Health: Hyptotist Mckenna's Slimming Diet

'Bullshit', says hypnotist Mr.Paul Mckenna, emphatically.
'You can't spare 30 minutes? Bullshit. 'If taking half an hour more over lunch means you are going to live longer and reduce your chance of diabetes or heart disease, 'I'd take the half-hour. If you are such an important person and you are so busy, then fine: Stay overweight'.
We are sitting in Mr.Mckenna's chi-chi bachelor pad in Kensington, central London, discussing his new book, 'I Can Make You Thin'. I have ventured the opinion that his advice to eat slowly is quite difficult to follow. What if you have to grab a sandwich on the run? How can you consciously enjoy every mouthful of breakfast if you have to initiate a search and rescue mission for a lost gym shoe before getting three children to school? Mr.Mckenna is having none of it. He has heard every excuse going and can take out objections with Exocet precision.
'People say my advice won't work for them because they are a mother of three or because they drink. 'So what are they saying: that there are no thin mothers of three or no thin drinkers? I know that's the story they've been telling themselves for years but I don't buy it; you can lie to anyone else -- but don't lie to yourself; otherwise you are in "big trouble"'.
If anyone knows that denial is not just a river in Egypt, it is Mr.Paul Mckenna. In the billion-dollar diet industry -- which generates more hot air, flannel and soft soap than the average poodle parlour -- Mr.Mckenna's approach is refreshingly direct. The beauty of his new book is that it manages to be both bitingly radical and blindingly obvious. I am a complete diet 'sceptic' but even I can't see how Mr.Mckenna's advice could fail to work. It transpires that Mr.Mckenna is a diet sceptic, too. He is agreeably cynical about most things. There is a cartoon strip on the wall outside his study with the punchline:
'Hypnotism is not only about people making fools of themselves on stage. It's also about selling videos'. 'Dieting is a terrible, cynical profit-driven trick as far as I'm concerned', says Mr.Mckenna, lounging on a large cream sofa, while assistants, dogs and electricians come and go.
Work is being done on the house and interruptions are inevitable, but Mr.Mckenna, who is reassuringly lean, remains totally focused.
'The world's gone mad. I think we will look back on the whole 20th-century dieting phenomenon the way we now look on attempting to cure people with leeches'.
Why does he think society has become so obsessed with obesity?
'There are a number of factors', he says. 'Advertising has changed. Portion sizes have got bigger. Social trends have changed. Fifty years ago women looked liked Marilyn Monroe and that is how women should look. 'But we've got these girls -- these stick-insect models -- who look like little boys and are not representative of the vast majority. 'I know some of them and they are very miserable because they are hungry all the time. So we have some very bad role models. These girls are not thin because they are doing yoga. They are thin because they are throwing up their food'.
So Mr.Mckenna, how come you are always dating gorgeous, marvellously slender beauties? There has been a succession of lissom lovelies such as Ms.Liz Fuller, the model, and Ms.Penny Lewis, the breakfast telly girl. On cue, Ms.Clare Staples, his one-time fianc´┐Że and current business associate, wanders into the room looking as if she has stepped from the pages of a glossy magazine. Don't men like him just reinforce the myth? He has the grace to laugh.
'Have I been out with someone who is not classically good-looking? Nah, I don't think so', he says. 'In a quest of selflessness I suppose I could date a really fat woman to make everyone feel better. But I like what I like. There are certain character traits that I am drawn to and they are not always good, so I've done a little work on myself and changed that. I've got a friend who says I tend to date the captain of the netball team'.
Some netball team. He thinks we have become too hung up on why obesity is on the increase and too unfocused on what to do about it.
'Why someone is overweight isn't important to me. I'm an engineer, not a theorist. Why are we an obese culture? Who cares? 'How are we going to change it? That's the smarter question'.
Changing it is very simple if Mr.Mckenna is to be believed. Compared with the weighty diet tomes littering the bookshelves, Mr.Mckenna's new book is svelte to the point of 'anorexia'. He clearly knows his audience.
'My editor wanted a big thick book and we had a bit of a battle about it', he says. 'People are buying solutions. If they need something to read they can go and get "The Da Vinci Code". This is a quick solution for people interested in instant gratification. Like Einstein said: "Make it as simple as you can and no simpler"'.
At the risk of costing him sales by sharing his secret -- and as the book is at No 2 in the Amazon Hot 100 list -- I think we can risk it, Mr.Mckenna sets four golden rules. These are:
'Eat when you are hungry. Eat what you want, never what you think you should. Eat consciously and enjoy every mouthful. Stop when you even think your body is full'.
There is a hypnotism weight-loss CD with the book which Mr.Mckenna says is important -- but which seems gimmicky to me -- and there is a technique for controlling cravings. But it all hinges on the four rules. Mr.Mckenna is prepared to boil it down further.
