The Blog

Forget the Diet

It's incredible just how ingrained all this self-policing of our bodies has become. It literally surrounds us, like a thick layer of fat.

It's a Saturday afternoon, the third Saturday of 2013, and I'm feeling rather at odds with all the focus on reinventing at this time of year.

Yes, I've had a haircut, got a new diary and added stuff to it: all the things I want to do and achieve this coming year.

But I'm chuffed with how none of them match the things I'm probably supposed to say, such as that big one: lose weight and tone up!

Which basically means 'drastically change your life for the better and never look back by getting to a size 8 because life will never be rubbish again!'

Err...not quite!

Saying that though, I haven't much looked at the chocolate in the cupboard and I've certainly reduced my calorie intake.

Somewhere is a 'skinny' voice keeping check that I'm on track to lose the festive bulge before January is out.

But I guess this is normal: something we all do as an important part of keeping to a healthy weight.

No, don't worry, I'm not on a diet: I eat three meals a day; haven't cut out any food groups; and I snack healthily: I've just cut down on the chocs. That's all.

But it isn't easy work, especially in a culture that expects a woman to be on diet in January. I can hear it now: "What do you mean you're not on a diet?"

Back in late December, I almost fell off my donut stack when I heard that Jo Swinson, a Liberal Democrat MP and co-founder of the Campaign for Body-Confidence, had written a letter to various members of the British Media, urging them to "shed the fad diets and fitness myths".

According to various news stories, the minister wrote: "I am sure that you want to promote a healthy lifestyle for your readers, but at this time of year, in particular, far too much of magazine coverage tends to focus on irresponsible, short-term solutions and encourages readers to jump on fad diet bandwagons.

"As editors you owe more to your readers than the reckless promotion of unhealthy solutions to losing weight. If your aim is to give practical, sensible advice about losing weight - and not how to drop a stone in five days - you should encourage reasonable expectations, instead of dangerous ones, along with exercise and healthy eating."

What's more, Jo is reported to have gone one step further, by ending the letter with a suggestion of a New Year resolution to "celebrate the beauty of diversity in body shape, skin colour, size and age". Way to go, Jo!

Feeling somewhat 'backed-up' by a high-profile woman who is prepared to make such a suggestion, I started 2013 thinking nothing of the extra tire that developed. I simply didn't care (and still don't) if I'm podgier.

So what? I know that it's not the end of the world. I am still the same person. It's ok if I'm not a size 8, and finding it a struggle to get into my size 10 jeans. Who cares?

However, it's a hard battle.

Keeping chilled about a few extra pounds is a daily issue, what with everyone making reference to being a bit heavier and on a diet.

All the justification and talk of fat is a constant bouncing-off exercise.

Seriously. It's incredible just how ingrained all this self-policing of our bodies has become.

It literally surrounds us, like a thick layer of fat.

I'd say that 95% of the people I've interacted with this year have mentioned the d-word.

Yesterday, I was so sad to learn of a diet called the 5:2 fasting diet, whereby the dieter fasts for two days every week to see the "pounds disappear." Some followers in the media have even suggested that eating half a ready-meal for lunch and the rest for dinner is a healthy way to burn fat.

Oh, come on!

It's known that diets, more often than not, lock dieters into a yo-yo world of weight loss and gain, and that short-term, extreme fad diets do nothing but mess up the metabolism and encourage the dieter to over-think body shape - usually in relation to the unattainable image of perfection accompanying the diet literature.

Thankfully, I am able to take news of such diets and, without too much compulsion to sign-up, leave it at that. But as I said earlier, it isn't easy work.

I've been a dieter in the past, and I think back to some of those diet plans and literally shudder with stomach pains at just how destructive they were.

Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that if someone is over-weight then they shouldn't try to shift the excess.

Not at all!

A healthy weight is crucial to overall health and wellbeing.

But so is healthy eating. There's no point in being a slim-Jim if the body is deprived of nutrients.

The simple truth is: Without a healthy and sustainable approach to food, body image and weight will a constant battle.