Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Scarsdale Medical diet (#31)

1984. When shoulder pads were big and the internet was small. Celeb diets hadn't been invented, and so instead the only decent weight-loss advice came from patriachial doctors with patronising overtones. And this is the most patronising of all. Dr Tarnower's Scarsdale Medical Diet (he wasn't lucky enough to live in South Beach...) is possibly the most amusingly patronising diet book that I've encountered so far.

Dr Tarnower is very specific. How much you need to weigh (me: no more than 9st 4lbs - and even this is the top end of the scale), how often you should weigh yourself (daily) and what you need to eat to achieve this (next to nothing, obviously!!).

In some ways, I actually like this diet, as it's based in science (fat/protein/carb ratios) and there are strict rules. Not too much science - just simple sentences so as not to baffle the poor, stupid, fat people.

Much like every other diet I've tried, this diet could have been summarised in around 5 pages. But then it would be a greying pamphlet rather than a  best-selling book, and where's the fun in that?

Here's the diet:
Breakfast, daily
Half a grapefruit, 1 slice of wholemeal toast (no spread), coffee/tea (no milk)
Lunch: Assorted cold cuts, tomatoes, coffee/tea/diet drinks
Dinner: Fish (any kind), green salad, wholemeal  toast, grapefruit.
Lunch: Fruit salad
Dinner: Grilled lean hamburger, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, olives or cucumber
Lunch: Salmon or Tuna salad, lemon and vinegar dressing, grapefruit
Dinner: Roast lamb (no fat), salad
Lunch: Two eggs, any style, no cooking fat, low fat cottage cheese, courgettes or tomatoes, wholemeal bread
Dinner: Chicken, spinach
Lunch: Assorted cheese slices, spinach, wholemeal toast
Dinner: Fish, salad, wholemeal toast
Lunch: Fruit salad
Dinner: Roast turkey or chicken, salad of lettuce and tomatoes, grapefruit
Lunch: Chicken or Turkey, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, brocolli or cauliflower, grapefruit
Dinner: Grilled steak, salad, brussel sprouts.
Repeat for two weeks only.

This most simple of diets raises so many questions that there follows TWELVE pages of questions on the subject. My favourite is this:

Q: When I'm on the Scarsdale Medical Diet and can't have an alcoholic drink, is there a special non-alcoholic drink I can enjoy, particularly at a cocktail lounge or bar, or at a party?
A: Yes, a number of dieters are enjoing what is becoming known widely as the 'Scarsdale Special Highball'. It's easy to mix - just plain soda and a chunk of lemon in a frosted glass. It's very dry and refreshing, and looks as alcoholic as a gin and tonic or vodka and tonic. Actually, it's the famous Gin Rickey without the gin. Or (my parentheses: 'for variety'), you could try it in a tall glass with a chunk of lime.

There is so much wrong with this!! Where to start?? IT'S. A. GLASS. OF. FIZZY. WATER. My 4-year-olds favourite drink (that is, when she's on Scarsdale and has to forgo the gin).

There are another four, ridiculous variants on this diet, clearly designed to pad out the book rather than the fridge. The Gourmand version: replace grapefruit with 'exotic fruit salad', assorted cheese 'wedges' (so much more exotic than 'slices'); Lobster a la Nage and grilled filet mignon (to replace Sunday's grilled steak). The International version: Monday, American Day; Shrimp cocktail. Tuesday, Japanese day: Tori shrimp and chicken. Wedesday, French day: One hard boiled egg (??) and artichoke provencale. Thursday, Italian Day: Pickled aubergine and cheese sticks. Sunday: Hawaiian day: Pineapple surprise Aloha. Also, the vegetarian version and the money-saver version (the same as the original, but with cheaper cuts of meat).

There follows another TWENTY FOUR pages of hints, tips and questions, to explain this not very complicated diet. Apparently, one scarsdale dieter finds it useful to have the following sign taped to her fridge: "Keep America Beautiful - stick to the Scarsdale Diet. There are no forbidden foods in this house". Three randomly unconnected facts, clearly designed to confuse you when heading for the fridge - you would therefore spend so much time wondering what this actually means that you forget what you went there for in the first place.

More questions:

Q: Lunch on Wednesday includes tuna fish. Can I add carrots to this.
(My) A: Yes!! It's not the carrots that are making you fat!!

(My favourite) Q: I feel terribly guilty - at breakfast with the family I let go and ate three sweet rolls and six slices of buttered toast. What should I do? Starve for a few days?
Dr Tarnower's much more sympathetic than mine would have been A: We all have our failings. This is not catastrophic. Start again. (Lardass)

Q: My husband warns that losing weight will weaken me, and with a houseful of kids I must stay strong. Is he right?
A: Your husband sounds like a twat. Leave him.

Despite all this, I'm still willing to give this a go. Wednesday morning. Weight 145lbs. Have stuck to breakfast and lunch, and am about to go and whip up a chicken salad for dinner. Will weigh myself every day. 20lbs in two weeks would be just marvellous, thank you very much.

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