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The Seduction of Magic Pills

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Nothing gets me hotter under the collar than the promise "I can make you thin. Fast." When it comes to quick fixes, I am a total sucker. Whether it's top down ketchup, quick dry nail varnish or screw top wine, as a working mum I am always looking for new ways to streamline my life.

I don't know a single human being who doesn't fast-track their way to relaxation, stimulation, inspiration or satisfaction: whether it's a glass of wine or a takeaway eaten on the hoof, these all solve a need, quickly. And, often, saving time and effort is a beautiful thing freeing more time for family, friends and Asos.

But whilst quick fixes may solve one problem they often bring with them another...which may require yet another substance or solution to deal with that problem...and so on, and so on. Which is great news for the people selling the solutions and not so great for us.

At university I experienced my first broken heart. I sat on the sofa in my PJs watching TV and eating cereal from the box. For a few comatosed moments whilst I shovelled sugary hoops into my pie hole I felt better. But, predictably, my quick fix had a consequence and I put on a hefty amount of weight. Once the mist of my broken heart had lifted I became desperate to lose the extra tyre that had appeared around my waist. Time for another quick fix.

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I started going to the gym but progress was too slow. I tried the Atkins but it was both disgusting and, after two weeks of miraculous weight loss, I could no longer resist the urge to eat the world. I put on another half stone. Then, even heavier and even more desperate, I tried herbal slimming pills. In my head they were working, so I felt I could eat more. I didn't want to waste away now did I?! When this didn't work I decided it was time to go nuclear.

I'd heard of people taking laxatives and knew what the side effects were but I didn't care. They worked but only in that my stomach was in so much pain I felt too sick to eat. I knew it was time to stop when I was found by my flatmates at uni curled up on the floor of my room crying into a pillow. I told them I had period pains. As a lovely little parting gift from laxatives, I ended up putting on another half stone. At this point I was miserable. I knew that the only lasting, non-insane way to lose the weight was to eat sensibly and move more. After fighting with this pearl of wisdom for two years I gave in. And, slowly, it worked.

But whilst I have never taken anything as bonkers as laxatives since, I'm still occasionally seduced into believing the claims of a celeb diet or new wonder slimming pill. And with obesity being the nation's biggest health concern, it's all too easy for companies to make money from people who want, and need, changes fast. With the government warning that by 2025 over half of women and half of men will suffer from obesity, selling quick fixes will be like shooting fish in a barrel. If the promise on the bottle is sexy enough, someone will buy it.

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However, research carried out by the University of Liverpool has shown that slimming pills do not provide long term results as they don't address the root causes of the weight gain. I've annoyingly put that in bold because I passionately believe that without dealing with the reason for overeating/not looking after your body, then any weight you fight to lose will just creep back on. And that cycle is a horrible, frustrating, time-wasting trap. When I think of the time I've wasted in this vicious cycle it makes me incredibly sad.

There's no doubt that I've not only wasted my time but also my money on miracle solutions. After researching the contents of multiple herbal slimming pills available on the high street it seems that the main weight-loss ingredients are caffeine and green tea. There is a dash of cayenne pepper and perhaps some ginseng but essentially the active ingredients read like a hot drinks menu. Which are much cheaper and more enjoyable than swallowing a pill the size of a cocktail sausage. But that isn't a message the UK's £2bn slimming aid industry is going to promote any time soon.

As someone who has tried all the super diets and most of the magic slimming pills, I can say with some certainty that they are only deeply disappointing and just take you further away from a healthy weight and an understanding of why you have negative food intake and what fuel your body really needs. However, whilst I might sing the praises of a sensible attitude to looking after your body, I also know that I'm weak to the promise of effort-free weight loss so I'll probably be the first in line the next time a 'miracle' cure comes along. Old habits die hard.

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