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The Total Quality Management Diet: Transcript of a Seminar
  (Protagoras, August 1, 2007)

Your reporter recently attended a seminar on this interesting subject, and reproduces an edited transcript of the keynote speech for your dieting pleasure.

Its a very distressing feature of modern life that so many people fail at something as simple as dieting. You have all come to this seminar to learn how to succeed in dieting through Total Quality Management. You will remember that the guiding principle of TQM is to make your account of your processes correspond to your processes. If you cannot change what you do, change your description.

The TQM diet is not so much a diet in itself, as a method of dieting. It is compatible with most if not all of the well known dietary prescriptions. The first step in it is to lay in a good store of chocolate biscuits and bacon and eggs. This is a step which is sadly neglected by many, and is the main cause, along with twenty or so others, more than we can cover in this presentation, of later failure. Your diet, whichever one you choose, will be lasting for a month or so. You need to estimate how many chocolate biscuits and bacon and eggs you could possibly eat in a year. Double it, and buy them. Buy a few Sarah Lee frozen cheesecakes, and some pastries while you are at it. This may seem odd, but it is a key step in future success at your chosen diet.

Next, pick your detailed diet. The TQM method is agnostic about what particular one you pick. It doesn't matter much, but it should consist of as many arbitrary rules and unlikely ingredients as possible. There should be some plausible but unverifiable rationale showing that it will reduce weight, and also be healthy.

To make the method clear, we offer an example. We propose following the sardines, asparagus and apricots diet. The rule is, these are the only things permitted, along with sparkling (not still) water, and yerba mate tea. It is said that this diet is practised by the wise women of someplace in the Yucatan (hence the Yerba Mate). The combination of asparagus and sardines catalyses fats and releases enzymes, and the apricots have vital fruit sugars and vitamin C. Of course, the apricots must not be eaten within 2 hours and 45 minutes of the other ingredients. However, if this doesn't strike your fancy, and you still want to follow the TQM Diet, feel free to pick other ingredients. Have you considered brewers yeast, fresh cream and anchovies? Washed down with bourbon? Feel free.

You might think that having decided to follow this diet, you should now buy in a huge store of sardines, asparagus and apricots not to mention mate. Yes, yes, we will get to that. Though you will, surprisingly, need far less sardines than you think, and almost no mate. But not just yet. We have to prepare the ground. The first thing we must do is pick a target for how much weight we wish to gain. Not, of course, during the month of the diet, that would be absurd on a diet of sardines and asparagus, even taking the yerba mate into account. No, from this particular episode of dieting considered over several months.

It is important to set realistic goals here. You will not succeed in gaining 20 or 30 pounds from one dieting episode, and many fail here by setting their aims too high. Aim at around five, that is well within the normal experience of most women over the six months following a good successful diet, and 10 is not out of the question. More than that, and you risk severe disappointment.

We pause here to take a few questions. Yes, the lady in red on the left. Yes ma'am, you had a question?

Q: The point of dieting is to LOSE weight. Why are you talking about GAINING weight?

A: Thank you for that helpful question. Yes, people ordinarily diet with the aim of losing weight, and this is one of the twenty or so main reasons why they fail. It has been proven in many of our great colleges and universities by extensive research that dieters always gain weight. In accordance with the principles of TQM, since we cannot change our biology, and dieting will always and inevitably result in weight gain, we must change our objectives.

Q: How can I live on nothing but asparagus and apricots and sardines for a month? Still less brewers yeast and cream. Is it healthy?

A: No ma'am, it would be very unhealthy if you tried to do it. It would make you very ill and might kill you. However, I fear you have misunderstood dieting. You will be on the Asparagus and Sardine diet, but that does not mean you will only eat what it permits. Of course not. No-one ever does this. If they did, the hospitals of our great nation would be full of sick and dying dieters. Fortunately, they are not.

There are no more questions? Thank you. Then we can proceed with our instructions.

We were saying that at some point you will have to lay in a stock of sardines. Yes, but there is an important step to take first. You must tell all your friends that you have discovered a new diet. You will announce a start date, say next Sunday. You will explain about the Yucatan, and how these ladies are thin, wise and very sexy. There will be lots of discussion at which everyone will agree how interesting this is. Now, buy your sardines.

It is a good idea to be invited to dinner on the first day of your diet. Then you can take with you a few tins of sardines and asparagus, or your hostess can provide them. You can have lots of interesting discussions about the 2 hour and 45 minute gap before you are allowed your apricots, and you can bring your yerba and brew it, everyone can smell it, and agree that its disgusting, and you can close your eyes and drink it in front of them. Yes, that was really fun!

When you go home, you can look longingly at the fridge with its supplies of Sarah Lee, bacon and eggs, and chocolate biscuits. It is too early for them however, and anyway, you will be feeling a little nauseous from the mate.

How long you confine yourself to your dietary foods is a matter of judgment. It has to be long enough to allow many discussions about how hard it is, how you long for various foods, and how good you have been to hold out this far. You have to actually lose some weight, and your friends have to be able to see this. I should think with the particular diet we are speaking of, three or four days should do it. By the end of day three or four, you should look and feel quite ill, and be getting fairly gaunt. This is as it should be.

When you go home on day 4, you need to break out the bacon and eggs, and eat about 6 rashers with about 4 or 5 eggs, and follow them up with the cheesecake and the chocolate biscuits. Perhaps a glass of wine. Maybe some lasagne. After all, you've been very good so far. But it is the next step that is absolutely critical. Now call up two or three of your friends and tell them you have fallen off your diet. It was wonderful. Cheesecake has never tasted so good. Yes, but you will go back on it tomorrow.

You can now see how the fact that the Asparagus diet is lethal if followed to the letter has no bearing on anything much. You will not be following it like this. You will be following the Asparagus diet liberally supplemented with your favourite indulgences. You will of course still be on the diet, just not eating in accordance with it. This is the usual way of being on a diet. The difference with the TQM method is that it is part of the prescription, rather than being a sign of failure.

At the end of a month, you will formally come off the diet. You can then eat indulgently for the next week, at the end of which you will have gained back the requisite 5 or 10 pounds you lost. You can then put on the additional five pounds which were your long term target, at leisure over the next few months. A word of advice however. Do it discreetly. Weight is best put on quietly and in private. It is only losing weight that should be done in public.

It is this last step that is the key to having your diet be and feel a success, and which is the unique feature of the TQM diet. When you have slowly gained the extra weight, you can then look at yourself in the mirror and know that yes, you have succeeded, and it really is going to be necessary to go on a diet soon. If there are any people who manage to go on a diet and lose weight and keep it off, think how terrible they would feel. There would be that familiar, empty, disappointed feeling. What to do next? Whereas, you, having followed the precepts of the TQM diet, have now placed yourself in a position where you are guaranteed to need to go on another one. And you feel good about it, because you knew all along that this is what you were trying to do.

Now, if that is not the point of dieting, if that is not success, what is?

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