Episode 68 – Losing 100lb and Reversing Type 2 Diabetes with Former MP Tom Watson
00:01:46 Guest background
00:03:57 Motivation to Change Lifestyle
00:08:26 UK Diabetes Treatment
00:10:19 Implementing Changes
00:13:11 Fitting the Time
00:16:35 Cutting Off the Cravings
00:23:49 Avoiding the Tempting Cravings
00:26:11 More Clarity in Mind
0:29:30 Finding the Right Diet
00:34:17 More Alertness
00:36:37 Step by Step
00:47:35 Something to Look Forward to
00:52:21 Tom’s Amazing 5 Key Points
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad Podcast, where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym is your host Darren Kirby.
Darren: Welcome back to the podcast, guys. This is the number one podcast for dads in their 40s who want to improve their health and fitness. This is Episode 68. And on today’s episode, we’re going to be talking to the former deputy leader of the Labor Party, Tom Watson, about his dramatic health transformation and type two diabetes reversal.
Tom is a best selling author, broadcaster and speaker, a former deputy of the Labor Party. He served on frontline politics for over four decades. He worked at the heart of 10 Downing Street as a minister with Gordon Brown and served as a defense minister for Tony Blair.
Tom has recently left politics to pursue a new career as a trainee gym instructor and a writer. Tom, thanks very much for joining me on the podcast today. How are you?
Tom: I’m great, thank you. Yeah, good to be on.
Darren: Yeah. Thanks very much for giving us your time today and coming on the show. I’ve been obviously chasing you down for quite a number of months because you got a super fascinating story and it’s so relevant to our audience and to the podcast.
Tom: Look, first of all, let me say thanks for your persistence, because I really wanted to do it since I left politics or my support system collapsed. It’s taken me a bit of time to get my act together. But anyway, I’m here now, but I’d love to talk to you also.
Darren: Okay. So for people that probably have maybe come across, you all have come across you but don’t know your kind of health journey transformation. Can we just pick some of that?
Tom: Yeah. I mean, sure. I’m 53 now and probably the healthiest I’ve been in twenty five years. And I think in many senses my own story is a bit of an everyman story, really. There’s lots of people like me and I start I put in the pounds on, you know, probably in my early 20s and made little interventions into diet over the years but failed very quickly and then turned 50 and all of a sudden I’m 20 tombstone’s hypertension with Type two diabetes and found the headspace to address it nutritionally to start with and then with exercise. And here I am sort of three years later having reverse type two diabetes, lost a stone or my blood pressure and living an active and joyful most of the time peaceful life.
Darren: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it is so fascinating the amount of weight you’ve lost and, you know, something like 80, 90 pounds that you lost.
Tom: No, it’s all of those 100 pounds. It was eight stone. So I forget what is eight pounds now. And you know, it it, it, I lost about 100 pounds in my first year and then spent the next two years bringing the rest off slowly.
And it tips up, you know, at about metal lockdown periods. I put a bit of weight on. Yeah. But I feel like I’m in control now, you know, I’m healthy. So, you know, I’m about to do a five K run every day for the next month, which is just my little way of recalibrating. And I feel I’ve got that. Sort of bandwidth and control over my own physiology and nutritional inputs in order to be able to let the boat out a little bit and not worry about it, which is a beautiful position to be in for me, because I’ve never been like that now.
Darren: And I think it’s an asset position that many, many people never, ever get to. And it is sad to see because it’s almost like it’s a socially accepted norm, that when you get to your 40s, 50s or whatever, that the dad bond happens or the gut happens and it’s just there. And that’s part of what happens in life and when it doesn’t need to be like that. So what I wanted to ask you, though, Tom, was there a pivotal moment where you kind of had that either a wake up call or reflection to say, I need to do something about this? You know, was it the type two diabetes that came on or was it just yes or no? What was it? The kick started it.
Tom: I wouldn’t say there was any one point. I mean, I’ve described this is like I mean, the motivation was fear of death. I mean, it was that frame. So I didn’t want to die. And I knew because I’m a rational person most of the time, that I had all those comorbidities that I was probably going to leave the planet early. And I love my kids.
They’re young and I wanted to live for them, but it took me a lot of time. I’ve described that as what started off as a tiny whisper. By the time I actually committed, it was like a very shaped voice in my head. And I’d fight for when I actually switch the kind of switch in my head for a few years.
I’ve been diagnosed with Type two some years before that, and I immediately went into denial about it. Like a lot of people, I just pretended I didn’t have it. I didn’t talk about it in public. I was ashamed about it.
I took my metformin this discreetly and quietly as I could and refused to have it in a conversation about the implications for it. And I sort of laugh about it now. Yeah, but it was, you know, at some point I think it was irresponsible.
At some points I think it was just very sad. But at the time it was quite a big deal just to admit it to myself. If not one of the things I did about a year after I got my blood sugars in the right range was to come out publicly and and and admit that I was type two diabetic, because I think it’s really important that people shouldn’t feel shame about that.
