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Diet or be damned: Peter Sherwood’s take on dieting regimes

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Intent on shedding a few pounds and reducing his cholesterol, Peter Sherwood takes a look at some truly out there dieting regimes.

Your cholesterol is too high. It’s 6.5.” The doctor could have been talking about the Richter scale for all I knew. Typically, I responded with a quip. He was unimpressed. “OK,” I said with a sigh of surrender, “I’ll go on a cholesterol-free diet.” Doc smiled a feeble victory grin. Three months later I was tested again. “It’s gone up 10%,” he announced smugly. His words were met with the incredulous disbelief of a Trump media briefing. Turns out my liver had reacted “alarmingly” and produced even more of the stuff. So now I don’t just have high cholesterol, I’m in possession of a temperamental liver.

I’ve come to believe that the only way to win with diets is to invent one. Join the trillion-dollar industry of ingenious people circumventing the golden rule: calories in, calories out, a proven physiological fact emphasised in about 127 billion Google pages, and totally ignored by an equal number of us.

One of the earliest dieting bestsellers – The Art of Living Long – dates back to 1558. Author Luigi Cornaro began consuming just 400 grams a day. Later, he limited himself to a single egg. They say he lived until the ripe old age of 98. Believe that if you want to.

Of course, tapeworms can really help you fight the flab. These flat, parasitic worms get nutrients from their host, so you slim down as they devour most of what you consume. This insanity was popular with ladies in Victorian times – disgusting but easier than kickboxing. And what about the food version of Russian Roulette – the ‘all you can eat with a touch of arsenic’ regime? Only slightly less appetising than the Lord Byron approved diet of potatoes soaked in vinegar.

The best dieting gimmicks involve doing no exercise at all. In the 1920s and ‘30s, women reached for La Mar Reducing Soap that promised to wash the pounds away in the bath. I like the idea of scrubbing away surplus fat, particularly in harness with the sensational ‘sleep all day’ weight loss programme. (Not sleeping enough can reduce and even undo the benefits of dieting. Google it.)

Enamoured as I am of any activity requiring minimal effort, I’m particularly taken with the plastic weight-loss suit. Hermetically sealed and vacuum packed like a frozen turkey, you jog about in 40ºC heat until fluid sloshes around your insides leaving you close to cardiac arrest – and 10 kilogrammes lighter. At least until you’ve spent 48 hours on a drip in an emergency ward. Overdosing in the sauna can produce a similar outcome, and you don’t need to dress up.

The latest whimsical technology is an ingenious monitoring wrist band. You lose weight because of the energy it takes to check the hi-tech ‘health measurement instrument’ (and your smart phone) 1,976 times a day. Constant movement of the head up and down, plus the energy expended by worrying online whether anyone still cares about you, really burns the calories.

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 20 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter
is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.


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