure was high. All this was happening quite gradually, but there was one particular day when my mother and brother pointed out that I had gained a lot of weight and nagged me about it.
Did being a doctor make you more blasé about your health?
Yes – if you sit on the opposite side of the desk, you never think about yourself as a sick person. I was 30, but in my mind I was still 20 years old and 11 stone. But it’s hard not to do a medical degree and degree in public health and not know about what you should and should not be eating. I had an advantage when I decided to lose weight, in that I knew how to do it. I wasn’t afraid of eating vegetables.
What’s the key to weight loss?
Being overweight tells a story about the rest of your life, about your priorities and your ability to plan and organise. I was doing lots of things wrong. So, for me, weight loss involved tidying up the sources of stress, difficulties and worry.
You need to find your motivation – for some people, it could be an upcoming wedding or party. But after the event, the motivation goes away. If you’re in a relationship that’s making you miserable, you’ll eat that tub of ice cream. The other thing is planning – it helps to keep a detailed food diary of what you eat, or at least be meticulously honest in your head.
Have you added any on-trend ingredients to your diet?
No. If you like kombucha, drink it. But if you want to eat healthy, ask your grandmother.
Which means eating what?
Don’t eat processed food. Cook meals yourself from scratch, eat lots of veg, decent-quality protein and don’t put too much white stuff on your plate. I don’t believe in low-carb dieting, but if you eat too many, it’s easy to take in too many calories. I use the MyFitnessPal app to count calories and I weigh out portions of meat, etc. Everyone digests food differently and burns calories differently, but roughly knowing is pretty important.
Is the gym the answer?
Most people can put any calories they worked off at the gym right back on before they leave the gym. The reason you put on weight isn’t that you weren’t going to the gym, so it won’t fix the problem. It’s a very expensive way of not fixing the problem. In fact, it can be difficult to do any exercise when you’re really overweight, apart
What’s so great about cycling?
It doesn’t matter how heavy you are. In fact, I would recommend – and even evangelise about – people getting a bike. If you can commute or do anything you possibly can by bike, it will make losing weight easier. Exercise is one of the key things you can do for your health throughout your entire life, but that means doing something you love. Everything that gets you out and moving around is important.
What’s the secret of keeping weight off?
Understand there will be times when you have a run of reunions or holidays, and try to anticipate stressful situations – a looming work meeting or too many social engagements for the week ahead. Set aside 15 minutes of planning on a Sunday night to make some snacks beforehand, or cancel one of those events. Or just think, ‘This is going to be a bad week and I’m going to be a bit heavier at the end of it.’ Don’t spiral into self-loathing. Next week will be better.
How do you feel about your health now?
I had some blood tests done on television and I remember Tim Spector [Professor of Genetics] saying, ‘You are a disgrace to your genes.’ My identical twin brother, Chris, has never had weight problems. It’s not just down to lucky genes – his life is organised in a different way. Fat people don’t have less willpower and they’re not less good. It’s just easier for some to organise aspects of their life better.
Three things I love
Cycling It’s quite joyful being on a bike.
Building Doing stuff outdoors with my son. We’re building a tree house, which is going to take years, but it’s the most fun thing I get to do.
Pets Sitting in bed with my girlfriend and her cat and her dog at weekends.
‘How to Lose Weight Well’ by Dr Xand van Tulleken (Quadrille, £15), is out now.