drbriffa.com’s 1000th post – 10 major milestones in my personal health journey

Today’s post on drbriffa.com is its 1000th. I’m marking the occasion with a personal account of my health and wellbeing transformation over my life.

Many people who don’t know me imagine, given my profession, that I’m a naturally health-conscious and relatively clean-living individual. Actually, that’s not true at all. For long periods in my earlier life, particularly as a student, I was famously unhealthy. For instance, I started smoking at 13 and by the time I stopped I was puffing my way through more than a pack a day. I also drank 10-15 mugs of coffee a day, each with two sugars, for years. I used to drink (alcohol) a fair bit too.

Getting from there to here has been a progression over many years, but certain landmarks punctuated the journey. Big shifts took place with specific changes in my thinking or behaviour that I chart here.

1. 1987 – Stopping smoking

I think I was one of the worst addicted smokers ever. Honestly. Lighting a cigarette would be the first thing I’d do in the morning and the last thing at night. In between there I’d smoke more than 20 others. I would never, ever, not have cigarettes on my person. I regularly fantasised about waking up one day and just not wanting to smoke.

One day, while I should have been writing a thesis for my BSc degree, the postman pushed a book through my letterbox. The book, The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr, had been sent by my older brother who had used it to quit himself. Keen for any distraction, and with no real intention of stopping, I read the book in its entirely that day. That night lying in our horrid brown plastic bath, I smoked my last cigarette. You can read more about this here. I still feel warm about stopping smoking. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

2. 1993 – Waking up to my food sensitivities

Throughout my childhood, I suffered with a rash on my torso and under my arms. Sometimes, it would flare up quite badly and lead to flaky, sore, bleeding, itching skin under my armpits (sorry, if that’s too much detail). In later life my self-diagnosing led me to believe I had fungal problems, though antifungal creams didn’t help.

One day, I was in my university medical centre getting the required vaccines for a trip to Thailand when the doctor announced ‘You’ve got eczema’. I can’t tell you how resistant I was to that diagnosis for some reason. I retorted ‘No, I haven’t’. The doctor said, ‘I’ve done training in dermatology and that is eczema.’ I was dispatched with a prescription for a cortisone cream (naturally) and an emollient. I didn’t fill the prescription and struggled on.

Soon after having my interest in nutrition piqued, I cut milk out of my diet and, bingo, a week later the ‘eczema’ had disappeared.

Subsequently, I realised I don’t do so good with wheat, either. The main symptom I get is fatigue (not uncommon in practice, I’ve found). Almost eradication of it from my diet had led to a step-wise improvement in my energy levels and general sense of vitality.

3. Mid-1990s onwards – an ongoing low-carb journey

‘Carbs are king’ was certainly a belief I had in my head at one time. The fact that I enjoyed sport (including running – see below) may have been a factor here too. When it dawned on me that wheat didn’t suit me, I had to rethink a bit. And then I started to learn more about the impact of starchy carbs on blood sugar and insulin and how destructive they can be.

I had a personal wake-up call many years ago when I decided to spend a weekend ‘detoxing’ on fruit and vegetable juices. I felt awful. Who knows whether I was ‘detoxing’ or not. But now I realise that all these juices had led to episodes of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Also, at the end of the weekend, after dumping all these ‘healthy’ juices into my body, I was 4 lbs heavier.

As the years have gone by, I have become increasingly and steadily less enthusiastic about carbohydrate. I don’t believe all of us need to cut carbs to Atkins-esque levels to be healthy. But my experience tells me the less of this stuff people eat in the long term, generally the better they feel, the better their markers of disease are, and the less excess fat they carry.

4. Late 1990s – More water

Remember my 10-15 mugs of coffee a day habit? If that was not bad enough I compounded it by drinking practically no water. My girlfriend in those days was an enthusiastic drinker of water and referred to me (sometimes) as ‘the camel’.

I’m not sure what changed my thinking here or even when it happened, but as some point I stopped resisting my girlfriend’s advice and just started drinking water. I never looked back. I think it’s made a big different to my energy and vitality, and I’ve seen the same effect very consistently with hundreds if not thousands of people over the years.

