One day, the devil was looking for a new form of torture.
‘I’ve got it,’ he said. ‘Dieting!!’
The little baby devils all gathered round, their tiny devil eyes glistening with glee. ‘How will it work?’ they squealed.
‘Simple,’ said the devil. ‘A diet will tell people what to eat, when, and how much. It will torture them in three ways.’ He turned up the heat and leaned in close to the baby devils. They were terribly ugly. But, he reasoned, he was no oil painting himself.
‘First, they’ll eat less food and their metabolisms will adapt so their bodies need fewer calories. Then – and here’s the masterstroke – if they stop dieting they’ll not only regain lost weight, they’ll gain extra weight because their bodies will be more efficient.’
‘That’s devilish!’ cried the baby devils. (They did not have vast vocabularies.)
‘What’s the second way?’ enquired a nerdy baby devil from the back.
‘The diet will forbid their favourite foods,’ replied the devil. ‘Eventually the deprivation will make them give up the diet and binge on all the things they’ve been denied. Calorie overload!’
The baby devils chortled with delight.
‘That’s not even the best part,’ cried the devil. He did love an audience. Even an ugly one.
‘The third way they’ll be tortured is they’ll blame themselves. Even though metabolism change is human physiology and bingeing after deprivation is human nature, they’ll see it as personal failure. And lack of willpower. They’ll wallow in guilt and self-loathing. They’ll be miserable!’
The baby devils erupted into an orgy of cackles.
The nerdy baby devil at the back piped up again. ‘And if they blame themselves instead of the diet, then they’ll keep on dieting and be perpetually miserable.’
‘Exactly,’ said the devil. This little nerdy guy was annoying but right.
The devil sat back, turned up the heat again and smiled. This was his best idea yet.
NOTE: This is an edited extract from How to Be Thin in a World of Chocolate. Now available in book, audio and e-book format.