Lately, I have become rather obsessed with the progress of a random bloke on a diet in America.
He is not famous - or at least he wasn't when he started. Drew Manning is a Utah fitness trainer who decided he wanted to experience what his unfit clients were going through. So he devised the endearingly bonkers idea of spending six months eating buckets of fast food in a heroic attempt to put on weight, then six months losing it.
The first part of his journey was an unqualified success. He went from a ripped 193lbs to an elephantine 265lbs - a weight gain of more than five stone.
As experiments go, this seems as pointless as digging a large hole and then filling it in again. In fact, if you dig a hole and fill it in again you will be giving your upper body a good workout and there will be cardiovascular benefits if you work at a decent pace.
But Drew's project is oddly compelling. Every Sunday morning, I go to his website for the latest weigh-in. He has managed to lose more than three stone since November 5 and I am taking vicarious pleasure from his progress - if he loses more than a couple of pounds during the week it actually puts me in quite a good mood - until one of my children spills juice on the carpet, that is.
Jewish food is built on a mountain of stodge
He also seems to have inspired a lot of other guys. A large number of men are not only following Drew's progress on the scales but are actively joining in - proving that dieting is not exclusively a female thing these days. Perhaps 20 years ago skimping on the lokshen at Friday- night dinner was seen as slightly effeminate, as was any form of calorie counting. These days, there is no shame in being on a man diet.
Last Sunday, I went for a run with a former JC colleague, and we happily passed the time discussing masculine ways in which to lose weight. Of course there are still gender differences. We guys refer to man-scaping and tend to count the carbs rather than the calories (slightly tragic given that Jewish food culture is built on a mountain of stodge). But the days are gone when the only male strategy for looking good was to hold your stomach in when an attractive female entered the room.
Is this a good thing? Well, my father's generation would have mocked the narcissism of the men of the 21st century but, then again, the salad-dodging tendencies of chaps of his generation meant that quite a number succumbed to heart disease. So perhaps, in this case, vanity could be a positive thing
Meanwhile Drew's mission has brought him quite a bit of attention, with multiple appearances on US national TV. You can see why. As he started the fat part of his journey and ate doughnut after doughnut there was, I have to admit, a little schadenfreude as his six-pack disappeared as rapidly as the lawn under a blizzard. But latterly there has been huge respect as he has gradually begun to shed the pounds through a combination of sweat and healthy eating.
It's so inspiring that I might even join in myself - but only if the stomach-sucking-in doesn't pay off.