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The OMG diet: as silly as it sounds?
Venice A Fulton's Essex-inspired weight loss manual has made him a publishing sensation and internet whipping boy. But is there sound science behind the youth-speak?
“I am aware throughout history that when you present a new idea you’re going to get resistance at the beginning,” Fulton says gravely. “You’re almost certainly going to be laughed at. But the important thing is to rise above obscurity in terms of getting these ideas out there.”
Oh come on. We’re talking about fitting into our bikinis for summer, not Galileo saying the world was round. But it’s very clear, very quickly, that Fulton takes himself seriously. And in fairness, his “you go, girlfriend” style conceals some serious science. He has a degree in sports science from the University of Bedfordshire and, he explains, his jaunty language and enthusiastic employment of exclamation marks is an expedient to communicate complex research to the dumb masses. “It took quite a long time to take scientific language and turn it into something everyone could read.”
The book may take its content from old-fashioned academic journals, but we all know it was inspired by the perma-tanned, vajazzled Towie girls and their eternal quest for size zero. Fulton blushes deeply and buries his head in his hands. “That’s really annoying, I don’t know where that came from. I’ve never even seen Towie. My only inspiration was helping people.” Why, if he’s so evidently appalled by the Towie connection, did he choose a flamboyant pen-name like Venice?
“I travel a lot to Venice [Beach, in California], it’s the home of healthy culture, of macro-fitness,” he replies awkwardly. “I wanted it to be a name that could be either a man or a woman, to give the book the greatest appeal possible. I didn’t know it would be perceived in a variety of ways.”
As for the contentious subtitle. “I made a list of about 20 and that was simply the one friends liked best – it’s not about pitting woman against woman. I had no idea what I was unleashing.” He sounds disingenuous, but I believe him. Fulton’s thrilled at his success, but he’s clearly also overwhelmed by it. Once our interview ends he’s delightful, but in the hot seat he’s prickly and defensive.
He began writing the book, he says, after seeing the furore surrounding Pippa Middleton’s Dukan-dieted bottom. Since he’d long been successfully testing his weight-loss theories on clients (A-list celebrities, according to his publicity blurb, although none is named), he decided it was time to share them with the world.
His original ambitions, however, weren’t as a writer, but as an actor. Personal training was merely a day job, although his career highlight to date has been playing a Death Eater in a Harry Potter film. “I’ve done some acting,” he says warily, the only personal gem he’ll reveal besides acknowledging he went to a “posh” school. His book is gushingly dedicated to “Bella”, but Fulton won’t talk about that – it’s all about the diet.
Or sorry, not the diet. “I didn’t want to call my plan a diet. The idea of eating less is really quite restrictive, and psychologically, feeling a deficit is not a good way to approach a problem. I’m very proud the word diet doesn’t appear on the book cover.” He picks up a copy and blenches. “Oh. Actually, it does.” But only in a newspaper quote, his publicist hastily points out. “Yes, that’s just an endorsement. Anyway, diet is a hackneyed word.”
So, apparently, is exercise. When I utter the word, Fulton shakes his head, in sorrow more than anger. “We don’t call it exercise any more, it’s moving around. Exercise is a really scary concept for some people.” Far scarier to me is daily cold baths. “Honestly, as painful as that sounds, there’s nothing as painful as having low self esteem that you get from being overweight. That’s something that stays with you throughout the entire day, whereas a cold bath is 15 minutes of relative – I wouldn’t even call it discomfort – it’s just something new.”
Hateful they may sound, but cold baths have indeed been shown, since Egyptian times, to significantly raise metabolic rates. In fact, all Fulton’s bonkers-sounding claims are supported by solid research. Two black coffees on an empty stomach will help burn calories quicker. Fruit may sound healthy but intake should be limited because fructose contains leptin, which blocks signals to the body that it’s full.
Blowing up balloons indeed works our transversus abdominal muscles. Broccoli may be good for you, but it also contains carbs — and Fulton, like many before him, urges us to eat no more than the equivalent volume of four iPhones a day of these baddies (an image that may be aimed at teenagers but which I find very helpful), while increasing our protein intake.
His advice to skip breakfast is commonly held to be a diet-crime punishable by a lifetime in XXL jeans. In fact, evidence shows that if you exercise first thing on an empty stomach (after a cold bath and two black coffees), you’ll burn fat faster.