Darren: Yeah, and again, it’s interesting how when these conditions happen to us, it’s like, again, it’s a bad thing you failed and therefore you shouldn’t talk about it and you just take your medication. And that’s just part of your life now, isn’t it? And I think type two diabetes for me, above all of the illnesses that men could get is such a frustrating disease.
And I don’t mean that in I don’t mean to belittle it. What I mean is that it can be reversed. And obviously you’ve demonstrated that it can be reversed with so many people. just I don’t know what it is. They just don’t want to accept that it can be reversed. And therefore, like you said, you know, they just accept it and then they take that metformin and they just carry on with their life where, you know, instead of understanding why it’s happened in the first place.
Tom: [It’s funny because, you know, even though I’m pretty well read and I was quite successful in life and thought I was aware of things when I was diagnosed, I just thought I’d got a chronic illness and that something inside me had broken and would never mend again. And so I didn’t actually know that it could be reversed.
It was only a little further down the line that I understood what you’re actually on. This is an axis of control and you can bring your insulin resistance down. It took me a long time to get there. And so I think one of the things we need with public health policy is, you know, on the moment of diagnosis, tell people it doesn’t have to be this way, they don’t have to be. And so they don’t have to be on a slippery slope. There are changes they can make. And when they’re ready to do that, there’ll be support systems for them in place.
Darren: Yeah, and obviously you are very high up in UK politics and I’m a big part of the Labor Party and some of the statistics that I’ve read, particularly around the NHS and things like that, in terms of diabetes and treating diabetes. You know, the figures that I last saw that they were spending something like 16 billion pounds a year on diabetes treatments. And it is one of the or if not the second most treated disease that people go into the NHS for. Now, is that correct or incorrect?
Tom: The numbers are extraordinary. And when I started to look into the policy, it’s about 10 percent of the NHS budget. But the statistic that really got me and it actually came about through the sister of a Scottish surgeon who said, my brother is complaining that it keeps having to do diabetic related amputations when what he wants to be doing is replacing hips for older people so they could live active lives again. Yeah, and I did some parliamentary questions on it, and it yielded the thing that we amputate over one hundred and forty toes or feet a week in the NHS as a result of type two.
When you look at some of the research from organizations like Veto Health in the States that basically show you can get into remission in about 50 percent of cases as a minimum, even if you’re just trying to save 70 amputations a week, it’s worth going forward. It is saving lives. You’ve given parents longer times with their children. There’s all those individual gains you’re making. But there’s a taxpayer interest. You know, there’s many billions of pounds that could be diverted into other areas of health. If we can sort of shift the tide a bit on the health prevention or get people in on reversal programs.
Darren: Yeah. And that for me is really quite profound. And I believe that this has to come back to education. I don’t think for me it’s not a case of like a sugar tax or a fat tax or whatever kind of tax you want to put on it, because that doesn’t address the fundamental cause of it is just addressing the symptoms.
And I just truly believe that, you know, I can’t remember. I think now I had Professor Tim Spector on the show last week and he was saying that we have to have food education, come back into school as a mandatory subject. And I couldn’t agree with him more because it’s going to be the children are going to be able to reverse this and change as adults are obviously, you know, resistant to changes we see day in, day out. But I believe that need to start there. So what’s your view on that?
Tom: It’s funny because we’ll I agree, I agree with the education point, but very often I think that the debate almost boils falsely sets people into two camps. It’s like those that say, you know, it’s down to individual choice. Individuals have got to be disciplined and it’s all down to the errors of judgment.
You know, they’re the ones who create this condition and then others who say the system we need to tax the way we need to do this. The truth is you need a mix of both. And how I’ve described it, I remember doing an interview with Piers Morgan where he said, look, you know, isn’t it just lazy people that get diabetes and it’s not lazy People who get diabetes. It’s like people trying their best, but the system is stacked against them. And so getting the get in the system, I think is really important. So when I, you know, I genuinely believe there is too much sucrose in our daily diet.
I mean, the thing that the game changer for me was ridding myself of sugar. And I now understand that I’m a sugar addict and I was getting sugar spikes throughout the day. I was eating a Kit Kat mid-morning and then taking a drop and then picking up again at lunchtime. And then when you look at that, first of all, you do change. You know, I don’t drink coke anymore and I don’t eat those files anymore. I don’t eat confectionery at all. Well, the hidden sugars in food, so it’s a labor issue was buy one, get one free offers at supermarkets. So there’s an issue about how you do marketing and advertising.
I think you’ve got to attack it from all sides and you’ve got to give people the chance and the root to make their lives enhanced by changed nutrition.
