Yesterday while looking for something else I found my original copy of Richard Mackarness’s book Eat Fat and Grow Slim. It first came out in 1958 and I have that version plus the updated one from 1975.
It makes for fascinating reading. I well recall stumbling upon this book back in the 70s and thinking it was too good to be true. Can you really eat as much fat as you like and not gain weight? I gave it a go but it was very hard to follow in the 70s because by then, high fibre/high carb/low fat and exercise had already become entrenched and it was to be the dominant way of dieting for the next three decades. We were all duped basically.
Going against the grain
Going against the grain was difficult because low fat had taken over from low starch. It’s never easy being different. Far simpler just to follow the pack even if your instincts tell you the pack has got it wrong.
But I was keen on aerobics and dance classes in the early 80s and it was much easier to follow the rules set out in a book that came out around this time called Dieting Makes You Fat. Great title isn’t it. Yet funnily enough, I don’t seem to have my copy of that book still in my possession. Perhaps because I eventually realised, along with millions of others, that following the high carb/low fat diet it recommends (for yes, this is actually a diet book!) DOESN’T WORK!
High carb diets fail
Most diets since the mid 70s have been basically based on a high-carb regime with the caveat that this high carb is fine BECAUSE IT’S HIGH FIBRE. So you are lulled into the impression that you can eat as much of this as you like because it’s healthy carb and it’s low fat. And fat we were constantly told was the enemy, not carbs. In fact, it’s the other way around. Our bodies don’t need carbs in the quantities we’ve been encouraged to eat them. They do need fat though.
Effing F Plan Diet
Another popular diet in the 80s was Audrey Eaton’s F Plan diet which was very similar to the dieting makes you fat book in that it promoted high carb intake. Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh Diet which many swore by for many years was also a low fat/high carb diet. Both women became very rich from sales of these books which were once unbelievably popular. (Conley may dispute that her diet is based on a high carb intake but she recommends low-fat foods. And low-fat foods are full of sugar to make them more palatable since when you take out the fat they become bland and boring so need bulking out and flavouring with sugar).
Gradually we are learning that restricting fat intake while eating a high percentage of carb in our diet isn’t a healthy way to eat at all. And it’s a truly rubbish way to try and lose weight. For if it wasn’t, how come we’re all so much fatter now after three decades of adhering to this plan? If you want to know why these diets don’t work, I can’t urge you strongly enough to chuck out your F Plans and your hip and thigh diets and beg, borrow or download Eat Fat and Grow Slim instead.
For this book was written by an incredibly kind, understanding, author. Mackarness really gets it. He talks about the “fatten easilies” as opposed to the “constant weights” and says there is a fundamental difference between the two. He’s an understanding author (sadly now deceased) and his regime is much like Paleo which I’ve now discovered isn’t all that hard to follow after all.
And the updated version in 1975 is sadly prophetic when at the end of the preface Mackarness writes: Unless we force the government to reverse its food policies and go back to unadulterated whole food – including the essential fats on which our brains and nerves evolved – obesity will cease to be a major problem because we will go the way of the dinosaurs and the dodo and become extinct.
Why governments fail us on food
Of course our government has entirely failed to do this and obesity is now a massive problem. The food industry prefers us to stick to low fat/high carb diets because they can make lots of products to push at us. There’s profit in diet failure. Very big profit. And governments exist to protect profit not people, as so amply illustrated in the front page of Saturday’s Guardian in an article explaining how the sugar industry is trying to prevent the World Health Organisation from advising us to cut down on sugar. And the government will probably let them.
Far better to blame the individual for being weak willed and stupid than to blame the food industry which is behaving in much the same way as the tobacco companies did. But blaming individuals hasn’t worked. Especially when individuals are given such appalling advice and not told the truth about fat and sugar.
You want the truth?
If you want the truth, read Mackarness’s book and tell others to as well. We don’t have to wait for our stupid government to do the right thing. It probably never will. It will probably always support the interests of big business over the needs of individuals. Blame the individual has been the mantra for the last 30 years. But as individuals we didn’t cause the food crisis and the growing obesity epidemic. Most of us believe what government and government experts tell us.
Gradually though, without becoming bonkers tin foiled hatted conspiracy theorists we’re realising governments lie to us about fundamental health issues. If you want the truth, read Eat Fat and Grow Slim. It’s a lovely slim book, beautifully written and illustrated. Dieting doesn’t have to be a disaster and you don’t have to fail, truly, you don’t. Why not try a diet that’s fun and doesn’t have failure built into it as part of its business model? Why not try something that works?
Have a good Monday and a great week. More in a few days.