Weight control for the mature thinking man



opening weight chart


Where it all started



This may seem like a strange article to appear on this website but I think that there may be engineers who can sympathise with my problem and who might find it interesting.


I wrote it in 1999 and had forgotten quite how deeply I had delved into it. I came across it again by chance recently and I am now eleven years older and have more experience to draw on and, as I read it again it strikes me that it must stand without alteration and have an appendix to record subsequent experience.


At this point I will record that I am nearly 83 years old, still living on borrowed time, if 70 is the allotted span, and still well, able to walk four miles on the flat, and I still have my weight under control.


What follows is the original text.


My starting point.

When I was a young man of 25 I was fit enough to race in eight oared boats and weighed 12 stone 2 lb. I gave up rowing and by the time that I was 57 my weight had reached 17 stone 3 lb. Of course it had not suddenly shot up or indeed gradually increased. Somehow over the years it had gone up.


I did not feel totally well and went to see the doctor. He turned out to be a locum and he promptly measured my blood pressure and it was very high. At that time blood pressure measurements meant little to me and I had no idea what the numbers meant. I did not even know that two numbers are quoted and I only recorded what I now know to be the top one and that was 210+. The doctor tut-tutted and said that I would have to lose weight. Not unreasonably (as I thought) I asked whether he had any idea how I might go about this. His reply was…“You know, the usual way, miss out the cakes”. He prescribed some diuretic pills and sent me on my way with a request to return in a couple of weeks.


I started the diuretics and brooded on how to lose weight, which seemed to be such a daunting task, and went back to meet yet another locum. We went through the same routine with the same blood pressure reading except that when I asked for guidance on losing weight he said…“You know, don’t eat peas.”


I began to think that I was on my own with this weight problem.


Then I had a brainwave. At the surgery we had had a doctor who subscribed to the idea that, in the main, bodies are self-repairing contrivances and that, if a patient could be guided correctly the self-repairing would take place. No doubt he was alert for problems which were not self-repairing. I tracked him to his new practice and persuaded him to just talk to me for a half-hour for a fee. It was money spent well.


He laid it on the line. He said that with this blood pressure I had a simple choice. Did I want a wife or a widow? He explained the role of diuretics and said that I stood a fair chance of taking them for the rest of my life. He then said that there was some link between blood pressure and the “stress”[1] of employment and suggested that there was one chance to come off them when I retired and started to lead a quiet life. I thought, “I am not taking pills for ever” and pressed him about losing weight. I was astonished by his reply. He said that he did not know how to lose weight but his own method was to stop eating for a week or two annually. He did not recommend that method to me because I am not a doctor. All in all it was a clear statement of my problem and I knew what had to be done but not how to do it.[2]


I am a mechanical engineer by both profession and inclination. I live for engineering. I had been teaching engineering for a long time and had learnt to address new problems and to expect to find solutions to them. Now I needed to do it to prevent my wife from becoming a widow.


First thoughts and decisions

When I started to think about the matter seriously I recalled all the bits of advice that we were being given in the press and on TV about eating a healthy diet. I do not know on what authority they felt competent to advise the population at large. I wondered just how anyone could possibly be so confident about what was being said as some of it, indeed most of it, bore no relationship to the ordinary rules by which engineering and physics is pursued. In my professional career I had met many people who were very average when it came to rational thought and these were the vociferous ones. The clever ones knew too much to make statements about things that they did not fully or even partially understand and so said nothing. I reckoned that most that I would read would be wrong and that I would have to try to sort out the truth from it one day.


The first problem was to separate, in my mind, dieting and weight control. Most people seem to think that, in order to lose weight and then maintain the target weight, a change of diet, that is of the type of food to be eaten, is necessary. This is clearly not the case. I then thought about the fact that, give or take a bit, the diet that I had been eating had brought me through to age 57 with no serious consequences. Logically there was a fair chance that it would do so into the future. Obviously I had discussed these things with my wife and, when I said that I did not believe that anyone could decide what one should eat,[3] she came out with the most useful little book. It was written by Magnus Pyke and published by His Majesty’s Stationary Office in 1945. It was called Manual of Nutrition and the author had served on a wartime committee that had been charged with keeping the population healthy with the fewest imports.


