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In a previous incarnation I spent a lot of time travelling the highways and byways of the British Isles. Inevitably, I often ended up stopping for a cup of tea at a burger van in a lay-by in some godforsaken spot. You know the sort of thing. Burgers, sausages, bacon, fried eggs, the ‘All Day Breakfast Stick’ that could give you atheromas merely if you saw one.

Pretty much invariably the clientele were fat, hairy-arsed truckers. I did meet one charming transvestite once; he drove a Citroen 2CV painted in camouflage colours. But in the main, the customers were big, and consumed enough calories to keep a Third World village going for a couple of weeks.

One of the major topics of conversation was, paradoxically, dieting and weight loss. I would listen fascinated, but silent. There was no way I was going to annoy blokes who were built like amateur Sumo wrestlers. If two of them gutbarged me from either side you could have slid my remains under the door at the Chapel of Rest.

There were some bizarre theories, expounded with all seriousness.

Broccoli burns fat. No it doesn’t. Nor does grapefruit, or raspberries.

Never eat after 8:00 PM. Won’t make scrap of difference. Trust me on this.

Eat what you like, but only eat two meals a day. Really? Does that work? Here’s a hint. No it doesn’t.

Give up bread and potatoes. I actually saw some bloke order an all day breakfast stick, and say ‘But without the stick please.’ As if the two fried eggs, two sausages, two rashers of bacon, fried mushrooms, and fried tomatoes were a calorie-free part of his five-a-day.

I kid you not, I saw another bloke stuff his face with two egg, bacon, and cheeseburgers while chatting happily between gargantuan bites about his gastric bypass in a few weeks’ time. Incidentally, I know someone who had this done. He can’t eat a great deal at one sitting now, but the operation hasn’t stopped him drinking my bodyweight in beer a day. He dropped from 35 stone (near enough 500 lbs for the Transatlanteans) to a much more manageable 16 stone/250 lbs or so, but it’s piling back on. He can’t understand why.

At the same time there was some remarkable inconsistency. These guys would order a week’s worth of fat then insist on no milk in the tea/coffee, and ask for sweeteners, not sugar. I first encountered this phenomenon in New York. I had a martini lunch, wine with the meal. One of my companions had an entire rack of lamb with a hugely rich sauce, sautéed potatoes, sweetcorn with butter. Another had a 20oz steak, and a green salad with no dressing. Coffee time, had to be black with Sweet’n’Lo. Weird.

The only way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories per day than your body uses. You can get your own Basal Metabolic Rate measured, but a rule of thumb is that men need about 2000 calories a day, and women about 1800. So drop the number of calories you take in to below 2000 or 1800 calories. Your body will then have to find alternative sources of energy, and will begin to use up its reserves. Fat’s difficult to shift, because it’s there for when the going gets really tough, and your body will use it sparingly. That’s a bummer, but there you are.

One last thing. There’s no such thing as ‘Oh those calories don’t count,’ so no cheating. Avocados are good for you yes, but they’re highly calorific, so you can’t take them in under the radar just because they’re ‘good’ calories.

One last question. In the library, in bookshops, in healthfood stores, there are all manner of books extolling the virtues of this or that crank diet plan. By definition, they can’t all work, now can they? So most of them have to be peddling falsehoods or commercial dieting products. Just eat and drink less. That’s the way to do it, if you must.

I do hope I haven’t rained on your Independence Day celebrations in the US.