The Ten Super
Secrets of Permanent Slimming Success
Over the last forty years I have talked to thousands of
slimmers - and exchanged letters with thousands more. I have learned that all
slimmers face - and must overcome - the same basic problems if they are to
Here are the ten vital steps you must take if you are to diet
successfully - with lasting success. Read the advice on the following pages
carefully and you will be able to lose weight - and stay slim - without any
calorie counting, without any painful exercises and without any boring, fixed
Secret no. 1
Never forget why you want to lose
Many slimmers endure endless agonies: they weigh out every item of
food; they count their calories; they perform difficult, painful and tedious
exercises; and they spend a fortune on equipment and classes - but they never
really have a clear idea of just what they're going to gain by being slim. If
you don't know exactly how you're going to benefit by losing weight, you'll
almost certainly fail. To slim successfully, you have to sort out what the
advantages are going to be so that you are properly motivated. Don't let your
diet fail for lack of motivation. Here are just a few of the benefits you'll
enjoy if you lose unwanted weight:
* you will be healthier.
will be able to wear more exciting clothes - and you'll probably be able to buy
bargains in the sales, too.
* you'll have far more confidence.
* You'll be
able to enjoy sports and social occasions much more.
You can probably think
of another dozen advantages. So do just that - think of the ways in which your
life will be better when you've lost weight. Then write down your reasons and
keep your list somewhere close at hand - so that you can look at it several
times a day. Remember: if you sincerely, genuinely and honestly want to be slim,
you will succeed.
Start a compost heap
dislike throwing food away? Do you find it difficult to put down your knife and
fork when there is still food left on your plate? If, when you are clearing your
plates away from the table you see perfectly good food left over, do you ever
eat any of it? Do you ever eat up the crumbs in the biscuit tin?
conducted a survey of slimmers I found that over half of all people with a
weight problem admitted that they felt terribly guilty if they ever had to throw
food away. Just under half admitted that they would always eat food rather than
throw it away, and a third rather shamefacedly admitted that they frequently ate
other people's leftovers.
This cautious, respectful attitude towards food
is something that most of us acquire when we are young. We are encouraged to eat
up all the food on our plates by mothers who frequently remind us that there are
starving people who would be grateful for the food we don't want to eat.
Consequently we grow up feeling guilty whenever we leave anything on our plates
or throw food away. We will (albeit with some pangs of guilt) throw out clothes
that are worn out or grossly unfashionable, but too often we find that we just
cannot throw food away. I've known slimmers who would rather put a piece of
mouldy cheese into their mouths than throw it into the dustbin. I've known
slimmers who would eat food they didn't even like rather than throw it
It's daft, isn't it? Your body doesn't need the calories. And all
that food is merely going to be stored as fat. You're probably going to have to
spend weeks losing the pounds that you should never have gained in the first
place. The fact is, of course, that you aren't helping anyone by using your
stomach as a dustbin and eating unwanted leftovers. No one in Africa or India
will eat any better because you aren't throwing food away. You aren't saving any
lives by eating up those leftovers. In fact, by perpetuating bad habits you are
harming your health. When you pass on those bad habits to others (for example
your children) you are simply creating new problems - not solving any old
I realize that learning to throw out food can be difficult; the
old,long-established barriers of guilt can be difficult to break down. The only
way to succeed is to practise. Try it now. Go into the kitchen and look through
the cupboards and the fridge. Then throw out unwanted or stale bits of food.
Throw out stuff that you know you aren't ever going to use. If you have a
garden, start a compost heap - knowing that the food you're throwing out is
being used will probably make you feel better.
Finally, here are a few
extra tips that will prove helpful:
* Try to be more accurate when guessing
how much food people will eat. Most cooks prepare too much rather than too
little, particularly when entertaining guests.
* If you always seem to
prepare too much food, don't put everything you prepare on to the table. Leave
some in the kitchen. If it's needed, you can bring it out: if it isn't needed,
you can always put it in the fridge or freezer to be used another day.
a collection of recipes suitable for leftovers. You won't feel so bad about
having food uneaten if you know that you can use it up afterwards.
* Have a
supply of small, sealable containers ready for storing leftovers.
Secret no. 3
Don't eat in the evening
I've lost count of
the number of slimmers I've met whose main problem has been night-time nibbling.
During the daytime they hardly eat at all - but in the evenings, while sitting
down watching television, they hardly ever stop! And most of the food they eat
is, of course, extremely fattening: biscuits, crisps, peanuts and chocolates.