I give a copy of the two pages giving the nutritional values of many common foods.


I took one look at this, especially the headings, where there are 13 columns and knew that I could never select a diet that would be “correct” for me. Moreover I drew on experience in engineering to think that no one else could either. There are simply too many constituents in each item of food and I am sure that the number of columns in this table has since been increased.


Then I went to the public library to look at modern books on “dieting”. The first one, which had all the trappings of a serious book, started off by saying that the calories in the food you eat is either used up in exercise or stored as fat. This is nonsense as a small calculation will show. I put on my surplus weight over a protracted period. I really do not know how long that period was but let me put a figure of 15 years to it for the sake of argument. How fast on average did I lay up this extra body weight? Well I put on 71 lb in say 15 years so the average is nearly 1/5 ounce per day. This is very small compared with the excess food that I was eating and many other people choose to eat. Clearly the excess calorific value is not all laid up as fat. I may have thrown away much useful information for all I know but, in courtroom style, once a text is discredited in such an obvious way, the rest is suspect.


I did not have the time for mature consideration of this problem of weight control so I decided on immediate changes. I knew that I would have to go hungry and that I would have nibbled when I was hungry and waiting for meals to be prepared especially if there was no set times for these meals. So in order to limit the time during which I would have to resist the desire to eat, I would need meals to come at predictable times. So I agreed with my wife to have some fixed times for meals to be served. She was very accommodating especially as it meant that I would do more cooking. We still stick to those times that were established 15 years ago even after 10 years of retirement.


In 1957 what we now call the media were battering us with gruesome stories about cholesterol and polyunsaturated fats to name just two. I thought that it might be prudent to change to margarine and wholemeal bread but I was very suspicious of the whole affair. Other than that, it would have to be fish and chips, fried bacon, cheese and nuts as before but in much smaller quantities.


However there was still the problem of deciding how much to eat and I needed some guidelines.


My wife bought a little book that gave calorific values for many common foods. The figures were given in calories per ounce without saying which calorie was being quoted. I was very suspicious of the figures because I did not think that there would be any link between these figures and what went on in my digestive system. However that was the data that was available and so I had to find a way to use it.




 food values for weight article


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Among the many topics that Dr Pyke discussed was the intake of food, in kilogram calories[4], needed by people doing different jobs especially active versus sedentary jobs.


He gave his guidelines for typical modes[5] of life :-

            Sedentary occupation eg clerk                                          2,220 kilogram-calories per day

            Moderately active occupation eg carpenter                       3,180

            Active occupation eg blacksmith                                      4,260

            Very active occupation eg woodcutter                              5,100


As I thought that my job was nearer to that of a clerk that anything else I decided to aim for an intake of 2,000 kilogram-calories per day. I bought a letter balance (they were common at that time) and weighed and calculated and quickly came to know the calorific values of various quantities of the various foods. Soon I could look at a meal and know whether it was “right”.


From the start I recognised that I would have to keep a log of my weight. To me there was no alternative if I was to control it. This is just ordinary engineering practice so it was an easy decision to take.


Of course, there was still my blood pressure to deal with and there was no guarantee that weight loss alone would do the trick. In order to cover this possibility I also decided that it was time to start walking.


Direct outcome

1 Logging

Having embarked on this programme in haste it was inevitable that I would make mistakes. One mistake stemmed from listening to others. I had heard of clubs for people trying to lose weight where they weighed each week. I started by doing the same. It was a serious error that took me 5 weeks to recognise. Too much extremely valuable information was being lost. I think that you should weigh every day at the same time. I weigh, in the buff, after the first enthronement of the day and I try to stand on the scales in the same position every time.[6]


I started to keep a record from day 7 because I knew that eventually I was going to have to find out how to keep my weight steady. Anyone with some will power can lose weight, the problem is not regaining it. I thought that I needed to find out quickly how to sort out the trend from a chart. At the head of this article is a copy of my weight chart for the first nine months. It took me from February until mid May to get down to 14 stones. The steady drop in weight is obvious. You will note that I ate socially whilst I was on holiday with the expected consequence and took up the count again when I returned. The ringed figure is my 210+ blood pressure and by April it was down to 150+(I still did not know enough to record the other, more important, figure) The pills referred to were diuretics. Eventually by June my blood pressure was low enough (130) to stop the pills (although I had another try with them later). As my blood pressure had dropped to an acceptable figure and I had only walked just a few miles compared with the 7,000 that I logged later I have to conclude that it was the loss of weight that brought the improvement and not the exercise.


