Changing lives, one plate at a time

By College Staff writer

16 April 2019

Category: College and members


As a graduate of Kura Kaupapa M膩ori, Dr Lily Fraser chose medical school because she had a point to prove and perceptions to shatter.

Now she is a GP and Clinical Director at Turuki Health Care in Mangere, Auckland, shattering perceptions of a different kind as a proponent of a low-carb high-fat diet to reduce the medical issues associated with obesity in her patients and community.

Diabetes, in particular, is a regular visitor to her clinic, and while she enjoyed educating people about how to manage the disease through time-honoured methods of reducing sugar intake and medication, she felt an increasing sense of frustration that many patients weren鈥檛 losing weight.

鈥淲e were trying and trying but people were staying obese and it was that driving the diabetes, the heart disease and all the other associated issues,鈥 she says. 鈥淚t seemed like the only long-term solution was surgery, which isn鈥檛 really too much of a solution at all.鈥

Then one particular patient really pushed her to make a discovery that would change the way she viewed obesity and weight loss forever.

A 35-year-old single father had worked hard for a year to try to improve his very severe Hba1c of over 130. He had followed the recommended diabetic plate diet, taken his insulin, worn the CPAP mask and managed to get the score to target 鈥 but he hadn鈥檛 lost any weight.

Facing a life of dependency on medication and machine, he urged Lily to help find a solution. She had read an article in TIME magazine about saturated fat not being the villain it had been labelled. She also rationalised that diabetics can鈥檛 process carbs well and recommended he stopped eating starchy carbohydrates and added more fat to his diet.

The results were nothing short of phenomenal. The patient stopped his insulin the first month and came off all medication within four months. He is now 50 kg lighter, medication free and runs cooking classes at our clinic to help educate others.

Dr Lily Fraser General Practitioner and Clinical Director

Lily began to research this diet intensively and was also introduced to Grant Schofield at AUT Human Potential Centre, who was carrying out research exploring the low-carb, high-fat paradigm. After a year she adopted the approach herself 鈥 and lost 20 kg going from a size 14 to a size 8.

鈥淭he philosophy behind it isn鈥檛 just 鈥榚at less carbs鈥, nor is it 鈥榚at more fat鈥,鈥 she explains. 鈥淓ach of us has a genetic make-up that means we either store fat or we don鈥檛. It鈥檚 not a lack of will-power or a sugar addiction, which makes people consume in excess, it鈥檚 their physiological makeup making them eat.

鈥淚t鈥檚 a very powerful message to be able to tell someone 鈥業t鈥檚 your body doing this to you. And you can take back control of it.鈥 You just have to turn the traditional food pyramid we all know on its head.鈥

And changing your body from being glucose-dependent to being fat-dependent is proving to bring more benefits than just weight-loss.

鈥淭he support group at our clinic regularly report an improvement in their mental health, with a fog of depression lifting and leaving a calmness and a clarity that they did not have before,鈥 says Lily. 鈥淚t鈥檚 really life-changing stuff.鈥

And it isn鈥檛 as difficult as you might think to adopt. Lily is adamant she can walk into any restaurant, fast food outlet or cafe and find something she can eat.

鈥淢ost places are now aware of the need for low carb options 鈥 even fast food chains like McDonalds or KFC,鈥 she says. 鈥淚t can be challenging to make that change at first, but the more you do it, the better you get. And the benefits are worth it.鈥

Nuku Women also interviewed Lily about her approach to nutrition.