Night-time nibbling has nothing to do with hunger but is usually done to allay
boredom. The nibbler doesn't stop when he or she is no longer hungry, because
hunger has nothing to do with it.
The main problem with eating during the
evening is that most of the food which is consumed isn't needed - and so it is
stored as fat. Some slimmers believe that it doesn't matter when you eat as long
as you limit your intake of calories. But this simply isn't true. Calories
consumed at night are far more deadly than calories consumed in the
When you eat five hundred calories at breakfast-time they will
be converted into blood sugar within a relatively short time. And since the
chances are high that you'll be busy early in the morning, your body will burn
up that sugar to satisfy its immediate energy needs.
However, when you
eat a meal of five-hundred calories at supper-time the consequences are rather
different. Once again the calories will be converted into blood sugar, but this
time your body won't have any immediate need for them. Your body burns up far
fewer calories when you are slumped in front of the television set or lying in
bed than it does when you are rushing around doing the shopping and the washing
or getting to work. So in order to prevent your blood sugar levels rising to
intolerable - and even dangerous - levels much of that unused potential energy
is converted into fat, to be stored for future use.
By the time you wake
up the following morning - and start to get yourself ready for the day ahead -
your blood sugar will be relatively low again. And as you rush around you will
feel uncomfortably hungry. Your body will need energy supplies quite quickly. In
theory you don't need to respond to that feeling of hunger because your body has
stored plenty of calories from the food you ate the night before. And if you
ignore the rumblings in your tummy and the slightly light-headed feeling that
you have, all will be well. Your body will obtain the energy supplies it needs
from the calories you ate yesterday evening.
But, in practice, that isn't
likely to happen. You'll eat more food - and obtain the energy you need from a
fresh supply of calories. Inevitably, your attempts at dieting will be in
tatters and you will put on weight. The calories which you ate during the
evening, and which were stored for some future use, will stay
Here are some tips designed to help you control night-time
nibbling more effectively.
* Stop buying high-calorie fattening nibbles.
Make sure that if you do nibble, you nibble slimming biscuits or sip at
low-calorie drinks. Keep apples, bananas or oranges handy - rather than packets
of biscuits or roasted peanuts.
* Try to keep yourself busier during the
evenings. One of the reasons why most people find it easier to avoid nibbling
during the daytime is that they are busy with other things and don't have too
much time to think about food or succumb to the temptation to nibble. Try to get
out of the house more in the evenings. Perhaps you could enrol in a night school
course. Perhaps there are clubs or groups which you could join. Maybe you could
take up a sport or a hobby to which you could devote more attention. If you
spend long periods of time watching television, take up knitting or embroidery
or crocheting - all will keep your fingers busy and away from the biscuit
* If you're trying to break bad eating habits, move all the furniture
round in your living room. When you sit down to watch television sit in a
different chair - or move your favourite chair to a new position. Change the
easy things - and you'll find bad habits easier to break (that's why switching
to a `green' diet is going to make dieting easy for you).
* Buy vegetarian
nibbles rather than sweets and chocolates. Nuts, dried fruit and raisins aren't
particularly low in calories, but you're less likely to get hooked and eat your
way through a whole boxful of calories! Besides, you can take some small comfort
from the fact that vegetarian nibbles are at least packed with goodness.
Secret no. 4
Only eat when you're hungry
It is now over
half a century since one of the most remarkable research projects ever planned
was first described in an American medical journal. Until I unearthed the
scientific paper that described the research work, it and its astonishing
conclusions had been forgotten. And yet that one experiment provided the basis
for all sensible slimming programmes.
It led the way to the discovery of
the appetite control centre - an impressive, automatic device hidden deep inside
every human brain. The power of this unique control centre is quite astonishing:
it can make sure that you never get underweight or overweight, and that you
never become short of essential vitamins or minerals.
The experiment was
performed by Dr Clara M. Davis of Chicago in the 1920's, and she first published
her results in the American Journal of Diseases of Children in October 1928. Dr
Davis had three aims. She wanted to know whether the young, newly weaned infants
she had chosen for her experiment could:
1) Choose their own food and eat
enough to stay alive.
