"It made me thinner and I was mad for it. And made mad by it. My bottom still shivers at the memory” … Chrissie Swan. Photo: Julian Kingma
How are your New Year's resolutions going a month down the track? Especially the one about trifle-induced kilos? Not good? Fear not – most of us have fallen off that wagon more times than bears thinking about.
If it makes you feel any better, I found a diary from when I was 12 years old, and among my resolutions was a commitment to "get skinny". Didn't work. In fact, nothing I've tried has worked. And I've tried more things than you. Trust me.
Firstly, I paid to go to weekly weigh-ins at a major weight-loss cult as a teenager to shed the kilos. Which I did. Mainly through the use of whipped skim milk as a snack. I'd throw half a cup of the stuff into the food processor and after a few seconds I'd have a cup of Nescafé-flavoured fluff. It satisfied me for roughly four minutes then repeated on me so badly I'd foam at the mouth like a distressed snail for the rest of the day. But "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels", remember?
Next came a dodgy doctor. They don't really exist any more – but wow, did they ever set up shop in the early '90s! Admittedly, my "weight-loss specialist" was surprisingly spry for what I imagine was his 178 years. Like Nosferatu, he would seemingly float from room to room, with desperate fat people lining up for an injection of ... something.
Every week I'd show up and bare my ever decreasing bottom for a shot of ... what was that? Horse wee? Who knows, but it made me thinner and I was mad for it. And made mad by it. My bottom still shivers at the memory. I did ask him once what exactly was in the needle and he hissed, "What does it matter? Haven't I made you able to cross your legs like a lady?"
Also, he prescribed something that has now undoubtedly been banned by whatever authority it is that doesn't like people to die. These pills gave me heart palpitations, but in my mania I thought, "So what if I have a heart attack? I'm thinner!" I'd just take one a day and forget about eating. I could not, however, forget the condition of my mouth, as it was as grainy and dry as a Ryvita biscuit, and emitted an odour not unlike something you might slip over in an off-leash dog park. I was awake and chattering constantly. I think I shed about 20kg in six minutes. And put on 25kg the minute I went off the mystery injections and pills and gave in to a meal consisting of 14 forms of potato. I remember eating that particular dish like a wolfhound cross who'd been rescued by the RSPCA.
Down the track I joined another weight-loss club which ran meetings in a local church hall. I can't believe what happened here, but it did, and I am sharing it with you now. This organisation was loosely based on the global whipped-milk cult I mentioned earlier and had the most bizarre rituals I've ever come across. And remember, I'm Catholic.
Weekly meetings lasted for two whole hours and went in phases. Phase one was the weigh-in. It's possible I have stood on more sets of scales in my lifetime than anyone in the known universe, so I was essentially unperturbed by this part. But I should've known I'd stepped back in time, or at least entered a Narnia-style wardrobe, when the measurements were in pounds and ounces and the woman who recorded our weights used a quill. A great snack, she said, was cottage cheese and pineapple. On a Savoy cracker. Well lady, let me tell you, I know something here is crackers and it's not the Savoys.
Halfway through the meeting you'd receive your allocation of buttons. Yes, buttons. From the haberdashery. You'd get one for every pound you lost. The first few weeks after I joined I had a severe case of tonsillitis and was so sick I could barely eat, which is usually a terrible thing, except for when you're on a hell-bent mission for buttons.
I wanted those buttons. I was like Gollum for The Ring. I lost something like 7kg in a fortnight, because I was basically dying, but I got 16 whole buttons. Now, don't ask what came over me but I went home after those meetings and sewed the buttons onto a green felt bib I was given on joining and wore it every meeting around my neck like a dental patient.
After a month of massive weight loss I had shed more than anyone else and was crowned the Queen of the Club. This involved a ceremony where I stood in front of the entire "congregation" in a long green cloak (no doubt to match my heavily buttoned bib) while carrying a sceptre. Yes, a sceptre. I got to take home a fruit hamper comprising one piece of fruit brought in by every member of the group. I am not kidding.
I just Googled to see if these meetings still exist, and they do. In fact, the one in which I was Queen is still going strong. They walk among us, people. Do not be alarmed. And don't forget to bring your bruised banana for the Queen's hamper.
So if your New Year's resolution is to lose weight, do not do as I have done. These days, I walk as much as I can, am teetotal and eat lots of vegies for fun. I am happier. Sure, I'm still heavier than I should be, but I have so much more time to enjoy life now that I don't have to sew on buttons, whip milk or proffer a cheek for a shot of "leg-crosser".
This article first appeared in Sunday Life.
Have you tried any ridiculous diets yourself? Have your say in the comments below ...