The Middletons are said to swear by the Dukan Diet. For Jennifer Aniston and Lady Gaga it’s baby food; for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, the Maple Cleanse Diet. One thing is certain: whatever the next weight-loss craze might be, it won’t be the last, and nor will it provide the definitive method for staying slim, because the reason all diets ultimately fail is simple. The moment we revert to our old eating habits, the pounds creep back on.
But by looking to the past, one dieter has discovered a fail-safe way not only to lose weight but to keep it off. The answer, it transpires, lies in the 1950s. Who knew? In his book Ssh! Lose Weight in 20 Minutes, businessman Alex Buckley shares the secrets of his success, though he’s the first to admit it’s not rocket science.
“Really, everyone knows how to lose weight,” he says. “Eat less, exercise more. There’s loads of advice out there from doctors, dieticians, celebrities and nutritionists, almost to the point of overload. And yet for all that we know, we are still seeking the answer to losing weight.
“Fundamentally with diets you have to make huge changes in your life, radical changes. You think, I can’t do this, and give up. So I started thinking about why, as a nation, we are increasingly overweight and how this is a fairly recent thing, and then I looked back 50 years to pinpoint the differences. They simply didn’t put on weight the way we do. That’s when I decided to go back to basics.
“It came down to two main points: automation and abundance. We have electrical tools to do everything now, from carving the Sunday roast to cutting the hedge. Elevators, escalators, even cars, a luxury that few could afford 50 years ago. And in the Fifties rationing was still in effect, which meant there was a limited food supply, whereas now we can have anything we want and as much as we want.”
However, rather than simply eating like a 1950s person, Buckley adopted a 1950s mindset. “All those manual jobs, big and small, have one thing in common: you burn calories by doing them. A little more activity really helps. Now, when I want to change the television channel, I get up off the sofa and push the button on the TV set rather than using the remote. Instead of waiting for a bus to come along, I walk to the next stop. I get off the tube two stops early and walk the rest to work, and I walk up the stairs twice a day instead of using the lift.
“As for eating, I follow the Fifties example and don’t snack between meals. I keep an eye on my carbs – there was no pizza or pasta in those days – and the most important thing of all: I watch my portion size.”
No truer could the saying be: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Buckley lost three stone in six months and has maintained his new weight ever since. “I’m carrying on the same as when I started out on this diet, rather than going back to my old ways, and I’ve levelled out. The active part has been easy to incorporate into my way of life, and I’ve trained my body to accept less food.”
His success encouraged him to write the book, which he says is full of tips and tricks that have helped friends who road-tested his method. So where does the title come from? “The Ssh part comes from not announcing you’re on a diet,” he says. “The weight will come off, but because you’re making small changes it will come off slowly. The idea for the 20 minutes came because I had to make it into something that worked for me. My book encourages you to make your own set of rules. Somebody else might dedicate half an hour a day to making changes, another just ten minutes. But it all helps over time. I’m proof of that.”
Ssh! Lose Weight in 20 Minutes by Alex Buckley, £9.99, MX Publishing