Audrey Eyton is the woman who can justly claim to have invented that now popular feature of every magazine stall - the slimming magazine. When she and her husband founded "Slimming Magazine" twelve years ago it was the first publication in the world to specialize in the subject. The magazine was started as a "cottage industry", on practically no capital, because no one else believed there was enough to write on the subject regularly. How wrong they were! The magazine was an instant success and has continued to be the dominating bestseller despite the many rival magazines which have followed.
For many years Audrey Eyton edited the magazine herself, and later became Editorial Director. During their years of ownership (the company was sold in 1980) she and her partner also started Ragdale Hall Health Farm and developed one of Britain's largest chains of slimming clubs. Mrs Eyton continues to work as a consultant to the company.
During her many years of specialization in this subject, Mrs Eyton has worked with most of the world's leading nutrional, medical and psychological experts. No writer has a greater knowledge and understanding of the subject. She has become an expert in her own right.
Great. So what was the F-Plan Diet, then? To quote from the book's introduction:
Over the past years, many claims have been made suggesting that the inclusion of some particular food in a slimming diet would specifically help overweight people to shed weight more quickly and effectively. Grapefruit was a classic example. Grapefruit diets were popular for years. More recently, in an American bestseller, pineapple was invested with those magical weight-shedding properties. Sadly, all these claims in the past were based on fiction rather than fact - certainly not on any established medical fact...
Now, for the first time in the history of medical science, a substance has been isolated about which it is possible to say: "If you base your slimming diet on this food you should shed weight more quickly and easily than on a diet based on the same quantity of any other foods."
The substance is dietary fibre. This is what the F-Plan is all about. The F-Plan diet shows you how to cut your calorie intake and at the same time increase your intake of dietary fibre from the unrefined cereal foods and the fruit and vegetables which provide it.
A high fibre diet was the answer to many weary slimmers' prayers, it seemed. Not only could it help you slim, but it could also prolong your life and help prevent some diseases - the book contained much information about the health benefits of a high fibre diet.
So, how did it work? Back to the book...
... if you follow a high-fibre diet you will find that you feel more satisfied on fewer calories. And more of the calories that go into your mouth will, to put it bluntly, go straight through and down the lavatory.
The F-Plan Diet didn't touch me at first. I barely registered its existence. My family was what might be described as lower working class. To us, eating was something to be savoured and enjoyed (a wonderful, but terribly expensive treat by our standards was Findus crispy pancakes), and diets were faddy, silly and expensive. Like the "eat more brown rice and lentils" nonsense of the hippies in the 60s, diets were absolutely pathetic, full stop.
But the fibre thing did have an impact on me in time. Fibre-related jokes were in common usage by the mid-1980s - like this one: "Do you feel the bottom has dropped out of your world? Eat wholemeal bread and the world will drop out of your bottom!"
"Har, har, har - tha's a laugh, innit?!" I said. But was it really just a joke? Was there anything in this fibre lark? I began to wonder...
In my district, a restaurant specialising in baked potatoes had opened in 1981, pre-dating the F-Plan by a year, and in the mid-to-late '80s the place was packed. There was fibre in them thar skins, ya see!
Before the mid-80s, baked potatoes had been a simple matter of marge and cheese to me - occasionally with a few beans on top. But not any more. The spud cafe had exotic (or so it seemed to me!) fillings like chopped ham and cheese with chives. Having just popped in for a "quick cuppa and a bite to eat", I became hooked on the spuds. The place was a magnet for me by 1986. And I experimented with spuds at home.
Open my cupboard in the mid-to late '80s and you'd find its contents positively bristling with fibre - bran flakes, wholemeal bread, wholemeal rice, wholemeal pasta...
Open the cupboard under the sink and your feet would be submerged in an avalanche of baking potatoes.
As a kid in the 1970s and a teenager in the early-to-mid 1980s, I ate nothing wholemeal. Nobody in my family - or indeed neighbourhood did. But from the mid-1980s on, I became FIBRE MAN!
The F-Plan Diet is a great piece of work. Below are a couple of recipes for fancy baked potato fillings featured in it. Click on image for closer view.
Ah, nostalgia!For more on changing eating habits for the un-monied classes in the 1980s, see here.