I have always kept my log on graph paper with squares of 2 millimetres using one millimetre for a day along the bottom and one millimetre for a pound vertically. There is no need for any more open scale because the typical bathroom scales cannot be read to better than a pound even if they have a digital readout. I draw horizontal lines at my target weight and another line 4 lb below to give me a target band to work in. Daily weights are in black and on Sundays I use red. I stick pages together and fan-fold them so that I can look for trends. My first sheet shows how this can be done. My wife joined the weight-logging programme and hers is the second line which appears below mine. There is the same fluctuation in her log as in mine. If you sight along her log from one end it becomes obvious that her weight was increasing steadily at that time. It increased by about 2 lb in 17 weeks. This corresponds to about ¼ ounce per day but that figure, whilst it matches my estimate of how fast weight might accumulate, is of less importance than the fact that a weight correction was needed.


I now know that I should have recorded my waist measurement and say six-monthly intervals and that I should have had a photograph of my appearance when I started to lose weight.


2 Clothes

As the weight came off my clothes become too ill-fitting to be acceptable. Some people do not seem to mind because they half expect to fail and it is, in a way, a badge of continuing success. I was having none of that. So at about 15 ½ stones I bought one complete outfit of clothes knowing that they would be scrap and a new wardrobe when I reached my target weight. Hardly anyone that I saw daily noticed the change but the students noticed and nagged at me to keep going.


3 Choosing a target weight

Losing weight turned out to be relatively easy and nothing like as rife with hunger pains as I had expected. But there was a problem. I did not know when to stop. I had seen people who had overdone the weight loss and ended up looking as though they were hopelessly undernourished. I had rowed at 12 stones but that was when I was 25, now I was 57! What was a realistic weight? I knew about height/weight charts but I had not fitted those when I was rowing fit so they were of no help. As it happened I was in daily contact with a young man of about 28 who was studying and he looked fit and well and I pondered whether there was somewhere on a man’s body that could be used to assess the thickness of tissue covering the bones. In the end I thought that the covering over the collarbone might be a suitable place and at least it could be checked in public. So, every week, the student and I compared the tissue covering on our collarbones and I stopped at 14 stones when we both thought that they were the same.[7] It is easy to see the change on the weight log as I set about the task of keeping my weight steady for the rest of my life.


4 Keeping my weight steady

This was the start of a long learning process but all that I really did was to eat a little more or a little less of the same. I assumed that if I ate too much my weight would head off towards 17 stones and if I ate too little it would fall. There was so much fluctuation in my daily weight compared with the change that I was looking for that the drift could only be detected over a protracted period. In the end I found that only two digestive biscuits eaten or not eaten daily can change the direction of the trend in my weight. But initially it was a process of trial and for that weekly weighing was hopelessly inadequate but working inside a target band was very useful.


5 Exercise

I have said that I took up walking. My wife always went with me and, at first, we set about walking the streets during the evenings after work and to walk in the country at weekends. When I started walking one mile was really back-breaking stuff but gradually the distance increased. Eventually we were confident enough to go out 15 miles in a taxi and then walk back. Try driving 15 miles and think all the time about walking back. There was a great sense of achievement to be enjoyed from looking at some distant hill and thinking that I had just walked from there. Only logging walks of over four miles, we covered over 7,000 miles in the next ten years. Using footpath maps we walked in all sorts of lovely parts of England and especially in Kent which is our adopted county. We saw all sorts of things and met all sorts of people. It was most rewarding. Regrettably I can only manage about 7 miles now and stiles are becoming a serious problem. (Eleven years later and it is down to 4 miles.)