Darren: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I would agree that. I think you’re right. There’s many different facets to how we need to how we need to tackle this. But just coming back to you and your change for a while, obviously, at the time when you made that change, you were very senior in the Labor Party, obviously very, very busy as most parents are. So how were you able to with everything you had going on to make such a fundamental change and stay consistent with it? Because, you know, a lot of the people that I have in my community, they struggle not necessarily with the diet, but with fitting everything in around families and careers and all the rest of it.
Tom: I mean, tough time. Time is the hardest thing on this because you have to commit to it. I mean, you have to commit to read and understand. You know, you always have to sort of generate your own plan, even though very often you could be living this, enacting the plan not just hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute, not one the next minute or the next minute when you first start off, but finding the time. So for me, I needed time. I realized I needed time to sort out where I live so I could clear the cupboards of all the bad stuff.
I needed to find time to buy the food that I needed. I needed to find more time to prepare real food. So because I had to get rid of microwave meals and takeaways for obvious reasons. And then obviously in my working day, I was deputy leader of the Labor Party. What people know is probably the craziest, the Labor history. And there was a lot going on.
And folks were you know, I was getting emails at five in the morning and at midnight and I had to just carve out time in my diary to commit to those things. Yeah. And that was a very difficult conversation with my team. And it took a bit of time to get there. And in the end, I explained that I needed to sort out my health.
It needed to be a priority. And even then, the first few weeks I remember sort of block it out it time to do various health things and then meetings appearing in the diary and they say, no, I need I got this I need this time. And in the end, I just said, these are the time to go for my walks. These are the times I’m preparing food. I won’t be in any meetings in those times. And whatever the diary, I won’t turn up. And we had, you know, my team sort of accommodated that time.
But it is the hardest thing about you because you feel like you’re stealing time from other people.
You feel like you’re letting people down and you’re not a very shortly into it. Obviously, I became more productive. I became calmer to work with. You know, I’ve my record of mental acuity got sharper. I was just I just could do more more quickly and in less time. So, of course, it’s hard to you just you haven’t got the bandwidth to know that when you start so. It’s really hard at the first in the first weeks and months.
Darren: Yeah, is that change, isn’t it? And it’s it’s all very well getting the motivation to get started, but it’s maintaining the consistency in the change to kind of, you know, continue to deal with when when life throws in all kinds of different challenges at you and not giving up, because not only is it just the actual change itself, it’s the it’s a psychological element and the physical side of it, which you’re you’re going to be going through because you said, you see, you’re a sugar addict. And we know that sugar triggers the same chemical response in the brain that cocaine does. And so it’s a very addictive kind of substance. So you must have gone through, especially in the earlier period, some real challenging times when you were coming out of the kind of sugar fix, if you like,
Tom: The sugar, coming off sugar. I mean, actually, I forget which book I read, but the it described as sugar, sucrose, lights of the brain, like a Christmas tree lights at one bit of the parade. So it has it has a bigger effect on more of the bright. Yeah, I mean, I had massive sugar cravings and actually banking the winds is a really important thing as well, and I only took it took me a lot of time to sort of understand that, but. Very quickly, when I came up, sugar, my sleep got better, you know, previously I’d go to I’d get up to go to the bathroom a couple of times a night.
And after a couple of weeks, I, you know, I slept right through. And you just wake up with a in a better shape your brain. I’ve described it as like a lifting of the brain fog.
And so all those little tiny gains you make in the early weeks and months, for me, they were really important. And I, I measured everything and I’m my weight or blood pressure, my blood glucose, my ketones, a whole load of things.
And that sort of reinforce the, because I knew on a rational level the tiny steps made over time would have a big cumulative impact.
You kind of know that at an abstract level. But when you’re wrestling with just wanting to eat sweets minute by minute, when you when the cravings are really upon you, it’s where you can’t have that self-discipline for the rest of your life. But, you know, it gets you through the pain barrier. You know, banking the winds is really important.
So get it through a day without eating. Sweets was the key for me. I mean, I sort of thought I could tell a smile and a laugh about it now, when at the time it was obviously agony and it was really mentally draining to do it. But that’s in ways I mean, that didn’t last forever. I mean, you know, quite you can get off sugar quite quickly. And when you change your nutrition, that you’ve got a regular diet, the cravings go away quite quickly within weeks, I would say.
Darren: Yeah. And say, do you suffer with bouts of cravings now or is it just non-existent anymore?
Tom: Very occasionally. I mean, for I mean I mean, these are I feel ashamed to say this, but there were times when I’d, you know, I’d eat the Easter eggs, you know, before Easter. You know, I you know, once I started eating again, my partner would hide chocolate biscuits under the pumps in the kitchen. You know, I couldn’t just eat one chocolate biscuit. I’d have to eat the whole lot. I don’t get that anymore. And I’ve rarely, I you know, I if I eat chocolate, I’ll have 80 percent cocoa chocolate.
