India Knight and Neris Thomas, co-authors of “Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet,” at one point weighed 434 pounds collectively, and they decided enough was enough. Their goal was to lose 140 of those pounds in under a year. As they say in their book, “if two unusually greedy, cocktail-loving moms can lose this amount of weight without much effort, so can anyone.” Here's an excerpt:
IntroductionSo here we have it: yet another diet book.
And none of the usual qualifications for writing one, either — we’re not doctors, we’re not nutritionists, we’re not over-the-hill movie stars. We’re not unusually obsessed by other people’s poos, happily enough. We have no immediate plans for an exercise DVD.
Ho no. We can do better than that.
Between us, Neris and I have lost 140 pounds, give or take the odd pound. It took us a year, and we have maintained the weight loss. One hundred forty pounds is a lot of weight.
It’s as much as a whole other person (Lordy, what a thought). And we think it’s pretty damned impressive. Unusual, too. Show us a diet book written by someone who’s actually lost more than a few measly pounds and we’ll eat a whole bag of potatoes and a tub of lard for seconds. Other diet book writers talk the talk. We walk the walk. Well, we walk it now. We used to just waddle, thighs chafing attractively together.
That’s the problem with the usual diet books. We’re not going to say they don’t work, because many of them do — the majority, probably — why wouldn’t they? All kinds of diets work; the problem is sticking to them. That’s because diet books are not written by people with a lot of weight to lose. They don’t come from the minds of the formerly fat. So you get these grim, gloomy volumes of finger-wagging directions: boil a fish, steam a sprout, run for two hours. And those books are unbelievably depressing. They make you feel like you’ve been punished, excluded from normal life, and they make you want to give up before you’ve even begun.
They expect you to do ridiculous things, and eat in a ridiculous way — one that, we’ve found, is not sustainable in the long term, and that is of itself incredibly demoralizing. Most diets are a disaster if you have families; they sit there with their delicious dinner, you sit there nibbling on a leaf, feeling like a leper. It’s just horrible.We really like food — this diet was conceived and developed in a restaurant. Neris and I used to meet for lunch every week and one summer afternoon, a couple of bottles in, we got to talking about weight, for the hundredth time. Neris had just bought The GI Diet and could make neither head nor tail of it; India — as you will read in a minute — had had a moment of extreme sartorial crisis in a department store. We both knew we needed to lose weight and suddenly, during our conversation, the idea became a real possibility — because it occurred to us that we could do it together. Two minds are better than one, after all, and we liked (rightly, it turns out) the idea of the inbuilt support system. We’re greedy, which is how we came to be so weeble-ish in the first place. And while we understood, when we first embarked on our diet, that we would obviously have to make some sacrifices, we didn’t want to feel like total freaks, either. We wanted to be able to go out for dinner. We wanted to eat at friends’ houses without first having to email them a great, long, tiresomely anti-social list of our dietary requirements. We wanted to go to the pub, on girls’ nights out, to weddings, to parties, and not feel like Fatty on a Diet sitting in the corner with a diet soda and a crudité.
We all know what to do to lose weight, in theory: eat less and move around more just about covers it. Makes sense. Sounds perfectly reasonable. Indeed, it is perfectly reasonable, if you want to lose five pounds. But the eat-less/move-more method is a thin person’s mantra, and comes from a thin person’s mindset. If you’re the kind of person who weighs 112 pounds and occasionally “forgets to eat,” eat-less/move-more is blindingly obvious and true. But we’ve never forgotten to eat — in fact, we used to be starving hungry at pretty much any given time of the day. We don’t have a thin person’s mindset, one that assumes the self-discipline that many dieters — ourselves included — find easy to grasp in theory but rather trickier to put into practice. For us, eat-less/move-more simply isn’t enough. Nice idea, but some people are just, well, too fat for such a vague instruction. Besides, eat-less/move-more doesn’t even begin to address what goes on in your head when it comes to food, or the fact that so much overeating is emotional. And it fails to acknowledge that the gym is anathema if you’re uncomfortable with the concept of crop tops, bare arms and paying for the pleasure of being in a room full of toned, trim people who are your physical opposites. If it were really as simple as eating a wee bit less and doing more sit-ups, we’d all be waifs.
What we wanted was to find a way of eating that was on the one hand very straightforward — no calorie-counting, no points, no having to think too hard — and on the other incredibly detailed. We wanted a plan to adhere to. A serious plan that went into minute detail, but that was flexible. Not two week’s worth, either; we wanted precise directions to stick to for as long as it took — which is why this book gives you a lifetime’s worth of instructions. And we wanted recipes that we’d want to cook regardless of whether or not we were on a diet (and cheaty, easy-peasy recipes for when we didn’t feel like cooking). We wanted to know what to eat and drink in any number of situations, at any given time of day — including feeling a bit peckish at midnight, or weirdly ravenous at 11 a.m. — so that we never had to pause to ask ourselves what was and what wasn’t allowed. It feels very comforting, sticking to a plan in this way, and sooner or later you learn it by heart and it becomes second nature.