2) Select a good balanced diet without any outside
3) Pick foods which would help them to stay healthy.
were staggering. Dr Davis found that without any prompting the infants
automatically chose good, varied diets. Their growth rates, development, vigour
and appearance were just as satisfactory as those of babies who had been eating
foods carefully selected by expert dieticians and nutritionists. The young
children ate the right types of food in the right amounts, and they stayed
Five years later Dr Davis produced details of more research work
that she had done. Having studied fifteen infants for between six months and
four and a half years, she had come to the conclusion that they were all able to
select a good variety of satisfying foods and to ensure that they ate neither
too much nor too little. Despite the fact that none of the children had been
told what to eat, they all remained healthy. Their eating habits seemed to be
unplanned, even chaotic, but none of them ever suffered from stomach ache or
became constipated. None of the children who was allowed to choose his or her
own food became fat or even chubby.
Some years later, during the Second
World War, a larger and more sophisticated experiment, organized by army
doctors, showed that when soldiers are allowed access to unlimited supplies of
food they eat what their bodies need according to the environment. Without any
professional prompting or guidance, the soldiers automatically chose a mixture
of protein, fat and carbohydrate that was appropriate for their immediate
The only conclusion to be drawn from these experiments is that if
you listen to your body - and eat when it tells you to - you will not go far
wrong. If, in addition, you can make sure that you eat the foods your body tells
you to eat and that you stop eating when your body tells you to stop, you'll not
only stay healthy but you'll also stay slim.
I've explained the
importance of the appetite control centre to numerous slimmers over the last few
years. And everyone who has learned to use it has gained enormously in
confidence and in slimming success. As far as I know there has never been a
failure. Everyone who has used the techniques I've devised, which are based on
the existence of this control centre, has successfully lost weight - and, even
more important, stayed slim.
But to start with, just about everyone has
been sceptical. `If there is such a marvellous device in my brain,' they say,
`then why am I fat?'
The answer is simple. Most of us have lost the art
of listening to our own bodies, and we've acquired many bad eating habits which
over-rule our internal appetite control centre. We no longer eat simply because
we're hungry - we eat for all sorts of other reasons too. Boredom, guilt and
depression are probably the three most dangerous enemies of any slimmer.
Thousands and thousands of women and men regularly eat not because they are
hungry or because they need food but because they are bored, feel guilty or are
Boredom is one of the commonest and yet one of the most
under-estimated problems in society these days. It affects millions: people who
have dull, routine, uninspiring jobs; people who have retired early; and people
who have no job at all. In a special survey I conducted recently, I discovered
that 87 per cent of people with a weight problem admitted that they regularly
ate to cheer themselves up, while 91 per cent of slimmers admitted that they
regularly ate because they were bored. Can you honestly say that you've never
munched a biscuit for no other reason than that you were bored?
answer, of course, is to try to add more excitement to your life. Start going to
evening or day classes at a local college. Take up a hobby that you find
fascinating and rewarding. Begin a small business of your own at home. None of
these activities need cost you much money - just time and a little effort. If
you give yourself something to think about, and something to keep your mind
occupied, the chances are that you won't get bored so often. And you won't end
up trying to relieve your boredom by eating.
Guilt is underestimated as a
driving force, too. Many slimmers don't have to do anything to feel guilty. They
feel guilty simply because they are overweight. They feel that they are letting
themselves or their partners down. They feel guilty for ever having put on so
much weight. And they feel guilty for having failed to get the weight off again.
As soon as they eat something fattening, even more guilt piles on. All that
guilt then produces depression and shame, and the depression and shame lead
directly to misery and unhappiness. Too often more food is seen as the
We learn to associate food with our emotions when we are small,
as I described earlier when talking about psychological food addiction.
Gradually, over the years, we get into the habit of associating happiness with
food - particularly sweets and other fattening food. The only way you can break
this link is by learning to cheer yourself up in other, less fattening ways.
Pick up the telephone and talk to a friend if you feel like breaking into the
biscuit tin. Do some vigorous vacuuming or go out for a brisk walk if you're
feeling miserable and are tempted to start comfort eating. Buy yourself a new
book, magazine, record or tape if you feel glum. Get yourself a bunch of flowers
or a new jumper.
Over the years thousands of women have admitted to me
that they have a weight problem because they have allowed their emotions to
dictate their eating habits. I can still remember the first time I ever spoke to
a slimming group. I asked the women members of the class why they thought they
had a weight problem. Amazingly, it was a question that none of them had ever
tried to answer before. And even more amazingly, none of them could give me a
serious reply. Everyone managed quick, easy, slick, traditional
`I like food too much,' said a thirty-five-year-old
`I just can't say `No',' confessed a twenty-nine-year-old
mother of four.