6 Benefits.

I suppose that the most noticeable benefit was that the fog that had descended on my brain over the years lifted as if by magic. I had not realised just how far I had slipped and I wonder now what might have been if I had not hauled that weight about for so long. I experienced this same change several more times when recovering from bladder infections caused by prostate gland problems.


The sheer absence of 45 lb of unnecessary weight made life much more enjoyable. The ground was much nearer and I could scramble about again with much greater confidence.


Then there was the simple feeling of improved self-esteem stemming from an occasional look in the mirror and from being told in the outsize man shop that they had no clothes small enough to fit me.[8]


Later developments

Once my programme was under way and clearly going to be successful I had time to take stock of the whole affair which was becoming an interest in its own right. I began to form views of my own about the character of the system that I was controlling. With tongue in cheek I record them here.


I have said that when I started on this weight control regime I bought a little book that gave calorific values of various foods and, having a sceptical view of life, I wondered about the pedigree of the data.


In my career as a mechanical engineer I had measured the calorific value of fuels. This was done in a piece of apparatus called a bomb calorimeter The sequence of events starts with the drying of a sample of fuel and continues with the making of a small briquette, of a gram or two, of the dried fuel by compressing it in a mould. Then this is weighed and placed in a crucible that fits inside the “bomb”. This bomb is a small, steel flask that can contain oxygen at a very high pressure. The bomb, with its briquette and filled with oxygen, is submerged in water in an insulated container and measurements of the temperature of this water are made over a set period of time. Then the fuel is ignited electrically and it burns in a flash releasing its chemical energy as heat. Measurements of the temperature of the water are continued for another set period and then, from these figures and the physical details of the apparatus, the heat released by the sample of fuel can be calculated. The unit of heat is the kilogram-calorie and the calorific value is the heat released by some set quantity such as an ounce or a pound or 110 grams or a kilogram. These days the calorific value of foodstuffs is also quoted in kilojoules per 100 grams which can only add to the problem of weight control. For the record 1 kilogram-calorie = 4.2 kilojoules.


I have never seen a reference to the methods used to find calorific values for foods but it seems unlikely that any other method is used. Of course the calorific value of fuel is quoted for dry fuel whereas the values for food are quoted for food in the state in which it is likely to be weighed ie wet. I once saw a rose dipped in liquid oxygen, thrown to the floor and followed by a lighted match. It was a party piece at a plant “making” liquid oxygen. The rose disappeared completely in a brilliant flash. so, it may be that finding the calorific value of a wet food may be quite easy. However it is done the calorific value is the highest possible value of the heat released by a sample of food.


As none of us run our digestive systems on pure oxygen and certainly not at high pressure the performance of the digestive system must be very different from that achieved in the bomb calorimeter. There must have been some rationale to this choice of method. Perhaps someone saw a connection between the burning of a foodstuff in a fire and the chemical decomposition in the gut. Perhaps they think of the need for the heart muscles, at least, to work non-stop to keep the blood circulating and muscles for getting about and other physical activity and see some link with heat engines. In Dr Pyke’s book he gives a figure for the efficiency of the human body as a heat engine. He thinks that it might be as high as 15%. As the highest conceivable value based on the second law of thermodynamics is about 10% his figure is too high and the true figure is probably nearer to 1%. There is nothing special about such a seemingly low figure. The industrial revolution in Britain was made possible by the evolution of steam engines that had efficiencies of this order.


Let us suppose that the principal function of food is to provide energy to the muscles. How is this done? All animals including people need a steady supply of energy to the heart and probably to the intestines and other continuously operating muscles that I do not know about. Then there are intermittent demands on the muscles that are associated with activity. The digestive system, working as it does at low temperature, is a ponderous device and does not seem likely to be able to respond to sudden fluctuating demand. Some system like that used in old-fashioned town gas supply must be used. There, gas was generated continuously by roasting coal in retorts and stored in very-visible gas holders. Consumers could then have a supply of gas at steady pressure drawn from the gas holder. The gas holder was a store of energy that was readily available. No doubt the human body does the same. The intestines correspond to the retorts and I suppose that a layer of fat corresponds to the gas holder. Those people who need to control their weight tend to store more fat than is needed for their level of activity. We can find examples of this system at work.


