The GP who wrote a weight-loss book

Dr Julie Coffey changed her diet in her mid-30s in a bid to tackle arthritis. Enthused by what she had learned about diet and nutrition, she started a blog and went on to write a book to help people lose weight.

Dr Julie Coffey
Dr Julie Coffey

In my mid-to-late 30s I started with arthritis in my knees and I tried to ignore it. But after a few years the pain began to get quite bad, and at times it was taking the shine off things I enjoyed, like walking and skiing. I’d seen my Dad go through knee and hip replacements and wondered if I’d be heading the same way. 

I knew my knowledge as a doctor wasn’t going to change the course of this but I had an inkling that I must have been doing something wrong to get this problem so early, and if I found out what that was and fixed it – could I sort my knee problem out?

At the time I considered myself way above average levels of fitness and health. But I was still starting with a degenerative condition, which I was less than pleased about! What would be next?

Like all doctors I knew a lot about disease and how to treat it with drugs and surgery, but it dawned on me that I didn’t know too much about getting a body back to full health when it started to go wrong. This realisation felt a bit odd, given that I am doctor.

Changing my diet

I started reading around natural health, much of it to do with nutrition, and when things made sense I made changes to my diet. I made a lot of changes over a few months but two of the biggest were significantly increasing that amount of quality fats in my diet, and reducing the amount of wheat I ate.

Within a short period of time all my pain disappeared, and that remains the case now I’m in my mid-40s – I don’t even get a twinge when I’m skiing. 

The other bonus was weight loss. I wasn’t what you would call overweight but the pounds had crept on and were proving stubborn to move. They literally melted away, and have not come back. I was obviously pretty delighted by this added perk. My energy levels shot up as well.

I had learned a lot of things about how to get a body healthy, and subsequently slim. I was excited by this, and the effect it had had on me, so I started sharing this with patients.

A lot of patient’s eyes would glaze over at the mere suggestion they would have to make changes themselves, so in these cases I’d revert back to ‘normal GP’ mode. But some patient’s would be really interested in the idea that they had more control over their health than they realised.

Due to the ten-minute appointment constraint the best I could do was to point them in the direction of some reading, and invite them back to see me again to discuss further.

Turning health around

I’ve had patients turn their health around by losing weight, enabling them to come off medication that they have been on for years.

For example I’ve taken people off their blood pressure pills and reduced diabetes medications. This is hugely satisfying to me as a doctor, and the patients are over the moon when they make this kind of progress with their health. It’s one thing coming off the pills, but quite another to have increase in energy and feel so much better.

I had read through a lot of information, much of it entirely new to me as it wasn’t covered at medical school and is not covered in our postgraduate education. Yet this information, much of it about nutrition, when put into practice can dramatically improve health. It can also lead to weight loss without being on a miserable restrictive diet.

Writing a book

I was so enthused by what I was learning I started writing a weekly health blog, and shortly after that it made sense to put what I’d learned into a book so it was all in one place.

I knew a book solely about nutrition and exercise wouldn’t change people’s health and weight. The big problem for most people when it comes to losing weight and improving their health is their mind-set. Until you’ve got a slim and healthy mind-set you can’t achieve the body you’re after. You’ve got to go there in your mind first, and then your body will follow.

Changing mind-set and habits is another interest of mine and a significant part of my book is about how to cultivate a new health-driven and slim mind-set. Without focus on changing what’s going on ‘up top’, any eating and exercise plan is going to fail in the vast majority of people.

The book I’ve put together covers how to change your mind-set, gives help with overcoming comfort and emotional eating, nutrition and the type of exercise that is actually effective at burning fat.

The only bad thing about my book is that I can’t recommend it to my patients - it’s a probity issue apparently, so I can only suggest an ‘inferior one’!

  • Dr Coffey is a GP in Sheffield with a special interest in natural health

Dr Coffey’s book Living the Slim Life is available from Amazon and you can find her blog here

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