And I could still scarf off all of that, which is kind of literally high. But I don’t get the kind of impact of a really high sugar product, you know, and your taste buds change as well. So, you know, maybe the biggest threat to my weight now is it’s not sweets. It’s over eating cheese. I can’t say you got such a great taste, but so, yeah, occasionally.
Occasionally if I’m on the road or we’re away and I have quite a high carb intake, that triggers cravings. So I, I keep an eye on that as best I can. So I rarely not eat a whole pizza for three years and the worst thing I can do is go out with my daughter when she has pizza and she leaves a couple of slices.
And that’s about as far as I get it don’t take. But yeah. And I kind of I’m laughing at that because it wasn’t unusual for me to order too, you know, extra large pizzas, a big vote in the Commons till eleven o’clock and meeting them at midnight and knocking myself out on, you know, ginormous pizzas for our whole family.
Darren: Yeah, it is crazy how things develop and you actually become unconscious to what you’re doing until you stop and reflect and look at what you do. But now I can relate to everything you said, particularly around, I mean, the Easter eggs. The reason I laughed the Easter egg story because I was exactly the same. The kids Easter eggs were they were under threat. If they didn’t eat them, that was it. That was going to demolish them inside. And it’s funny. And people listen to this might be thinking these guys talking about, but it is an uncontrollable and, you know, have not a habit, but it’s you are it’s almost like an addiction. You have to have it. And once you’ve had that first bite, you’re not going to stop all of it.
Tom: It’s a, it is an addiction. And I treat myself as a reformed addict. I use that addicts language. Yeah. Sort myself because I’m frightened of slipping back and the two of them. It’s because also it’s and you’re right about it not being conscious when I wrote the book. And so I think I put one of these in the book, but I always wait for my part. It’s come and see me in a restaurant and she walked in. I was subconsciously leaning onto the next table. And eating leftover cake from the plate on somebody else’s table without any consciousness of it, and then my bucket’s grandma, she said her abiding memory of me was always walking into a house on a phone, and all she could hear was the fridge door squeaking open. as I worked my way down from the top of the fridge, stuffing my face with whatever I could get out of the fridge while I was walking with that awareness of it. I had no consciousness that I was eating at that time. Yeah.
Yeah, I mean, people it’s hard to describe that. You know, I think you’ve got to have got out of that cycle so that people can understand just how addictive it is.
Darren: Yeah. And also, the thing that I would like to say is there might be people listening to this who, until they’ve heard this, assume that they’re the only people that actually do it. But I would argue that there’s probably a hell of a lot of people that actually doing what we’re talking about in terms of the unconscious, in terms of the binge eating and thinking that there’s something just wrong with them or it’s just them do it. But I would say that it’s you know, if you only have to look at the population and the size of, you know, how we’ve grown, that there’s a lot of us that are doing this unconscious eating.
And obviously there’s another side to it in terms of how it makes us feel, how it kind of just boosts us from a mood perspective when we’re consuming these high fat and high sugary foods. And so, yeah, it’s it’s and like you say, you know, you’ve obviously treated it as an addiction and it might sound extreme, but if you look at the science behind it, what we were saying earlier around how sugar lights up the brain, you can completely understand how that is the case. And I read an article that you were saying that you went through this when you decided to make the change, that you cleaned the kitchen.
And I advocate this in my in my programs and to a lot of our members that having the concept of the capsule cupboard where you just have in the cupboard what you need to maintain whatever nutrition plan or whatever is you following, because if you have temptation’s in that cupboard, you will undoubtedly fail and go and eat.
Tom: Yeah, you definitely will. And actually, for me, because, you know, there wasn’t there wasn’t necessarily a dying one, but there was definitely an accelerated understanding of what I needed to do.
And I sort of planned ahead on this. I put about two weeks ahead. I thought that’s the day I cleaned the cupboard. So, yeah. And I made sure I replaced it with the right stuff. You know, you go through your cupboards, you got like jars that’s 18 months old. I mean, there have been times where if there was nothing else left out of the spoon.
Darren: Yeah, yeah.
Tom: Get rid of all of that. And that’s part of the cleansing process of the mental cleansing, you know, and you never want to go back to it. So far I haven’t. Yeah.
Darren: And I think that say, I think once you get over that hump, almost, you don’t want to go back to it because like you mentioned earlier, and this was the biggest realization for me, it wasn’t necessarily the weight loss, it was the mental clarity that I had. The fog had been lifted. And cognitively, you know, like memory, you were able to recall things better. You were switched on. You were more alert. And that is the thing that drives me is to continue that.
I don’t want to come back to these foggy, groggy type of feeling that I used to have.
Tom: To such a I mean, it’s like, you know, I’d forgotten what it was like to be sharp and it comes back and you don’t want to lose that. You really don’t want to lose that to you. I’ll be there. And I felt like it felt a bit like my IQ went up like my had. And my voluntary recall affects stock. Remember, names those little games and.
