Feature: The secret of being slim and healthy is down to your brain’

Family doctor and healthy living author Dr Julie Coffey walking her faithful Greyhound in Sheffield

Family doctor and healthy living author Dr Julie Coffey walking her faithful Greyhound in Sheffield

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Ask your GP for advice on how to lose weight and it’s highly likely you will never change your bad eating habits or the size of your belly.

When it comes to weight loss, most don’t know what they are talking about, says a woman who knows that only too well - because she has been a GP for nearly 20 years.

Family doctor and healthy living author Dr Julie Coffey at home in Sheffield

Family doctor and healthy living author Dr Julie Coffey at home in Sheffield

Until a few years ago, as a locum working across the city’s surgeries, Dr Julie Coffey was also guilty of dishing out the wrong advice to overweight patients.

But she discovered the error of her ways when she changed her diet in an attempt to cure her early onset arthritis and ended up achieving the best health and slimmest body of her adult life.

She used her experience to pen her own weight loss book, Living The Slim Life, in a bid to help tackle the obesity epidemic spiking a massive surge in Type II diabetes.

At her inner city surgery, Dovercourt on City Road, she sees many patients who are in danger of plunging themselves into serious illness - simply because they eat the wrong foods and don’t have active lifestyles.

“As a GP I see a lot of overweight people - I know what battles they face and how weight makes them unhappy and unhealthy.

“But the frustration of the job is when patients pass to me the complete responsibility for the health problems they could have prevented, or could reverse with a little change of lifestyle,” says Julie.

“I’m talking about heart disease, high blood pressure and Type II Diabetes, the new health explosion which is nearly always self-inflicted. When I was a junior doctor training in hospitals in Rotherham and Chesterfield it was called old age diabetes - the disease caught up with people as they aged, got more sedentary and put on weight.

“But now GPs see teenagers with it. The cause is not enough exercise and activity and eating the wrong stuff. People either don’t do anything about it because they don’t think the worst is going to happen to them, or they go on diet after diet which can also have a very bad effect on their health.”

Julie understands how hard it is for people to find the right information, and the willpower to take it on board.

Until chronic knee pain forced her to take stock, she thought she was doing everything right. She had been a vegetarian from 19 and enjoyed exercise - long walks in the Peaks with her retired greyhound Lulu, and kickboxing.

“But by my mid-30s I had a knee joint problem. I knew from being a doctor that I was developing early onset osteoarthritis like my dad, who ended up having both of his knees replaced in his sixties.

“In search of an answer I started studying the effect of diet on health. I spent many months on thorough research. My medical training enabled me to find the accurate advice and chuck out the rubbish. And believe me, there is a lot written about diet and health that is simply not true.

“After years of believing I needed to eat a low-fat diet with plenty of carbs to be healthy, I discovered I had got it wrong.

“I started eating more natural fats, which meant I felt less hungry and didn’t crave carbs.

“I drank more water, which made a massive difference to my energy levels. I reduced the amount of wheat I ate - I now believe that mass-produced wheat may be having a negative effect on human health.

“I was already following the government five-a-day fruit and vegetable guideline so I upped my intake to nine portions a day.

“Within three months my knee pain had gone. And I realised I’d lost 10 pounds and dropped a dress size. I was back to a size 10 again.”

But to take on board all of these changes, first of all Julie had to learn how to take control of her eating habits - the hardest thing of all, as many a failed slimmer will testify.

“The secret of being slim and healthy for life is all down to your brain,” says Julie, who studied medicine at Sheffield University. “You can’t get the outside right until the inside is. You have to learn how to take control of your eating habits.”

She became so passionate about what she had learned she found herself enthusiastically talking about it to her patients.

She recalls: “Some would glaze over, so I’d go back to GP mode and give them what they came for - a prescription.

“But others would be fascinated and I would find myself signposting them to articles to read. I could have talked about it all day; it got to the point where I was running late with my appointments!”

Julie started a weekly blog, which became so popular it is now a free weekly newsletter with a mailing list of 1,000. The next step was to do what few GPs ever do - write a book.

She says: “GPs don’t write weightloss books because they don’t have the specialist knowledge. We are not taught about weight control at medical school.

“The irony is that most weight loss books are written by celebrities paid thousands to endorse fad diets, which don’t work long-term. You spend three months of your life in misery, then put back on the weight you lost because you have not changed what goes on in your head.

“I haven’t been paid to write my book. It’s from the heart, that GP’s desire to help people to help themselves, and also to take some of the strain off the NHS so that it can help the people who really need it.”

Living The Slim Life took two months to write. It advocates eating more healthy fats such as whole milk, butter, avocado, nuts and seeds, cutting back on refined carbohydrates and sugar and choosing high intensity workouts and exercise that builds muscle to burn body fat.

The common misconception, she says, is that hard slog for an hour is going to lose you weight.

But just as importantly, the book tackles the subconscious reasons that drive us to eat too much of the wrong things and explains how we can take control - by activating our conscious and subconscious mind.

Julie, who is currently writing her second ‘non-diet’ book, explains: “Your weight is a reflection of habits stored in the subconscious mind. It’s like a computer hard drive; you can’t take them out, but you can overwrite them via your conscious mind.

“Learning how to do this can help people battling so many problems, from depression to drinking.”

The doctor is achieving her goal - Living The Slim Life has readers across the UK following her prescription for lasting weight control.

The book is published by the Yorkshire-based Solopreneur Publishing Company and is available for £11.99 via Uber Health Amazon and Kindle.

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