Rational diets are based, the experts like to say, on the inescapable law of thermodynamics. Food can be burned or stored. To lose weight you must burn more than you eat. This sounds like physics and can be proved—in carefully controlled experiments—by starving caged rats. You would have to be mad (or a genius—see later) to question it. The experts solemnly explain this inescapable truth. Nobody in a concentration camp stays fat through insulin resistance or inadvertently combining the wrong food groups. Quite.

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It may be unappealing, but calorie-controlled dieting of this type is now deeply ingrained in our minds, and this is what most people do when they want to lose weight. When I visualise this type of dieting, I see calories flowing in, like water into a bath tub, and then flowing out, like water down the plug hole. The balance of calories trapped in the bath at any one time represents the fat stuck on your body. So I call this conventional wisdom the ‘Bath Tub’ theory. The human bath tub has no overflow, unless you count liposuction.

But liposuction was not an option, so I became a devotee of the leaking Bath Tub theory of weight control, and that is how I dieted for the next few years.

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Losing weight was not the problem, we all agreed. The problem was keeping it off once the diet ended. We all believed that the key problem was willpower. We knew what to do and we could see the results as long as we stuck to the rules. The point was that calorie restriction worked and we could imagine no serious alternative.

My new book had a paragraph entitled: Staying slim after following the calorie-controlled method. I want you to read the paragraph carefully and answer the question: Rational or Mad?


‘You have to try to build up your Calorie intake gradually in order to stop losing weight but stay level. If, while you were slimming, your daily intake was 1500 Calories, now aim first at a daily average of 1600 Calories, in the second week, 1700 Calories and so on. Eventually you will reach a Calorie level at which you start to put on weight. Go back straightaway to the previous week’s daily calorie intake, or even that of the week before. In this way you should be able to discover the point of balance at which your energy input matches your energy output and your weight remains steady.’ (Which Way to Slim, page 175)


Do you agree with that? It sounds so rational, doesn’t it? As rational as a mathematical equation. Clearly, it is BARKING MAD, and for two entirely separate reasons. Firstly, these diet experts are suggesting that for the rest of your life you need to count the calories you eat, to within about one hundred calories each day. Secondly, hunger is of no importance. If eighteen hundred calories a day does not happen to satisfy your stomach-churning, brain-numbing hunger then you must simply live with that hunger, day in, day out, for the rest of your life.

There is none so mad as a rational person who sincerely believes a false premise, and that was the trap I fell into. The unmasking of the false premise was still two years away.

 

Bath Tub Dieting

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