The lady novelist diet

The late Muriel Spark was one of Scotland’s leading novelists. She is perhaps most widely known for, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” a novel, made into a movie, about an idealistic but eccentric teacher in a 1930s Edinburgh girls’ school who selects an able group of pupils to ‘educate for life’, in the widest sense, as she sees it. We then follow the ‘Brodie set’ to the threshold of adulthood.

Another of Ms Spark’s novels is a “Far Cry From Kensington”, set in 1950s London. Her heroine, Mrs Hawkins, lands a job in a publishing house, even though the other applicants are much better qualified.

She soon comes to realize that she and her colleagues have been, “deliberately chosen for some slightly grotesque quality.”

“What was wrong with me she asks herself? Why had I been chosen? it was then the reason dawned on me: I was immensely too fat.”

Her response is resolute.

“From that night I decided to eat and drink half. Only half of everything I normally ate, in any circumstances. I decided to tell nobody at all about my plan.”

She is extremely self disciplined and sticks to her half portions in what she describes as, “This hungry period of my life.”

The first sign that her diet is succeeding is when she is invited to a smart dinner party and finds to her joy that her black lace evening dress, “needed to be taken in a good inch both sides.”

She eventually loses so much weight that she becomes, “a normal shape.”

The extent of her weight loss is brought home to her in dramatic fashion. Wanda, a fellow tenant in the lodging house where she is living, accuses her of plotting against her. She believes Mrs Hawkins  is plotting because she is ill, and that it is her illness which is responsible for her weight loss.

“Mrs Hawkins you are making a plot against me in the house. Is it my fault you are ill? You are getting thin, you are wasting, wasting, and you will die.”

It would be misleading to suggest that, “A Far Cry From Kensington,” is a novel about weight loss. If weight loss is a theme of the novel, it is a fairly minor theme.

And. of course, it is fiction, not ‘real life’, although  it is possible Ms Spark based her character on someone she  knew.

Putting such reservations on one side, if we are going to draw conclusions, we can note that our heroine had a simple weight loss plan which she followed strictly. She was completely successful and lost a lot of  weight.

Sounds encouraging. Many diet plans are far from simple.

Alas, although the plan is simple, it is far from easy. Many dieters, perhaps most dieters, won’t have the self-discipline to eat only half of what they would normally eat.

The catering industry calls this sort of thing portion control and it is one of the ‘secrets’ of successful weight loss. If we can practice portion control in some form we are on the way to keeping the pounds off. The trick is to practice portion control without feeling too deprived.

We shall come back to this.



Weight loss; what’s to be done?

I lost about 10 lbs last year, starting from 177 lbs and later in the year I put it all back !

 I’ve been wanting to lose about 15 lbs since the start of  2012 and I’m now on my way to doing it.  I’m 5 ft 11 ins and weighted 184 lbs before I started to lose weight.

I don’t think I’m seriously overweight at 184 lbs but have had a bulge round my stomach and would prefer to be 168 lbs or less. I’ve decided I want to investigate weight loss in a methodical way.

I want to find a way of looking at all the conflicting claims for diets that claim to produce permanent weight loss and try to figure out what REALLY works.

Surely that’s a reasonable expectation?

Yet there are dozens of diets around!

Those who write about a particular diet are convinced that the diet plan they champion is the best one and all other diets don’t work.

So they write a book to support the cause of their diet

Typically, they give examples of men or women who have tried a whole bunch of diets, none of which have resulted in permanent weight loss.

In desperation, they adopt the diet promoted by the author.

Hey presto! It works. The dieters shed pound after pound and manages to keep it all off.

So, assuming the author has given an honest account of people’s experience, can all these authors be right!

It is possible! The diet may work for the people described by the author.

But does the diet work for everyone? Nope!

And can the author guarantee that those for whom it works will not backslide in the future and put all the weight on again? Hardly.

So I’m going to do some figuring out and see if I can reach some conclusions about what works and what doesn’t.

How you may ask, is an ordinary Joe like me going to ‘reach conclusions’ about such a puzzling issue?

How, indeed! But please bear with me as I try.