PERCHED at his drum kit, musician Ali Wilson could hide behind his instrument fairly safe in the knowledge that his expanding girth wasn’t hogging the spotlight.
Back home after a hard shift pounding the beat, he’d unwind in front of the television, pizza, Doritos, Haribos constantly on tap. Living alone meant there was no-one to question his unhealthy eating habits.
Naturally, his weight crept up and up. And when Ali tipped the scales at more than 20 stone, he simply stopped bothering to weigh himself.
Divorced from his wife, recently separated from his new partner and desperately missing his young son and with a job that meant late-night shifts surrounded by food and drink, Ali had taken refuge and comfort from calories.
And they, in turn, took their revenge by piling on the pounds.
“I had been slightly overweight and then things just got out of hand,” recalls Ali, 51. “I was a divorced, miserable musician sitting on the couch most nights drinking vodka, eating pizza, curry, kebabs, ice cream, Doritos, popcorn, Haribos . . . you name it, I consumed it.
“Finally I put a post on Facebook saying that I was around 21 stone, fed up and wanted to change. It wasn’t a cry for help, I just thought by writing it down I’d see it with my own eyes and actually do something about it.”
Today Ali is a far slimmer version of himself. Gone are the takeaway containers and the packets of crisps, instead pride of place on his kitchen worktop is something that sounds more like a gadget Gwyneth Paltrow might use rather than a burly drummer – a juicer.
Into it he stuffs apples, celery, spinach and carrots. He throws in some cucumber, courgette, lemon, lime and ginger, presses the button and waits for breakfast.
Then, almost as a nod to the lifestyle he once had, he drinks it all up out of an old pint-sized beer tankard.
Juice for breakfast – and for lunch and dinner depending on how strict he’s being with himself – and the weight slipped off. Within six months 6ft 5in Ali – familiar to many as the driving beat behind many bands at weddings, parties and live gigs around Edinburgh – had shed more than four stones.
Now he’s about to ditch his plans to gig with his band tomorrow night in order to share his weight loss secrets with guests at a ticket-only event attended by the juice guru whose programme has changed his life.
Ali was steered towards a radical juice-only diet by Liverpool-based fellow drummer and Facebook mate Steve Barney, who has worked with Annie Lennox and The Wanted and who responded to his status post by suggesting he check out a powerful film – Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – by Australian juice guru Joe Cross.
In it, Joe tells how his weight ballooned to more than 22 stones as the result of diet and prescription steroids. Depressed, he set himself a goal to lose around seven stones through exercise and drinking a juice-only diet.
Ali decided it had to be worth a try. And within just a few months – just like drummer pal Steve – he’d lost around four-and-a-half stones.
“Now I want to raise awareness about it and how it can work,” explains Ali, who contacted Joe and urged him to visit Scotland and explain Scotland’s woeful obesity and health record.
“I pigged out for years, I’d have a couple of kebabs a week, two or three curries. I’d eat a pizza at 6pm and another one at midnight. Now I still have a ‘sit down’ curry around once a month but I don’t feel like any more. I’ve learned how to keep myself in check.”
The Juicing for Weightloss programme, dubbed Reboot, involves eating just juiced fruit and vegetables, water and herbal tea for periods of either three, ten, 15, or 30 days in a bid to kick-start healthy habits and recharge the body.
Eventually experienced followers switch around how often they follow the plan, perhaps swapping certain meals for a juice which they make themselves with fresh fruit and vegetables and then eating normally the rest of the time, or following the plan strictly for a few days a month and eating healthily for the rest of the time.
According to Joe, the juice method not only helped him lose weight but improved his health dramatically. “Juicing changed my life,” he says. “After 60 days of juice and another 70 days of eating just fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and seeds I was 100lbs lighter and off all medication and I’ve been that way ever since.
“I also developed a passion and appreciation for the delicious tastes and healing properties of the produce I was consuming. Now I am free of my auto-immune disease, I live a happy and balanced life at a healthy weight and I could never imagine returning to my old ways.”
It’s not for everyone, Ali admits. And there are some nutritionists who question whether the short-term benefits of losing weight on the plan are outstripped by the negatives of feeling deprived of solid food plus the risk of the weight piling back on as soon as the plan stops.
“It can be brutal and you have to be in a certain state of mind to want to try it. However, I now eat 99 times more fruit and vegetables than I ever did before – the only veg I ever had before were the peppers in my curry.
“Now all the money I used to spend on takeaways goes on fruit and vegetables – probably around £30 a week, which is probably more than I spent on fruit and vegetables from 1980 until I started on this,” he laughs.
“I’m certainly no health freak and the only exercise I do is walking and some mountain biking. I’m generally pretty lazy, but it’s worked for me.”
• Ali Wilson will host an event at Henderson’s, St John’s Church, in Lothian Road, with Joe Cross on Saturday night. The event is fully booked, but for more details visit www.fatsickandnearlydead.com or www.rebootwithjoe.com
Peach Pie Juice
(Makes 2-3 16oz servings)
3 large sweet potatoes (peeled)
4 ripe peaches (pitted)
2 Golden Delicious apples (cored)
A dash of cinnamon
Juice in a juicer. Pour into a glass over ice.
Sprinkle cinnamon on top.
(Makes around 18oz)
Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the beetroots and carrots which can help your body fight off disease and stay healthy. Beetroot contains a nutrient called betalain, shown to provide antioxidants, help promote anti-inflammation and may also aid in detoxification.
4 large carrots
2 medium beetroots
2 medium red bell peppers
Piece of ginger root, 1in/2.5 cm.
Wash all ingredients well.
Peel the beets and remove seeds from the peppers.
Add ingredients through juicer and serve.
MEAN GREEN JUICE
4 celery stalks
6-8 leaves of kale
Half a lemon
1 tbsp ginger
Wash all produce well. Peel the lemon (optional). Juice and pour over ice.
Recipes taken from www.rebootwithjoe.com
Change not recommended for everyone
Juicing sounds like a magic bullet cure for beating the bulge. But not everyone agrees it’s an ideal long-term plan.
Juicing is not recommended for anyone with kidney disease, diabetes and those with nutritional deficiencies.
And because juicing fruit and veg leaves behind the fibre, it can lead to the body absorbing fructose sugar more easily, affecting blood sugar levels. A fruit and vegetable juice-only diet also means a lack of protein and fat. Protein can help the body repair itself and fat helps retain healthy hair and skin.
Followers will probably lose weight if they stick to it, but maintaining the weight loss once normal eating is resumed can be tricky.