5. 1998 – Learning to swim

I’m not a natural water person. I prefer being by water or on water rather than in it. I never really learned to swim when I was young. And my problems were compounded when, at school, I was ‘taught’ by a swimming ‘teacher’ who got a kick out of humiliating non-swimmers like me. By the time I left school, I had some serious mental barriers to swimming.

In 1998, I spent a week teaching on Sanibel island, Florida in the US. One of my colleagues was an accomplished triathlete and coach. He also was also and old school friend. I decided to get over myself and asked him to teach me to swim.

An hour each day, we’d go to a deserted outdoor pool where he would patiently coach me. At the start of the week, I could barely manage 25 metres without feeling like I was going to die. By the end of the week, I could swim with good form for as long as I liked. Even though I say so myself, my breaststroke is a joy to behold. Thank you Chris Williams.

6. 2001 – Stopping intensive running and (eventually) discovering walking

I like sport. At school, I loved playing rugby, but also ran (athletics and cross country). Things slipped a bit (a lot, actually) during my time at medical school. But a few years after qualifying as a doctor, I resumed running, and in quite a big way. At one point, I was running 40-50 miles a week. And not gentle jogging either – it was full on running.

I had the mindset that I was ‘born to run’ and nothing was going to stop me. My body, on the other hand, had other ideas. I picked up injury after injury, and ended up spending way too much time getting unbelievably painful sports massage (no pain, no gain), or having osteopathic adjustments. I refused to accept defeat for some years. Then, finally, an ankle problem forced me to stop. For two years I did practically nothing. Then I discovered walking. I feel it gives me almost all (maybe all) the benefits of running, with none of the downside. It’s been my mainstay exercise ever since.

7. 2006 – Major cutbacks in my TV viewing habits

In 2006 I had an idea for a book in my head that I wanted to get out onto paper. I was contemplating where the time for this project was going to come from. Around this time I took a flight to Canada for work and got chatting to the person next to me. I can’t remember how we got onto the subject, but he told me one of the bone’s of contention he had with his girlfriend was the amount of ‘rubbish TV’ she sat through. The truth was, I was watching a lot of rubbish TV myself at the time. I watched TV quite indiscriminately, and late into the night too. I think I was kinda addicted to it. It suddenly occurred to me where the time to write the book was going to come from.

When I had checked into my hotel outside Toronto, I promised myself I would not turn on the TV. I didn’t. When I got back home a week later, I unplugged the aerial lead from the TV and put it in a kitchen drawer. Pretty soon, I was ‘cured’. I hardly ever watch TV now (though I make an exception for international rugby which remains a passion). I wrote about this here. I have no idea how much time this freed up, but it must run to literally thousands of hours.

8. 2006 – Going to bed earlier

Kicking my TV habit was a prelude to sorting my sleep out. For years, I would go to bed late (usually after midnight) and struggle to get up. With TV out the way, I started to go to bed earlier. Now, I’m rarely up after 10.30 unless I’m on holiday or have been out. I seem to have gone from being an owl to a lark. I have much more energy at 45 than I did at 30, and I reckon at least some of this has to do with me getting to bed earlier.

9. 2009 – Vitamin D

For the last few years I’ve grown increasingly interested in vitamin D, and it’s links with enhanced health and lower risk of disease. In 2009, I decided to have my own vitamin D levels checked, and found them to be extremely low. You can read about this here. I was stunned, as I am a sun-worshipper, and when it’s warm and sunny wear as few clothes as I can get away with. I started supplementing with vitamin D to optimise my levels. I really don’t know what benefits this is having, if any. Intuitively, though, I think it’s the right thing to do and sense I’ll look back at some point in the future and be glad I did it.

10. 2010 – Random acts of kindness

In January 2010 I decided my new year’s resolution would be to practice a ‘random act of kindness’ each day. The thought was triggered by seeing a man vault a railing in the centre of a stairway to help a woman with a pram going in an opposite direction to him. I wrote about this here. To this day, my aim each day is to perform one random act of kindness. I’ve written about some examples here. I’ve found that although my aim is to complete one act of kindness a day, I’m unconsciously looking for possibilities here much of the time, and this affects my mindset and behaviour in a very positive way.

Finally, I’d like to thank the readers and commenters at the site. I don’t always have as much time to interact personally with you as I’d like. But trust me when I tell you I do appreciate you.