It’s slightly more esoteric, but I think it changed the inner voice in me as well, it changed my conversation. I think I think why the conversation was spent, so much of it talking to myself about where my next sugar fix was coming from. But not not, you know, but it was following me. Are you going to tell the members team to make Kevin Brennan? Well, what I was really saying was going to buy another Kit Kat when you get off that. Yes, it generates a different conversation in yourself. So it sort of at a very fundamental level, it changes who you are. I mean, it’s very hard to prove that empirically or scientifically, but that’s that’s how it felt for me.
Darren: Yeah, it does. And this is what I try and convey a lot in it when I’m talking. And that isn’t the unexpected consequences. So when are we thinking about getting fitter and we’re changing? And what we don’t realize is one of the side effects that come of it, the positive side effects that we’ve just been talking about. And I think that is the biggest thing for me. You know, energy wise, I’ve got way more energy than I ever had when I was in my 20s. Now I’m 47. So that that is the positive element of it. And you are more present for your family, for your partner, for your children when that happens.
Tom: Yeah, well, the thing you know, you couldn’t you shouldn’t dwell on your regrets because it push you back into a more sugar. But I could miss out on my kids doing things with my kids early on in their life because I was just physically tired all the time. So my youngest, she always does an impression of me where she used to sort and she used to do this because she just reminded me on the phone or I remember nodding off reading the book at night when the weather is bad. So tired. I’m literally with the Jabberwocky and if I take the temperature and it’s not like that now, then they get irritated with me, try to get over it.
Yeah but which is great. So it’s a nice reversal.
Darren: Yeah, it is definitely. So obviously when you dialed in your nutrition and you obviously went down the ketogenic diet route and, and there’s obviously huge benefits around this ketogenic is only really now popular in the world is health world because of the fact that it benefits. But he’s been around for quite a number of years and it’s really people with epilepsy and things like that. So in terms of when you decided, did you actively go out and do the research and find out which diet would be best for you or how do you how did that go?
Tom: I did it. I it started off with a serendipitous conversation with a mutual friend called Clemencia, who who? She’s actually a meteorologist. She told me about ketogenic nutrition and this sort of theory behind it. And I then carried on reading about it. I just read and read and read so and look to the work of Jason Fung. Listen, today, that’s a read.
His bulletproof diet seem more more Poppy. I just so read my way around right there writing and some lectures and podcasts and then tried to get hold of the research around it. And I knew that my problem, my diabetes was sugar related.
And so, you know, the argument that processed food and high carb, high carb diet might adversely affect people with diabetes and insulin resistance, more time to diabetes more. So I thought, what if I got to lose after I’ve tried every other diet come from the cabbage soup diet to Weight Watchers over the previous thirty years. Yeah, go for it. And it had a dramatic impact the minute I turned to keto, you know, I lost a pound a day for a week and felt great. My sleep was getting better and so I just carried on.
And so now I would say I probably cycle in and out of ketosis, which is sort of advanced level for people who are into this on my diet is more of a classic diet. You know, it’s like you could call it the Mediterranean diet or you, you know, I would call it the meat and fully far diet. You know, it’s much simpler.
Yeah, it is many grains as I can get a steak or a piece of chicken or piece. And I, I, you know, if I and that’s just kind of my body tells me what it needs these days and I can and there’s some days where I’ll be a bit more carby you know, I love a sweet potato rather than a baked potato.
You know, so but you have to keto was the thing that really changed it for me and I it and it was very impactful very early, which I think a lot of people who start off a health journey find very rewarding as well because it just helps them. It gives them a little boost in the end. What is the hardest?
Darren: Yeah, and I think it’s the ketogenic diet, really. If you break it down, essentially what it is, is people and I think people get a little bit confused by this in a sense that they assume that it’s completely no carbs at all when you have carbs in vegetables, that you’ve got fiber and things like that.
So it’s reducing because when you look at the Western diet, we are basically carb eaters, bread, pasta, rice, all the rest of it. And and so I think, you know, and for for people that don’t really understand what the ketogenic diet is, by having a higher fat diet, you actually get a more of a stable blood sugar and therefore you don’t get these peaks and troughs with spikes in insulin and the rest of it, which then give you energy crushes. So you get a much more sustained level of energy throughout the day. And I just think that, you know, it’s not the be all end all for everybody.
But I think that if you have been traditionally following a Western diet by trying to ketogenic diet, and that doesn’t mean to say you got any any kind of fat and more ground stop in a minute, that it can really have a positive impact, not just on weight again, but again on cognitive ability. So what I found when I started it, particularly in the morning by having a bulletproof coffee, my brain and energy levels in the
morning, my alertness was more than I’d ever experienced in my adult life before. So I’m assuming that was a similar scenario for you.
Tom: Yeah, to the point where I just want to fall on my knees and worship at the altar of Dave Asprey. if you get what I mean. Yeah. You know, I developed a really strong role in routine, were almost sort of symbolically making my coffee and making a bulletproof. And the mental clarity, I’m always I’ll bet that’s the best part of the day for me. So if I’m writing or I’ve got an idea, I’ll get it all done in the morning because by the evening I’m still okay.
