(by Peter FitzSimons).
Like the caring and observant types at TVC, you will have wondered why TV butterfly Lisa Wilkinson always looks ashamed and sad. We think it could be this:-
Yes, her husband’s bandana. FitzSimons says it himself, “there is no doubt that heaps of people think middle-aged men wearing bandanas is just PATHETIC”. His message for middle-aged Great Aussie Blokes is, get “fit and strong and healthy” and do something harmless you’ve always wanted to do, regardless of what Australia thinks.
The title says it all. FitzSimons is a Great Aussie Bloke who lost 45 kilos. He dedicates his book to “all the fat blokes out there who are jack of it – had a gutful of having a gutful”. The first two chapters are “Gawd almighty, how did we get this fat in the first place?” and “Your ‘Come to Jesus’ moment (because you look like Buddha)”. The Introduction starts, “Oi! You. Fatty Boomka. Yes, you.” FitzSimons is clear on his qualifications, “I am in no way a nutritional expert…I am as far from academic as it gets…I really am you, Boomka”. He assumes that the reader is a member of a rather limited group – a man of about 50, who used to play sport but has had trouble with his weight for some years, yo-yo dieting and always falling back into bad ways.
This is a book for men who despise those who eat green leaves with lunch or dinner “by CHOICE – not by accident while trying to shovel steak and chips into their gobs”, for those who think that men who go to the gym are “weirdos, DANGEROUS weirdos” and who just don’t have moderation in their psyche. He talks a little, just a little about nutritional theory, a little about diets and why they don’t work and a GREAT DEAL about giving up sugar. His Bible is David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison and boy, is he a convert. “I repeat, if you only get one thing from this book, get this: stop the sugar = stop the hunger. If somebody had drummed that into my noggin 25 years ago, I would never have got close to 152 kilograms. But once you get it, and embrace it, everything starts to come good.”. He drums that into the reader’s noggin with the zeal of the newly baptised. Again and again. He bores the poor Fatty Boomka with the struggle of the theories between this sucrose-apologist and that saintly-sugar-hater, ad nauseum…
Unfortunately, specific as FitzSimons is about the history of his reader and the importance of him weaning himself off the White Death, he is vague about just how the G.A.B. will do that. He tells the man who likes to have “a big night on the turps, complete with chippies, party pies and chocolate bars, all of it washed down by hot dogs at Harry’s Café de Wheels” to shop around the perimeter at the supermarket and stop drinking. Just like that. As specific as Bandana-Man gets is to say in Chapter Six – I eat porridge/unadulterated muesli or poached eggs, avocado and mushrooms for breakfast; chicken salad for lunch and grilled fish/chicken or tuna salad for dinner. This, as far as it goes, is quite useful, but just when we are hoping for more detail, say about portion control, we are back, in Chapter Seven to “The Politics of Food”. And we’re off on the evils of CSR again, much that that matters to the pub-schnitzel-eater who is just desperately trying to work out what he should eat tomorrow (although the eye-openers about the Australian Heart Foundation tick of approval is salutary reading).
The chapters “Giving up the Grog” and “The Virtues of Abstinence” boil down to, “not moderation, just…stop”. He says glibly, ” And yes, of course I accept that it will be difficult for many people, and an agony for alcoholics. I genuinely feel for you.” He tells the Fatty Boomka to go back to exercise – not so simple for those of us who are not former rugby heroes. And this is another point at which his protestations of being just another greedy bloke with no will-power reads false. He gave up cigarettes, sugar and alcohol without a tear. He’s taken to serious weight-lifting and sport with barely a whinge. Yes, FitzSimons would say that this is his book, for people like him, but the failing is that while his target reader is specific, his methods are not. This is not a stand-alone guide for weight-loss noobs, amusing and sensible though it generally is.
The only recipes in the book (designed for the Ocker who is not quite sure where the kitchen is) are vegetarian (but for salmon in one) – FitzSimons has been taken aback by the wisdom of his vegetarian son. They are – haloumi & rocket, bean & veggie soup, bean mix with brown rice & fresh salsa and omelette/scrambled egg with cottage cheese & salmon. Not for every Great Aussie Bloke every night – but the TVC G.A.B. says that the soup (known as “Bandana Soup” in the TVC test kitchen) is not inedible and the bean mix is almost food.
FitzSimons says “weigh yourself every day… yes, yes, yes, I know that most dietitians say you shouldn’t weigh yourself more than once a week, but they don’t get our mentality quite the way we do….NOTHING keeps you as honest on a Saturday night when the party pies are being passed around and the ice-cream handed out, as knowing you must face the tyranny of the scales of justice the very next day.” Sorry, we’re with the dietitians on this one. Weighing oneself every day is the surest way to the Eating Disorders Clinic, or the cardiac unit. Take your pick.
While FitzSimons’ final chapters provide a useful summing up, the concepts really could have been contained in in another of his TV pieces or magazine articles. The anti-sugar diatribes should be in a separate book.