Tom Watson on how he battled his sugar addiction and lost eight stone

·3-min read
 (Peter Cassidy)
(Peter Cassidy)

“I’m Tom, and I’m a sugar addict. Well, a reformed one these days, but at one point it was an addiction that nearly killed me.”

So begins former politician Tom Watson’s new book, Lose Weight 4 Life, which reveals details of behaviour such as eating cheese direct from the fridge, or finishing a slice of rainbow cake left at a nearby restaurant table. Such immediate honesty establishes this as a weight loss book like few others — certainly in the men’s health market, where dictatorial books by Über-ripped Alpha behemoths with zero per cent body fat demand you turn into the Hulk, no excuses.

Instead of this Watson brings a healthy dose of reality to weight loss, not to mention a good deal of sensitivity — for unlike the leading celebrity “experts” he has first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to experience food addiction and go through cycles of relapse, shame and taking control again.

The man nicknamed “Tommy Two Dinners” as an MP talks about how his eating and drinking habits gave him Type 2 diabetes and put his life at risk. And how wanting to be there for his children made him change his ways. How he dropped from 22 stone to a healthy weight, taking on 5k runs and playing football with his kids, is the story told throughout this book.

Refreshingly for any reader who has experienced eating issues (withdrawing from eating, in my case, during depression), it links to a holistic variety of lifestyle and mindset changes that give a more beneficial grounding than any quick-fix methods.

His four mantras — Motivation, Movement, Measurement and Maintenance — form the backbone of the book. Maintenance feels like quite a breakthrough in weight-loss advice. According to Watson, it’s not simply about achieving a goal weight, nor is it about keeping that goal weight constantly going. Rather, the true change can be made in recognising that you are still going to be subject to the same addiction and that your weight may fluctuate. The trick is to recognise when this is happening, to avoid the worst triggers, and to seek help from those around you when you need it. In other words, he puts weight loss directly into the context of mental health. And as with mental health, you can’t simply fix it, it’s a process of managing it as best you can. Only by understanding that can you rid yourself of the shame that fuels cyclical behavioural traps.

 (ES Published Images)
(ES Published Images)

Indeed, at its heart, this book is about self-care; understanding who you are, and making the advice work on your own terms. “Don’t let a setback turn into a failure, a point of no return,” he writes, “The issue is how you deal with you,” he writes, “For 35 years I dealt with it by ignoring the sensible voice in my head or compounding my system failings by defying logic. Downsizing isn’t a finite thing. Be clear with yourself that this is a journey without end and there are ups and downs. When you have a little slip, use it to reset.”

For any of us dealing with body issues, Tom Watson’s book brings a healthy dose of humanity to this space, and warmth when there is often much cold sales calculation.

Tom’s top tip: hide the crisps... use your willpower to find solutions to your problems

“Willpower is a finite resource. Think of it as a bank account. Where you invest your willpower is essential. Misuse it, and you will soon be in overdraft and back on the doughnuts. Instead of using it to resist eating particular foods, use it to work out how to avoid temptation.

Your willpower should be used to deploy creative solutions to identified problems, no matter how tiny they seem. I ask my family to permanently hide crisps and eat them when I’m not around. In the end, they do this because they know I’m likely to eat the crisps if they leave them within eyesight! It sounds silly, but it works — most of the time.”

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