This man claims he can make you bikini-ready in just six weeks
Julia Llewellyn-Smith talks to the man behind the controversial new diet
I know what to expect from Venice A Fulton, the man behind the latest diet phenomenon, 'Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends'. Obviously, he'll be Californian and wearing colourful Lycra.
Worse, he'll look at me and know that -- apart from drinking black coffee, a habit from student days when there was never milk in the fridge -- I have been following no OMG principles.
Fulton's regime -- a daily cold bath, no breakfast, regular blowing up of balloons -- sounds horrific.
When I enter the meeting room at his publishers in central London, he hasn't arrived. Instead, a slight, conservatively dressed, thirtysomething man greets me with a question about whether I've travelled far.
It takes a second to grasp that this is Fulton, aka Paul Khanna from north London, a personal trainer turned book world's latest wonder boy.
Following 'Fifty Shades of Grey', which has dominated the British and US bestseller lists for weeks, 'Six Weeks to OMG' is the latest, although clearly not the last, self- published ebook to shake up publishing.
Written in a library, Khanna originally published the book digitally on Apple's iTunes. In a matter of weeks, it sold 120,000 copies -- five times more than 'The Dukan Diet'. An agent quickly came on board, selling the rights to British and US publishers for "seven-figure sums".
Fulton (39) now finds himself looking at a fortune. But he's also finding himself a whipping boy. His ideas, sneer critics, are faddy, and the philosophy of 'outskinnying' your friends is vacuous.
"I am aware throughout history that when you present a new idea you're going to get resistance at the beginning," Fulton says gravely. "You're almost certainly going to be laughed at. But the important thing is to rise above obscurity in terms of getting these ideas out there."
Oh, come on. We're talking about fitting into our bikinis for summer, not Galileo saying the world was round.
But it's very clear, very quickly, that Fulton takes himself seriously. And, in fairness, his 'you go, girlfriend' style conceals some serious science.
He has a degree in sports science from the University of Bedfordshire and, he explains, his jaunty language is an expedient to communicate complex research to the masses.
"It took quite a long time to take scientific language and turn it into something everyone could read," he says.
The book may take its content from old-fashioned academic journals, but we all know it was inspired by the perma-tanned, vajazzled 'Towie' girls and their eternal quest for size zero.
Fulton blushes deeply and buries his head in his hands. "That's really annoying, I don't know where that came from. I've never even seen 'Towie'. My only inspiration was helping people."
Why, if he's so evidently appalled by the 'Towie' connection, did he choose a flamboyant pen name like Venice?
"I travel a lot to Venice [Beach, California]; it's the home of healthy culture, of macro-fitness," he replies awkwardly. "I wanted it to be a name that could be either a man or a woman, to give the book the greatest appeal possible. I didn't know it would be perceived in a variety of ways."
Fulton's thrilled at his success, but he's clearly also overwhelmed by it. Once our interview ends he's delightful, but in the hot seat he's prickly and defensive.
He began writing the book, he says, after seeing the furore surrounding Pippa Middleton's Dukan-dieted bottom. Since he'd long been successfully testing his weight-loss theories on clients (A-list celebrities, according to his publicity blurb, although none are named), he decided it was time to share them with the world.
His original ambitions, however, weren't as a writer, but as an actor. Personal training was merely a day job, although his career highlight to date has been playing a Death Eater in a Harry Potter film.
His book is gushingly dedicated to 'Bella', but Fulton won't talk about that -- it's all about the diet.
Or, sorry, not the diet. "I didn't want to call my plan a diet. The idea of eating less is really quite restrictive, and psychologically, feeling a deficit is not a good way to approach a problem. I'm very proud the word diet doesn't appear on the book cover."
He picks up a copy and blanches. "Oh. Actually, it does." But only in a newspaper quote, his publicist hastily points out. "Yes, that's just an endorsement. Anyway, diet is a hackneyed word."
So, apparently, is exercise. When I utter the word, Fulton shakes his head, in sorrow more than anger. "We don't call it exercise any more, it's moving around. Exercise is a really scary concept for some people."
Far scarier to me are daily cold baths. "Honestly, as painful as that sounds, there's nothing as painful as having low self-esteem that you get from being overweight. That's something that stays with you throughout the entire day, whereas a cold bath is 15 minutes of relative... I wouldn't even call it discomfort, it's just something new," he says.
Hateful they may sound, but cold baths have indeed been shown, since Egyptian times, to significantly raise metabolic rates. In fact, all of Fulton's bonkers-sounding claims are supported by solid research.
Two black coffees on an empty stomach will help burn calories quicker. Fruit may sound healthy, but intake should be limited because fructose contains leptin, which blocks signals to the body that it's full.
Blowing up balloons indeed works our transversus abdominis muscles. Broccoli may be good for you, but it also contains carbs -- and Fulton, like many before him, urges us to eat no more than the equivalent volume of four iPhones a day of these baddies, while increasing our protein intake.
His advice to skip breakfast is commonly held to be a diet crime punishable by a lifetime in XXL jeans. Yet evidence shows that if you exercise first thing on an empty stomach (after a cold bath and two black coffees), you'll burn fat faster.
More than his methods, however, what many dislike about Fulton is his chatty, slangy tone and his 'Get the skinny on' slogan. This, they say, is aggressively targeting teenagers -- the group most at risk of bulimia and anorexia.
"The language may make it look like the book's written for teens, but it's written for everyone, and actually the people buying it aren't teens on the whole, they're people in their 30s," Fulton says.
I still can't face a cold bath, but I'm definitely off to buy some balloons.
HERE’S THE SKINNY
If you don’t eat when your body is low on food energy, it will burn fat.
Take a cold bath
That will boost metabolism and help you burn off stored fat.
If you have it on an empty stomach, Fulton claims that it will burn fat Get on the move If you can exercise outdoors between 8am and 9am, it will boost energy and vitamin production.
Eat three full meals a day with no snacks — that will stop you grazing.
Control your carb intake and make sure each meal is made up of 50pc protein.