This week, Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony advise a dieter who can't shift the pounds and a couch potato who's fading away. Plus what should an animal- lover do about rats?

Over the past six weeks I have gradually implemented a sensible programme of exercise that involves walking, running and rowing, and I have been trying to stick to a healthy low-fat diet. I am very disheartened because so far I have lost a grand total of only 2lb in weight. I am on the verge of giving up. How can I motivate myself when the rewards of all my efforts seem so paltry?

Lucinda, Hove

Aunty Ag: Weight is tricky stuff. Doctors say it's a simple correlation between what we eat and how much we burn off but we all know that is moonshine. Sometimes you can gobble like a hog for weeks and not put on an ounce; other times one banana too many causes a weight gain of half a stone overnight. No one knows why fat behaves so strangely: perhaps the fairies bring it in the night. Or perhaps you are being punished for misdeeds in a past life - maybe in your last reincarnation you were a pastry cook or something. However, do not despair. You will not make yourself feel better by cutting off your nose to spite your face and going on a pork pie and cream cake binge. At least you have the consolation of knowing that you are a virtuous and righteous woman, even if it isn't showing up on the scales.

Uncle Ony: It amazes me that women who in other situations show all the signs of reasonable intelligence can be so dim when it comes to that most tedious of issues: weight. First of all, scales do not show fitness or size. If you have added a few pounds of muscle, that will mask the few pounds of fat you might have lost. Secondly, being fit is far more important than losing weight: weight loss is a secondary benefit unless you are hugely gross. Thirdly, obsessing over how much you weigh is the mark of a truly sad personality. Please stop it.

I have always been fairly fit and enjoy running, cycling and swimming. However, I recently hurt my back and have had to forgo any exercise for some weeks. I have noticed that I am losing weight and wonder how this can be, as I am eating lots and lying around reading.

Daisy, Cheshire

Aunty Ag: I have no idea how lying around eating lots can be causing you to get thinner. But I think you sound like a very smug person indeed. Now please go away.

Uncle Ony: What is happening here is that you are losing the muscle that you have accumulated and this accounts for your weight loss. It will all come back when you start exercising again. However, one thought: do you really want to be so muscular that a short period without exercise can have such a drastic effect? Men prefer ladies to be wee and fairy-like rather than having an east-European-female-Olympic-shot-putter-style physique, you know! Here is your chance to get rid of all that nasty muscle and cultivate a daintier image.

I have a problem with unwelcome visitors in my garden - some rats have taken up residence in a burrow in one of my flower borders. I've got some rat poison but I feel rather upset about the fact that these poor creatures are going to die a lingering death. I have seen them running around and these particular ones are rather bright-eyed and cute. How can I reconcile my desire for a rodent-free garden with my dislike of killing them?

Esther, via e-mail

Aunty Ag: If you could politely ask these rats to leave and give them a couple of days to pack their suitcases and scurry off, that would be wonderful. Sadly, however, rats do not listen to reason. And if you have a couple of rats, you are soon going to have lots more. So pull yourself together, grit your teeth, spread that poison and don't be such a sentimental nitwit.

Uncle Ony: Killing anything is a difficult business (apart from nasty little things with lots of legs that can be swatted with a newspaper) and you are quite right to be sensitive about it. The first thing I would do to make yourself feel better is apologise verbally to the rats, explain to them that you cannot have them in your garden, and tell them you are sorry that they have to expire in agony. Once the problem is eradicated, perhaps you could plant a little shrub in their memory, and make a suitable donation to an animal charity. All this will help to dispel any lingering bad karma.

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