There is a silver bullet in the fight against flab that the diet industry does not want you to know about. In fact, they are doing their utmost to hide from us the fact that there is a quick, simple and – dare I say it – easy way to ensure that nobody is heavier than they would like to be.
My interest is these matters has been an enduring one; I suppose it is the legacy of running health clubs for 25 years. A big part of my job was helping my customers lose weight; I used to hold annual weight loss awards in my Plymouth health club, Physique & Figurama, to celebrate my star slimmers’ achievements (pictured).
But unlike the fitness industry, the enormous $100 billion diet industry has a vested interest in keeping its customers overweight for as long as possible, seducing us with a bewildering array of dubious products and services. After all, what kind of business wants to lose customers as quickly as possible?
Before the day arrives when that other behemoth, the pharmaceutical industry, develops a magic pill which renders the diet industry’s so-called experts’ products and services redundant, I propose there is a natural solution.
My wife and I used to have to watch the calories very closely while maintaining a healthy diet. But despite our best efforts, the pounds crept on. We were never obese, but we knew we could so easily have become so.
At my own peak (I am 5’11”) I reached 14st 1lb and my waist had expanded from 32″ to 38″. Yet after 20 years of wishing each spring that I could enter the summer looking trim, I have finally succeeded. I have lost 21lbs in four weeks.
How has this been achieved? The answer is that I have fasted my flab off. Some days, 2 ¼ lbs would vanish.
The regime I followed goes like this: Monday, fast; Tuesday, eat (but only the amount I would eat normally); Wednesday, fast; Thursday, eat; Friday, fast; and, glory be, I would eat both days of the weekend. But during those days of fasting, I still enjoyed my cappuccinos after work and drank plenty of milkless green tea as well as Oxo cube drinks. Keeping up the fluids is crucial.
So there you have it: a regime which will deliver weight loss beyond your wildest dreams. And unlike these paid-for diets, my regime didn’t cost me a penny. In fact, I saved 40 per cent of my typical supermarket food bill on those intensive weeks.
The fasting regime worked for me, and in spectacular fashion. Nothing else had. I have to stress that I am not a man of incredible willpower; I still have not been able to break with my ten fags a day as so many of you have. If you can do that too then congratulations.
Exercise is always important, regardless of how many calories you’re consuming, so I also continued my long-established practice of having two 1½-mile walks each day. I don’t amble along, but try to walk at a brisk enough pace so as to compel me after a short time to draw breath through my mouth. So successful have my knee replacements been that I could even jog if I wanted to. Well done NHS! You’ve probably saved me from a wheelchair.
Now, I think I know your next question. Did I feel wretched on those days of fasting? Not at all. I suffered absolutely no adverse effects: no hunger pangs, no nothing. What I did notice, however, was that on those days of fasting I was considerably sharper and much more alert.
The beauty of this system – which would have made my health club boom as never before had I thought of it in those days – is that stick is followed by carrot in double-quick time.
The diet industry wants you to believe that results take time – while they make money – and considerable effort on your part – which, of course, they can help alleviate. But by fasting, I have reached my target weight rapidly with minimal effort. Every second day I would get back to eating before I plunged in again. And the weekends were simply heaven: two whole days of normal (not excessive) eating.
Another great boon you will enjoy is that, on those days of fasting, your body – which is normally clogged and at work 24/7 – is flushed out with stomach and bowels rested up; it is given a detox, if you like. And unlike those few successful dieters who mostly see it all come back on again, my method is truly sure-fire.
When I get on the scales in the morning following the previous day’s fast, it is a moment of drama. But it isn’t a question of whether I have lost weight, but rather one of how much.
Now that I have reached my goal of 12st 4lbs, which equates to a reduction of six belt notches, I am only fasting one day a week. I know that, should my weight start creeping up again, I have the means to nuke the flab.
