The Coffee and Cold Bath Diet

An unlikely-sounding regimen invented by a minor British actor promises weight loss of OMG proportions — but does it work?

A six-week diet of just coffee and cold baths.

As I was perusing new cookbooks in my local mega-bookstore one day, a copy of a book called Six Weeks to OMG: Get Skinnier Than All Your Friends, by one Venice A. Fulton, fell off a nearby shelf when I walked by, landing about six inches from my left foot. I took that as a sign.

"Lose up to 20 pounds in just six weeks," it says on the cover. "Get a flat belly and thin thighs — fast." Not only was this book forcing its way into my consciousness, now it was making irresistible promises. I was going to have to try the diet.

First a little research: According to Gregory Cowles in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, Venice A. Fulton "is actually the British actor and personal trainer Paul Khanna — he played a Death Eater in the seventh Harry Potter movie — and his weight-loss plan is, essentially, this: skip breakfast, take cold baths, and drink black coffee." I also read, in a story in The Telegraph, from London, called "The OMG Diet: As Silly As It Sounds?" that the diet has been, like 50 Shades of Grey, a self-publishing crossover sensation. It began as an e-book, in which form it quickly sold 120,000 copies, and was acquired (for "a seven figure sum") by a major international publisher, the Hachette Group.

Khanna is indeed a working personal trainer who was educated at a "posh school" he won’t name, and who thinks that the pain of daily 10-minute ice-cold baths is "nothing" compared to the pain of suffering from the low-esteem of being overweight — and also that people find the term "exercise" too intimidating so we should call it "moving around" instead. As for not eating breakfast, he says, that jump-starts your metabolism.

The regimen might not be as groundbreaking as Khanna would have you believe: Black coffee is a well-known appetite suppressant; cold baths are a detoxifying technique Egyptians and Ayurvedic yogis first espoused centuries ago; as for skipping breakfast, well, as Saint Augustine once said, "Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation." Perhaps Khanna’s Big Idea is that these tenets haven’t previously been combined in a way that the average follower of Six Weeks to OMG would have seen.

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