You know when you see something crap that has nonetheless made the originator masses of money – the latest Turner Prize-winning sculpture, or Fifty Shades Of Grey – and you can’t help thinking “bloody hell, I could do that!”? Well, I do that all the sodding time. There are a billion and one things I could have done to make my fortune. Of course, I haven’t done any of them, although I’d like to think it’s because I’ve had better things to do. After all, what’s writing a bestseller compared to reaching the final level on Jak and Daxter 3?

One thing I still think I could do – and just might – is write a diet book. Whereas mommy porn is probably much harder to write than you’d imagine (I got stuck on “oh my” and “oh crap”), I reckon diet books are a piece of piss. I’ve invented loads of diets in my time and most of them have worked. Any diet works as long as you can brainwash yourself into thinking entirely fucked-up thoughts.

Last week I spotted a billboard advertising Six Weeks To OMG by Venice A. Fulton. I couldn’t help thinking “six weeks? Pah! I could make you look different in one”. All you need to do is eat sod all. I’ve done it; it works. It’s neither healthy nor fun, but that’s hardly the point, is it? Anyhow, I decided to take a look at Fulton’s slender tome (on Kindle sample, obvs). What’s he suggesting that I couldn’t have thought of myself?

Well, nothing, actually. It’s simply a book that encourages you not to eat much – woo hoo! – with the added bonus of instilling some seriously anorexic thinking in the reader. With frequent references to “your parents”, which suggest the whole thing is aimed at young, still-developing people, it offers precisely the kind of paranoid pep-talk that avid food-avoiders indulge in every day:

The medical community doesn’t want you to read this book. Your parent might think you shouldn’t read this book. Perhaps even your friends think you shouldn’t read this book. And you’re still reading?

Good job! It’s your life.

Yeah! Go you! You show all those people who think you should, y’know, eat stuff. And there’s more:

Many people will say you don’t need any help, including parents. They might state that, ‘you’re fine as you are,’ ‘it’s unhealthy,’ or repeat the classic, ‘it’s just puppy fat.’ Guess what, YOU’RE NOT A PUPPY! Are they right about the other stuff?

No. Only you can ever decide if you’re fine. No one else.

Great. Just fucking great. This is exactly the kind of distorted thinking that fuels an eating disorder. Of course it’s your body. Nevertheless, starving it is not a means of gaining independence. You don’t gain ownership of yourself by being weak and small. But the idea that you can is seductive. It’s seduced me for pretty much all my life.

The last diet book I read from cover to cover was Gary Taubes’ The Diet Delusion. I bought it assuming it was a book that debunked diets and told you how crap they were. It does, to begin with, but only in order to tell you why this diet in this book (essentially a form of Atkins) isn’t like any other (except it is). To be honest, I’d probably include some “diets are shit” prologue in my diet book, too. It’s a very effective way of drawing people in before you tell them to shut the fuck up and starve.

Of course, diet books never literally tell you to starve. They tell you one of two things:

  • you’re going to lose weight without feeling hungry (this is bollocks)
  • you’re going to lose weight while feeling very hungry but that’s just tough – stick with the programme, fatso (this is more accurate, but still utterly futile)

All the rest – whether you avoid carbs, control GI levels, eat fat, don’t eat fat, overdose on fibre – is just garnish. If you stick to what’s in the book you’ll reduce the amount and/or range of what you eat and you’ll get smaller. And unless you are actually ill as a result of weighing too much you will be doing this for no discernible reason. The misery of being hungry always cancels out the joy of losing weight.

At this point in time, I haven’t even decided what approach my diet book will adopt. I’m tempted to go for “eat a tiny amount of absolute rubbish – say one Wispa and a bag of McCoys a day – and lose weight anyhow”. That’s always been my preferred way of getting thin (I might have had anorexia but I’m not a sodding ascetic). As for the “psychological” angle, well, that’s in the title – Thinfidence! Because it’s not about being thin, it’s about being confident! Apart from when it’s about being thin, which, when you’re driven insane with hunger, is all the sodding time. But that’s just the small print. Anyhow, when you’re totally obsessed with food you don’t give a shit about anything else, including what others think of you, so that’s a kind of confidence, wouldn’t you say?

I haven’t got around to working on the manuscript yet. I’d like to think this is for moral reasons. The nice part of me doesn’t want to take a punt on writing something which, if it’s successful, could seriously mess with other people’s minds and bodies. Still, I’m not all nice. Ultimately the delay’s more likely to be because I’m a lazy sod who still prefers to think, idly, “I could do that if I wanted”, but am a bit worried that actually, I couldn’t.

Anyhow, must be off. I’ve a bag of McCoys to eat, slowly, ridge by ridge, with a minute allowed for each, so that the whole packet lasts two hours (only kidding – I’m beyond that now. But I still suspect I’m only ever one diet book away).

Glosswitch, PhD (no one needs to know this is in European Lit – let’s just vaguely imply it’s “nutritional science”)