Bugger the Diet

and everything else that life’s too short for…

This is the early title of my “diet” book, which failed to be snapped up by an eager publisher (they’re a funny lot sometimes! :-))

This important work had chapters that included:

– The Tic-Tac Diet
– Why Chocolate is Good for You
– Fourteen Units a Week is not Enough
– The Champagne and Kettle Crisps Plan and…
– Exercise – don’t overdo it!

I have included some early sample pages below. Which eventually made their way, in one form or another (toned down to be a bit more PC, in most cases!) into 100 Ways to Fight the Flab and Still Have Wine and Chocolate.

But in those days I said it like this…

bugger the diet pics

Does being Fat Matter?

Sometimes it does.
Before I got married, I went on the one, mega-committed diet of my entire life and lost over a stone. I did this by counting every calorie obsessively and boring for England. I even gave up drinking (it is not a period of my life I want to dwell on). I was determined that if I was going to be in the centre of attention (my all-time favourite place) then it wasn’t going to be ruined by wobbly bits poking out from beneath the raw silk. It also meant I could eat six hamburgers for lunch once I got on honeymoon and pile it all back on again with abandon.

I intended to do the same when my first novel came out (lose weight, not stuff hamburgers) so I could waft about my launch party looking suitably stunning and about-to-be famous-like, but somehow I forgot and was so excited I kept eating peanuts. Which was unfortunate, considering my choice of slinky, clinging, so-expensive-it-still-makes-me-light-headed-to-think-about-it, rubber-look dress, which, by the time the fateful evening came, I could only just waddle in. It was still one of the best nights of my life, proving you do not have to be thin to have fun. Photographs show me clutching a huge glass of champagne and bearing a strong resemblance to a black pudding.

But before you go on any sort of diet you need to assess your personality type. In other words:

How boring are you ?

1) When you stay in a hotel that provides free shortbread fingers with the
teabags, do you

A) Eat them straight away
B) Be determined not to touch them but capitulate at three in the morning
when you’re pissed
C) Flush them down the loo. They have far too many calories and contain
hydrogenated vegetable oil to boot

2) You have just started your new diet when someone gives you a box of
chocolates. Do you

A) Give them away to someone else
B) Eat the triangular ones with the green foil and the purple ones with the
nut in the middle cos they’re your favourites and it would be churlish not
to – after all, it was a present
C) Eat the whole lot. That way they’ll be no temptation in the house to mess
up your diet tomorrow

3) You’ve been really good all day and are now lying awake with hunger
pains. Do you

A) Put a hot water bottle on your stomach – infused with a smug warmth
from knowing it will definitely be flatter in the morning
B) Go downstairs and get a couple of the chopped carrot sticks you
prepared earlier for this very eventuality.
C) Go downstairs for some hot water and lemon and eat three cheese
sandwiches, cold sausage and some left-over roast potatoes – you read
an article recently that said sleeplessness slows the metabolism.

1 A=10 B=5 C=1
2 A=1 B=5 C=10
3 A=1 B=5 C=10

3 points – you are very boring indeed and also likely to be thin and
gorgeous. I probably hate you.
15 points – you are full of good intentions but lack willpower. No point going
on a diet – you won’t stick to it. Have another drink instead.
30 points – How many airline seats do you need?

Diets you could try if you really wanted to

I do think if one must diet, it is more exciting if it is unusual or there is some sort of simple structure to follow. My friend Irene used to recommend the yoghurt and banana regime which had one simple rule – you could eat as much as you like of absolutely anything as long as it was plain yoghurt or banana. You were supposed to do it for three days. Since banana is a diuretic and yoghurt an evacuant (let’s not go there) it does work, but by dawn of the second day, you are out of your head with the tedium of it and are hallucinating about toast and marmite or anything that isn’t bloody yoghurt or banana. Much better to turn to my own invention:

The Shelf Diet

This stroke of genius was created for the heroine in my first novel Raising the Roof  – instead of eating so much, you could think of us poor impoverished authors and go and buy a copy. I am still shocked that considering its sheer brilliance and simplicity, I am the only person to have thought of it (and hurt that no publishers have as yet fallen over themselves to commission me to write an entire ten-volume series on the subject or – recognising that I am sitting, no longer on a bad case of Writers’ Bottom, but on a diet breakthrough, have got me onto Richard and Judy.)

It works as follows:
You take one shelf of your fridge and each day put on it exactly one thousand calories worth of food – no more, no less. Then you eat it.
There are other rules of course. Like you can’t eat anything else that’s not on the fridge shelf.

The wonderful thing is that it’s all planned beforehand. No wandering around the kitchen wondering what you dare eat. Temptation is removed, all the calculation is done before you start and you don’t feel deprived because there’s all that food waiting for you.

And it can be all beautifully balanced so you can open the fridge door and say: Hey! What shall I have now? An apple or a Mars bar? And know you still have three boiled eggs, four bits of Ryvita and a tin of sardines in brine to choose from until bedtime!

I recommend in fact preparing the whole week in advance – allowing one the flexibility of popping a bottle of chilled white in the door – and filling the fridge with seven thousand calories of food on which you live exclusively for the next seven days. This may need to be adjusted if you
a) have plans to eat out
b) have friends likely to arrive unannounced with a take-away Chinese
c) live with a bloke who cannot grasp which shelf of the fridge he’s got to keep his mucky hands off.

