When Alli, an over-the-counter anti-obesity, weight-loss pill, was launched last year in the US, it sold out in days. Not yet available in the UK, more and more Brits are getting supplies of the fat blocker, said to boost a dieter's efforts by 50 per cent, via the internet or by buying the pills in America. We asked one writer to try it...
Ladies and gentlemen, I am saved. I have found the secret of eternal life, perfect happiness and how to fight into small clothing. Is it willpower? Nah. Healthy eating? Uh-uh. Exercise? Nope. Its name is Diet Pill. I am in love with diet pills and I want to stay with them forever. Oh, dear, darling diet pill, what took you so long?
I used to be afraid of diet pills. My grandmother was prescribed Benzedrine in the Fifties, and got addicted. It's speed. 'They were wonderful,' she reminisces, about her time as a drug addict. 'I had so much energy that I hoovered all night. The house looked wonderful. And so did I.' Even 50 years later she looks at me mistily, and holds out her painted claw for more. No deal, Nana. Put that fiver away. The night she got so hyper her turban spun off was the end. My grandfather confiscated them and flushed them down the loo. She cried.
But when my friend suggested I try Alli, an anti-obesity wonder drug that you can get over the counter in America for around $60 for a month's supply, I thought I would stick it down my gob, along with everything else I stick down my gob. As you get older you get fatter. At least I do. I am gaining about two stone a year in my present incarnation and I now weigh as much as a truck. I am preparing for a great global catastrophe that no one else knows about. And for which I need fat. Lots. Of. Fat. My doctor says not. My doctor looks at me with that NHS expression and mutters one word. 'Obese.' Then she mutters: 'Exercise.' It pierces my soul.
Eating less isn't an option at the moment. The mind is willing, but the mouth is open. And exercise hurts so much. If God wanted us to be thin, why did he make exercise hurt? Why did he invent toffees? So I took the small blue pill and swallowed it. I read the information leaflet - don't use if pregnant, eat healthily, exercise - pah! - take one with each meal, try not to swallow cows whole - and then I swallowed that, too. I went about my normal eating business, and waited. It was a bit like waiting for a war to start. It was a bit like that scene with Rick and Ilsa in the café in Paris, in Casablanca. I knew something interesting would happen. And it did.
Alli works by using a drug called Xenical. Its primary ingredient is orlistat, and it diminishes your body's capacity to process fat. It inhibits an enzyme in the pancreas - take that, enzyme! - so about 25 per cent of the fat that would go on your thighs, chin, stomach, eyeballs and teeth comes out of your arse instead. There is a lot of whingeing about this on the internet. The pill-chomping fatties complain about 'side effects'. They apparently get 'loose stools', gas, and even incontinence. But incontinence doesn't bother me. If you were as fat as I am, incontinence would be a gift.
For three days, nothing. Then, I realise, peering at my giant thighs, that I feel smaller and less bloated. What do the scales say? I hate my scales and hide them in a cupboard, so they cannot look at me. But today they are my buddy. I have lost three pounds in three days. With no side effects. I call a friend who also takes Alli. 'I have no side effects,' I say. He replies, 'Just you wait'.
Fast-forward three days. I have lost another two pounds and I am spending a lot of time in the loo. Do I care? Not a bit. I love my diet pills. It is all too good to be true. I have finally found what I always searched for. It is a soluble unicorn. I can eat more, but I weigh less. It is like you eat food - and it goes into somebody else's stomach. I haven't had an accident in public yet. But at this rate of weight loss, I can't wait.
• Consult your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.