47 Responses to drbriffa.com’s 1000th post – 10 major milestones in my personal health journey

  1. Michael Allen 17 June 2011 at 10:39 am #

    This is very interesting, and in many ways parallels developments in my own life, except that I’m now 72 (much to my own surprise). It took me ten years, for instance, to convince myself that a low-carb diet would be the best for me, but now that I’ve been on it for a while I find it very satisfactory and wish I’d got to it years ago. Also drink lots of water, goat’s milk instead of cow’s, etc.

    I can’t say that I do the random acts of kindness, at least not consciously, but I do make a point of speaking to a stranger at least once a day. This sometimes gets me some funny looks, but what the hell. Also, if I see a woman in the street who looks lovely or is wearing a nice dress, I tell her so. I do this because I once failed to compliment a woman when I should have, and three months later she was killed in an accident; so now I always do it when I feel like it and have the opportunity. Who knows, this may get me beaten up one day, but it may also help someone to feel better about herself.

  2. John Briffa 17 June 2011 at 10:47 am #


    You’ve just reminded me of something that happened this morning: I was walking the dog in the park and wandered past an elderly man sitting on a bench in unremarkable clothing except he had these brightly coloured hooped socks on. I said ‘I like those’ pointing at his socks. We said a couple more words, smiled at each other, and went on our merry ways.

  3. Chris 17 June 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Congratulations upon your 1000th post, John, and thank you for being so transparent about your personal relationship with the quest to be ‘healthy’. It is a simple, ‘human’, and very transparent account that is very inspiring.

    Item 10 is so significant to our times. The quest that people have to pursue a satisfactory living and provision adequate wealth and security has a tendency to direct people to act out aspects of their lives as great rivals of each other. This arises by virtue, incidentally, not as a consequence of the difficulties of provisioning the items, features, and activities that promote wealth and security, but by virtue of the attributes of the principle medium of exchange that at times, by virtue of its periodic and inevitable scarcity, renders the more ‘real’ things that sustain us more scarce than they need be. Such rivalry comes at at cost that is the maintenance of a satisfactory sense of mutuality. A commitment to propagate ‘random acts of kindness’ is a sound antidote in times where certain adverse conditions can propagate increased tendency to competition and self-interest.

    As it is, one of the greatest kindnesses that humans can share with others is the exchange of knowledge and information, particularly if that exchange is made without recourse to any exchange of money, and where it contributes to increased understanding. These words themselves, simple as they are, belie the profundity in this notion. There is no greater mutuality than the free exchange of knowledge and/or wisdom. So the site that you maintain, and the extent of the efforts that go into your posts, is one of the greatest kindnesses anybody could propagate.

    On BBC R4s ‘The World Tonight’ news program (last night, 16/6/2011) presenter Robin Lustig interviewed artist Michael Mandy who is intent upon bringing accounts of acts of kindness to the attention of the travelling public. Perhaps he has the visionary intent of inspiring more acts, to elevate peoples experience of an otherwise tedious aspect of life, the commute to and from work. Instantaneously I was reminded of yourself and your post recounting a random act of kindness.

    Will you permit yourself a celebratory cake with 1000 lighted candles knowing you have far better prospects of extinguishing them? Else-wise keep your own ‘fire’ burning and continue to be an inspiration. There can be no greater purpose to a life.

  4. John Briffa 17 June 2011 at 11:24 am #


    Thanks for your comments and very kind words. Funnily enough, I do have a celebration planned but it doesn’t involve cake (at this stage). I’m going to wander a mile down the road to a shop where they sell my favourite Portuguese beer…

    Thanks for your comments over the years.

  5. Fiona 17 June 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Congratulations on your 1000th post! I regularly recommend your sensible approach to people – it’s good to have someone who doesn’t spout spurious research as gospel (low-fat diets, for example) and actually looks into these things. Good luck for another 1000 posts.

  6. Rizwan 17 June 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Rock on Dr B – its nice to know there are good people like you out there.

  7. jgkarob 17 June 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Hi Dr B,
    You’ve been a very important part of my life for a few years now and I just want to say thanks and congratulations!
    K Roberts
    (Galicia, Spain)

  8. Barry Hill 17 June 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    At a time when to a large degree I have lost my faith in much of the medical profession. I would like to add my thanks for your postings over the years – always thought provoking often funny but most of all really useful.