None of them could really say why they had a weight
problem, and yet they all desperately wanted to lose weight.
all agree that you weigh too much because you eat too much?` I asked
One by one they agreed that this comment was fair.
find out why you all have a weight problem we only have to find out why you eat
My slimming group agreed with me.
`When did your weight
problem start?' I asked the housewife.
She thought carefully for a few
moments. `About a year after I got married,' she said at last.
weight was stable before then?`
`It had gone up and down a bit, but it
had never been too much of a problem,' she told me. `It was after I got married
that it really became a big problem.'
`Why?' I asked bluntly.
said nothing for a full minute.
`Several reasons,' she said at last, very
seriously. `I had given up my job and I was bored at home. I started nibbling
between meals. The usual things - chocolate biscuits, cake and so on. I also
started having trouble with my mother-in-law. That upset me a lot and I got
So you started eating too much because you were bored
The housewife nodded.
`What about you?' I said,
turning to the catering manageress.
`I've always had a weight problem,'
she said firmly.
`Always?' I asked.
`Well, since I was about
twelve or thirteen,' she replied.
`Can you remember why you started
eating too much at that age?'
Once again it took quite a while for the
full answer to emerge. But emerge it did.
`When I was twelve I had an
enormous bust,' she said, blushing a little. `I was ever so embarrassed by it. I
went to a mixed school and the boys used to make awful comments. I used to cry
every time I got home from school. My mum always tried to cheer me up by giving
me lots of chocolates and stuff like that. After a while I found that the extra
weight I'd put on meant that I didn't get so many rude remarks. My bust wasn't
so prominent when I was fat all over, so the boys stopped making
`And you've been fat ever since?'
`And you?' I said to the mother of four. `Can you remember when
your weight problem started?'
`It started after my first boy was born,'
she told me. `I was ever so depressed at the time, and then my husband had an
affair with someone he worked with. If I wasn't screaming and shouting at him I
was sobbing my heart out in the bedroom.' She paused for a moment. `I ate to
cheer myself up,' she admitted. `It was as simple as that.'
pretend that those three slimmers were typical. But they certainly weren't
unusual. Over the years I've heard thousands and thousands of similar
Every slimmer is different, of course. Everyone who develops a
weight problem does so for very personal reasons. But in 99 cases out of 100,
when someone develops a serious weight problem it is because they have been
eating for all the wrong reasons - to cover up sadness, or to help them cope
with boredom. Clearly, therefore, one key to successful slimming must lie in
learning to find other ways to deal with these very real problems, and in
learning to regard food as a fuel rather than a comforter.
There are many
reasons why people eat too much. Ask yourself the simple question I asked my
group of slimmers: `Why do you think you have a weight problem?' Try to think
back to the days when you didn't have a weight problem. Then decide what changes
influenced your eating habits. You may well be surprised by some of the answers
you give yourself.
Next time you find yourself picking up a packet of
biscuits or a piece of cake when you know you aren't really hungry, try to
analyse the feelings which are uppermost in your mind. Try to decide exactly how
you feel. Once you have worked out which emotional feelings are strongest when
you start to overeat, you'll be well on the way towards conquering your problem.
Suddenly a lot of answers will become fairly clear to you.
You may, like
many slimmers I've known, find that you eat too much when you're feeling lonely.
If that's the case, it's clearly important to make some new friends and revive
some of your old friendships. Join clubs and associations, write letters, ring
people up. Find a part-time job or a post with a voluntary
Once you've eradicated all your bad eating habits you can
concentrate on learning to listen to your body when it talks to you. You can
learn to eat only when you are hungry and to stop eating when you are full.
There is a simple but extremely effective trick you can employ here: every time
you put food into your mouth ask yourself: `Am I hungry? Do I need this?' After
a while you'll find that your ability to listen to your body will improve;
eventually your appetite control centre will regain its rightful authority over
your eating habits.
Secret no. 5
Set yourself easy slimming
Nine out of ten slimmers set themselves impossible targets. When they
decide to start losing weight they jump on the scales, work out how much weight
they need to lose and aim to lose the lot in the first month. I have known
slimmers who have expected to lose 40-50lb (18-22kg) in a matter of six or eight
weeks. I've known slimmers who have been disappointed when they haven't been
able to get rid of a lifetime's accumulated fat in a fortnight. A questionnaire
I gave to slimmers showed that a massive 89 per cent were aiming at a target
weight that was too low for them; nearly all these slimmers were hoping to lose
their weight at an unrealistically rapid rate.
