‘A glass of wine at dinner and a flatter stomach in 14 days? It can be done, with this savvy diet for people in the real world who want to get a bikini body and revamp their health with ease. Based on the world-famous Viva Mayr spa clinic in Austria, the hottest health and weight-loss destination in Europe, this plan promises 14 days to a flatter stomach, glowing skin, a springy step, and a fabulous beach-babe body…
For those agonising over water or wine at dinner — make it wine every time! Women on the go — stop eating on the move, eating when you’re all stressed out is your number one enemy. Dieters craving a cheeseburger — eat one really slowly and it’ll be better for you than wolfing down an all-organic fancy salad. And never, ever skip breakfast! If you’re really that busy, drop dinner from your day instead.’
The above quote is an extract from the promotional text for The Viva Mayr Diet: 14 Days to a Flatter Stomach and a Younger You. It is just one of several volumes promoting the Mayr diet, a 100-year-old fad diet that is soon to conquer London. According to the Guardian, a London Viva Mayr clinic is about to open its doors to VIPs who have enough money to pay. (Consultations start at £190; a day at its spa at the Corinthia Hotel costs £950.)
Franz Xaver Mayr (1875-1965) was an Austrian physician who developed the diet known in German as Milch Semmel Kur, a treatment consisting essentially of eating stale white bread and sipping milk. This regimen, he found, reduces body weight fast and detoxifies our organs thoroughly. In the long run, however, it’s as unhealthy as most other fad diets.
Mayr’s original concepts were soon modified by his pupils to become less monotonous. Today numerous clinics claiming to adhere to Mayr’s assumptions exist in Austria and Germany. Their regimen usually consists of a wild hotchpotch of approaches:
- Rest and TLC: customers are pampered in luxurious spa hotels where they are encouraged to take it easy and abstain from any activity that might cause stress or excitement.
- Calorie restriction to about 600 calories a day.
- Detoxification: epsom salts and enemas.
- Control of pH: customers get medications that are supposed to reduce the acidity of the body.
- Regular abdominal massages.
- Mind-body therapies.
- Education: customers are taught to view food differently and to chew each bite 40 times.
- Substitution: vitamins and minerals are given as supplements.
- Dubious diagnostic methods such as applied kinesiology.
Doctors from the Mayr cult are organised in the International Society of Mayr Physicians, an organisation that explains the ‘logic’ behind their assumptions as follows:
The healthiest and most valuable food is not of much use if bad eating habits affect the digestion or even if an irritated intestine with disturbed functions prevents an adequate digestion… The diagnostic process under F X MAYR… describes different abnormal belly forms, body postures, thorax deformations, facial and skin alterations and palpatory findings that may be caused by functional bowel disorders and indigestion…
Treatment according to F X Mayr aims to regenerate the gastrointestinal tract his way so that it becomes newly empowered to digest and absorb a balanced nutrition with all its valuable elements. Furthermore, participants are made aware of correct eating behavior and the complete body is purged and detoxified…
The classic version of the F X Mayr diet consists of a stale bread roll and ¼ liter of milk for breakfast and lunch. The crucial factor is that every single bite of the bread roll must be chewed for 40 times till a mixture of saliva and carbohydrates have been produced in the mouth. Before this mixture is swallowed, a teaspoon full of milk is added, mixed with the saliva. The merit of this procedure consists in the pre-digestion of the milk through the saliva produced by the bread roll in the mouth and therefore the greatest possible protection of deeper sections of the intestine.
Furthermore, small portions, proper chewing and insalivation and the natural feeling of satiety may be learned that way… F X MAYR treatment is particularly suitable for the treatment of chronic illnesses. Metabolic syndrome, overweight, underweight, Roemheld syndrome, gastritis, reflux disease, chronic pancreatitis, chronic constipation, irritable colon, fermentative dyspepsia, leaky gut syndrome, food intolerances, rheuma, tension headache, migraine, degenerative spinal syndrome, neurodermitis, allergies, fatigue syndromes as well as self-discovery and reorientation are conceivable indications.
These are courageous claims, particularly if we consider that they are based on a mixture of wishful thinking, pseudo-physiology and outright quackery. Sure, you lose weight fast, but this is mostly water which your body rapidly fills up again after you stop the diet. All other health benefits and therapeutic claims must be categorised as pure fantasy: there is no sound evidence to support them.
The Guardian reported that the Mayr clinics have a long list of loyal VIP followers, including Michael Gove — say no more.
Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor at the University of Exeter, is the author of Homeopathy: The Undiluted Facts and the awardee of the John Maddox Prize 2015 for standing up for science. He blogs at edzardernst.com.