Simon Gault talks the obesity epidemic and the disease he was embarrassed to have
Food is a big part of Kiwi chef and restaurateur Simon Gault's life – but it could easily have led to his death as well.
So concerned at his own obesity and type-two diabetes, Gault agreed to put his body on the line for Why Are We Fat?, a three-part documentary that examines the science behind obesity.
When he was approached to take part in the series, the renowned chef was already looking into making a documentary about his own secret shame.
"I literally went for five years and never told anyone I had diabetes," Gault says, admitting he was embarrassed to have the disease.
"I did five years of MasterChef New Zealand – eating, eating, trying desserts, all that sort of thing and it just added to the problem. Anyone seeing me would have gone, 'Oh he's overweight'.
"Then I had a daughter come along and I thought, 'Man, I want to walk this little girl down then the aisle' and then my doctor read me the riot act and got my attention so I went on a mission to try to deal with it."
Simon was part of an international plague of obesity. There are now more fat people than skinny people in the world and health systems everywhere face an approaching tsunami of type-two diabetes and heart disease.
Unfortunately, New Zealand is at the forefront of this wave of ill health. A staggering 64 per cent of Kiwis are either overweight or considered obese.
"That's why I've put myself on the line," says Gault.
"So they can see a pretty normal New Zealander who is overweight. Yes, it's embarrassing.
"Did I enjoy doing that and having the world see me with all that? No I didn't.
"It's embarrassing and I'm not looking forward to it coming out on television at all, but I am looking forward to the difference it will make to New Zealanders.
"You look at these people who are obese and you think, 'Just stop eating' but it's not that easy. They are addicted to (food). Their brain is telling them to eat.
"Some people's voice in their head goes, 'You're full' so they stop eating but other people's little voice just whispers and they don't do anything about it and that's largely why they are obese."
While over-eating is one cause of obesity, it is not the only one.
Gault was already looking for answers to his own health woes when he started work on the series and welcomed the chance to travel the world meeting experts investigating the cause of the international obesity epidemic.
"Everybody just thinks it's about what we eat but it's not necessarily. Genetics have a huge part to play in it and so does sleep.
"People just look at fat people and go, 'Well, put less in your mouth' but it's not quite that simple and diets do not work," he says.
"I was alarmed at how bad processed and refined food is for us given that our supermarkets are full of it.
"I was astounded at how many things have sugar added to them. Sugar is as addictive as any drug. It is a drug. If they invented sugar tomorrow it wouldn't get approved as a food substance but it's been around for so long that it's in everything.
"People only put it in because it's addictive and we as a society are addicted to sugar. Anyone who says we are not, just go and have a look at all the bottles and packets in your pantry and see how much sugar is in all of those items. It's just incredible."
Gault says the only way forward is a change of lifestyle.
"A different way to live and eat and that doesn't have to be twigs and berries. It can be absolutely delicious," he adds, revealing even with his newfound knowledge he doesn't always get it right.
"We're all human. I have a dessert every now and again. I love it but I eat well in other areas and I know the things that will put weight on very quickly with me so I stay away from those things.
"If I am going to cheat, for example, bread for me is cheating. When I have a piece of bread I have a really good bit of bread. If I'm going to cheat, I'm going to make sure it's really good."
Why Are We Fat?, Prime, starts Sunday September 10.
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- TV Guide