  9. julian 17 June 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I read your book Waist Disposal and followed it and it actually brought about a relapse of my ME. I wanted to lose weight so kept going back to it and each time I felt worse and without energy – it was a living hell. So I know for sure that it was your high protein low carb philosophy that was doing it. I think it’s far far too dangerous now to follow what you say including all the stuff about wheat, dairy etc ad nauseum. We have only propspered as a race sice introducing these foodstuffs 10,00 years ago. You should know full well with yourr medical training that the human body is HIGHLY adaptable, and if 10,000 years isnt enough time to adapt, I dont know what is. It’s a shame you trade on being a doctor because you don’t actually really use what gives you that piece of paper. I have in the past tried a lot of your suggestions and only one thing actually worked. That was topical application of vitamin e oil for cold sores – and that was based in proper science. I wonder how many other people have had a similar exprience.

  10. Frederica Huxley 17 June 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I also have lost faith in allopathic medicine, so it is refreshing and very enlightening to read your thought provoking and very human posts. Looking forward to the next thousand!

  11. Dave Robinson 17 June 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Thank for the great post and for your blog John. You do a great service with your books and blogs.

    Two changes that made my top ten list are meditation and strength training. I’ve began meditating years ago and believe (but can’t prove) that it has helped me enormously manage negative emotions and the more fight or flight hormones. In that sense I view meditation as a health habit.

    At age 62 I’m a recent and enthusiastic convert to strength training and view it as having major positive implications for my overall health the rest of my life.

    I really like the Random Acts of Kindness and plan to adopt it.

    Thanks again.

  12. julia 17 June 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    hello dr. briffa,
    i enjoy your blog immensely. i have found your information to be extremely helpful for my own health journey. i have made most of those changes in my own life. the two additional ones that have helped me the most are meditation and quitting drinking.
    meditation gives me clarity and insight into how i am actually living in my body, in this world and with others. an example is that while i had worked with many modalities to relieve chronic hip pain for 4 years, meditation gave me the insight into and connection with chronic tiny holdings in my whole body that allowed me to release them and relieve my pain.
    quitting drinking has added enormously to that clarity. i considered myself a very moderate drinker, but when a relative had to quite because of alcoholism, i decided to take the challenge and have found it was the best thing i could have done…not for everyone, but certainly for me. more energy, more clarity of mind, more patience.

  13. John Briffa 17 June 2011 at 12:48 pm #


    I’m sorry it seems you did not get on well with the dietary recommendations in Waist Disposal. While I have no desire to dismiss your experience, it might be worth balancing it with my experience of countless individuals who have transformed their weight and health for the better using this approach. But, of course, it’s not a panacea.

    With all due respect, I think you’re misguided on the adaptability of the human body. Genetic adaptation is a very slow process indeed.

    What do you mean we “propspered [sic] as a race sice [sic] introducing these foodstuffs 10,00 [sic] years ago”? You appear to have missed the point of the piece, which was the apparent backward step we took in terms of our health when we moved from hunter-gathering to a more agrarian existence.

    Plus, even if you don’t buy the evolutionary line, there is plenty of research and science behind this concept in terms of the adverse effects grains, say, can have on health.

  14. TESSA Childs 17 June 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Due to your diet revolation since last August I have lost 3 stone and my husband is on a 2.75 stone reduction. Thank you so much. Only problem is I am about to run out of skirts that stay up. I still have 5 stone to go, all gained in the last 27 years whilst following the diet advise of my doctor (ie low fat) as far as I could manage. I guess an interim wardrobe is on the cards and for the first time in those 27 years I don’t hate the thought of going clothes shopping.

    Thank you so much and many congratulations on your 1000th post.

    If only I could sort out the problem of the hair I have lost on the diet……….

  15. Pete 17 June 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Dear Dr John
    Always the “camel”. Never a donkey.
    Except in your dreams.
    Well done on the 1000. Keep it up. Remember it’s not a diet but “a way of life”

  16. Linda Collier 17 June 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Well you have changed my life as regards to carbs and vitamin D, statins and cholesterol. I drive everyone mad always talking about what Dr Briffa says! I make you sound like a personal friend! I look forward to what you have to say next as what you do so resonates so much with my life and makes sense.

