Gallop’s first book about the subject—The GI Diet—has sold more than two million copies. It has also spawned several offshoots, including a cookbook, a diet book for families, and the new GI Diet Clinic: Rick Gallop’s Week by Week Guide to Permanent Weight Loss (Random House), which hit bookstores in December 2007.
During his 16 years as president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Gallop was well aware of the problem of weight gain. But it wasn’t until he gained weight himself that he began to look seriously into dietary and weight loss research. He was especially drawn to the work of Dr. David Jenkins, a researcher at the University of Toronto who invented the GI in 1980.
A firm believer in the science behind the GI, Gallop has used it to lose his own excess weight. Since then, he has helped thousands of others lose weight and keep it off. InnovationCanada.ca spoke with him to find out how to battle the bulge.
InnovationCanada.ca (IC): How did you first develop the GI Diet?
Rick Gallop (RG): Eight years ago, I put on about 25 pounds because I had a back problem, and I had to stop jogging. I was faced with being “Tubby Gallop” and at the same time because of my job at the foundation, having to tell people to lose weight or risk heart disease. What was worse was my vanity—I had four extra inches around my waist.
I had a look at the leading diets, like Atkins and the Zone. That’s how I got introduced to the glycemic index. We were one of the groups that funded Dr. Jenkins’s research. I had an opportunity to meet him. Then I applied the science to my own life and—surprise, surprise—I managed to lose 22 pounds and the four inches around my waist.
IC: What makes the GI Diet different? What makes it work?
RG: The glycemic index measures the speed that foods break down in our digestive system and form glucose, which is the body’s source of energy. High GI foods digest very quickly, spiking your blood sugar. Unfortunately, that energy dissipates quickly and you’re soon hungry again. Low GI foods take longer to digest. They provide a steady, slow intake of sugar into your bloodstream, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. Therefore, you eat less without going hungry. That’s really the whole principle: you’re trying to maintain a steady supply of energy—that is sugar—into the bloodstream.
IC: How do you figure out if foods have a high or low GI?
RG: Sugar breaks down instantly, so it’s given a score of 100. Everything else is rated against it. For example, bread, cookies, and most cold cereals (with highly processed grains) have high GIs. If you have a bowl of sugar puffs, by the time you get to the office, you’re reaching for your first Danish because you’re probably already hungry.
IC: What are your favourite low GI foods—foods you recommend for losing weight?
RG: Virtually all fruits and vegetables are low GI. Pasta is low GI as long as you watch the quality and the quantity. I also tend to be a bit of a meat and potatoes person. Potatoes are okay—small new potatoes especially. It has to do with the maturity of the starch. Basmati, wild and brown rice are good.
My favourite low GI food—I’d probably pick old-fashioned oatmeal. I probably get more e-mail over oatmeal than any other food. I find it’s fantastic. It stays with me all morning. Just flavour it up with some sliced almonds and fruit, and you have a lovely creamy breakfast. It’s so easy to make and it’s delicious.
IC: What about meat?
RG: The Glycemic Index only applies to carbohydrates, not protein or fats, such as chicken, turkey, lean cuts of meat, or eye of round. Look for lean cuts and as much fish as you'd like.
IC: How can we stay focused and eat properly when we’re at restaurants?
RG: Make sure you get some liquid, usually some soup, into you as soon as possible. If you can get low-calorie foods into your tummy right away, the better off you’ll be. That will help you be content with smaller portions later on in the meal.
Have all dressings served on the side so you can control the quantity. If you really like pasta, have it as a prelude to your meal as an antipasto. Pasta portions tend to be much larger than you need and even if it is low GI, there are a lot of calories in pasta.
Have double the vegetables in lieu of rice or potatoes. I’ve never been refused extra vegetables even once, and I eat out quite often. You feel just as full at the end of the meal, and you’ve had better nutritional value.
IC: So we have to pay attention to what we eat. But is there anything else we can do to stay motivated when trying to lose weight?
RG: People don’t know what weight weighs until they actually weigh it. Carry around a 20-pound bag of flour. It’s a real cold shock for people. Go pack a shopping bag with cans of food and old diet books till they weigh the equivalent of the weight you should lose. Walk up and down the stairs a few times with it. When you want motivation, remind yourself that’s what you’re carrying around your waist, hips, and thighs each and every day, and you can’t simply put that down!
IC: It’s one thing to lose weight. It’s another thing to keep it off. What do we need to keep in mind when we’re struggling with maintaining our weight?
RG: It sounds blindingly obvious, but you have to permanently change the way you eat. The first phase is losing the weight. The second phase is how to eat for the rest of your life. If you go back to your old ways of eating, you’ll go back to square one or even worse. But if you make that commitment, you’ll be successful and you’ll never have to diet again. It’s healthy living and it’s something the whole family can do.
IC: How do you keep yourself on track?
RG: I try to walk the talk. Moderation in all things. My advice is to be on this diet 90 percent of the time. Allow that other 10 percent for fun. If you fall off the wagon, and it will happen, climb back on as soon as you can. You’ll only delay getting to your target weight by a few days, and in the real world, that’s not that much.