Energy for mechanical purposes is produced in muscles possibly by conversion of fat although I do not know how. Small birds can supply their flight muscles without access to food for long enough for them to make non-stop flights of 1,000 miles or more. They prepare in advance for long migratory flights and scientists say that they store fat that is used in some way to supply the muscles during these long flights. The birds are certainly lighter on average when they arrive than they were on average when they set off. Presumably the human body uses a similar mechanism.


The obvious parallel in human activity is the running of a marathon. Runners do not set off with their stomachs full, indeed most try to ensure that their stomachs are empty. I know that I did before rowing in a race. So marathon runners must either carry reserves of fat to be used to supply the muscles or consume food (that could be in liquid form) to supply the muscles. I questioned my daughter, who had completed the London Marathon. She said that, as is normal these days, she took six months to train for the marathon and that during this time her weight increased by 5 lb. She said that she consumed some proprietary liquid food during the run but the energy content turned out to be very small compared to the amount of energy she required. It seems to be likely that during training she stored sufficient fat to use on the run.[9]


Fat is said to have a calorific value of 260 kilogram-calories per ounce. If all of this could be converted to energy by a runner weighing 10 stones an ounce of fat would permit the runner to climb to a height of about 5,500 feet. For a conversion ratio of say 1 % the height would be 55 feet. I do not know what this would convert to for running on the level but ordinary experience tells us that it is a great effort to climb 55 feet compared with walking on the flat and that even a gentle gradient is noticeably more tiring. Fat is pretty potent stuff for conversion to energy for use in muscles. A runner could get quite a long way on one ounce of fat just as little birds can fly a long way. Fat seems to be a very suitable way of storing energy but there is no point to storing too much. It is hard to see just why some bodies do store too much yet others appear to get it just right all of the time. The evidence from North America (And since this was written in Britain as well.) suggests that the control system, whatever it may be, can be overwhelmed with too much food.


However the food is also used in body maintenance and we need to look a little more carefully at the way that the body goes about its business. It seems to me that an adult person is created from a baby and a supply of air, food and water. Air and water are constant but the content of food varies over an immense range. Somehow some of the constituents of this food are used to create the human body in all its complexity. It comprises all sorts of complex molecules working in a system of living cells and making up bones and organs and muscles.


It is possible to argue for a particular system by which the intestine takes in food and supports the requirements of the human body. Let me start at an unlikely point. In the New Scientist a reader asked where the dust in a bedroom comes from. In the reply it was stated that a significant proportion of the dust was made up of dead cells that had been shed from the skin. It follows that the skin is continuously maintained by the replacing of “dead” cells by new ones. As the material for making these cells originated in food one must accept the idea that there is some distribution system at work between the intestine and the skin to provide new cells as required. Now there are those who claim that the skin is an organ of the body with a variety of jobs to do and this seems to be acceptable. There is no reason to suppose that the other organs and muscles work in any other way but, if they do, then a system for carrying away dead cells back to the intestine for discharge must be also present.[10]


One is forced to wonder just where these cells are made and how they are made. The raw material is food but, either that food has to contain the necessary chemical compounds already made in the required quantity or, these chemicals have to be synthesised. The chances of food containing just what is needed all ready for use are too low to be taken seriously so somewhere there must be a mechanism for synthesising. I have no idea whether this is a central unit or distributed in lots of small units but when one hears of tiny units in plants distributed all over the leaves and all busy splitting water into oxygen and nitrogen by photosynthesis [11]anything seems to be possible. However bodies also require a steady supply of trace elements eg aluminium. What if this is not present? It seems to be unthinkable that the body can, in some way, call for food that contains what is needed. This would to require a programme of learning what food contains the substance that is required to rectify the deficit. When I first recognised this necessary facet of the system I rejected it as too bizarre. Nevertheless evidence in mounting for “fancies” and “cravings” performing this essential task. So the digestive tract interacts with some system that synthesises chemicals and distributes them to maintain the body and brings back “used” material to be discharged.