If you set yourself an
impossible target (both in terms of the amount of weight you want to lose and in
terms of the speed with which you lose it) then you'll fail. And when you fail
you'll be depressed. You'll abandon your dieting plan. You'll return to your old
eating habits. Failure begets failure.
So, begin by setting yourself a
realistic target. Find the average weight for your height. Then think about it
carefully before you decide on the sort of weight you ought to be. Don't expect
to be the same weight at forty as you were at sixteen. Don't aim at model-like
slenderness if you've had three children. Be practical. Be realistic. Remember
there is no point at all in setting yourself a target that you'll never be able
to reach - let alone maintain.
Next, work out how much weight you need to
lose in total. And then work out how long it's going to take to lose it. Work on
a basis of losing 2lb (1 kg) a week. That's a good, sensible, steady weight
loss. If you lose weight at 2 lb (1 kg) a week than in three months you can lose
26 lb (12 kg), in six months you can lose 52 lb (24 kg) and in a year you can
lose over 100 lb (45 kg)! If you lose more than 2 lb (1 kg) a week you'll
probably get tired, weak and ill, endangering your physical and mental health
and running a greater risk of failure.
Once you've worked out how much
weight you need to lose - and how long it's going to take you to lose it -
forget these figures and make yourself some short-term targets. Decide that in
the next two weeks you're going to lose 4 lb (2 kg) and that in the next month
you're going to lose 8 lb (4 kg). That's all you need to concentrate on. If you
give yourself a small, realistic target the there is a great chance that you'll
succeed. And if you succeed, you'll be a winner. You'll feel great. You'll feel
like a successful slimmer. You'll feel good. Your confidence will get a boost
and you'll tackle your next target with renewed enthusiasm and confidence.
Secret no. 6
Put food in its place
Ever since I first
started writing about slimming I've received a steady stream of letters from
people who have become obsessed both with food and with losing weight. Here's a
`Please help me. I am obsessed with food and dieting and
it's making my life a misery. I feel really ashamed. I know I should be able to
help myself, but I can't. From the moment I wake up I hardly think about
anything but food. I just eat and eat and eat. In the morning I think about what
I'm going to eat in the evening, and in the evening I think about what I'm going
to eat the next day. I spend a lot of my reading about diets and collecting
magazine articles on slimming too. I'm overweight, I'm boring and I'm worried
Please can you help me?'
This sort of obsession with food is
extremely common - and nothing to be ashamed about. It's quite common for people
who realize that they are overweight to put so much effort into losing excess
pounds that they can think of virtually nothing else. They count calories, look
for slimming foods, read diet books all day long and dedicate their lives to the
search for slenderness. Eventually the obsession with dieting also becomes an
obsession with food.
Of course, losing weight is important if you are
overweight. I understand that well enough - I've met enough slimmers whose lives
have been devastated by their excessive weight. But losing weight is not, and
should never become, the only thing that matters in life. And it has to be kept
The only way to beat this particular problem is not by
concentrating on it (that will simply make things worse) but by doing exactly
the opposite. Do your best to fill your life with so many other interests and
enthusiasms that there just isn't time for your obsession with food to
Begin by trying to define the other important things in your
life. Make a list of all the people, ambitions and things which really mean
something to you. Don't forget to include the simpler aspects of life. After
people, we tend to think of homes, cars and clothes as being the chief things in
our lives. They may well be. But there are many pleasures which won't cost you a
penny to enjoy: lying on your back watching the clouds float by, having a cat
sit on your lap, spending a warm day on the beach, walking in the soft summer
rain, sitting by an old-fashioned log fire.
Try to put the other aspects
of life into perspective. Try to remember what your ambitions were when you were
a teenager. What did you hope to do with your life? Some things may be
impossible now. But many of your dreams will still be attainable. You can still
write a book, take up painting or learn to dance really well. You don't need
much money to do any of these things - just time and patience. You can get all
the books you need out of the public library, and find all the classes you need
at your local adult education centre.
Think about work. Would you like to
do something more satisfying? Do you want to try doing something else for a
living? Are you prepared to start a new training course? Would you like to learn
more about gardening or keeping animals? would you like to take a car
It doesn't matter what you do as long as you start
putting new things into your life. If you do, you'll benefit doubly. First,
you'll enjoy the excitement and pleasure of a new occupation or hobby. Second,
as you build up your other interests you won't find any time left for your
pre-occupation with food.