  17. Ursula 17 June 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Congratulations – and thank you for your generosity and your openness. I have much more energy, physical ease and mental clarity since I followed your advice. I love having you in my life!

  18. CJP 17 June 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    I think it’s far far too dangerous now to follow what you say including all the stuff about wheat, dairy etc ad nauseum. We have only propspered as a race sice introducing these foodstuffs 10,00 years ago.

    Human ‘prosperity’ and ubiquity arises from a consistent improvement in the balance of energetics of human activities, beginning first with incremental improvements in the balance of energetics of gathering, masticating and digesting the diet (that is the basis for ‘fuelling’ activity) over considerable time. Then at a specific time, or period, in pre-history, but not yet a specifically determinable time in pre-history, humans added a supplementary energy economy to the the energy economy that nature bestows upon all other living things – we acquired mastery over fire.
    The evolution of human civilisation, of human ‘prosperity’ and ubiquity, owes much to opportunities and incentives that arise from this beneficial trend in human energetics which is intertwined with evolving nutrigenics, evolving intelligence that may itself owe something to alterations in nutrigenics, evolving and increasing capacity for ‘tooling’, and a supplementary energy economy, largely based upon the combustion of fossil fuels, that has become increasingly an important component, completely outstripping the energy economy that nature imposes upon all other living things and once imposed upon us. Grains are only viable as a consequence of acquired abilities with ‘tooling’ and ‘cooking’. The starch in grains would be excruciatingly indigestible save for the ability to cook. Grains are advantageous, certainly where the energy economy, ‘energetics’ pertaining to production and diet are concerned, but could be quite novel where the nutrigenics of grain rich diets is concerned.

    Certainly as a sufferer of ME, Julian you have to find a diet that meets with your requirements, but your requirements may not necessarily transpose to generally healthy requirements of otherwise generally healthy people. Might ME, arise as some factor of mal-adaptation to aspects of a modern diet? What your case shows, Julian, is that the components of the diet can have very demonstrable effects upon peoples well-being.

  19. John Newsome 17 June 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Dr Briffa,

    Many congratulations. I am always interested in your comments regarding Vitamin D. I have psoriasis and taking it appears to help. I am currently taking 3,000 IU’s per day but I know you take 5,000. The recommended dosage on shop bought supplements is much less than these numbers and I presume you have no worries about such a level of ‘overdosing’. Is there any particular Vitamin D product that you favour?

    Many thanks

  20. John Briffa 17 June 2011 at 2:13 pm #


    I take 5000 IU because that’s the dose it takes to keep my vitamin D levels around what I regard to be the optimal range.

    Recommended dosages are irrelevant.

    The vitamin D I use comes from http://www.vitamind3world.com/

  21. Gareth Irvine 17 June 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Hi John
    Only really started reading your blog and listening to the podcasts after reading your book Waist Disposal.. I’ve just hit a milestone myself, I’ve lost 1 stone, it doesn’t sound like a lot but I didn’t have a lot to lose and yes it’s noticeably shifted from my mid-rift where I wanted it to come from. Mission almost accomplished, the abs aren’t showing just yet. Your book goes everywhere with me along with 2 pics on my iPhone, one from before I started and 1 after(if you want them drop me a mail)
    Anyway congrats on the BIG 1000 and thanks for the inspiration.

  22. Angela 17 June 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    John, thanks again for a great blog. It has changed my thinking over the years and slowly I am adapting how I live. I too stopped smoking with Alan Carr’s method and like you, think it one of the best things I ever did. Also, my skin improved immeasurably after a lifetime of torso rashes when I changed to goat and sheep milk and cheese. I love your alternative view of how we can best live. I was advised to take statins, but seeing as I swim and gym three times a week, meditate daily, eat low carbs and no meat have refused statins based on your web and feel great. Just need to increase the walking and Vitamin D and think I have cracked it!! all the best Angela from the gym.

  23. Michelle 17 June 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Congratulations! I am a GP, we trained at the same Medical School. Increasingly I am pointing my patients towards your blog with positive results. Thank you for being part of my CME.
    Is your favorite beer Superbock by any chance? If yes, my husband says you have impeccable taste!

