Close-Up: How to shed those extra lbs, with Alex Bogusky

As UK adland launches its own anti-obesity drive (see page 9), one of the world's leading admen has advice from the US.

So your waistbands have shrunk over Christmas and your thighs are strangely chafing. Perhaps it's time to take some advice from your peers and tackle that spare tyre.

Help is at hand from Alex Bogusky. With a little help from his fellow Crispin, Porter & Bogusky founder Chuck Porter, Bogusky has launched a self-help guide, The 9-inch "Diet".

Apparently, since 1970, the average dinner plate in the US has increased from nine to 12 inches in diameter, adding more than 300 excess calories each day. The 9-inch "Diet" doesn't tell you what to eat, what not to eat or what time of day not to eat it. It simply attacks the problem behind America's oversized behind: "portion distortion".

Bogusky and Porter, whose agency handles both the Burger King and Domino's accounts, blame the problem not on the food giants, but on the US government. As they explain: "In August of 1917, Congress passed the Food and Fuel Control Act. The main purpose of the act was to help the country avoid food shortages during World War One and to limit food imports so that we'd have more money for tanks.

"Even after war rationing was over, the portrayal of a clean plate as the American ideal persisted. A clean plate was a good plate. A clean plate meant you were doing right by your country. The whole idea was reinforced during the Second World War and the rebuilding that followed. The point is simple: we're programmed to eat all the food off our plates, no matter how crazy-big the plates get."

They also point to outside influences on plate sizes: "In one instance, Ikea noticed it was selling a lot of chargers. A charger is the plate you sometimes see in fancy restaurants that goes under the actual plate. They're the plates we put our plates on. Nobody could understand why such a niche item was selling out constantly. And how could they be selling so many more chargers than plates? What were people putting on these chargers?

"Finally, with a little research, they discovered that what people were putting on them was a lot of food. Folks just thought they were buying big plates. Like the ones they were used to in restaurants."

The 9-inch "Diet" is published by Powerhouse Books and will be available in the UK in February.