You have to be your own pet scientist

So there’s paleo, there’s high fat, there’s low fat, very low low calorie, there’s Dukan, there’s Raw Vegan … they all promise fat loss – but they can’t all be right.

So who is?

I think they’re all a bit right and quite alot wrong.  There’s some truth in them all – which is why when perfectly applied they will all result in weight loss:  just very rarely will anyone be able to sustain it;  and if you did for years, you’d probably develop at least one serious deficiency.

Incidentally, have you noticed recently how every new diet has proclaimed ‘This isn’t a diet – it’s a lifestyle change’?  Sorry, but what is a diet but a lifestyle change involving food?

As to the ones who claim you’ll never be hungry or feel deprived if you follow the mealplans they’ve worked out for you – I have occasionally totted up the calorie counts of their daily plans, and found some to be under 1000 calories.  No hunger or deprivation? Yeah, right.

So you will be hungry and you will feel deprived – but as the Perfect Person, your diet guru, said you wouldn’t be, you’ll blame yourself for it.  You must be at fault.  Something must be wrong with you or you must be doing it wrong.  It can’t be the diet, sorry, lifestyle change.

My mother’s family is riddled with Type 2 Diabetes – it killed her father at 58, and her at 64.  My mother was treated in the era when diabetics were told to eat a low fat, high carb diet:  advice that would now make a diabetic practitioner grow pale and fall over.  It killed her.

So your GP is doing his best – he’s giving you the advice he’s been given.  But he hasn’t had time to go and research it himself.  She’s already overworked to the point of exhaustion.  She’d love to read the studies herself, but how and when?  So they just have to hope the information they’re passing on is right – but it has so often proved not to be.

GPs fed Thalidomide to pregnant mothers in the 1960s for morning sickness.

I am not, for the record, anti-science, far from it.  I would not choose to live in a world without the extraordinary scientific advances that have, for example, made it a rarity, rather than commonplace, for a parent to lose a child.  If you remember the swine flu epidemic a decade or so ago – my youngest was hit with it and believe me it was not the ‘bad cold’ some had (possibly to quell the mounting panic) dismissed it as.  I have never seen any of my children so sick and it was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.  Although he did not in the end require hospital treatment, I realised how phenomenally lucky I was to live in an era of technical advancement where emergency help would have been available to save his life should he have needed it.

We’re all doing the best we can – but GPs, doctors, scientists are human and will get it wrong sometimes.

So what should you do?

Well, you could spend years reading every scientific paper on nutrition for the last two decades – only you’d probably be dead before you finished and in a position to distil everything you’d read into a workable nutritional programme.

Come to that, unless you’re a scientist, how would you tell which experiments were well designed and run and which were ropey as hell?

You could try just looking out for the ‘take home’ of these studies reported in the media – but as my eldest son, who has a Masters Degree in Drug Design & Discovery, says – much to his fury – the way the mainstream media, and some self-proclaimed health and nutrition gurus, misrepresent scientific studies has become dangerously irresponsible.

So you cannot and will not be able to figure it out for yourself.  So don’t try.

And happily, maybe you don’t even have to.

Here’s a little experiment.  Google photos of the British aristocracy a hundred years ago.  Now these people could afford the most indulgent foods and as much of them as they wanted.  So scout those photos for the fat people.

Find any?  Isn’t that curious.  And yet, they didn’t have the benefit of the last hundred years of scientific study or diet gurus to guide them.  So what were they doing that kept them relatively slim?

Use your mind to cut through the rubbish and think.  What makes the most sense to you?  And then try that out, under certain conditions and your own scrutiny, on  your body.  What happens to the way you feel, your muscle tone and your weight if you eliminate fat from your diet?  Or if you increase protein?  Cut back on carbs?  You are your own best scientist and laboratory.  Only you can really know how food affects you.

See if you can get back to a time where you had a simpler and better relationship with food, and replicate as best you can what you did then, before it all got so messed up.

Personally I think we all know a few things, and possibly the only things we need to know – that we should eat a moderate amount of as wide a variety of foods as possible.

We are after all omnivores, and that is precisely what we were designed to do.

You must be your own best diet buddy

If you have someone who happens to want to lose a similar amount of weight in a similar timescale in a similar way;  or if you can afford to commit the time and money to a particular weight loss franchise and so gather the support of strangers-in-arms around you, then by all means, go ahead.

However, that person, those people, can’t be there at 3.30am in the morning when you’ve been to the bathroom and are now prowling the kitchen in your slippers.

So first and foremost, you have to rely on yourself.  But to do that, you have to be your own best friend, cheerleader and tissue provider.

The advice to stick a photo of a hippo on the fridge to deter yourself from overeating is all well and good – however, personally little of what I binge eat would be in the fridge;  and I don’t take my fridge food shopping with me.

What’s more, the motivational sticker – YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FAT COW! – pulls you up short the first time you see it;  a little less the second time;  quite a lot less than the third – and then you stop even noticing it.  It just becomes a dusty, dog-eared part of the fridge furniture.

Here’s an idea.

Get yourself a small flip pad that will stand alone on your desk, and which you can slip into your handbag when you go out, and use it like this –

Onto each page stick any photos of yourself as you’d like to be again, or how you would rather you weren’t right now;

or people who have lost or gained weight and so inspire you to never eat again;

or who you just love looking at because they’re so damned gorgeous and you’d like to be a hundredth as gorgeous;

or a little quip or sage piece of advice that struck a chord with you;

or write one of the many good reasons – and we all do have many good reasons – you want to lose weight on the different pages.

These are some of the pages in mine –

Yes it’s tough, but being fat is tougher.

You don’t want diabetes.

You don’t want a knee replacement.

You can’t afford to waste the money getting fat takes.

You want to get back into all the beautiful clothes in your wardrobe you can’t currently fasten.

And amongst other things, a page featuring Mylene Klass’s midriff in a bikini.

So every day, you flip the page and are reminded of a different reason to lose this weight, and that way they all remain fresh.

Try it.  Let me know if it works for you and I’ll let you know if it’s working for me.