  24. John Briffa 17 June 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Thanks Michelle

    How very open-minded of you! What year did you graduate?

    You’re spot on re Super Bock – it is indeed my Portuguese beer of choice. Your hubby can consider me a kindred spirit! Has he tried Super Bock Preta (the stout)?

  25. Terry (Type 1 since 1969) 17 June 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Congratulations, John. I’ve had to learn much of what you’re on about from independent American physicians but it’s great to see at least one independent British physician on the same lines. Keep up your great work.

  26. Michelle 17 June 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Hubby has tried Preta but being a purist prefers Super Bock Gold unless I am cooking:
    which calls for Stout. We lowish carb too.

    I qualified in 1997 ,feels like a lifetime ago!

  27. Lesley 17 June 2011 at 8:46 pm #

    I am very new to your site. Like previous people I brought your book, mainly to quote from it to my clients. I now listen to your blogs and hoover up every thing linked with your weekly subjects it’s great! I now direct people to your site and book. Thank you

  28. katydogcrazy 17 June 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Love you, and love your thought-provoking and informative blog.

    My thinking on spontaneous acts of kindness is a little different. I started, about 15 years ago, with the belief that if I had a positive thought about someone, stranger or not, I should tell them. And I do. Sometimes the comment is received with suspicion, but generally it is welcomed and makes a positive impact. Acts of kindness have always been a part of my life, but now I am trying to concentrate more on ‘acts of humanity’ as these are a bit more egalitarian and mutually rewarding rather than having that slight tinge of “I am better off than you and so can act in a kindly fashion toward you”. Perhaps less ego based? A fine example is the chat I had with the lady in front of me in a slow grocery store checkout line yesterday. I was a bit self-conscious about the amount of dog hair on my jacket, t-shirt, and cloth grocery bags and mentioned it to her. We got to gabbing about dogs and parrots and widowhood and general whatnot and had a pleasant and rather animated chat for several minutes, complete with laughter. As we spoke I realised that she was likely in her mid 70s and functionally blind (complete with a white cane collapsed into her shopping cart), lived alone, no longer able to afford pet care, and was in need of being careful of every penny. As she was packing away her purchases she thanked me for the lovely chat – at that point I also realised that she was likely fairly socially isolated as well – and I warmly thanked her right back as I also had benefited from our conversation. She followed up with thanks for not treating her as someone who is different. That interchange nicely illustrated, to me, the difference between acts of humanity and acts of kindness – I enjoyed chatting with her as a person rather than as an object of charity, and she felt the difference (and was kind enough to say so). It is likely all a matter of semantics, but it feels to me like an important difference in orientation.

    On a different note, I am not at all a firm believer in reincarnation but I AM becoming a firm believer in the concept of life-lessons. What does it seem that I am intended to learn in this lifetime? The concept is very useful in guiding my day-to-day behaviour as well as my internal self-talk. For decades now my lessons seem to be Humility and Patience. [And I am doing very well at it though I wish the Humility would come a bit faster, giggle giggle.] It seems that my Purpose is to help others, and my Lessons are to do it with Humility and Patience and to treat myself with the same principles in mind. It will be interesting to me to see what I think of all this when I’m 90!

    As another commenter said, thank you for being in my life, Dr Briffa.

    – Katy 🙂

  29. PaulB 17 June 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    Hey if you are coming to the rugby world cup look us up I live a very easy stroll from Eden Park.

  30. julian 18 June 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Come off it – the human body is indeed adaptable enough. If wheat and dairy were so bad we would be dead. Life used to be nasty, brutal and short. The advent of penicillin helped and people now live longer – their diet isn’t killing them. You cannot possibly in any way ever prove that yr your joyless dietary approach is better, because everyone it applies to is dead. Also, the problem with science as you well know is that people look for the so called evidence that supports their own hypothesis. That is the eternal problem. If your work is so backed up by science, why do you use the conditional tense so often? Too many ‘mays’ in your writing I’m afraid and too much quackery. Sorry, but I think you need to go back to being a doctor.

  31. julianne 18 June 2011 at 9:03 am #

    Thanks Dr Briffa for all the knowledge you give away to us all. Very much appreciated.