But I’m not as sharp and. And when I finally sort of wing myself off sugar, understanding the physiological change. And a very subtle level in myself became a lot easier. Yeah, so, you know, I think you sort of you so sort of just throwing things in yourself. You don’t quite understand the impact it’s having until you’ve until you’ve got a little bit on the journey and then, you know, OK, I had that, you know, I feel a little bit I’ve got a bit of a drop in energy there, and that’s probably not as good for me with bulletproof coffee for me always gave me mental clarity that she would would get me through the sugar cravings as well. Yeah.
And so that’s something now. I know. And the other thing is, of course, that’s not you know, that won’t be true of everyone. I just think I mean, the problem with one size fits all public health advice on nutrition is everybody’s physiology is different and continuous glucose monitors are sort of basically proving that every minute of it because the insulin, the reaction of the body to particular foodstuffs is different in all of us.
Darren: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So at which point in your journey then, did you start to implement the exercise side of things? Because, you know, I’m a big advocate of, you know, getting your diet before you start to exercise, because I would imagine at the size that you are, if you then just went straight into exercise and doing carbs, the five k, whatever it is, you would have pretty much done yourself more damage than good.
Tom: Yeah. I mean, I think when you’re over 40, the golden rule of exercise is don’t get injured, isn’t it. Yeah. And you know, I nearly broke that rule a few times in the early days. I think the first thing I want to say is, you know, if you don’t want to do exercise, don’t do exercise. I don’t I mean, nutrition has to come first.
There’s no point in doing exercise unless you get the nutrition right. Now. And for me, I wanted to do both, but I knew I was very limited. I mean, so my strength, my stretch target, I mean, this science sat saying it now to get five thousand steps a day and was the first thing I did. And most people do that more than that on average.
And so it just started with walking. And, you know, I soon opted to six thousand and then seven and a half thousand and then eventually ten thousand. But that was you know, there were times where I’d feel really exhausted and tired of that. And the steps thing was quite a long time, and I remember being on holiday in Torremolinos and everyone being asleep in the morning, I’d get up quite early to get my steps ahead.
And there’s a long drive across the beach and there’s loads of runners. And I, the first I thought, OK, tomorrow I’m going to run from one lamppost to the next. And I remember just going for a walk to jog from one lamppost to the next and feeling faint at the end of it, but feeling all right that I’d overcome a hurdle.
And throughout that week, you know, I try to lampposts more than one lamppost more to the next lamppost. And then so just introducing that tiny little bit of running. And that was a real joy. That was a real joy. And then so incrementally, the answer is I did it incrementally and it went from there to cycling to do it a few hit classes to do it a bit lifted of weights to breathing machines and all the things. But I took it of it when I first started. I was pathetic.
The one the one rule, it’s the one rule I did set was don’t take the lift on any staircase. You and that’s great. And that became that became a real challenge because I was then in my office, was in Big Bend Bend and then had to do these emergency renovations.
So I had to move office and they moved to the second floor. So so basically it was sixty four steps every day to my office and sometimes if be about five or six times a day. Yeah. And the first time I did it I thought I’m going to need a half. I thought I’m going to need an oxygen mask here and I’ve got some stuff that I’ll be sweating and wheezing. But that became like my daily barometer of the gains I was making.
The easier the longer I did it, the easier it got. And to the point where I’ve just written a piece for the radio, I kind of miss those 64 steps because it was about. Right how I was feeling on any particular day.
Darren: Yeah, I want to pick up the bit you said there about fitness. If you don’t like fitness , don’t do it. And that is very important from the perspective of there are so many
people that have the mindset that I want to get fit. So I’m going to join a gym and that and they hate the gym. They don’t go to the gym. There’s so much you can do. And I’m glad you mentioned walking. You get a lot of injuries as well. I have a lot of guys tell me that, you know, they’ve got issues with their shin splints or their knees or the hips and stuff, so they can’t do the exercise. And I’m like, well, that’s fine, just walk.
Tom: Yeah, I couldn’t run. I mean I mean, I would have injured my knees and ankles on the weight that I was if I had done it on day one. You know, in a funny way, you have to after a while, particularly if you’re on keto. I think after a while you have to get the energy out.
So it’s not like you commit to exercise your body. The body will make you do it because you just, you know, otherwise you kind of just sort of so full of beige. You have to do it.
And that’s why walking so great, because, you know, I mean, all the research in recent years, I forget the book I read. It was some of the power of walking. Right. But only just five minutes throughout the day. Getting on your feet, moving around. Yeah. The physiological effects of that are just so great.
Darren: And also, I find if I have a little break in the day, go out for a little five minute walk. When you come back, you’re again switched on. You feel more productive.
