Imagine two children are playing catch. A girl throws the ball to her brother, but it’s a bit high and so the boy just watches as it flies over his head. It goes over the fence and smashes the neighbour’s greenhouse. Whose fault is it? The girl’s, because she threw it too high? The boy’s because he didn’t even try to bat it off course?
Or think about a slightly more high-stakes situation. A train trolley is careering down a railway track. There are five people working on the line ahead and they will all surely die if the trolley carries on. But you are standing at a junction with a big lever in your hand. Pull the lever and the trolley will swing off onto a siding. Unfortunately there is someone on the siding. But just one person, not five.
Are you guilty of a crime that happens because you don’t act,? Is the brother equally guilty by not jumping? Are you guilty of killing four more people if you don't pull the lever? People tend to think that not acting to prevent something is usually less of a guilty position than acting to cause something. Tell that to the guys on the railway line.
So what’s this got to do with chips?
Clearly it’s wrong to eat a big bag of greasy chips on a diet, isn’t it? You can’t just justifiably go down the chip shop on a Friday night, buy yourself a bag of chips and scoff the lot. That’s not dieting. Or is it?
What happens when you’re on the bus going home and your best friend gets on with that lovely bag of golden salty chips and starts sharing them with you? Is that so bad? Or when you go to a friend’s for dinner and he’s made a big stodgy lasagne? Or your child comes home from school with a big sticky cake she’s made for you? Or a million other times when we are faced with temptation that we didn’t go looking for?
Most people on diets feel somehow that the chips you bought just for yourself are the greater ‘crime’. You can forgive yourself from being tempted by the friend’s chips, but it’s un-forgivable to go and buy yourself the chips.
Clearly in dietary terms chips are chips. There’s no difference in the calories you get from chips you buy yourself and the ones your friend offers you. The only difference comes in your approach to dieting and how your Amy Brain deals with it.
This is the time of the year when lots of New Year’s diets become history. The vast majority of people who follow a sustained eating plan simply can’t stick to it for much longer than a month or so - or as this article rather says with ridiculous accuracy, ‘women give up diets after five weeks, two days and 43 minutes’.
We don’t buy ourselves chips because that’s wrong. But we can’t resist them because it wasn’t our action to go looking for them. At the time that doesn’t feel too wrong, we’re not guilty of buying chips. But it’s how we feel about it afterwards that causes the diet to fail.
Any diet that depends on not eating certain foods works until you eat that food. Then as soon as you do, it’s scuppered. If you are on a no carb diet and you eat carbs, that’s it. You’ve failed. This is the brutal logic of the situation but it’s made so much worse because you’ve denied yourself chips for five weeks, two days and 43 minutes. After this time you want the diet to fail. You are fed up with it. You’ve probably lost a bit of weight too, so it’s justifiable just to draw a line under it and forget about dieting for a while. Well done. Now, that’s over. Thank God.
And so we go back to normal. And we all know what happens to the weight. Welcome back, pounds.
Perhaps the best dieting position is to never again eat chips, but you know that is just not workable. It's good to know that the alternative is simple: just eat chips on a regular basis. And you can.
Not every day. Not every week even. Especially if you want to enjoy other fattening food. But you can lose weight easily and still include one or two relaxed eating days a week. They are your Reload Days. When you follow the diet groove, you’ll learn how to use them to great effect.
A treat you can’t resist doesn’t ever have to break you diet. It just gets incorporated. And after five weeks, two days and 43 minutes there’s nothing you crave. Because you can just have it. And then carry on losing weight. Welcome to the Diet Groove.