    With regards to Julian, I wonder how long he persevered with the eating plan. I have worked with a few people (I’m a nutritionist) with ME or CFS. They often have very severe transition symptoms (severe fatigue, aches and pain, headaches, constipation, inflammation) switching from the standard high carb to a lower carb diet and feel that the diet is not working. Once through the transition (worst is usually over in 3 weeks, and big doses of omega 3 help a lot) they often feel better than they have for years.

    @PaulB – Kia Ora, I live in Grey Lynn!

  32. MrAntiWeetabix 18 June 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Hello Dr Briffa,

    I am just writing as I’d like to tell you that you were somehow right all along 🙂

    I’ve lately eliminated all grains from my diet, and have change to having fresh fruit and greens for breakfast, da large serving of sweet potato for lunch and plenty of legumes for the evening.

    I cannot express how much better I feel…I just gave it a go to see if I could do without grains, and I’m surprised how my mood has change and my skin and hair.

    Thank you as I wouldn’t of considered it without your blog, despite me disagreeing with a large part of your approach.

  33. John Briffa 18 June 2011 at 9:43 am #


    Good for you! (Please do not infer and patronising tone from this – I am genuinely pleased for you).


    The reason I am sometimes not definitive in my writing is because, as I alluded to before, nothing is true for everyone. But that doesn’t stop it being true for most or even almost all.

    Moreover, aside from the science, I do have the benefit of having treated literally thousands of individuals, which does give valuable perspective in terms of what tends to work (as well as what doesn’t).

    Maybe check out comment 32 above. That’s just a hint of what can happen when someone is open enough to challenge their beliefs and make changes.

    I don’t need to get back to being a doctor – I am a doctor. I just think a bit differently to most other doctors, and believe my patients and those I advise are better off for it.

    Your apparent faith in science and modern medicine is somewhat ironic. Where’s it got you?

  34. Wiebke 18 June 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Thank you John for being so transparent about yourself. I find your sincerity and boldness to aim for effect are a powerful combination. Your random acts of kindness are reaching as many as you have readers of your blog, patients and followers… Congratulations on your 1000th post and thank you for your work!

  35. Chris 18 June 2011 at 11:53 am #

    ‘Acts of humility’ (see 28)

    I think the discussion on the subtleties between ‘acts of kindness’ and ‘acts of humility’ is interesting and pertinent. It has me wondering how one would open up the matters that result in distinction. After hearing Jon Ronson giving an interview I am certain that an act of humility (as opposed to one of kindness) results from having greater levels of empathy for the other persons’ circumstance, views, concerns or impediments. An act of kindness is well-intentioned, certainly, but an act of humility stems from a higher state of empathy, perhaps, and results in greater sincerity. (?) I wonder does something serve as an impediment to acts of humility and/or acts of kindness? Might one distinction be that an act of humility is more unhurried, say than one of kindness – and is the mind and body more relaxed and less distracted? Perhaps the need to juggle many responsibilities and distractions, coupled with the seeming need to ‘rush’ everywhere impedes ability and willingness to deliver acts of kindness or acts of humility?

    ‘Tribe’ (Bruce Parry) is a TV documentary that gets repeated periodically. The program devoted to the ‘Babongo’ springs to mind. The remote Babongo peoples of Gabon survive traditionally off the forest. They are people that we might have termed ‘primitive’ until the term recently went out of fashion. I think there are ways in which they are sophisticates. They provision their needs with three to four hours enterprising activity per day. They relax, amuse themselves, chill, snooze, have fun, play with their kids, educate their kids, and care for their elderly with their remaining free time. they do this without ever getting into personal debt or without a requirement promotional of sovereign debt. They also practice religion. Initiation into the religion, Bwiti, is not for kids, nor like a ‘Yorkie Bar’, is it (in a well intentioned and non sexist idiomatic expression) ‘for girls’. Initiation involves a ‘ceremony’ in which the root of the Iboga tree. There is a highly potent psycho-active drug and effect. In the drugged state the mind examines all of life’s experiences, especially events where harm or hurt has been caused to others. More, the mind sees that experience from the injured parties point of view. It must be a an excruciatingly humiliating experience for the mind. Bruce Parry was evidently trepidatious about the prospects of taking Ibola. Babongo elders, perhaps wisely, forbade close filming of the most intense part of Parrys’ Ibola ‘trip’.

