MARY KENNY After chew­ing over hun­dreds of di­ets, I’ve at last found one that ac­tu­ally works for me

Belfast Telegraph - - LIFE -

Anew diet in Jan­uary is pre­dictable: that’s why I started my lat­est diet at the end of last Oc­to­ber. By Jan­uary, I hoped, I’d be suf­fi­ciently en­cour­aged by pos­i­tive re­sults. Ev­ery peren­nial di­eter prob­a­bly knows Grou­cho Marx’s jest about quit­ting smok­ing: “Giv­ing up is easy. I’ve done it hun­dreds of times.” Start­ing a diet is easy. I’ve done it hun­dreds of times.

Any diet works when you ad­here to it, how­ever zany it seems, be­cause all di­ets op­er­ate on the same law: eat less food, es­pe­cially less of the wrong kind of food (and drink less al­co­hol or any­thing sug­ary).

Stick­ing with the rules is the prob­lem. Faddy di­ets be­come a pain in the neck.

Even quite sen­si­ble di­ets — cut­ting out, or cut­ting down on, sug­ars and car­bo­hy­drates — can in­ter­fere with your way of life. If you have to travel for your work, sand­wiches may of­ten be the only con­ve­nient way of putting fuel into your body.

Obe­sity ex­pert Zoe Har­combe says that’s some­thing we should re­mem­ber: the body needs en­ergy to keep on the go. Starv­ing your­self all the time emp­ties your en­ergy tank.

She’s also against di­eters tak­ing out gym mem­ber­ship at the be­gin­ning of the year.

Gym ses­sions use up en­ergy and can make you ex­hausted: then you have a muf­fin af­ter­wards as a com­pen­satory treat.

You’re bet­ter off tak­ing an ac­tive at­ti­tude to every­day tasks — walk­ing more, us­ing the car less, stairs rather than lifts.

Gar­ret Fitzger­ald (right), a taoiseach who could be de­scribed as a true in­tel­lec­tual, once re­sponded to a civil ser­vant’s de­scrip­tion of some new pol­icy scheme with the im­mor­tal words: “That’s all very well in prac­tice, but how does it work in the­ory?”

Me too, Gar­ret. I like any idea to have a nice the­ory be­hind it, be­fore we get into the prac­ti­cal­i­ties.

Thus was I drawn to the nos­trums of diet gu­rus, Dr Michael Mosley.

His diet phi­los­o­phy is based on evo­lu­tion­ary anal­y­sis and draws on a tra­di­tional re­li­gious prac­tice: fast­ing.

Fast for two days a week — say, keep your calo­rie count down to be­tween 600 and 800 a day — and you’ll soon have a fig­ure like Nicole Kid­man.

No, the last bit isn’t true. Nicole Kid­man’s long legs and slen­der body come from her genes. But the the­ory of fast­ing will de­liver a slim­mer ver­sion of your­self, which is what ev­ery di­eter craves.

How old is Homo Sapiens? Our species has been around for about 200,000 years. And for the last 199,900 of those, most of hu­man­ity has had to practise fast­ing. We lived by famine and feast. Food stocks would get de­pleted through the win­ter and by Fe­bru­ary there was lit­tle enough to eat: not coin­ci­den­tally, per­haps, Len­ten fasts would start around this time of the year.

Vir­tu­ally all re­li­gions have pe­ri­ods of fast­ing, rec­om­mended for spir­i­tual rea­sons, but it now turns out they de­liver con­sid­er­able health ben­e­fits too.

And so, the hu­man body was adapted, through mil­len­nia, to the fast­ing cy­cle. If there wasn’t enough food around, the body told it­self “live off the present re­sources for a pe­riod of fast­ing”. So, it used up the fat that it had stored and em­barked on re­pair­ing it­self gen­er­ally too.

The prac­tice of fast­ing fell out of favour as food be­came plen­ti­ful, refrigeration and jet planes and mi­crowaves ren­dered meals con­ve­niently avail­able to us all year round. Thus we grew obese.

Fast­ing the­ory as ef­fec­tive diet re­ally stacks up. But I also have a cousin who has done bril­liantly on the Fast Diet by keep­ing to 800 to 1,000 calo­ries a day for two days a week. She’s lost an im­pres­sive amount of weight and feels ter­rific, so the prac­tice proves the the­ory.

Yet not ev­ery diet suits ev­ery in­di­vid­ual. Just as med­i­ca­tion will soon be tai­lored to our indi- vid­ual DNA, so di­ets will one day be adapted to our phys­i­cal pro­file and also to our per­son­al­i­ties.

In the mean­time, I adapted Michael Mosley’s diet the­o­ries to my own dis­po­si­tion and cir­cum­stances.

Fast­ing all day I found a bit de­press­ing. But fast­ing from 6pm at night un­til about 7.30am the next morn­ing is just fine for two or three days a week. Some­times I went to bed hun­gry, but that’s an as­pect of the fast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that can be cu­ri­ously re­ward­ing. And how much en­ergy do you need as you wind down of an evening? But I feel the need for a de­cent break­fast and it would be tough to forego a square of choco­late with a morn­ing cof­fee.

There’s an old for­mula for this adap­ta­tion of the fast diet: break­fast like a king, lunch like a lord, sup­per like a pau­per.

Di­ets have to suit your way of life. I lost some weight a cou­ple of years ago with a slim­ming group, but the weekly at­ten­dance didn’t suit my peri­patetic trav­els and, any­way, I grew bored with the meet­ings.

Any vari­a­tion of the fast­ing diet could be un­con­ge­nial for those who live in a cou­ple or fam­ily re­la­tion­ship. For women who sit down to an evening meal after putting the kids to bed, sup­ping a mug of Bovril is not much of a cor­dial oc­ca­sion.

The­o­ries are dandy, but out­comes are the test. And yes, on Jan­uary 1 the scales showed that I had shed seven and a half pounds since the end of Oc­to­ber. At last, I hope, I’ve found a diet pat­tern that re­ally works for me.

Di­et­ing is easy. Like Grou­cho Marx’s quip about giv­ing up smok­ing, many of us have done it hun­dreds of time.

But a diet re­ally has to suit a life­style.

❝ Di­ets will one day be adapted to our own phys­i­cal pro­file and per­son­al­i­ties

Look­ing good:you might not achieve a fig­ure like Nicole Kid­man, but di­et­ing has many ben­e­fits

Sports Bra, £26 (£10 for mem­bers), Fablet­ics

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