I wanted to hate the brand-new diet book 'Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends'. I really wanted to hate it.
Here are 10 reasons why:
1. All the reviews said the book was ridiculous. Skip breakfast, have cold baths in the morning and drink black coffee – that's a healthy way to lose weight?
2. Six Weeks to OMG apparently claimed that broccoli was worse for would-be skinnies than Coke.
3. The book seemed to be aimed at teenage girls. Aren't they already in enough danger from eating disorders? Do we need another book telling them to go skeletal and eat half a peanut a day?
4. I had anorexia as a teenager so hate all diet books on principle.
5. The author self-published the book. It went viral. Publishers in the US and the UK fought over him to do a deal. He is now a millionaire. I am very jealous.
7. The author writes under the pseudonym Venice A. Fulton. According to the Mail on Sunday,
his real name is Paul Khanna, he's a personal trainer from north London, and he once played a Death Eater in a Harry Potter film.
But before I read this, I was convinced that Venice A. Fulton was some sort of special secret code and spent half an hour mixing the letters up to produce 'Fit uneven coal', 'Nice To Fuel Van' and 'Lone, Fun, Active' – which, I now realise, was a complete waste of time.
8. Surely we have quite enough diet books clogging up supermarket aisles?
9. You don't need diet books. You just need to eat less and exercise more.
10. Why are so many diet books aimed at women written by men?
But here's the thing. I have now read 'Six Weeks to OMG' and I don't hate it at all. Except for the advice to skip breakfast (and I'll explain why I disagree with that later).
It's written in a strange style – lots of exclamation marks and sudden italics as if a camp and slightly hysterical Russell Brand was trying to convince a room full of teenage girls in Beverly Hills that SPIDERS AREN'T SCARY!
It also likes to shock. It says early on, "Being skinny is for everyone. It's healthy, it's possible, and importantly, it's how the human body loves to be."
(Is that really true? The human body works much better if it isn't carrying excess weight. But skinny? As tiny as Victoria Beckham? As bony as Kate Moss, who once said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels"? That's for everyone?)
But underneath all this drama, OMG is basically full of sensible advice.
Don't, for example, spend your whole day eating. Bodies were designed, says Venice (or possibly Paul), to be active and live off stored fat in the gaps between eating.
You really don't need to eat so many carbohydrates. Half your plate should be protein, you can eat most vegetables without restriction, and carbohydrates should be limited to the visual equivalent of 4 iPhones.
(This, incidentally, is the point at which broccoli is compared to Coke. Some skinny people seem to manage perfectly well on a diet of fizzy drinks, says OMG. But most of us need to care about the quality of our carbohydrates. Vegetables are far better for you than fast and furious carbohydrates – the ones than give you a big sugar rush but little nutritional value. So OMG tells you to eat a wide variety of different vegetables.)
And so this sensible advice continues:
• Fruit has high levels of sugar, so eat it sparingly, and definitely not in liquid form.
• Fat is not the villain we think it is – all this emphasis on 'low fat' is missing the point – and essential fats are vital to good health.
• Sleep boosts your metabolism and makes your skin, hair and nails beautiful.
• Be deeply suspicious of the word 'healthy' on food packaging – make your own mind up.
• Forget about calories. Calorie-counting is not the way to stay fit and healthy.
So what's not to like?
I think there are two problems with OMG.
Firstly, the book kicks off by telling people to lie in a cold bath (for up to 15 minutes) every morning. This apparently raises your metabolism for the whole day. I am absolutely certain that some people wake up bright and early with the kind of optimistic outlook on life that makes this perfectly possible. Not me. Give me a choice between a cold bath and a flabby stomach, and I'll head straight for M&S. That's what control knickers are for.
Secondly, Venice (or possibly Paul) says that the secret to being skinny is not eating breakfast – or at least not eating your first meal of the day until you've done 30 to 60 minutes of active exercise.
Again, I am absolutely sure that some people will manage this perfectly well. But teenage girls may feel miserable and extremely ill if they try to manage the first few lessons at school on an empty stomach. Especially if they're trying to cope with PMS. Any girl with heavy periods, ditto – they'll be carrying them out of assembly on stretchers.
Yes, maybe we do need to re-think our national obsession with sugary cereals for breakfast. But I'm not convinced that going without food of any kind before leaving the house is good for concentration or health or general happiness.
You get the words 'nice flat one' out of the name Venice A. Fulton. But there are two letters left over.
It's like this skipping breakfast idea. It just doesn't quite fit.
Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends by Venice A. Fulton is available on Kindle from Amazon at £4.99. The book is re-published by Michael Joseph on 5 July at £12.99. The author's official blog is on www.veniceafulton.com.