    I’ve no wish to take Ibola, but if my working life did not disposes me of more 10-12 hours a day, compared to the Babongos 3 or 4, I expect my capacity for kindness and humility would increase. Just a thought, shared.

  36. Past imperfect .. 18 June 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    .. in which the root of the Iboga tree is ingested over several hours to experience its narcotic effect.

    .. of more time, 10-12 hours a day, ..

    Duh, ‘wish my mind could rely upon my fingers!

  37. MrAntiWeetabix 18 June 2011 at 1:11 pm #


    The thing about dairy about it not killing people instantly…is that the effects are slowly progressive…and lead to a slow and painful death of either cancer or other disease.

    Consider milk is designed to bring a calf from a tiny thing to over 1000lb, that can’t be good for humans! especially with all the hormones. It has been proven that is causes excitement for cancer in the body.

    If you wish to fool yourself to hang on to your bad habits, then don’t try and pass of others valid views as neglible.

    And everyone is dying in the western world, Those who can’t think for themselves and just rely on supermarkets to stock whatever there is available….WHAT MORE EVIDENCE DO YOU WANT….Go look in a supermarket at the people checking out and see how ill they look.

  38. Catherine 18 June 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Thank you John for all your inspirational posts. Great work.

  39. Soul 18 June 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Congrats on your successful to better your health over the years! At the moment believe I’m in the same boat as you concerning bad health and milk, plus possibly beef for me, but for different reasons. Swimming is one of my very favorite activities to do while on the island. Great exercise, and gets me out into the sunshine. Kind of afraid to mention that! Last time I brought swimming up, I suddenly began seeing articles about the dangers of parasites in pools, and problems chlorine can cause. Thought about swimming in the ocean, but figured I’d have new health problems with all the sting rays, & sharks around the area.

  40. Reijo Laatikainen 20 June 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Thanks for a great blog, and good luck for your future pursuits!

  41. jophus 20 June 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    I read your e mails regularly and take note. I too believe in lots of drinking water, I start the day with a pint with a splash apple cider vinegar in it.I eat anything and everything and enjoy. I have no aching bones or joints, feel as fit as a fiddle and took up golf at 80.Thanks for all your info. Bye the way, I was 86 this week .

  42. Dr Andrew Longstaff 20 June 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    RAKs, which I’ve been doing for a while, are a somewhat guilty pleasure, since I’m never quite sure whether the warm glow is just being smug and self-satisfied. Hope not.
    I started, at my wife’s not wholly serious suggestion, by giving my gloves to a frozen Big Issue seller, astonishing my companions, the seller and mostly myself.
    The best dopamine-high came on hearing a frozen busker in Cheltenham singing my favourite track from “Adele 19″, the week “Adele 21″ came out. I asked her if she had heard “21″, she said “No”, so I gave her a tenner and said to buy it, before slipping anonymously into the crowd. I don’t know what happened to her busking career, but Adele hasn’t looked back.

    Put this in the wrong place at first, sorry for duplication.

  43. Shirley Mcilvenny 21 June 2011 at 11:30 am #

    Hi John
    Congrats on your blogging milestone. I am a GP from UK but working in Australia. I have recently set-up this training institute where I am spreading the word about healthy eating by training food coaches to go out into the community and help people get healthy again. I regularly point my trainees to your posts and totally agree on the ill-effects from grains, carbs and all the rest. Keep up the good work, Shirley

  44. Katherine Kimak 21 June 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Ha! My husband met you on your “No More TV” trip in #7! Your influence is still with us today! Keep up the great work John!!

  45. John Briffa 22 June 2011 at 2:08 pm #


    How nice of you to say! I trust all is well with you and your hubby!

  46. Josephine 22 June 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Congratulations & thank you for the advise given so generously over the years, which I try to pass on wherever needed.May it continue for another 1000 blogs & more!


  1. The LLVLC Show (Episode 639): Encore Week 2013 – Dr. John Briffa | Kick The Diets - 6 January 2013

    […] His recent 1000th post on his personal health journey […]

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