Health: Health Check

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The Independent Culture
I HAVE invented a new diet and I am launching it today to a waiting world - free, gratis and for nothing. I have called it the Wet and Dry diet, and I guarantee that if you follow it for three months you will find your bathroom scales pointing in the right direction.

The principle of the Wet and Dry diet is simple: you may not eat wet and dry foods at the same time. That's all there is to it. You may eat anything you like, in any quantity, so long as you obey this basic rule.

It means that you may not eat breakfast cereals (dry) with milk (wet). Nor may you accompany pasta (dry) with sauce (wet), although grated Parmesan is acceptable. Meat (dry) may not be accompanied by gravy (wet) but may be eaten with vegetables or potatoes, unless these are mashed or pureed. You get the idea.

Every reader will need to devise their own additional rules for this diet. A science-minded colleague suggested a banana could be both wet (when mashed) and dry (when whole). Shepherds pie combines meat (dry) and gravy (wet). But it is acceptable because the ingredients are combined at the cooking stage and not at the table.

The point of this diet is to make eating difficult. It is the unacknowledged principle behind most diets. An equally effective diet would be one that forbade combining red and green food, or that required you to stand on your head while eating.

This inconvenient fact will not prevent millions of people turning to bookshops and self-help groups in the New Year in search of a new idea for losing weight.

We have already had the Hay Diet, the Scarsdale Diet and the F-plan Diet, plus many more. Stand by for the 1,2,3, Success 2000 Diet from Weight Watchers to be launched next week.

Jane Dunkeld, author of the Good Diet Guide, pours scorn on these diets in the January issue of Positive Health, the complementary medicine magazine. She says that much of the advice is contradictory, and hence confusing. For example System S, by Sally Ann Voak and Professor Anne de Looy, promised dieters they need not cut out sugar while Sugar Busters, by H Leighton Steward, claimed sugar was worse than fat.

Dr Dunkeld writes that whether you follow a high or low protein, high or low carbohydrate or high or low sugar diet makes no difference to losing weight: "All that matters is the calorific content."

Scientifically she is correct, but humans tend not to obey the laws of science too strictly, especially where their appetites are concerned.

The more helpful advice is to follow whichever diet helps you cut your calorie intake most effectively.