Tom: Yeah. Oh yeah. I think it just sort of resets the dial throughout the day. Yeah. Yeah. But you’re right about the gym thing I’ve actually done. The other thing, you know, I joined half a dozen tips and got every day for a week and then you know exactly like that.
Darren: So let me talk a little bit about the book you’ve just written and downsizing. And so can you tell us a little bit about the book? What caused you to write?
Tom: And I wrote the book when I was still a politician and I didn’t know I wasn’t going to be a politician when I finished it, but it was just after I’d sort stood down and I didn’t want it to be preachy. I didn’t I don’t want to tell people what to do, but I did feel. That I was sort of responsible for explaining about how you can get rid of diabetes, because I was a policy maker, I felt responsible to hold my hand up and admit what I’d done.
So but I realized I needed to be brutally honest about the almost the psychological or the denial aspects of the health journey people take on. And I did that. So the book is really the decal of a health journey with a hopefully without lecturing anyone. And then but, you know, when during the process, I felt I needed to also talk about some of the public policy changes I’d like to see, because obviously I was a politician at the time.
And so things like I think the next breakthrough for Type two diabetes is a continuous glucose monitors. And one of the things I hope we can consider as a country is when you’re actually present to your before your pre diabetic, your prediabetic, before your pre diabetic, you’ve probably got raised blood pressure for you have raised blood pressure.
You’re probably obese or overweight. I think if people could have a continuous glucose monitor for a month when they when they hit overweight or obese and the GP could just give them their own in their own physiological data would lead to lifestyle changes earlier in their lives. For me, I describe it when I used to go out to the pub on a Friday night with my mates, wake up in the morning, go to the fridge and a last night’s cold pizza and then later a bottle of coke. Yeah, if I could see the sugar spike that creates more , I definitely wouldn’t do that. But I did that for about twenty five years and so would help with the 20 and 30 year olds. I think avoid diabetes, which is something to trigger off public health policy really, shouldn’t it.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. No, I completely agree. And I think if you can draw a lot of parallels between what’s happened with people walking and the small. What is that? Count your steps. You know, just imagine that same effect. Then if you’ve got a glucose monitor and you’re going back when you’re fine, you can constantly see what’s going on.
I think people are actually it almost becomes a bit of a unified way to track your health. And I completely agree with, you know, glucose monitors are definitely the way forward. And I actually wore one earlier on this year, some because I was just very curious as to what happens when I eat certain foods. And I was absolutely amazed at what some foods do.
And particularly like in the morning when I was fasted and I’d have a black coffee, I used to get a spike then. But then I obviously realized that was due to my cortisol levels. And that’s kind of standard, really. Um, but yeah, I think I think I don’t know. There’s obviously a few companies that are bringing them out now, but I think definitely continuous glucose monitoring just gives you that insight and it gives you the ability to maintain your health.
And this is a big thing for me right now is I truly believe that that is the shift that needs to happen in society, and that is we become responsible for maintaining our health. And I think we’re in a period in time where the kind of advancement in technology is making it such that it will be cheap enough for us to do that. And therefore, I think that that is it. Like we maintain our car on an annual basis, we should be maintaining our health on an annual basis. But I would argue we probably do more with that car than we do with the health.
Tom: Yeah, I agree with you on that. I mean, you do have to commit a little I think you have to reckon I mean, just so committed to more running kits or, you know, you can spend a bit more, but it doesn’t have to be a great deal for me. You’re right. The data, I don’t think it works for everyone. This and this is where you’ve got find your own way. But I mean, one of my issue, um, and I’m an obsessive video game. I’m fifty three. I started off on this set.
Sinclair said I used to import basic code when in the 80s and all my life. And so reaching the next level if something I’m familiar with. And so I measured everything and I know measure my sleep as well.
I’ve got a normal rate and you know the interrelationship between data and decision making worked very well for me. And that could be a revolution in public health if we if we could, you know, have ubiquitous measurements for people that want to, I think, really help people. Make those personal decisions, definitely. You know, I’m quite excited about that because I think the revolution is coming of that.
Darren: Yeah, so. So what are your future plans in time in terms of your weight, your fitness, getting your message out there? Because you’ve got a fantastic story. You know, you’ve got a good platform with the book to kind of get the message out. And what’s your plan?
Tom: Well, I mean, the one thing I think my health journey took me to other areas, so I made a sudden decision to stand down as an MP and as deputy leader of the Labor Party last December.
I’ve tried to be productive in that time while I work out what I was doing. I signed up to become a level two gym instructor or that trains one, but then we shut all the Gyms. So I’ve done the training course, but I have a portfolio and I want to take that. I’ve written a book after downsizing my first fiction book called The House. So about like four. And actually I, I, I very recklessly agreed to do a TV program called Don’t Rock the Boat, which required me to be on a team that wrote the length of Britain from Cornwall to the tip of the tip of Scotland. And that goes on Monday, November the 2nd on ITV.