'If you change only one thing about the way you eat, do this: Consciously enjoy every mouthful'. It is he says, as simple as that.
There is no calorie counting, weighing -- Mr.Mckenna advocates chucking away the scales -- no food combining, depravation or formal exercise and not a grapefruit or a bowl of cabbage soup in sight.
'I used to give a little bit of nutritional information but now I don't', he says. 'Everyone else is doing that and I don't want to detract from the core message. As soon as you trust your body, you start eating healthily pretty quickly'.
Mr.Mckenna has used his techniques to help all kinds of phobias and addictions. He is the man the stars turn to when their neuroses or lifestyles get out of control. Mr.Robbie Williams, the Duchess of York, Ms.Sophie Dahl, Ms.Geri Halliwell, Mr.David Bowie, Ms.Daryl Hannah and the Beckhams have all credited Mr.Mckenna with helping them. Mr.Greg Rusedski's recent return to form was put down to his involvement with Mr.Mckenna. Doesn't he get driven nuts by endless requests for help?
'I don't mind', he says. 'I'm very happy to help people. I'm very passionate about this and I like doing it. But sometimes I do have to be quite candid with people'.
He recently turned down a man who offered him 100_000_GBP to make him stop smoking. Mr.Mckenna told him he was a highly irresponsible person who wanted other people to make decision for him.
'The kindest thing I can do is be direct', he says. 'People have been patronised by the diet industry for so long. 'It's not their fault they are overweight, but it is their responsibility. 'If you are over-eating, it's not because you can't stick to a diet. 'The cards are stacked against you from the start; who can starve themselves and do it for their whole life? 'The answer is less than 10 per cent. That's the number of people for whom dieting works. Most people just end up putting on more weight when they come off the diet'.
He doesn't believe in the idea of addictive personalities.
'I think your environment can have a lot to do with your behaviour, but I don't think there is anything genetic about it', he says. 'What I am doing is showing people how to have greater control over their thoughts and feelings. 'I don't have all the answers. I still have as many problems and challenges as I used to, but they are not so overwhelming now because I use these techniques'.
He jokingly refers to having 'healed the inner nerd'. It hasn't stopped him buying a Ferrari, however. Mr.Mckenna BELIEVES IN a number of largely unproven techniques, from 'acupuncture' and 'reflexology' to 'laying-on of hands' and when he starts talking about working with 'incurables' and making the blind see, my scepticism gets the better of me. But he believes passionately in empowering the individual to take responsibility for their own behaviour and he has no time for our victim-worshipping, therapy-driven culture.
'What I do know is that analysis doesn't work', he says. 'Making people who have suffered trauma go through it again and again is like taking somebody with a broken leg and throwing them downstairs until they feel better. 'Human beings are very mechanical. Yes, there is all this wonderful emotional and spiritual stuff but when it comes to behaviour, let's keep it mechanical. It stops people going off at tangents and getting into unhelpful stuff. 'If somebody has a dysfunctional behaviour they are fulfilling something positive for themselves through that. 'Many people who overeat are getting a 'serotonin' high from shovelling food in very fast. They are changing the way they feel, perhaps because they can't cope with the stresses in their lives. 'What they are doing is purposeful but not logical. To correct that you don't need to go on a voyage of analysis'.
The entertainment side of his work has given him the profile he needs to promote the therapeutic side of his work. He employs over 20 people who help run his training company. Entertainment and self-improvement will come together in a new television series -- the ultimate makeover show, I guess. As obesity has become a political issue, has he been approached by politicians?
'The vast majority of politicians are not really interested in trying to improve the quality of life of the average person', he says. 'They are interested in getting elected and lining their own pockets. Also, my technique would be a controversial thing to align themselves to'.
What Mr.Mckenna advocates is common sense. The techniques he uses in the new book are the methods thin people use, subconsciously. It's about normal, natural eating. That this should be considered either radical or controversial says a great deal about the mumbo-jumbo which has replaced rational thought as a basis for action in our society. Before I leave, he reveals that it was his agent who bullied him into writing the book -- after he lost 25.5_kg in six months with Mr.Mckenna's method.
'He wanted me to help him lose weight', he says, 'and I said: "You're the most cynical f**ker I've ever met. You won't listen to a bloody word I say." 'After he'd been on at me for two or three weeks, I gave in. Of course, everything I said to him, he challenged. I ended up saying: "Just shut up and do what I say. What do you want to be: thin or right?"'.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Mr.Paul Mckenna. It's not just hypnotic, it's also highly entertaining. 'Mckenna has the power to make you thin', Gillian Bowditch, The Scotsman, 2005-02-04, Fr


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