top of page


When losing weight and improving your health, you are about to take on a huge battle, one with old habits getting in the way, one with internal conflict, one whereby you will likely lose the battle some days. But if you keep focused on this not being a threat or danger, instead seeing it as a challenge you will learn to overcome it and take control of your body and life.

Years ago, I was walking through a deprived area in south-east London having a chat with my dad on the phone about some issues I was attempting to resolve. I noticed a group of men (around 6 of them) walk up behind me, I noticed the threat, but decided to place no importance on it and to continue without signs of concern or displays of insecurity. 'Wack', one of the guys punched me in the side of the head and quick as a flash swiped the phone from my hands. What I did was surprising even to me, you see, I had been in this situation quite a few times before, and even managed to befriend one so called mugger who later defended me and stopped me from getting mugged on the top of a bus, funny how the world works.

Back to the phone jacker, as soon as he snatched the phone, I didn’t shout, or get aggressive, I didn’t run or show fear, I simply turned around and said ‘excuse me, I was having a private conversation, that was incredibility rude’. I didn’t make an issue of him having my property, I simply made an issue of him interrupting the conversation. He looked confused and hesitated; he didn’t know what do to, just kind of stood there surprised for a moment. I was calm with a slight undertone of teacher like disapproval.

But, how am I able to do this? How am I able to act calm in this situation? It’s 11pm at night, a dark road, 6 of them, I just got my phone stolen and a punch in the side of the face, all the ingredients of threat and danger were there, this situation could get out of hand very quickly.

It’s a question I have always given logical answers to. ‘Well, confrontation here is just ego and will lead to an increased risk of my death or serious harm, even prison for me if I lose control and hurt someone’. Of course, none of those outcomes seem logical to me and are far worse outcomes then the loss of an old Nokia phone. The issue with my logical reasoning answer, is that during moments of threat, your prefrontal context, the big rational controller is switched off and your emotional centre (your amygdala) is switched on so you can activate fight, flight or freeze which will give you a better chance for overall survival, in theory at least.

In the moment, I didn’t go into an innate stress response though. In the moment, my brain focused not on the threat. Not on the danger, but on the challenge in the situation. I quickly thought, he wants my phone, but I need my sim for my clients. The challenge wasn’t ego based, it wasn’t possession based. I had to decide the value of what they want and decide what I needed out of this situation. How do I keep a sense of self-respect while avoiding conflict?

Back to the situation on the phone, I turned to the guy and focused on his behaviour. I didn’t focus on the phone. I said ‘listen you can have the phone, but I need my numbers on the sim-card, so give me the card and you can have the phone, my gift’. The challenge here was if I was confrontational, I would have attacked him and then been beaten badly by the group. But I did need the card, it had all of my client’s phone numbers on it. That was my business.

I stood in his way but at a distance, I didn’t beg, I wasn’t showing fear and I wasn’t showing that I was a threat. But I wasn’t entering his space with any emotional aggression either, I was just calmy responding to the challenge and ensuring he was calm and responsive. If I’m honest, there was one point when my inner monkey took over for a fraction of a second, I moved closer to him to grab the phone and punch him, just as I stepped forward, he immediately saw the threat and responded by putting his hand in his trousers to illude to pulling out a knife. So I took a step back, sobered up immediately and again calmly kept my distance. I simply said, ‘listen, there is no issue here. You want the phone, please my gift, but my sim won’t work for you, I need you to return that, it’s only fair’. During this moment, I activated a common human psychological principle called reciprocity, I gave him my phone and asked for a sim. He grunted and gave it to me. Exchange complete, I can move on now.

My inner monkey then kicked again as I walked away and I turned and went running back towards them swearing, immediately hands went into their trousers and I returned to calm, held my hands in the none threatening palm gesture position to show no threat and walked away. Only to reach the top of the road and realise I don’t have the numbers saved on the phone, it was one of those old Nokia phones that you could save the number on the phone or the sim card.

