People don’t need to banish bread, pasta and potatoes from their diet to lose weight, Masterchef presenter Greg Wallace has said as he revealed the secrets behind his five stone weight loss.
The former greengrocer, 59, shook up his diet after hitting nearly 17 stone, with a dangerously obese BMI, and doctors warned him he was at risk of having a heart attack.
After trying ‘all the diets under the sun’ and none of them working, he said the secret to his slimming success was cutting out takeaways, chocolate and crisps and ‘eating proper meals’, rather than removing carbs from his diet.
Gregg said the Mediterranean diet, which is full of whole grain carbohydrates, is ‘the best you can have’ and pointed to France, Italy and Spain where they consume lots of bread, potatoes and pasta but are ‘all slim’.
The fitness fanatic also said that hitting the gym isn’t vital to losing weight and urged people to instead add movement to their day through a walk, swim or even table tennis, to maintain their weight loss.
Gregg Wallace, pictured, weighed almost 17 stone when doctors warned him he was heading for a heart attack with sky high cholesterol levels
Wallace, pictured left, was almost 17 stone when he was told he had to lose weight. Now he is around 12 stone, pictured right
Discussing his new podcast, A Piece of Cake, on BBC Radio 2’s Michael Ball Show yesterday, he said: ‘There’s so much conflicting information out there, it’s hard to know what to do.’
In one episode, Dr Giles Yeo, a world-renowned geneticist from the University of Cambridge and author of Why Calories Don’t Count, said that exercising to lose weight is the ‘silliest thing you can possibly do’, according to Gregg.
Gregg used the example of a 250 calorie chocolate bar.
He said: ‘As he quite rightly pointed out, you’d have to be on a treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes just to get rid of the chocolate bar. That’s without the takeaway pizza, the half bottle of rose and some chocolate biscuits on the sofa.’
Gregg launched his own weight loss business, Gregg Wallace Health (GWH), four years ago, which shares advice and recipes to help people lose weight.
Some users of the plan, which puts no food off-limits but discourages unhealthy snacking, say they have lost 12 stone.
The promising programme has recently partnered with Loughborough University, where researchers are testing how well it works and hope it will get the backing of the NHS.
Discussing his own weight loss, Gregg said he got motivated to shift the scales after becoming ‘more and more unhappy’ with his appearance and becoming concerned about his health.
He said: ‘I was getting really big. And there’s a picture of me and my lovely mate John Torode in India. He looks lovely and I’m big – my shirt is hanging over my trousers, I wasn’t happy.
‘At the same time, my doctor did a blood test and he said: “We need to do something Mr Wallace. This blood test sample, your cholesterol is through the roof. You’re in for some big illness here.”
‘Those two things combined – being unhappy with how I looked and then the doctor telling me I was going to have a big heart attack – I started looking very closely at how I was living.’
Gregg said he then tried ‘all the diets under the sun and none of them work’. ‘You just beat yourself up emotionally, you think you’re weak willed,’ he said.
He has previously detailed that he tried eating less, cutting out lunch, removing carbohydrates and Weight Watchers but he was ‘always hungry and frustrated’.
What finally worked was ‘stopping the snacks, stopping the takeaways and cooking more’, Gregg said.
He said the Mediterranean diet — which includes plenty of wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta and oats — is ‘the best you can have’ and pushed back on the idea that people need to cut carbohydrates from their diet.
Carbs — such as rice, cereal and oats — are packed with fibre, calcium and iron. They are the main source of nutrients and energy in people’s diets.
Health experts have long disputed the claims made by some diets that cutting carbs is the key to weight loss. In fact, gram for gram, carbs contain fewer than half the calories of fat.
Gregg said: ‘We all think we have to not have carbs. You think about this Mediterranean diet.
‘The French, the amount of bread they consume — all slim.
‘The Spanish, their patatas bravas and paellas, rice, potatoes — slim.
‘The Italians, the amount of pasta, but they’re all slim. It’s not the carbs.’
He said: ‘What you won’t see [in those countries] is loads and loads of takeaways.
‘What you won’t see is people eating crisps and chocolate.
‘They stop at lunch, an hour, two hours, so they can go and eat properly.
‘They’re just eating proper meals.
‘That’s what I learnt, that’s how I lost five stone, that’s what I teach people, that’s what the healthy places in the world are doing. They’re eating proper food.’
Gregg added that, while exercise is vital for maintaining weight loss, spending hours in the gym isn’t vital for losing it in the first place.
Gregg’s meals are inspired by a classic Mediterranean diet. This involves lots of fruits and vegetables, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and olive oil. It also includes some dairy from milk and yogurt, and lean protein from chicken, eggs and fish
‘Movement is important for when you’ve lost weight to keep it off. Going for a walk, swim, table tennis — it doesn’t have to mean being gym bunnies,’ he said.
Fitness expert Joe Wicks, also known as the Body Coach, was a guest on Gregg’s podcast.
‘He draws the line between exercising and movement. Movement we need, exercise we don’t necessarily,’ Gregg added.
Gregg has previously detailed his typical meals, which include a high-protein yoghurt with oats and fruit, or an omelette with sausages, mushrooms and turkey bacon for breakfast.
At lunchtime, he has tinned fish or cooked meat on Ryvita slices and adds some handfuls of rocket. ‘I can pick this up on the go from any supermarket,’ he says.
Dinner is often chicken fillets in pitta bread with peppers and onions or a home-made curry.
He said his plate is always piled high and he eats as much of these meals as he wants.