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their advice does not work. Yet week after week new "special" diets are peddled to the gullible. Totally crazy notions on the timing of food intake or on the combination of different foods or on particular inclusion or exclusion diets, somehow survive the test of time and disillusion. People who fail to adhere to the regime tend to blame themselves rather than the stupid notions. The plain fact is that any dietary regime can be designed to take off weight or put it on but eventually the only way to maintain one's body weight is to balance calorie intake and calorie output, taking in only the quantity of food that one needs in order to generate sufficient calories for energy and biochemistry. That is not exactly rocket science: it simply says that fat comes from food.

Counting calories can become an obsession and is very much part of the anorexic mind-set. Some knowledge of the calorie content of various foodstuffs is sensible. For example four ounces of lamb would be five hundred and seventy calories whereas four ounces of boiled potatoes would be only eighty calories. People often imagine that it is the potatoes rather than the meat that is fattening. Sensible education on approximate calorie intake is therefore appropriate - but counting every one, or even every ten or twenty or fifty, is daft and is a common feature of people who suffer from eating disorders.

Crash diets tend to set up cravings and also produce a sense of deprivation. The more one starves, the more one wants to eat, and the more one feels one deserves to do so. However, studies of shipwrecked mariners or of people who have been deliberately starved under laboratory observation show that a line is crossed beyond which the mind starts telling lies and true perceptions are distorted. Anorexia nervosa itself is probably a genetically inherited defect in the neurotransmission (brain biochemistry) systems in the mood centres of the brain and is similar to other compulsive disorders such as alcoholism and drug addiction. However, any one of us can develop a temporary anorexic mind-set by crash dieting just as we can get temporarily drunk or stoned through the use of alcohol or drugs. Crash diets are therefore not a good idea: they can be dangerous as well as ineffective.

Most commonly crash diets are followed by rebound binges and then the whole cycle begins all over again. The best way of losing weight is to do so gradually, for example on a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet, including plenty of highly nutritious, low calorie, bulk foods such as various varieties of bean. The protein content of beans provides the nutritional balance, low-calorie content helps one to lose weight and the bulk reduces hunger and still there is room to add an egg or some fish, and then have some fresh fruit so as to provide variety of taste and a bit of pleasure as well as satisfying one's daily nutritional requirements. On a total of 1,000 calories a day, one should lose 4 lbs of weight a week provided that one takes a bit of exercise and is not totally sedentary

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