They were now down a dark alley, at 11pm at night with no-one else around standing in a circle. A threat would say run, challenge said ‘go and stand in the middle of them, because if they circle you you become prey, if you enter the middle you become the group or even the alpha’. So, I did just that, I entered the middle of the group and immediately gave my sim to the guy I saw as least threatening and most confident. I said ‘I need your help, I don’t have the numbers saved on my sim as I don’t know how to do it, you look like you’re best with technology? Can you do it for me? Initially there was a kick back from the guy who stole the phone, but his friends didn’t see me as a threat, they started seeing me as a human. I repeated, don’t worry I gave the phone to you mate, you gave me the sim, but I just remembered it’s pointless having the sim because all my clients numbers were saved to the phone and if I don’t have them I will lose my business.

The guy who took the sim took the phone and downloaded the content. He then said ‘you can have it back for £20’. I declined and said it belongs to the other guy now. Calmly I said, though, this is a crime that all of you could get a record for, please consider your direction in life’ then I walked away to see one of the group say ‘fuck this, I’m not doing this shit’ and walked off.

So I walked off and then started shouting and getting mad. Only then I was intensely angry, the injustice, I should have done this and said that and so on... But the next day I ended up getting 2 phones for free and a much cheaper phone deal, it saved me loads of money.

The point to this story is how different I was inside the behaviour, when I was getting mugged and in contact, I was calm and remained in control of my mugging. Think about that, I even made some of his group turn against him. Just by keeping cool and seeing the situation as a challenge I needed to overcome. You see, there is a difference to how you respond to something, and it how it affects the outcomes from either leaning towards the negative or towards the positive.

It boils down to whether something is a threat or a challenge in your head, this was clearly illustrated.

Peter Borne, during the Vietnam war.

As a scientist, he wanted to see how war would affect stress on the body and how it will respond to such intense conditions. Borne started taking measurements of stress hormones in soldiers, officers and radio control operators. He wanted to know how the body anticipated and responded to stress and how it recovered once that attack that was pending finally arrived. He continued to track the stress hormone (cortisol)once the fighting stopped and normalcy returned. When he compared the stress hormone response between different groups, he found that a pattern became clear. Soldiers saw their cortisol levels drop on the day of the expected attack. Radio control men and officers, however, experienced an increase on the day of the attack.

The soldiers were the ones risking their lives, they were the ones losing legs and arms and being blown up, they were the ones watching their fellow soldiers and friends getting ripped apart by explosions and machine guns. But, they were less physiologically stressed than the radio men sitting in their comfortable chairs speaking through a microphone. Doesn’t make sense right? It gets weirder, after the attack the soldiers cortisol increased, when they weren’t being shot at. When they were safe and not in conflict.

Borne believed that the difference lies in the level of perceived control. The solders could shoot and kill the enemy, but the officers could only take orders from higher up and make the best decisions, but they were still removed from the direct contact, the radio operators were also one or two removed. Soldiers were in direct contact. You see, the soldiers had been trained to follow a plan and they believed that if they follow the plan, and make sure they do all the safety steps they would succeed. Alone they would die in an instant as would any surveillant. But equipped with clear guidelines and the right weapons and training they had a sense of control, and that sense of control took them from threat to challenge even while they were experiencing the highest level of threat.

You see, our level of control determines our level of stress.

If you feel out of control with your diet, you will experience a rise in cortisol, that’s why you ‘feel bad’ or ‘feel guilty’, that’s your stress response activating in your body to indicate that you are under threat. If you learn like the soldiers, learn the right steps, you have the right weapons and follow the right commands you will come out of this alive and better and stronger than you have ever been before. You will experience this, the trials, the ups and downs, the stressful situations as simply something to overcome, you will think calmly about it and you will find a way through it. When you work with me, instead of starting the diet and then beating yourself up when you lose control, you will learn that the right responses to each and every behaviour that presents itself to you. You will reverse learned helplessness and start to build solutions and learn the right responses.

Because, like the my situation with my phone, or the soldiers immersed in battle, you will know what to do, you will know the right actions to take and simply follow the plan I give you and see it not as a threat, but as a challenge for you to overcome. And I will work with you every step of the way.


bottom of page