Sarah Vincent is on a mission: she wants to change the way Australians think about dieting and obesity. Her deeply personal book, Death by Dim Sim (Random House, $34.99), is a compelling tale of her journey from being obese to returning to a healthy weight, losing 40 kilos and learning a lot about herself and eating well in the process.
And while there are many diet books on the market, few take you inside the mind of someone battling obesity and food addiction in such a personal way.
The title of the book comes from a eureka moment that Vincent had while working at a hospital – when she walked past a group of smokers every day as she went to get her regular late-afternoon snack of dim sims.
“Yes, and they were quite a sight,” she says, “with amputated legs and in wheelchairs and with their IV poles. They were there from morning to night lining up in that carpark and I would walk past them at three o’clock going to get my bag of dim sims.
“My epiphany was all related to that thing of realising that they’re killing themselves with cigarettes and I was killing myself with food. And I couldn’t stop.”
Sarah Vincent once tipped the scales at 122 kilos
However, that’s not really where the journey starts – or ends. It took quite a few years after that before Vincent finally found the solution to beating her weight problem.
“It does take a while and you probably have several epiphanies, not just the one,” she admits. “One of the things I have read about being overweight or obese is that we lack willpower and you just have to find the willpower and it will take care of itself.
“But I think that if you have the constant craving for food, willpower will only go so far.
“You can only battle those cravings for so long. I think that’s why we yo-yo diet because we go ‘right, come on I have got to do something’. Yet again we dip into that bucket of willpower and do it again: ‘let’s diet again and starve ourselves’.
“We put up with the misery of starving ourselves for as long as the willpower lasts. I found that as I got older, it lasted shorter and shorter. I used to be able to diet for months and I would lose a lot of weight and of course, I would stop. I would eat everything in sight and I would put it all back on again. And I was getting to the point that I would only diet for a couple of weeks.
For Vincent the solution was ‘Banting’ – a low-carb, high-fat diet that turned it all around. It’s a way of eating that has been gaining momentum recently. Read here about a similar diet that has been found to be successful with people facing Type 2 Diabetes.
Vincent is now slimmer and fitter than she’s ever been and she never wants to see a dim sim again
“Banting has been so amazing,” says Vincent. “It dulls those cravings so you don’t feel like you are starving.”
“I have been battling with my weight since I was 13,” she adds. “I have tried everything under the sun. And I think that’s the other thing too, that really made me want to write this book was that a lot of people who have weight problems and we try really hard to solve them. I think we are just doing the wrong thing. Having tried everything, I’ve never experienced a way of eating that was as successful and that dealt with the cravings.”
The second half of the book gets practical as Vincent shares what helped her to finally lose the weight. She talks about her nutritionist Aprille McMahon, who introduced her to Banting, tackles the science behind the diet and then lays out tips on cleaning out your pantry, meal plans and recipes to get you on the right track.
“Hopefully I am just an example of what can happen when you start eating whole foods, cut out wheat and sugar and cut out processed foods,” she says. “Some parts of Banting are a bit radical, but I don’t think those parts are. I think most nutritionists would say that home cooking, whole foods, real foods – not out of a packet – are so important.”
Vincent’s only regret? It might be the rather spectacular underwear she wears in her ‘before’ photograph, which has been printed in the book (pictured above).
“I just wish I hadn’t been wearing those spotty undies in the before picture,” she says with a laugh. “If I had a time machine, I could back and go, ‘this is going in a book, don’t wear those undies but it’s too late now.”
Have you had to turn your diet around? Share your experiences below.
Photography: © Peta Dempsey