It’s Lent: The Official Time to Start Sinning

Emma Mahony hates exercise and is a sinner at heart, so was delighted to discover a diet that lets you do a little of both.

The first Sunday in Lent is tomorrow, so if you have not already given up your sins, now is the moment. Not your smoking/drinking/Glenn Hoddle sort of sins, but sins in the Slimming World sense of the word.

The way to start is by calculating the sin value of all the food and drink that passes your lips (Bacardi and orange breezer: 13.5 sins), Then start chanting the slogan: “Fridge pickers wear bigger knickers”. And finally, start to lose weight by embarking on the sin-a-day eating plan. Banal it may be, but it works.

For all those who told me not to diet but to exercise, I thank you for your advice which was wholly useless. You forget that the last thing an overweight person feels like doing is exercise. When you are fat, you cannot even be bothered to get off the sofa to fetch the TV zapper let alone squeeze yourself into a leotard.

Nevertheless, it is to these armchair fitness fanatics that I owe my success. If I had not gone in search of a yoga class in deep suburban Surrey, I would never have found Slimming World. And I would never have shed my post-pregnancy stone. In Esher, there were no yoga classes, only four different slimming groups. And the Tuesday evening Slimming World class was the cheapest at Pounds 2.90.

For anyone who has ever done a 12-step program or been in group therapy, a slimming group is light relief. Who wants to get heavy when you are there to do the opposite? The discussion never focuses on why you are there, but rather on the merits of Fruitibix versus Shredded Wheat. You do not have to introduce yourself (“Hi, my name’s Emma and I’m a bit fat at the moment”) and you get clapped just for joining. And getting clapped is addictive.

It is almost worth joining just to watch the behavior that precedes the weekly weigh-in. One woman admitted, in front of the whole class, to timing her last visit to the loo immediately before she got on the scales. The girl at the front of the queue removed every jumper and even her socks before she approached the weighing machine.

The diet seems mathematically complex at first, until I clicked that it was a basic keep-your-fat-down-and-don’t-mix-your-carbohydrate-and- protein diet. Then there are all these fruits and vegetables which are wrongly named as “free foods”. In the first week, I spent Pounds 100 in Sainsbury’s only to lose 1lb. My calculator told me that I would be Pounds 1,400 lighter before I had shifted a stone.

The mathematical part was calculating the sin value of all your former favorite foods before you began the diet. With only ten sins allowed each day, a Big Mac (24.5 sins) was out of the question unless you saved it up over two days and then cheated. You were better off with a 35mg bar of Toblerone every day or, like most of the helmet-hairdos of Esher, having two (142ml) glasses of white wine (five sins each).

The O-level maths also came in useful when calculating how much of the “B” foods you were allowed every day (I never got beyond two pieces of brown bread), and for measuring out your milk or butter or cheese for your “A” foods. I never did buy any scales, having decided to enter into the spirit of the diet and still have a life. I lost weight by bombarding the stomach with fiber-rich food in place of the usual Walkers Roast Chicken crisps.

There is no doubt that the two-hour “image therapy” session (motto: “For those that stay, the weight goes away; for those that go, the weight goes slow”), which happen after the weigh-ins, is why the diet works. Only the goddess of fat knows why. All that clapping, the awards of half-stone stickers and slimmer-of-the-week fridge magnets must appeal to that sad side of ourselves which wants to belong. Even if it is to belong to the fatties’ club.

It took me five weeks to lose my stone, although I did move house in the last week (the second best weight-loser to splitting up with a boyfriend). And I have not put any weight back on since September. The diet sticks with you even after you leave. Unfortunately, so does the preoccupation with sins. If I look at someone eating Burger King’s new stealth chips, my first thought is – “17.5 sins”.

There are four categories in the Slimming World diet.

Each day you are allowed the following:

Free foods: (you can eat as much of these as you like): all fresh fruit and vegetables (including bananas, excluding potatoes), eggs, fish, meat, poultry, game A Foods (fats): 175ml of milk or 28g cheese or butter B Foods (carbohydrate and fibre): 2 slices of whole-meal bread or a can of baked beans or 100g whole-meal pasta.

Sins (you are allowed ten a day): Candyfloss (3) Jaffa Cake (2.5) Jam doughnut (9.5) Fried egg (1) 4 peanuts (1) Yorkshire pudding (3) Champagne, 142ml (5.5) Tequila shot (2.5) 3 Twiglets (0.5) Packet of cheesy Wotsits (6) Burger King Double Whopper with Cheese (52.5) Hagen Dazs milk chocolate ice-cream stick (14) Creme egg (9) Twix (11).

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