And it absolutely, 100 percent hand-on-heart works: check out the pictures for the rather hideously graphic evidence.
Is it easy? Kind of. We’re going to start this book as we mean to go on, which means absolutely no lies (it works both ways: we don’t want you to lie to yourself any more either — much more on this later). For the majority of the time, it’s so easy that you completely forget you’re on a diet. Sometimes it’s harder. Very occasionally, you’ll feel pretty majorly pissed off, to be frank. But the elation you feel as the pounds drop off and the compliments start flowing should override any difficulties, and besides, you’re going to be eating delicious food — warm, hearty, rib-sticking food of the kind that is not usually associated with the word “diet.”
We’re not expecting you to survive on salad. Our way of eating is not going to interfere with your life, either. It just quietly goes on in the background while you get on with the other stuff, such as selling your too-big clothes on eBay once a month. In terms of easiness, the thing we found vitally important about our diet was to understand that in order for it to work, the transformation — the moment when it all clicks into place — needs to happen before you start out, not after. That means right now. There will, obviously, be a dramatic physical transformation at the end of your diet, but we have discovered that for any diet to succeed, an emotional transformation is not only necessary but crucial.
That means starting off at a place of self-love, not self-disgust.
It means making the most of yourself right now — not tomorrow, not in a month, not in a year’s time. We know you’re beautiful now (and we’re going to be showing you ways of building on that) — but we need you to believe it too. In our now considerable experience, no diet will work long term until that “mental click.” It is a powerful and invaluable tool. If you have no idea of what we’re talking about here, read on: the first part of the book is all about getting you to the point where you have faith in yourself.
We’re working mothers, with four children between us. We have babies, jobs, dogs, partners, houses to clean, chores to do, homework to supervise, stuff going on. We don’t have the time to cook ourselves separate meals, or to avoid the supermarket for fear of temptation, or to work out for a couple of hours a day. Life is short, and we are busy. And yet, almost miraculously, we’ve dropped all this horrible weight (and yes, it was horrible. Horrible, horrible, horrible) without much hardship. We thought we’d tell you how we did it.
We make no spectacular claims for the diet; like we said above, all sorts of diets work. We chose to go the low-carb route. There is no earth-shattering hype to the way we dieted, no magic trick, except 1: it works — and how; 2: it allows you to live a normal life; and 3: crucially, you don’t feel deprived, punished, denied, or like you’re sitting in the corner wearing a big Fatty hat.
Neris and I were lucky — we did the diet together, which was like having your own mini support system. This book is here to fulfill the same function: think of it not just as a manual but as your friend, there by your side through thick and thin, through success and failure, through the bad days as well as the good ones. Carry it in your handbag. Re-read it often. Scribble in it and make notes. Let the recipe pages get sticky with use. Learn to love it — and yourself. It won’t let you down.
Before that, though, let’s go back to the beginning. How did we get so bloody fat in the first place? Do try to read this next bit, and not skip straight to the actual diet, because we have found that understanding how and why we got fat really helped us to understand how and why to stay thin, or thinner. That’s another thing: we’re not body-fascists.
We don’t believe that everyone should be a size eight (or, God forbid, a size two). By all means, go ahead and shrink to an eight if that’s what you really want, but please understand that there’s a cut-off point. If you started off being a size sixteen, for instance, you may find yourself blissfully, deliriously happy being a size twelve. Remember that, a: you need to set yourself realistic goals, because crazily unrealistic goals are the ones that are easiest to abandon; and b: there comes a stage in weight-loss when your face goes all wrinkly and gaunt, like a very old monkey’s, and in our book it’s a stage best avoided. Wrinkly and gaunt is not a good look on anyone. Also, grim things can happen to your boobs, if you go from vast to minute. More on this in the relevant chapter, but please bear it in mind. You want to look fabulous — and more often than not, that means curvy, not anorexic.
This is especially true if you’re anywhere upwards of forty, because if you want to keep wrinkles at bay and generally look well, rather than gaunt or slightly simian, you have to be careful not to get too skinny. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that, past forty, you need to choose between your arse and your face. We say it’s a no-brainer: go for the face, every time. Unless you work in the adult film industry and earn your living as somebody’s arse-double, obviously.So, the pudge. How did it get there? How did we get to the point where we became experts at avoiding communal changing rooms, at never acknowledging a full-length mirror, at flicking past the fashion pages of magazines because not a lot of clothes came in our size, at never having sex on top (excess flesh + gravity = aargh)? It’s a long story, but worth telling, we think, because chances are yours is pretty similar.
Excerpted from "Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet," by India Knight and Neris Thomas. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.