More than his methods, however, what many dislike about Fulton is his chatty, slangy tone and his “Get the skinny on” slogan. This, they say, is aggressively targeting teenagers — the group most at risk of bulimia and anorexia. “The language may make it look like the book’s written for teens, but it’s written for everyone, and actually the people buying it aren’t teens on the whole, they’re people in their thirties,” Fulton says. Please! The second sentence reads: “Your parents might think you shouldn’t read this.” “Adults have mums and dads,” he retorts. What about ignoring “friends” who tell you “it’s just puppy fat?”
“OK, I do say that. Look, my point is that at any age if you’re told you’re [physically] fine when you’re not, it’s like someone hammering nails through your palms while telling you to stop complaining.”
Actually, I like how Fulton points out that friends who insist dieting is vain and you’re beautiful just the way you are, may have a hidden agenda — to keep you fat like them. There’s also no doubt that fat kills far more people than any eating disorder. Two out of three Britons is medically overweight. Obesity costs the NHS £4 billion a year and shortens lives by between three and 10 years.
“You can talk ethics all day, but the truth is if you have a problem with others wanting to get skinny, you’ve got a problem with our body’s design,” he says. “Humans are not supposed to have bellies. The minute we carry extra weight, we’re adding to a load of health problems. People who look after themselves aren’t vain, they’re smart.”
Fulton, at any rate, is clearly no fool. As they say in Towie, I’m “well jel” of his bank account. No doubt I’d be awed by his body too, if he’d only unveil it. I still can’t face a cold bath, but I’m definitely off to buy some balloons.
FAD OR FAB? An extract from ‘Six weeks to OMG’
The case against breakfast
Starting tomorrow, or whenever you begin your plan, I want you to stop eating breakfast. Yes, skip breakfast! Some experts, and just as many cereal manufacturers, claim that skipping breakfast makes you eat more in total. That can be true in the short term. But even then, this just hides the most important fact. And that fact, which they can’t deny or dare mention, is that eating food first thing in the morning stops all fat burning. Instantly.
Cold baths burn calories
The bathtub. You probably think that it’s just a place to have a soak, wash your hair, and forget all your worries. Well, if some of your worries are about being too fat or having thighs that make you cry, consider those worries lifted! How? Water absorbs heat, lots of it, and it does it much quicker than air. The colder you get, the more your body boosts heat production to keep you warm. As it does, some heat gets lost through skin. When you’re losing heat, you’re losing energy. This energy has to come from somewhere. All water, compared to the same air temperature, will help you lose calories fast.Start your morning with an ice cold bath.
Black coffee is magic
Coffee. Nice? Yuk? Something that teachers drink? Why care, we just want to burn fat! And coffee can help. It’s nature’s cheap and secret potion. The magic in the potion is caffeine. Caffeine boosts the central nervous system (like cold baths), the thing that controls most of your movement and electrical activity. When you have it on an empty stomach, it tells your body to burn fat much faster. Mixed with milk and sugar or sweeteners, plus a donut or three, coffee turns into a useless drug! It really has a chemical Jekyll and Hyde split personality.Drink black coffee.
Eat little, not very often
I realise that the idea of eating three meals per day seems old- fashioned. Guess what? Being fat is a modern fashioned problem! Body fat exists to give us energy when we’re not taking any in. This can only happen in gaps between meals. The more often you eat, the shorter the gaps get. Three meals are ideal. It’s plenty for getting variety into our diet, it’s spaced out enough to let us burn body fat in between meals, and it’s social too.
Blow the fat away
Some notice that working out or being skinny doesn’t make their stomach truly flat. And that’s because most movements don’t work a special muscle that our eyes can’t see. And if we can’t even see it, being skinny doesn’t much help it. It’s called the transversus. How can we train this hidden gem? By blowing up balloons! It sounds weird, but it works, and works quickly.
'Six Weeks to OMG' by Venice A Fulton (Michael Joseph, RRP £12.99) is available from Telegraph Books for £11.99, plus £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1516 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk
This article also appeared in SEVEN magazine, free with The Sunday Telegraph. Follow SEVEN on Twitter @TelegraphSeven.