Fasting one day a week represents a weekly drop in calories of around 15 per cent, and hopefully that should be sufficient for me. If your body naturally stores little excess fat, you may only need to fast once a fortnight to keep the weight down; but if you’re obese, you may instead be better off fasting two days a week. It’s really a case of trial and error.
Another beauty of my regime is that I shall not be condemned to eating things which are prescribed to me, many of which I don’t particularly like, at the expense of foods I do enjoy.
It is interesting to ponder why, if there are negative health side-effects of fasting, so many of the world’s religions insist on it. And remember that early man was never guaranteed three square meals a day; he regularly fasted between kills and his system evolved accordingly. Evolution works slowly and we all still have that ability. Did you ever see an overweight bushman?
Good luck to anyone who may be inspired to try this sure-fire method of losing weight. Keep me posted and let me know how you’re doing.
We are now into the serious business of the New Year, what we will make of it and what it will make of us.
Huge issues confront us. Will we climb out of this trough of despondency? Will we keep our jobs? Will our biggest market implode? Will America put its sub-prime market disaster behind it and start getting back to work? Will Israel bomb Iran and so plunge us into another oil crisis? Will the Arab spring end up landing us with a clutch of fanatical fundamentalist states? Will the Arab world’s most pivotal state, Syria, descend into civil war?
On not one of these issues can the most gifted political pundit give any guidance as to the likely outcome. So for myself I am going to sit tight, wait on events and try not worry too much. I suggest you do the same.
On the home front, for 25 years (particularly the later 21 in which I ran my own health club), January was the most frantic month of the year for me.
People were looking to the summer. They had been pigging out for a solid two weeks. They wanted to go into it looking better – slimmer – than they currently did. Two thirds of my entire year’s advertising budget for new members was spent in the first quarter of the year, since in that short time, if I was lucky, I could expect to enrol three quarters of my annual members.
It would cost me no less than £19,500: money spent in this very newspaper.
From time to time we managed to get some truly spectacular results (see inset pictures of one of our successes of 30 years ago).
The legacy of those Physique & Figurama health club days continues to endure for me.
Every Monday before I set out for work in my shop on Plympton Ridgeway, I, along with my wife, get on the scales and have a weekly weigh-in, writing it down along with the date.
Keeping our eye on the ball is the name of the game. This week, along I suspect with many of you, I had a terrible shock.
Of course, at 72, I could not run to pumping the iron, fast and furious. Instead I walk three miles a day at a brisk enough pace as to force me to breathe through my mouth. So yes, in its more modest form, exercise still continues to play a part.
I have always taken the view that three elements determine our future. One of these – our genetic inheritance – we can do nothing about (for the moment), but the other two, diet and lifestyle are entirely within our gift to control.
One of the reasons we enjoyed success over so many years in the health club was that it was never an either/or approach – dieting or exercise: it was both.
That way it did not require a superhuman effort as if you were relying on one only. Since for most people the problem was, and is, insufficient exercise and too many calories then it made perfect sense to pursue both. That way you only had to work half as hard than if you were relying on one.
So much of the success in fighting the flab is in the mind, and it does not do to ask too much of yourself. Willpower has been made extra difficult to raise in our super indulgent, lazy age and the less of that rare commodity you have to summon up the better. So the two-pronged approach was best.
You had a better chance of enjoying yourself; staying the course and seeing it though to the end.
Our great city hero, Sir Francis Drake, had it exactly right. Of course he was commenting on something entirely different, the three-year first circumnavigation of the world in which the captain survived to see it through.
But what he said still holds true for so much else. He said: “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”
It would be silly to equate anything we have done with Drake’s stupendous achievement, but the message is clear. It was what drove me on during the also three-year slog to complete my book, The Last Foundling. It ran to 409 pages and there were so many times I felt myself running out of steam as well as willpower, but I pressed on.
Now I must apply myself to losing a considerable amount of weight and having done that, keep it off. That last bit, keeping it off, must be the “until it be thoroughly finished” part of what Drake was referring to.