Once word gets around, I am expecting to be mobbed by an eager public demanding I write the entire full-length Shelf Plan with full colour photos, a different shelf combination for every day and/or full fridge option for every week of the year. And in time, when the world is losing weight and falling gratefully at my feet there may well be a supermarket franchise with shrink-wrapped plastic trays containing a day’s or week’s choices, pre-calorie-counted and all ready to carry home and place directly on fridge shelf with no need to spend valuable time preparing it yourself. (An excellent alternative for those unfortunate enough to have gluttonous husbands and ghastly children filling the fridge with their own nasty food. The dietee eats smugly from her own plastic tray and watches serenely while her children get obese and spotty and her husband dies of heart disease).

I’m not quite sure yet how the videos will fit in but if a multi-million pound fortune has been made from a dozen books, six videos and a string of spin-offs from the basic premise of Give-up-Butter-and-you’ll-get-thinner-legs then I am quite sure my publicity people will cobble together something.

In the meantime, as a foretaste of things to come, I shall reveal a few little recipes for tempting shelves and introduce you to the wonders of a diet where anything goes. Fancy a jam doughnut? Pop it on the shelf. A sausage sandwich your thing? Have it!

For you are in control of what’s on offer tomorrow. Just remember these golden rules –

Prepare your shelf the night before 
(Preferably when you’re not starving) so it’s all ready for breakfast and there’s no risk of getting overcome with malnutrition first thing and gulping down four slices of toast and a fried egg sandwich you haven’t bargained for.

Make the shelf look full
If all it’s holding is a large bag of kettle crisps and a Kit-Kat, anyone can see you’re going to be tempted to ram these down for elevenses and have a very peckish evening. This is where the full-week plan comes into its own. Then you can stick in the crisps AND Kit-Kat but fill up the spaces with 6032 calories worth of worthier items. Carrots and tomatoes are good as are huge bags of salad. Half a dozen eggs look substantial and at only 480 calories leaves thousands of spare calories for Cadbury’s chocolate fingers. These are especially good shelf components being only 37 calories each and fourteen – two a day – looks such a wickedly indulgent pile of chocolate delight that you’ll soon forget you’re on a diet at all. Imagine the sheer genius of a scheme where you can eat fourteen biscuits and still have 6,482 calories worth of food to devour and end up looking stunning and feeling ecstatic. (For there is no doubt about it, even if you’re on a hiding to nothing and will be fat again by next week, for those brief moments when you are thin you are going to look fantastic which is bound to cheer anyone up.)

Eat little and often
A lot of fat is piled on by living under a traditional (often bloke-controlled) regime where one is forced to eat three meals a day because that’s what one’s – his in particular – mother always did, instead of the seven or eight delicate little nibbly ones which one’s internal body clock and I-feel-peckish mechanism in the brain knows was altogether what nature intended.
(Consider sheep who never stop eating and are altogether much more harmless and pleasant creatures than smelly, dependent dogs for example, who have single huge meals that they gulp down in three seconds flat. Have you ever seen a fat sheep?)

Don’t have friends round 
They will mess things up by attempting to eat the crisps with you and sharing your wine. (Then what will you drink tomorrow??)
If you must socialise keep spare crisps/wine in a separate cupboard/fridge (which you padlock again when they’ve gone) and insist they eat from their own packet/bottle only. Explain you have a rare stomach disorder and your provisions have been specially imported and contain rare hormones likely to cause excessive facial hair in normal patients.

Don’t go out 
And if you do, don’t eat anything. (Unless you’ve deducted accordingly from fridge components.) Tell yourself those stabbing hunger pains are the feel of fat dissolving from your thighs. Comfort yourself by mentally adding up all the calories your ill-disciplined friends are ramming down their throats. Or really piss everyone off and do it out loud.

Be healthy
If all you’ve got in the fridge is chocolate cake and a pork pie, take a vitamin pill.

If it goes wrong
Which it sometimes does – warning signs: you have half a lettuce and three radishes to last four days – don’t despair! Remember nobody’s perfect. Eat everything in the fridge, have half a bottle of wine and start again tomorrow.

Easy eh? I like things to be simple. I also don’t want to have to read lots of technical bits. There is a book called Why do you overeat when all you want is to be slim? by a very nice woman called Zoë Harcombe. I leafed through it to see if my own answers- I have the discipline of a gnat and I can’t resist Kettle crisps – were mentioned. Sadly, it was all rather scientific about “insulin release” and “hypoglycaemia”. As far as I could see, you had to start with a detox (always dodgy) and then go through various complicated phases where you didn’t eat certain foods at the same time. It didn’t look like the sort of thing for me – even if it clearly works as Zoë is an irritatingly-tiny size eight.

I need diets to have straightforward rules (you can’t have potatoes, you can have as much wine as you like) that everyone can remember. My friend Lynne Hackles, has conceived the C plan. On it you can eat anything you like as long as it doesn’t begin with that letter. So no Cream, Chocolate, Chips, Crisps, Cake etc. It sounds really good. But it doesn’t work. Especially if you pig out on Gateau and French Fries.

100 Ways to Fight the Flab

100 Ways to Fight the Flab

Click HERE for the 100 Ways blog.


  1. I just read the blog post and am on my way to the kitchen for that big bag of crisps, after all the walk to the kitchen counts as exercise with a capital ‘E’. And isn’t:
    1) Surfing (ahem – web-surfing) good exercise
    2) Typing and post comments is good exercise also
    3) Chuckling at blog posts consumes energy — I can sense my wobbly bits melting.
    Have a great day.

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