If Twitter is anything to go by (and I'm told it is), then The Men Who Made Us Thin (BBC2 7th August 2013), and its message that diets don't work, wasn't much of a surprise to anyone. This has had me asking myself if the diet industry offered me millions as a consultant would I take it? You might be saying: "Yes! Take it!" But I am an anti-diet campaigner (@antidieter on Twitter).
Don't jump to conclusions here, Weight Watchers hasn't offered me a million or even wafted a fiver under my nose but will they approach me and people like me in the future when everyone catches onto their playing with words and announcing their programme is 'not a diet'?
After all, if the diet industry's lifespan were compared with of one of its diets it would just about now be waking up feeling a little bit unsure whether it can control its eating today. This is the bit where the excitement wears off and the struggle begins. From here on in, it will put up resistance and manage to 'get back on the wagon' but staying in control will get more and more difficult and, ultimately, down the road, it will lapse into freefall bingeing and then disappear all together and exist only as a memory.
Science and fact has a way of breaking through profit-driven propaganda, and with the BBC finally having the balls to stand up against the diet industry, it's definitely time for a paradigm shift. To cheekily borrow observations by Peter Russell in his excellent 2004 talk The Primacy of Consciousness (admittedly a very different arena to dieting, but which applies perfectly), when a new paradigm breaks there is always a struggle like the one we're experiencing now with dieting.
There are, historically, six stages before the world moves from an old world view to a new one.
- The existing paradigm encounters an anomoly - an inexplicable observation.
- Initially the anomaly is ignored or rejected.
- Then people try to explain the anomaly within the existing paradigm.
- Then a new paradigm is proposed in which the anomaly is resolved.
- The establishment rejects the new model, often ridicules it proponents.
- The new paradigm is accepted as it accounts for new observations.
These six stages have occurred for almost every breakthrough in human history. To borrow from Peter Russell again, Arthur Schopenhauer said it very simply:
"Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognised. "First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is opposed. Third, it is regarded as self evident."
When I write about dieting and Tweet as @antidieter I get a great deal of opposition, but it makes me deliriously happy because it feels to me like dieting is now at stage 5 in the above process. Only one more stage to go and, as the BBC have (if temporarily, for they will backtrack) raced ahead and reached stage 6 by airing The Men Who Made Us Thin, it's only a little step.
Dieting as we know it (or Old World View Dieting, as I like to call it) is slowly coming to the end of its domination of our media and our lives. It might take some time but we're definitely in the paradigm shift process.
I'm in the exciting position of having seen the stage 1 anomaly 20 years ago and as I started dieting at the age of 10, I had hard evidence (trust me, it was really hard) that it wasn't ever going to be the answer.
Here's a little insight into why I'm an anti-diet campaigner: before I'd heard of dieting or thought I needed to lose weight I had no problems with food. I could take it or leave it. Then as soon as I did learn that I was supposed to diet myself thinner, the roller coaster that was to last for the coming decades began. I went from starving myself to finding out that I could binge and then counterbalance it by forcing myself to throw up - all before I was 12 years old! This is me (right) at 14, when I was 'too fat'.
By the time I got to my 20s my emotional, spiritual, social and actual life was so dominated by worries about the size of my body and increasingly failing efforts to control what I ate that I didn't have the resources left in me to pluck up the usual courage needed to grow up and speak to people on an equal level. I remember a 'friend' saying to me: "When I'm with you, I feel like I have to carry your personality." And I'm not surprised she felt that at the time because I was so utterly, agonisingly shy that I didn't say anything until I was 30.
I'm no longer shy and definitely not quiet, but I still have to battle with the effects dieting has had on me (even this blog post is a part of this battle) and I wonder who I wouldhavebeen if I had never dieted.
So all those years ago when I spotted the paradigm shift stage 1 anomoly - that dieting was the cause of my loss of control over eating, rather than a solution to it - instead of joining the mainstream in stage 2: rejecting and ignoring it, I became enamoured with the subject and I researched it with a passion, determined (unconsciously, of course) to reach Stage 4, to resolve the anomoly. Now I have resolved it and I have the new paradigm at my fingertips and I have the understanding (and the notes, boy, do I have the notes!) to go with it.
For years and years I learned about the diet industry, the pharmaceuticals industry and the psychology and neurology of dieting and not dieting and body image. And I looked at how we think and behave when on and off a diet, when we feel good and when we feel bad about our bodies. I talked to hundreds of women and I stayed up all night researching and I burnt myself out thinking about it. I would get up at 2am unable to sleep because a flash of insight had woken me up. I started teaching what I knew to women online and those women know I have the solution inside of me, and am chewing it slowly and they're waiting (very patiently) for me to spit it out.
It will all come out. The only problem is I'll probably have to go through all six of the stages above and I may be dead by then!
Unless someone with business knowledge and a hatred of the diet industry wants to get in there early, tap what I know and join me in bringing them down?
Not you, Weight Watchers. Put your purse away.