So we find that the intestines do not just churn up food in various acids and keep the muscles going by combustion. It is an altogether more complicated task. I had set out to interfere with this process which ordinarily goes on automatically and I needed to think more carefully.


From the outset I had been sceptical about the use of calorific values but now I was beginning to see that some foods were almost untouched by the digestive system. Nuts are a classic example. If nuts were to be put through a blender before they were eaten I suppose that they might be digestible. Ordinarily they are chewed to the sort of size that sticks in the teeth and swallowed. Mostly these pieces are discharged recognisably unchanged. Nuts are nice to eat, do not involve the death of animals, and may well put “teeth” into the churning action of the stomach. Whatever function they serve their food value is not realised in one pass through the gut. We must accept that some foods are easily broken down and others are not.


I found that if I studied my weight log in conjunction with the food that I had eaten I could start to sort out a menu that I liked in the quantities that satisfied me. I came to realise that much of the fluctuation in weight was caused by the different quantities of liquid needed by the intestine in order to digest different foods. I drink the same quantity of liquid every day and the consequence of the variation in water requirements in the intestine is reflected in the number of visits to the loo. I respond to “fancies” in the choice of menu which is not fixed although it does tend to include more pre-prepared foods and food like stick beans which are now available all the year round. I also respond to cravings eg or chocolate. Generally I think that my efforts have paid off handsomely.


Getting even more information from the weight log

The weight log served me well during a protracted period of recurring illness resulting from a swollen prostate gland. I put up with a series of bladder infections. The onset of a bladder infection can be detected by just looking at a urine sample when "fluffy" bits begin to appear in what should be a clear liquid. I found that before that point was reached my weight dropped without having a proper link to the food that I had eaten. Bladder infections can be very debilitating  and, as the inconvenience can be reduced by early medication, it pays to be on watch. However doctors do not prescribe medication without evidence and taking antibiotics unnecessarily is not a good move. It just helps if two pointers are saying the same thing.


Other upsets are reflected in the weight chart always by an unexpected weight drop but in my experience, it is best to drink plenty of liquid and reject it rather than remain dehydrated.


A long term problem

I suggested that it would be desirable to record one's waist measurement  at six monthly intervals. This is the outcome of experience. It seems to be obvious that, in order to keep trim, all one needs to do is keep one's weight steady but it did not work out like that. As the years went past I clearly became more feeble. I found that lifting and pushing was nothing like as easy as it used to be. It never seriously registered in my mind that my muscles were actually getting smaller. Even when I had to buy trousers with a larger waist measurement I did not take the matter seriously. Then suddenly I recognised that weight measurement was not enough. Simply keeping my weight steady meant that that I was putting on fat round my waist to make up for the loss of weight in my muscles. I have had to drop my target weight by 7 pounds and I do not think that things are right even now. However the loss of weight has given me an indefinable but gratifying sense of well-being. Presumably this would happen to most ageing males.


Last words

I am now 72 and living past my three score years and ten. My experience, as recorded here may well be of use to others. But nowhere have I said that I started with two major advantages that others may not share. I have never smoked and such enthusiasm as I may have had for alcohol has waned to the point where I effectively do not drink. I know nothing about combining drinking, smoking and weight control.


Ivor Bittle October 1999



It is now 2010 and I weigh 13 stones and 2 pounds. My height has been reduced by about 1.5" or 40 mm. My waist measurement has not changed at 40" and I have been controlling my weight for 26 years.


I have learned a few things during the past few years.


I think that mostly the views about the way that the body functions that I offered in 1999 have been supported by evolutions in dietary affairs in the meantime.


I said that I thought that the body synthesises its requirements from nutrients in food. Others now take the same view. Butter and eggs are no longer linked directly with cholesterol. It seems that the body does process food and synthesise what it needs and not lay up, say cholesterol, directly in the arteries.


I described the idea that the body knows the composition of food and, through cravings, causes the right food to be eaten. I read in the New Scientist a report that animals that have contracted a disease and are free to graze, change their choice of plants to eat to the ones that are beneficial to them until they have recovered. It seems that the body does know what particular foods contain and calls for what is required by means of fancies and cravings.


