Monday 24 October 2016

George Hook shifts three stone on the 'Catholic Diet': 'Farting is an unfortunate by-product... but my belt has come in six notches'

Published 10/08/2015 | 02:30

George Hook
George Hook

The two great principles of losing weight are diet and exercise, taken together. But what happens when exercise is not an option but weight loss is needed? I faced this very problem last Christmas. My full knee replacement was scheduled for the first week of January, and the surgeon suggested that a reduction in weight would help the rehabilitation.

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A trawl through the internet delved a multiplicity of options. I found The Metabolism Miracle, The Hollywood 48-Hour Diet and, best of all, The Irish Potato Diet. Apparently you can live purely on potatoes. You will lose weight, but you may go mad. We can now add the Hook Diet, which has taken three stones off my manly frame in six months. The system is based on the principle that if you eat a lot, you gain weight; if you eat very little, you lose weight. Coincidentally, over Christmas, I read Conversations with My Father: Jack Kyle, written by his daughter, Justine. The greatest fly-half that ever lived had gone to Zambia to practice medicine after his retirement from rugby, and in the book, Justine tells of his advice to an obese woman: "Eat for two days and fast on the third." The result was a happy and slim lady.

Jack's fasting idea set me thinking. Previous generations of Irish people were not fat because they were poor, did not eat out and also had the Lenten fast of one meal and two collations daily. A collation, for the uninitiated, meant black tea and two slices of unbuttered bread. So I modified the great Catholic penance of the past into the Hook eating regime, which I christened the Lenten Diet.

The premise is simple - just one main meal a day and a breakfast of my devising. Dinner is without restriction and can include wine, cheese, dessert and anything I fancy. Breakfast is a big bowl of Kellogg's Fruit'n Fibre with added fruit, plenty of milk but no sugar. To prevent boredom, I vary the breakfast on a week-on, week-off basis. The alternative is a big bowl of Jordans Crunchy Granola, with yoghurt instead of milk. The rest of the day is filled with gallons of black tea and coffee. In essence, there is food only twice in any 24-hour period. What about hunger pangs? Absolutely, but they disappear after a week or so as the stomach shrinks to meet the revised food load. Interestingly, for all constipation sufferers, you will be cured. Farting, however, is an unfortunate by-product. I have discovered that clenching the buttocks can put off the evil event for long enough to get to a private place.

The Redemptorist Fathers used to tour the country in the 1950s giving retreats to packed churches. They had a prayer for everything, including temptation. I find it still works when salivating for a Bounty bar, and I give it here for anybody interested: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, give me strength."

Given that the diet is based on good Catholic principles, there is forgiveness for falling off the wagon. Only last week I consumed a packet of Milk Chocolate Goldgrain, but got back to the schedule the following day. Invariably dieters give up when they break the routine, imagining that they have failed. Willpower is a key component, and the results on the scales give an incentive to continue. This must become a lifestyle rather than a short-term solution. What exactly are the results of losing three stones in body weight? My blood pressure has dropped significantly to a healthier level. Without exercise, I am fitter, as my heart has less weight to carry up the stairs. There is an expense, however, as I gave away six bags of clothes to charity, and needed all my trousers taken in by a tailor. My belt has come in six notches. There was compensation in that my daily lunch bill is zero. I have also discovered shirts, trousers and sweaters in my closet that fit me.

This has been a six-month experiment. My knee now allows me to play golf and swim, so exercise has been added to the schedule. I have no idea if I will continue to lose weight or if the the body will stabilise at a level. It will be fun finding out. As a non-smoker and rare drinker, food was my passion. I find I can indulge it and still feel better, and I must admit a little proud of my achievement.

Protestants can, of course, follow the diet with some minor changes. I'm working on a version for atheists.

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