I've always been one of those irritating people who does not need to worry about my weight. I come from a family amongst whom you will struggle to find a single person who causes a Fiat Uno to lurch wildly to one side when they get in it. We're not rake thin, and In middle age the men of the family develop small beer paunches - you can't really call them bellies - but weight just isn't really an issue.
And of course I have always been amongst the self-satisfied who secretly believe that fat people are just people of little will power, persons with too few real interests who have, like pigs, elected to make food their god.
But recently I decided that I could do with losing half a stone. I have suffered from sciatica for more years than I want to even think about and I have inherited my father's high colesterol, which in him has led to two heart bipasses. I do not want any medical incursions being launched into my chest cavity and I also figued losing some weight might take the pressure off the oh so sensitive nerve that is constantly demanding all my attention. I read somewhere that the positive effects of weight loss on back pain can be quite startlingly positive.
I decided to cut out chocolate and tea-time cakes. I would also start making a huge effort to ensure that my meals were low in fat and I would eliminate butter from my life altogether.
At first it was easy. Life can be tedious and repetitive and it was stimulating and exciting to be living in a different way - passing, as it were, through the familiar scenes of my life but as a new sort of creature. There was a huge novelty factor at play. What is more the weight did start to drop off. Within a month I had lost the half stone - I was amazed by this and gave myself a huge pat on the back for my incredible will power.
The problems began to emerge after that first month was over. What had been a novelty now became a strain. The reason was I had discovered something that I had never been on even the most casual footing with before: Hunger.
In the cosseted West we do not really know about hunger. When someone in the West says they are 'starving' what they mean is they havent eaten anything since they had three Hobnobs an hour and a half ago. On my diet I had discovered not only hunger but the miracle of just how delicious food is. I've never been a foodie and I actually hate going to restaurants (Why are the staff called 'waiters' when it is the customers who sit about endlessly waiting?)
On my diet I became a person who really enjoyed his food. I looked forward to lunch and supper like a starving dog and felt waves of profound pleasure wash over me as I stuffed food into my mouth. At first I thought I had discovered a profound new pleasure in life but what I had really done was awaken a beast.
Inside all of us is a primitive animal, Homo Sapiens, which is, in the normal course of 21st Century events, relatively docile and content. Go on a diet, however, and you awaken it with a shake of the shoulder and whisper in the ear: "Hey, beasty, the famine times are here." The beast, now awakened, takes over our senses and starts being on the alert for food.
And food, in the West, is everywhere. It's in shops and petrol stations and museums and railway stations. What is more, the closer you get to a till, the more fatty and sweet the foods being offered to you get, until, as you arrive at the till at a WH Smith's on Waterloo Station, you are offered massive chocolate bars for £1 and are actually verbally encouraged to buy them.
Food is particularly available in my house where we have two small children who have no interest in food at all. I have seen houses where the children are greedy and the sweets and biscuits have to be kept hidden. In our house all these things, and much much more, are readilly to hand. What is more most meals that we cook for them are almost entirely ignored by the children. It is hard, when the beast is awake, to throw away a a crispy bacon sandwich, dripping with butter. I realised I had a problem when, one evening, we offered both the children a Cornetto ice cream. They both asked for chocolate flavour and I discovered there was only one chocolate and one strawberry. Being monstrously spoilt they both started crying their heads off and demanding that they be given the chocolate one. Like King Solomon I threatened to cleave it down the middle and give half each - a solution which, to my surprise, they accepted. By this point I had unwrapped the stawberry Cornetto - but ice cream is on my list of things I can't eat under my diet.
So what did I do? Well it wasnt me, it was the awakened beast, wasn't it? It just rammed it into my face. I felt the awful sting of shame as I gobbled it down like Anthony Hopkins pretending to eat fava beans. What a despicable creature I had become. And the awful thing is that, even though I decided then and there to stop being on this diet, I have now permanently joined the ranks of those that I used to despise: the greedy, the gluttenous, the unable-to-control-my-hand-and-mouth in the face of a cream cake.
And as you ask - no the sciatica has not improved and my cholesterol is 'above average'.
In a short while I will be a fatty - and all because of a diet. But I am a better person. When I look at a fat person now I realise that what I am looking at is a person who is at their 'food everywhere weight'. Take this person back to the lands of his or her ancestors and they would probably be a lithe, active and useful memeber of the tribe. In fact it has now been proved that many people who suffer from obesity have the genetic makeup that predisposes them to this condition. And while I accept that, starve such a person properly and the weight will fall off, you can not blame the person for their condition - it is the beast inside them that is doing most of the eating.
So if you really want to lose weight do not, under any circumstances go on a diet. The good news is that I know the secret of losing weight and I am happy to give it to you for free in return for checking out the Audiobook version of The Peppered Moth here:
Here it is: The Food Nowhere Diet
Fly to a country where there is very little food, then throw away your credit cards and passport and join the local economy.