I was mildly surprised when I read that there is a pipe between mouth and anus so that food goes through the body and not into it. It had simply not occurred to me. Food is processed on its way through the oesophagus, the stomach, the small intestine, the colon, and the large intestine and all the processes between food and the body take place through the surfaces of these various organs. We are totally familiar with liquid and body oils passing through the external skin. Presumably a similar mechanism permits the passage of nutrients through the appropriate part of the alimentary canal and of dead cells etc. through other parts leaving the residue from the food to go on as faeces. This is consistent with my view that there is a system that creates new cells from the nutrients in food, sends these new cells to where they are needed and transports dead ones back to the intestines to be discharged. New Scientist says that the transit time for cells to arrive where they are to work is up to six weeks.


I watched a part of this process in action. My wife died from a very aggressive cancer on her bowel. I nursed her during her last 52 days. Cancer patients effectively do not eat yet there is a steady excretion of stools that are the greyish colour of dead meat. These stools are dead cells that are being voided and of course the patient loses weight and becomes more and more feeble until the body just shuts down. I emptied her body stuff down the loo.


Her weight chart showed no sign of the impending cancer because it grew so rapidly, but once it started to grow, the weight chart showed the effects quite clearly in a rapid weight loss. It would have been unkind to persist in daily weighing so there is no record for those final days.


I had often pondered the assertion that the use of fire to cook was central to the evolution of modern man but did not treat the matter seriously enough. So, even though I had come to recognise that some foods cannot be digested in one pass, I had not recognised that cooking forms part of the digestion process and is, of course, performed before the food is eaten. Cooking obviously increases the stuff that we can eat as nourishing food. That is simple but it does raise the question of how much foods should be cooked. Some claim that vegetables should be eaten when still quite firm; others cook vegetables until they are soft. This is complicated by claims that boiling vegetables destroys some of the things "that are good for you". I have no answer to this but I have a suspicion that, in the case of old people like me, it pays to cook food well to help failing digestive systems. Rare meat and raw carrots might well be of little food value for old people.


I now look back and think that my decision to lose weight and to start walking was the most sensible thing that I have ever done. I went into retirement fit and well and I still walk to shop anywhere up to two miles radius but mostly within one mile. I get tired more easily these days and I take longer to recover.


I do not look my age and I have been told that it is all right for me because I am naturally fit and slim! It would take too long to explain so I let it pass.


Ivor Bittle June 2010

[1] I hate this word but it has crept into the language with all its ambiguity so I must use it.

[2] In retrospect this interview was telling me that, at that time, doctors in general knew little about the control of weight. However people have asked me how to “lose” weight and no one really wanted to know the answer. What they all wanted was a one-line reply and for that line to tell them that it could be done without effort. There is no quick reply and GP’s do not have time to undertake programmes of education.


[3] In this I except those cases where people have allergies etc which force them to eat an unnatural diet.

[4] Dr Pyke says that the calories referred to in nutrition are kilogram calories ie the heat energy required to raise 1 kilogram of water through 1 degree celsius

[5] The choice of occupation looks a little quaint in these days of automation and power tools

[6] I also weigh just before I go to bed for interest. Almost every night my weight drops by 2 lb so beware the silver tongued people whose magic formula for losing weight can easily be “proved” by taking the pill and noting the immediate overnight drop.

[7] I have since found out from a cancer sufferer that his doctor used the collarbone exactly for this purpose. His reasons were much more serious.

[8] People that I then knew reacted in odd ways as my appearance changed. Some were downright hostile to the whole idea, some made it clear that it would be only a matter of time before I regained the weight. Others were jealous and one said “I suppose that this is another triumph for Bittle”. I wondered what the other triumphs were. But some wished me well and those are the ones weight controllers need.

[9] If this fat runs out do runners “hit the wall”?


[10] However unlikely it may be the information from which this book is compiled is now stored in different cells to the ones in which it was originally stored.

[11] We have to do it by electrolysis using electricity that is generated by burning fuel at high temperature. Plants do it at normal temperatures.