The Ballast diet has taken the international slimming world by storm. Below is a transcript of a recent, rare radio interview with its creator, Professor Swan Morrison, in which he discusses the scheme in unprecedented detail.
'Hello Professor Morrison and welcome to the Breakfast Radio Show.'
'Thank you for inviting me onto your programme.'
'You've invented a revolutionary new weight loss scheme, the Ballast diet, that's been enthusiastically embraced by both celebrities and the public alike.'
'Before I ask you more about that, can I enquire about your professorship? Our researchers haven't been able to identify your university.'
'I don't think I have one. I got the title for twenty dollars from an American website.'
'In that case, what are you a professor of?'
'They didn't say.'
'You haven't had any training in medicine or nutrition then?'
'That's true. I'm totally unqualified to express any opinions on this subject.'
'OK, … well, … moving on to the subject of your influential diet, one might have been forgiven for thinking that there was no room for yet another dieting system on bookshop shelves. The market should already have been saturated with such schemes as the Atkins diet, the Mediterranean diet, the 5:2 diet, the Dukan diet, the Paleo diet, the Alkaline diet, the Cambridge diet, the South Beach diet, the Slimming World diet, the Slim-Fast diet, the LighterLife diet, the WeightWatchers diet, and the Rosemary Conley diet - to name just a tiny percentage of the weight management schemes available. Why, then, has the Ballast diet achieved such rapid international success?'
'In order to answer that question, it's important to understand the principles underlying weight loss. All successful diets are based on the first law of thermodynamics.'
'That sounds very scientific.'
'The first law of thermodynamics simply states that the total energy added to a system is equal to the energy expended by that system plus the energy it stores.'
'So how does that relate to weight loss?'
'In human terms, it means that the calories consumed by a person must either be expended in some way, for example burned to produce energy, or be stored as body tissue such as fat. Roughly speaking, there are three thousand five hundred calories in one pound of fat. If a person expends that many calories, over and above those consumed, that person will lose one pound in bodyweight.'
'You make it sound very simple.'
'It is very simple. Dieting schemes don't usually mention the first law of thermodynamics, however, as it has an equation and some mathematics in it. They, rather patronisingly, fear this may cause the eyes of many slimmers to glaze over.'
'I still don't understand how all this science can help people to lose weight - surely it's necessary to buy expensive slimming products and pay money to attend classes in order to actually shift the pounds.'
'The first law means that, if one discounts radical approaches to calorie loss such as liposuction or medication that reduces fat absorption, ordinary people have two ways in which they can generate a calorie deficit. One is to eat fewer calories, and the other is to take more exercise. All diets, prior to the advent of my Ballast diet, paid some attention to exercise, but were primarily based on reduction of calorie intake.'
'Why was that?'
'It's because the body is extremely efficient at processing food - in order to burn the calories in one normal sized slice of fruit cake, an average person would need to run for nearly an hour. No practical amount of normal exercise can keep pace with an uncontrolled calorie intake.'
'But the diets I mentioned earlier all seem so different.'
'The current plethora of diets are all fundamentally the same. Their differences are essentially psychological. Each attempts to disguise a calorie deficit in a way that encourages slimmers to stick to the diet. Some schemes have even hidden the concept of calorie deficit to such an extent that slimmers have to follow diet plans in much the same ritualistic manner as religious disciples. A successful outcome, therefore, seems more like magic than science - and the slimmers have no real grasp of what happened or why.'
'I thought there'd been scientific research to show that different diets affected the body in different ways.'
'There has, and they do. Some regimes are more metabolically efficient than others, for example, but those effects are marginal in comparison to the effect of maintaining overall calorie control. Diets don't succeed or fail because of some minor effect on the rate of metabolising fat - it's all about whether a slimmer can stick to any one of them for long enough.'
'I understand that the Ballast diet is radically different from all those other schemes.'
'The Ballast diet differs from all the others available because it creates weight loss primarily by burning calories rather than by reducing calorie intake.'
'But I thought you said that was impractical.'
'Many slimmers will recognise the fact that as they become lighter, it becomes less easy to shed the pounds. The major reason for this is that when a body is lighter, it requires less energy. A person who is two stones heavier than his or her neighbour requires extra energy to carry that additional bodyweight - rather as if he or she was carrying a rucksack around all day. An average person walking for thirty minutes burns roughly the same number of calories as his or her bodyweight in pounds.'
'So how does the Ballast diet make use of that fact?'
'The Ballast diet requires additional, external weights to be carried by a slimmer until bodyweight loss occurs, and then for that external weight to be maintained by ballast until the target bodyweight is reached.'
'Don't some obese people eat very large amounts of food - beyond that for which exercise can compensate?'
'At higher weights, the ballast prevents movement, and so, in extreme cases, the slimmer is unable to reach the fridge until some initial weight loss has occured.'
'How do slimmers carry the ballast around?'
'For small weight corrections, this can be achieved by, for example, carrying bricks in the bottom of a shopping bag or rocks in pockets. For larger corrections, belts and even full body suits are available from my company. These can be filled with water or sand to create the desired level of weight compensation. I think part of the appeal of this approach follows from the fact that a human body has roughly the same density as water. This means that by using water ballast in a body suit, a slimmer's physical size can remain constant. An existing wardrobe will still fit, therefore, all the way through the diet.'
'One of the most popular elements of your Ballast diet is that slimmers continue to eat as much as they want of whatever they like. Doesn't that mean that when their targets are reached, they'll be significantly overeating for their new weights?'
'It takes as long to gain weight as it does to lose it. People don't notice that fact as they're generally not struggling to gain weight. A maintenance programme comprising one week with ballast and one week without will generally maintain a target weight. Alternatively, continuing to carry fifty percent of the original ballast weight at all times avoids the need for two sizes of wardrobe. Wearing, sometimes, several stones of ballast also develops incredibly strong muscles and cardiovascular fitness - which is another advantage of this programme.'
'This is clearly brilliant, Professor Morrison. The one thing I don't understand, however, is that you claim to be totally unqualified to express any opinions on this subject. Despite that, everything you've said sounds as knowledgeable, scientific, and credible as explanations given by those promoting other popular diets.'
'That's a very interesting point you raise there, but I'll leave it to your listeners to draw their own conclusions on that one.'
'That's all we have time for, so thank you very much for joining us, Professor Morrison.'