Years before, I had relished going to KFC or a hamburger joint, but that was behind me now. My diet came mostly from Sainsbury’s and was not junk. I ate cottage cheese with shrimps; I ate tinned bean salad. Also Mexican guacamole, Greek-stuffed vine leaves, American clam chowder, Moroccan half-dried dates. These foods shared three qualities: they were exotically titillating to my taste buds; they were reasonably low calorie and low fat for the satisfaction delivered; and lastly, they involved no preparation. This was a cosmopolitan, sophisticated spare tyre inflating around my middle—but a spare tyre is never sophisticated.

I wrote in my diary:

‘I’m really amazingly FAT again. I can hardly squeeze into my loose Levi’s. What has gone wrong? I haven’t been eating that much recently. I’ve just weighed myself. I can’t believe it. Hell. It’s so depressing I feel faint. I’ve got to DO something. Stop eating for instance. Help, help, it feels so awful. I must be calm and not panic. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. In four weeks time I can weigh 8 lbs less if I stick to 1000 calories a day.’ 

Do you believe me when I wrote that I hadn’t been eating that much? I was writing in my private diary—I had no reason to lie. I was watching what I ate, and I was now an expert in calorie counting. I think I was telling the truth: I was not eating that much.

When I dieted I stuck to one thousand calories a day and I lost weight. But even when I was not dieting, I was careful to eat less than two thousand calories a day. I was eating less than a woman of my height and weight should burn according to the dieting experts—and yet I systematically gained weight. This flatly contradicted the Bath Tub theory—it simply did not add up—but the fat was fact. It was utterly confusing. I had escaped the inescapable law of thermodynamics. Unfortunately, as it happened, in the wrong direction. Indeed, if I had been a power station I would have solved the world’s energy problem. You put in 1,500 calories worth of fuel and get out 2,000 calories of heat and mechanical energy, and then find that the plant manager has actually managed to stock some of the fuel for use at a later date.

There was a great line from a white goods manufacturer at the time: ‘The Appliance of Science.’ I was applying science to my weight problem, and I succeeded when I was actually counting calories and trying to lose weight. But whenever I stopped dieting, I put weight back on. However hard I tried to minimise what I ate, I systematically ate too much—more than my body would burn—whenever I was not actively imposing one thousand calories a day. I was not alone either—my colleagues observed the same problem. Weight creep, we called it.

I had accepted a scientific theory—Bath Tub dieting. I was applying it scientifically, and it was not working.  Bath Tub was an appealing theory, but it was now dead in the water, drowned at birth and down the plughole, as far as I was concerned. Slain by the ugly fact that it did not work. I needed a new theory. My new theory should explain the failure of Bath Tub, should explain why I kept putting on weight, and lastly, it would be handy if it also gave me a set of practical, easy-to-follow instructions that would render me permanently slim.

Confusion is a necessary step on the path to understanding. My new theory was now less than a year away, but it is darkest just before the dawn.


 

Failure of Bath Tub

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