Paul McKenna: Can this Brit make you thin?

I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna

Before Christmas I drove to my post office to pick up my business mail and as usual, there were a couple books waiting for me behind the counter. In my day job, I’m a freelance writer for magazines, so publishers send me tons of review copies. That sounds good, but for some reason I’m the writer who gets books about potty training, quitting smoking, and beating drug addiction. I’ve no idea why I get all the drug addiction books. I’ve never written about drugs in my life, never mind done them, unless cookbooks, chocolate and coffee count as illegal substances.

Anyway, later on I went through the packages, and one jumped out at me because it was sent to my Hail Britannia address. Cool! Something to feed my Anglophilia, I thought, tearing the envelope open. Inside I found a slim book with a nerdy looking bald guy on the cover.* The title proclaimed I Can Make You Thin.

Ooookay. The book’s publicist must have been reading my posts about my adventures in Fortnum & Mason, fondness for Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars, and how I rendered beef fat for my orange almond mincemeat, and she or he figured I could slim down after all this outrageous piggery and who knows? maybe I’d write about it.

What really got me curious, though, was that it was written by a British hypnotist-guru-type. It looked like this British version of Tony Robbins was planning a full-scale invasion of our American self-help book sections, and quite honestly, I didn’t know how I felt about a Brit elbowing in on a feel-good industry that belongs to America.

I did a little research on McKenna, figuring that British journalists would be ripping him a new bunghole in print. They do this kind of verbal surgery brilliantly … usually without Novocaine. The Daily Mail came down on him hardest, claiming he’s “flashy, ambitious and more than a little prone to psychobabble.” Catherine O’Brien at the Times of London went fairly easy on him, considering the session she had with him didn’t make her wealthy (which was the focus on his last book; he can also make you quit smoking). The other articles I read spoke of his new Beverly Hills home, his serial monogamy, and a penchant for designer suits with nary a hint of journalistic malice. And speaking of smoking, Ellen DeGeneres gives McKenna credit for helping her quit this nasy habit. Supposedly Stephen Fry likes him too. I adore Ellen and Stephen, so if they like Paul, he can’t be all bad?

What really grabbed my attention was the “Includes Guided Hypnosis CD” sticker on the book’s cover. Shortly after Christmas, I tore the CD out of the back cover envelope, uploaded the tracks to my iPod, and gave it a listen while stretched out on the sofa watching Gillian McKeith berate an 18-stone woman about the sorry contents of her fridge. (You want to see a British journo rip apart a self-help guru? Read this.)

Hmm, I thought, it’s quite nice to listen to a hypnotist with a British accent. His voice alone could convince me to do just about anything: toss junk food from my pantry, run five miles, or more to the point, strip off all my clothes while pleading, “Make love to me, Paul!” We silly American women will overlook almost anything anyone says if it’s cloaked in the Queen’s English, including, “Sod off, you cow.”

After a few minutes of listening to McKenna, though, his voice began to irritate me. I couldn’t tell if it was McKenna pushing his voice to be all low and hypnotic and mesmerizing, or a weird sound effect they did during recording – it sounded kind of electronic and jumpy. But I pressed on with my two-week trial. I skimmed the book to see if there was anything else I needed to know to help Paul’s melodic voice melt the lard off my ass. McKenna gives readers four rules:

  1. Eat when you’re hungry.
  2. Eat what you actually want.
  3. Eat consciously and enjoy each mouthful.
  4. Stop when you think you’re full.

Solid advice and pretty much how I eat anyway, except for #4. I really, really love food (I’m a food writer, for heaven’s sake!), and have been known to keep eating something because it tastes so good, even though I’m ready to pass out.

Every night for two weeks I went to bed listening to McKenna’s voice on my iPod. I didn’t clean out my pantry, or run out to the store for special diet foods. In fact, I made a few changes to my diet over the last month that might encourage weight gain:

First, I switched from skim milk to whole milk in our milk deliveries. I’ve been reading a lot about the health benefits of unprocessed foods, including milk, so I asked our local dairy to make the switch.

Second, I gave up my Splenda habit and have started using pure maple syrup to sweeten my coffee. Pure maple syrup, while intensely sweet, has a lot of calories per teaspoonful.

Last, while I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway, it has been harder for me to buy grass-fed beef, as well as locally raised chicken and pork, this winter. Instead, I’ve been eating foods like avocados, nut oils, nuts, seeds, and cheese, none of which can be considered low-fat.

This morning I stood on the scale and was surprised to see I’d lost four pounds in two weeks. I didn’t expect it because my clothes still fit the same and I’d had a bad moment the night before with some corn chips. On the other hand, it’s kind of weird because I’m not really overweight — okay, I could stand to lose ten pounds– so four pounds is pretty substantial weight loss here.

So could it be McKenna’s hypnotic suggestions before bed every night? Or those four tips, which, to be honest, I’ve really taken to heart these past couple weeks? Like a couple nights ago at a restaurant, where I ate about a third of my meal and decided I’d had enough instead of plowing through because it tasted good?

At any rate, I’ll be curious how McKenna does here in the U.S. I’ll keep you posted on any additional weight loss, although I think I’m going to lay off on McKenna before bed. He’s been robbing me of my dreams about Colin Firth and Ralph Fiennes.

*No diss on nerdy looking bald guys, by the way. I kind of like the look!

4 thoughts on “Paul McKenna: Can this Brit make you thin?

  1. megan

    I eat much like you’ve started doing–less processed, more whole foods (including all the fatties)–and it WILL make you lose weight. People are often astonished that my husband dropped 20 pounds–and kept it off–just by adopting this lifestyle. I might add that we also reduced our bread intake, eating more whole grains when we do have some, and we banished potatoes. I think I will give all the kudos to you instead of McKenna on your weight loss!

  2. Mike Harling

    I saw his books in the Waterstone’s on the high street and he did strike me as the British Tony Robbins. Nice write up; now I may have to at least read the copy on the back of one of his book covers.

  3. Chris R

    I see a chance for Mr McKenna’s followup book: I can make you think whilst thinking about Colin Firth.

    I wonder whether the strange audio effect of which you speak was actually some sort of deep vibration, introduced into the recording in order to gently vibrate the lard off your ass (your words, not mine). Were there any special instructions to play the thing loud and sit next to the speakers?

  4. dianaburrell Post author

    Chris, ha ha. And oh my gosh, I’d be first in line for the Colin Firth diet book. McKenna could call it, “Think Firth, Lose Girth.” Brilliant!

    Mike, there’s also this “tapping” thing your supposed to do on your face and wrists — acupressure points that should help you beat cravings. I haven’t been doing it; I’m afraid my husband will think I’ve gone completely mad. Really, if you can just follow those four bits of advice to the T, you’re all set.


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