The best way to beat an obsession is not to
tackle it head-on but simply to put it in its place.
Build up your self-confidence
Confidence is very important in
everything you do. If you pick up a pile of plates with confidence, you'll
probably be able to carry them safely into the kitchen. If, however, you pick
them up expecting to drop them, you probably will drop them. If you get on to a
pair of skis and tell yourself you're bound to fall, then you'll fall. If you
get into a motor car and tell yourself that you are going to have a crash, you
Likewise if you start a diet knowing in your heart that
you're going to fail, then you'll almost certainly do so. A few months later
you'll be worrying about your weight again - convinced that no diet in the world
is ever going to work for you. Yet, amazingly, many would-be slimmers actually
seem proud of their lack of confidence. Scores of letters come in to me from
readers who say things like: `I'm the world's worst slimmer', `I'm no good at
dieting' or `You're not going to have any success with me.'
If you are
going to lose weight permanently, you must have confidence in your ability to
slim successfully. You must be able to say to yourself: `I can do it. I can lose
weight.' You must, in short, learn to have more confidence in yourself. There
are several things you can do to build up your self-confidence.
1) If you
lack confidence, the chances are that although you know very well what your
weaknesses are you don't know what your strengths are. You are probably rather
timid and shy (even though other people may not realise that), and you doubtless
have little faith in your own abilities.
To counteract those fears sit
yourself down with a piece of paper and a pencil and write down all the good
things you can think to say about yourself. Everything. Imagine that you are
writing an advertisement for yourself, and pick out all your very best points.
You'll probably be amazed to see just how many virtues you have got. People who
are shy and lack self-confidence tend to be unusually honest, generous,
thoughtful and hard-working. You're probably exceptionally moral, careful,
punctual, kind, ambitious and creative. List your physical as well as your
mental attributes. If you've got lovely hair put that down. If you've got
beautiful eyes or perfectly shaped feet, put them down. List everything good
that you can say about yourself. Then study your advertisement as often as you
can in order to build up your own image of yourself.
2) Learn to put
things into proportion. Many people who are slightly overweight regard
themselves as being `failures'. What nonsense this is! Would you dismiss someone
as worthless if there was one thing about them you didn't like or that wasn't
perfect? Of course you wouldn't. Why, then, should other people regard you with
contempt just because you happen to be overweight? Do you reject people as
possible friends or business acquaintances just because they are skinny or bald
or have small hands?
3) Don't be ashamed of your weight. If you have a
weight problem, there are almost certainly some very good reasons for it. This
book will have helped you discover what those reasons are. You can now set about
solving your weight problem permanently. You should be no more ashamed of your
weight than you are of your hair colour. Until now you probably had no more
control over your weight than you had over your height. Now that you know why
you are overweight, you can deal with your problem speedily and
Once you have managed to change the way you feel about
yourself you will, I think, find it much easier to deal with your weight
problem. With more self-confidence and self-assurance you will be able to
approach your weight problem from an entirely different angle. The more faith
you have in yourself, the more successful your diet will be.
Stand up for yourself - be more selfish
I want to tell you about
some patients of mine: first, a lady whom I will call Martha. When I met her she
was really miserable. She was 6 stone (39kg) overweight and ashamed of it. She
told me that one of her main problems was that, as a wife and mother of three
children, she hardly ever stopped cooking.
`My husband gets cross if I
don't eat with him,' she said. `And the children are the same. They think
there's something wrong if I don't sit down and eat when they have a
Martha's problem was that she was never, ever selfish. She never
thought about herself or what she wanted. She was always too keen to please
other people to be thinking about her own needs. She only managed to deal with
her weight problem successfully when she broke free of her home and found
herself a part-time job. Not being around at home all the time gave her a chance
to run her own life a little more. And she soon found that she could stand up
Martha had forgotten how to think of herself as an
individual. She'd forgotten that she had rights and needs. Her family were
treating her as though she was a piece of kitchen equipment.
patient is a lady whom I'll call Teresa. Her problem was that she was too nice
for her own good. When I first met her she was so anxious not to cause any
offence that she was for ever being pushed around. She told me that her problem
was Sunday lunch with her in-laws.