But what I really wanted to know, I’d like to find myself in a position where I could still do good in the world and try and take people, you know, work with people who want to go on health journeys. You know, I mean, if you look at the figures that there are probably two million people in Britain with a type 2 diabetic, who could have a condition, and if I could help them find their voice and help them take a journey and help the government understand what they need to do to help them as well, then that’s where I would like to be. So twenty, twenty one, I haven’t quite got my plans in place yet, but I know I want to get my level to gym instructor thing. I definitely want to help people get fit. I’ve just launched a podcast called Persons of Interest which launches. And although the first series is not health and wellbeing related, I want to talk to people in this space about what you know, what they’re doing and how we can help people next year. So that’s where I want to be.
And I’ve got a feeling that’s where that’s where you are as well, you know, because when you’ve been on the journey, it’s almost like a liberation.
Darren: It is.
Tom: If you want to share the joy, you want people to feel the joy that getting your health back.
Darren: Yeah, 100 percent, and yeah, for me, I set myself a target of having a million dads, and for me it’s not about the six pack abs, it’s about what we were talking about earlier, around the unexpected outcomes that happened as a result.
And it’s a positive effect that trickles down into the family as well. So, you know, I’m I don’t push my kids into anything but that what’s happened as a result of me doing what I’m doing and doing ironman and the rest of it. And my diet is they naturally pick up. I mean, they’re aware of sugar. They’re aware of good foods, bad food, you know, and exercise and running and everything. And I just think that is such a positive outcome for what I’ve done. And so I just want to help, you know, I want to help other dads do the same because I want to reverse this common acceptance, social acceptance that when you get to 40, it’s down hill. No, it doesn’t. It has to go the other way significantly as well.
Tom: You know, the moment one of my proudest moments, you know, my very close parliamentary friend, Jo Cox, is fascinated by a farm rights extremist. There’s a charity in order and her sister organizes a fund run in her own constituency every year. And I did it with my daughter, Sasha. Was it the two and a half came on? It wasn’t the number one. the two of us cross the line together holding hands. And because it was in honor of Jo the idea that I could have done that the year before if it was possible. And if you can help a million dads have that moment. And then that to me, that is transformational.
Darren: Hundred percent. Yeah. Amazing Tom. I can talk to you for hours and hopefully we’ll get the opportunity again in the future. And I would love to be a part of anything we do in that space. But before I let you go, and I’d like to know if there’s five key points you could give to dads listening to this today who perhaps kind of got the eyes to make that change after listening to us today.
Tom: Ok, there, about five. The first thing I’d say, whatever your health condition is now. particularly if you’ve got type two diabetes, it can get better. Yeah. The second thing I’d say is in all the books say there are four pillars to health. Sleep, exercise, nutrition and well-being. I think there are three pillars to health and they’re built on a foundation of sleep. So, yeah, if you can sort your sleep arrangements out, it’ll help give you the bandwidth to do the other three. My third point is, even though you start your help journey, you’ll be living it day to day plan ahead on the nutrition because that that’s the easiest thing to fail. fourth is, You think about exercise, but don’t beat yourself up about exercise and go for a long walk is a huge achievement in your first part of the journey. And the fifth of doing this off the top of my head it is, bank every incremental gain as a win, but mentally file it away and give yourself credit because you’ve done something amazing.
Darren: Yeah, definitely. I like the last one. I think the last one is very valid. We are very quick, quick to criticize ourselves or not kind of congratulate ourselves in small wins and those small little wins that build up over a period of time to make massive impact. So, yeah, I think that’s that’s a great point to end on, Tom. But before I let you go, where can people connect with you? How can they get the books, you know, all that kind of good stuff?
Tom: Ok, that’s kind of you to say. If they Google me, they’ll find the website because I can’t quite remember what the debut URL is. I’m Tom_Watson on Twitter. OK, TomWatsonofficial on Instagram If they go to Amazon and Google stick in Downsizing or The House, they could find. That’s very kind of you to let me say that. I have to say these things.
Darren: And then your podcast when is that launching?
Tom: For the podcast Hopefully launches next week, certainly in November. And it’s called Persons of Interest. And the first three interviews are going up. They will go and this is me. In my last job, I met some of the world’s most interesting people, but I never had time to chew the fat with them. So I’ve just followed them up. And the one thing they all share, they’re all from different backgrounds, but they all are very curious minds. I just wanted to find out what makes them tick. I think I’ve done it. I’ve done it for the love, really. But to do it, yeah.
Darren: Awesome will definitely be given that a Listen, thanks very much for coming on again today Tom. I sincerely appreciate you making fantastic achievements. And yeah, I look forward to speaking to you again in the future.
Tom: Thank you. It’s been a genuine pleasure.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe. And I would really appreciate if you could leave a review on iTunes or the things mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at Fitter Healthier Dad Podcast.