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Brendan O'Connor: With all this choice, none of us has a hope


Snack attack: It's hard to resist crisps when they are just ten seconds from your desk

Snack attack: It's hard to resist crisps when they are just ten seconds from your desk

Snack attack: It's hard to resist crisps when they are just ten seconds from your desk

Being on a diet is not dramatic in itself but the changes to your mindset can be a real eye opener. You get shaken out of your torpor. It's like you stop drinking the Kool-Aid and you suddenly see things with a new clarity.

I was in a supermarket the other day and I was shocked.

So you may recall that the Taylor Made Diet, which I am doing, involves him delivering all the food to you. Therefore you have no choices to make and no shopping to do and you don't think about other food at all. That's why it works for me.

But I had occasion to go and get my wife some yogurt in the supermarket the other day. Even though I was only a few days into the diet, I suddenly saw the supermarket for what it is.

Everywhere I looked there were brightly coloured foodstuffs, a lot of it rubbish, a lot of it on deals. If I had been attempting to make choices at all, there is no doubt I would have made bad ones. I won't eat this three-pack of Rolos now but I will get it for the weekend. It's only €1.50; where would you be going?

I realised that I wouldn't have a hope in that environment. And I realised that nobody does. Whatever reserves of willpower you might have, and they are finite, they would be worn down eventually by this constant barrage of bad stuff everywhere we go.

Where I work you can't get an apple. But 10 seconds from my desk I can get crisps and chocolate out of a machine. How do any of us have a hope?

The other realisation I woke up to was that I am eating away without thinking of it all the time. I make some oven chips for the kids at the weekend and I realise that normally I would eat a bunch of them, possibly in bread and butter, without even counting it as eating. Just a bit of mindless grazing before my own meal. Or I am cutting up a pitta for the younger one, who has been existing largely on a diet of pitta and hummus recently due to not being 100pc, and I realise that normally I would take a few chunks of the pitta and dip it into the hummus. It's not that I'm hungry. It's just that it's there and, well, why not?

The most profound realisation however has been around the evenings. The daytime looks after itself in a way. You are busy and you have a snack between meals so you are essentially eating every two hours. And then you go home and you have your dinner straight away because you're hungry. And then suddenly it's half six or seven o'clock and you are staring at an evening ahead without food or sweets or anything. And it somehow seems impossibly bleak and pointless. It seems featureless, eventless because it's not going to be punctuated by any eating. It's not that I'll be hungry per se, but I guess the evening needs those focal points of eating for me, the little reward points, the comfort moments.

And that's when I realised all over again that food is not about hunger alone for me. It is a sport and a past-time, an addiction maybe. It is what gets me through the night.

I am getting used to it now but I have had to extract a concession from Ken Taylor that I can have a couple of oatcakes with hummus or pesto at some stage just for pure hunger. I honestly don't think I'd sleep otherwise.

And now I am remembering what this diet does, apart from making me lose weight. Without anyone saying anything, it causes you to question your whole relationship with food. It's like some silent retreat, where the regimental sparseness gives you this clarity where you question everything.

I'm not hungry. And I have lost four pounds in the first week despite taking severe liberties with the cheat day and also ending up drinking beer, which is verboten - you can have the odd glass of wine. But this is not about hunger. This is about how we use food, and it is about our mindlessness with regard to food. It is about the constant roller coaster of eating that we are all on, shoving it into us.

I feel like a person who has been liberated briefly. The burden of choice has been taken away and thus the burden of using those limited supplies of willpower. I like the deliberateness of eating like this. If only I can bring a tiny bit of this back when I re-engage with the real world. But of course I won't. The real world will consume me and I will do my best to consume it.

Sunday Indo Living