Pinned to my mother Shirley’s fridge on yellowing, curled paper is a handwritten copy of a two-week crash diet. It has been there since 1979, the year she decided she wanted to shed a stone in a fortnight. Its survival is testament to the faith she holds in it.
Among other tortures while on the diet, she allows herself no more than half a grapefruit and a slice of dry toast with black coffee each morning. Lunch is a few cold cuts of meat and a side of vegetables, and dinner is similar. On a typical day this will amount to about 650 calories.
Now 78, you would have thought she’d have deserted this gruelling regime and allowed herself to go into diet retirement.
But like so many women of her generation, she believes the occasional fortnight of eating little is key to a svelte figure and good health.
Such extreme slimming plans have drifted out of fashion in the past few decades. Crash diets are supposed to slow your metabolism down, leading to more weight gain when you stop.
These days, the mantra recited by the medical profession is steady weight loss rather than starvation. And being curvy – a la Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks – is in vogue.
But it may be time to reconsider this approach. And my mother, with her maddening crash diet, might be on to something. Tomorrow, a BBC TV Horizon investigation looks into the health benefits of fasting…