Today I want to write about something I wrote on nearly a year ago. It concerns getting our bodies in the shape and condition that we would be happy with.
A lot of people – probably the majority – have got it into their heads that there is nothing they can do about middle age spread – that it is an inevitable consequence of getting older.
This is not so. It is totally within our gift as to what weight and shape we are.
My method – and it has worked for me – is to fast one day and eat the next, with two days eating at the weekend. In just four weeks I got my weight down from 14st 1lb to 12 stone 7lbs (21lbs). There are many incredibly good aspects to this method… if only I had thought about it during my twenty five years of running health clubs!
The first is the breathtaking speed at which the weight fell away; there was no agonising for months and months as you nibble away at the pounds. The second is that you can carry on eating the things you like and in the same quantities you are used to. There is no having to fork out for expensive dietary lines, many of which I don’t like and forsaking the wonderful things that you do. Third, you’re getting a regular detox. Normally our digestive and bowel systems are working 24/7, with never a let-up. Now they have a rest and a thorough flush out. Fourth, while you’re pursuing your goal, you’re massively reducing your supermarket bill as a result of the 40 per cent calories you are no longer consuming.
This inspirational thought which came to me out of the blue allowed me to go into this summer and the last unencumbered with all that useless and damaging baggage. To ensure that it never came back after I reached my goal I could have cut my calorific intake for the future, but I prefer to eat what I want to in the quantities I want.
Every so often – usually every week or ten days – I nuke it with a day of fasting in which I can easily knock off two whole pounds or more. Wonderful, I think to myself. I’m back to ground zero!
Now, I know your reaction to all this is: ‘Great! But those days of fasting must be sheer purgatory.’ This is not so. Like you, I thought they would be, but they were amazingly easy to get through. Yes, I had odd moments when I could have stuffed myself, but they soon passed. I thought of the joy I would feel the following morning when I got on the scales.
Amazingly, I felt so alive and focused on those days of fasting. Why was that? I believe it goes back to our hunter gatherer days, which after all is only ten thousand years ago. Then it was a life of feast and famine. When you and your family had gorged itself on your latest kill you had to think about the next meal. Days might pass before you could bag that fleet of foot antelope for your next feast.
Nature equipped you to get through those days of hunger without feeling below par. You had, if anything, to be even sharper and more focused than normal to run your next kill to ground, certainly not lethargic and off key.
Evolution does not fundamentally change our digestive or any other system in a short time span like 10,000 years. To evolution, it is a mere blink of the eye.
My plan, I will freely admit, is not rocket science, but it is radical and it does work. And the speed at which it works is phenomenal and that is what makes it so exciting.
So why haven’t we heard of this in all the years we’ve been regaled about dieting? There is so much ballyhoo about losing weight one could be forgiven for thinking that it is complicated when it isn’t. I believe it’s all down to calories; the number going in versus the number going out.
But could it be that money is the reason we haven’t heard of it?
The dietary industry is worth billions and the supermarkets even more. Imagine if millions of people start consuming 40 per cent less food each week and abandon dietary products altogether. I’m not, by nature, a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe it would tantamount to suicide for those two mammoth industries ever to allow such thinking to take hold.
Of course, exercise can and should play its part, though its greatest contribution is its benefit to the cardio vascular system and general all round health. It also aids your immune levels to stay high and so ward of attacks of this or that. But to burn up the excess number of calories that Western man is piling on each day by exercise alone would take an effort beyond anything that all but the most heroic could endure.
As in so many things, we tend to follow in Uncle Sam’s footsteps and are usually the first in Europe to do so. Most of them are beneficial, but over indulgence is certainly not one of them. We are now officially the fattest nation in Europe. No single thing could aid our aging and increasingly overweight population than to take obesity seriously – and it should start with our children. As the best form of preventative medicine, it would massively reduce the spiralling burden and costs of our health service.
Friends that we holiday with from Sweden from time to time were telling my wife last week, via Skype, that a new craze is sweeping the country… fasting your weight off, one day on and one day off, with two days of eating at the weekend. Ausra, my wife’s friend, said that the word is that the scheme came from England.
I wonder if Yours Truly began it all with that article nearly a year ago in this paper? The blog version of it went out on the World Wide Web. Something of a thought isn’t it? I’d love to think that is what happened.
All power, I say, to Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the web. Now, there’s a man who really does merit the Turing Award, the Nobel prize of computing. Think just of one benefit alone: the alleviation – through Skype and other instant messaging services – of the loneliness of people whose loved ones have gone abroad. The call, no matter what its duration, is cost free and the whole thing is totally brilliant.
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.