`They're very nice people,' she said,
`but my mother-in-law is one of those people who gets very offended if you don't
have second helpings at every meal. I always end up eating far too much - even
though I don't want it - and ruining my attempts at dieting. I've given up
trying to lose weight now, because I know that all my effort during the week
will be ruined on Sundays.'
Teresa, I soon found, was one of those kindly
people who is always running errands for other people who can perfectly well do
their own errands. She was the sort of person who always gets to look after the
children while everyone else goes off to the cinema or a party. I explained to
her that she would only diet successfully when she changed her attitude and
realised that she didn't have to be rude or aggressive to stick up for
She wanted to know if I could suggest some excuses she could use
when trying to refuse extra food that she didn't want, but I told her that
excuses were no good.
`If you don't want more food, then you must say so
- firmly but politely,' I told her. `If you try to offer explanations or
excuses, you'll probably end up trapping yourself and being manipulated into a
corner. So, for instance, `I continued, `if you try to avoid more food by saying
that you're on a diet your hostess may disarm you with a compliment - telling
you that you don't need to diet, that you look wonderful the way you are. If she
does, the chances are that you'll be embarrassed, flattered and flustered - and
before you know where you are you'll have another pile of food on your
I told Teresa that she had to say something simple and
straightforward such as: `I'm afraid I couldn't eat another morsel - but it was
`But won't she think I'm being rude?' she asked.
``Would you think a guest rude if she said that to you?' I asked her.
course not!` she replied.
`There's your answer,' I assured her. `If
someone pressures you even after you've said `No', then they are being rude -
Finally, I want to tell you about Belinda. She was in her
twenties when I first met her - and she was very depressed.
She told me
that after years of being overweight she had managed to lose a lot and get down
to her ideal weight at the age of twenty-two. `It took a lot of effort,' she
said. `But I was really determined and I managed it in the end.'
at her, puzzled. She was clearly very overweight.
`I've put it all back
on again,' she told me tearfully. `It took me nine months to get it off and
three months to put it back on again.'
She told me that she had been
having lunch one day with her best friend, who had told her that she was silly
to have dieted.
`She said I looked skinny and unhealthy and that I was
making myself ill and that I ought to start eating properly again,' said
`What did you feel about that?' I asked her.
`I thought I
looked really good,' said Belinda. `I felt really happy with my weight. I felt
healthier than I had done for years.'
`But I allowed her to
persuade me to have a huge meal when I only wanted a snack, and one thing led to
another,and before I knew what was happening I'd put all the weight back on
These three slimmers had one thing in common: they had all
allowed themselves to be bullied and pushed into eating too much by other
people. They all needed to assert themselves more.
This problem is a very
common one. Every month I hear from countless slimmers whose diets are being
ruined because they don't like saying `No'. They eat because they are worried
about offending people. They accept food they don't really want so that they
don't hurt other people's feelings. They find it difficult to refuse when the
hostess pushes another piece of cake on to their plate. Their good intentions
are ruined by their `niceness'. When I asked a group of slimmers how often they
found themselves eating food they didn't want because of pressure from other
people, three-quarters said they would always eat everything they were given
when having a meal with friends, and two-thirds said that they would accept
unwanted second helpings too!
Most of the time people who have difficulty
in saying `No' confess to a fear that if they say `No' they will cause offence.
But no real friend will be offended if you refuse food that you don't really
want. And as I've already pointed out, you certainly don't have to be rude or
aggressive when you refuse food.
If you suffer from this problem - and
you have difficulty in saying `No' with firm determination - practise refusing
food in your mind. Imagine that you are at a dinner party and the hostess is
trying to put another helping of pudding on to your plate. And imagine yourself
saying `No' quite firmly but politely. You can tell her that the food is
delicious and that you've enjoyed it very much but that you really couldn't eat
any more. The more you practise, the easier you'll find it when the problem
becomes reality. Just remember: it isn't rude to say `No', but it is rude to
make people eat food that they really don't want!
Think yourself thin (and shapely)
You can never over-estimate - or
under-estimate - the power of the human mind. Your chances of dieting
successfully can be dramatically improved if you imagine yourself slim; if you
imagine yourself the shape you've always wanted to be. Indeed many experts would
claim that the single most important factor which will decide whether or not you
achieve the weight and shape you really want is your mental
There's much more about this in my book Mindpower.
If you found this article interesting you'll enjoy Vernon
Coleman's books Bodypower, Mindpower and Food for Thought.
All are available from the bookshop on this website.
Vernon Coleman January 2007