High-flyers give up top jobs to promote diets

Hannah Sutter at work in her kitchen. Picture: Joey Kelly
Hannah Sutter at work in her kitchen. Picture: Joey Kelly
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HEALTHY-eating options that do not mean consuming less look set to play a major role in the fight against diabetes

HIGH-flying corporate lawyer Hannah Sutter was at the top of her game, one of the few women working at her level and with a pile of legal victories under her belt.

For 17 years, her world had revolved around the law. And her future seemed set in stone – her brilliant legal career could only get better. But as she dropped in for a lunchtime chat with a client, it seemed obvious that she – and many others around her – were doing something very wrong.

“I was so amazed when I saw him,” she remembers. “He’d lost four stones in four months. When he told me how he’d done it, how he hadn’t actually reduced the amount that he was eating and that he hadn’t been exercising, I just thought ‘blimey, that’s so simple, I’ve got to try it’.”

The mum of two went straight to her kitchen and set about changing her diet. Within weeks she had shed a stubborn four stones of post-pregnancy weight.

Inspired by her weight-loss, she quit her job as a partner with McGrigor Donald and embarked on a mission to share the simple programme using specially created dishes cooked up in her kitchen.

Now she is among a growing army of female “fat busters”, women who are using their knowledge of food, exercise and self improvement to help the rest of us win the battle of the bulge – all without meal replacement shakes, points to count or killer gym workouts. In Hannah’s case, there’s even a chance her carbohydrate-free eating plan could be one solution to Scotland’s diabetes problem.

She launched The Natural Ketosis Company after studying her former client’s eating plan and devising her own version using meals and snacks concocted in her kitchen, using “fat-burning” ingredients and shunning carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta and bread.

It has been so successful at helping shed pounds and lower blood sugar levels, that her plan and products are being used in a three-year clinical trial into diabetes management by researchers at Imperial College in London.

Two further trials, one in New York and another carried out by researchers at Warwick University into the eating plan’s potential benefits for type 2 diabetes patients are waiting to be published.

“Various studies are looking into the benefit of a low-carbohydrate diet compared to one that suggests we should ‘eat less, do more’,” says Hannah, 52, who lives in Trinity with husband, Andrew Brimelow, a GP, and children Joel, 18 and Maria, 21.

“In the US, studies have been done before and the outcome is always the same – that if you put diabetics on a low-carb diet, they stop being diabetics.”

She argues that consumers have been misled into thinking a diet that includes filling pasta, rice and potatoes – all carbohydrates – are a key part of a healthy eating plan. But the starchy foods, she warns, trigger the release of insulin which can lead to food being stored as fat.

“I didn’t do this because I thought it meant a better career prospects – believe me it’s never going to be a big payer,” she says and laughs, “but I fell in love with the science behind it. I really wanted to give people the chance to see what they could do by changing a few habits.”

Her clients usually receive all the snacks and meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – they require for the first two months, before being weaned off and encouraged to create their own low-carb meals.

Hannah says the changes can lead to very overweight customers losing a stone a month.

“The problem with ‘eat less, do more’ diets is that you tend to lose muscle, not fat. With this you build muscle, which means the metabolic rate goes up, which means you burn fat.

“The palate changes too, so you get used to not eating as much sweet food. Because people have learned to eat in a different way, they have a greater knowledge of food and that helps them stay low carb for life.”

Like Hannah, mum-of-one Elaine Taylor, 38, also ditched her high-flying career for a new role as a diet guru.

She used to fly across Europe as a London-based wine buyer for a major drinks company. Two years ago, she quit and moved north to focus on setting up her diet and weight-loss support website, Porridge On Tuesday.

“I put on 50lbs while pregnant with my son, Lachlan,” she explains. “I wanted to shift it but I wanted a sustainable weight-loss, not something that involved giving up a major food group, or counting points, or not eating for two days a week.

“I wanted to cook my own food and build in some exercise too.”

A keen cook, she developed a huge range of portion-controlled dishes – more than 250 breakfasts, 700-plus lunch options and in excess of 900 dinners – which can be used to form a weight-loss diet of 1400 calories a day, or 1800 for those trying to maintain a healthy weight.

Unlike many diet recipes, her dishes use butter, full-fat milk and sugar instead of artificial sweeteners – and carbohydrates like wholewheat pasta and rice.

Launched in January, the programme has appealed to hundreds of dieters fed up with the weight-loss industry.

“People are confused about food,” Elaine says. “It’s not that they’re stupid, it’s just all these big diet companies are saying, ‘eat this, don’t eat that, actually do eat it’. People don’t trust them any more.”

Use your mind

Life coach Gillian Dalgliesh believes slimmers need to engage their mind as a vital weight-loss tool – before they even begin to count calories.

She has devised a series of Slim Think courses, which encourage dieters to tap into positive thinking techniques which she believes are vital in the battle of the bulge.

City-based mum-of-four Gillian, 49, says she hit on the techniques after watching her sister struggle for years with her weight.

Her own nightmare experience after her marriage collapsed – leaving her homeless, out of work and with no money – convinced her that the first step in turning a negative situation into a positive starts with convincing yourself that change is possible.

“I had a terrible time,” she says. “I was comfortably off, my background was teaching, and then suddenly I had nothing.

“But I found the power of positive thinking really made me see how my life could be better.”

She has adapted the techniques so they relate to anyone struggling to lose weight.

Her six-week programme is designed to rewire the brain so dieters can visualise themselves in a new, more positive light, setting them on the road to success.

“It’s not about me telling people what to eat,” she stresses.

“It’s about a holistic approach to weight-loss. If you want to lose weight, it’s about more than just what you eat and your exercise, it’s about how to think of yourself too.”

• www.slimthink.co.uk, www.naturalketosis.co.uk, www.porridgeontuesday.com