Another Day, another Diet

What the world needs now is another diet, don’t you think? We have carbo-loaded in the Seventies which made us fatter. We low-fatted ourselves in the Eighties into obesity, low-glycemafied our systems into total confusion, not to mention more obesity. We Pritikined, Stillmaned, Atkinised and Zoned ourselves into morbid obesity. So where did that get us?

Yep, we are fatter and less healthy than ever and if we don’t do something about it, the condition could be fatal. So here we are, after thirty years or so of trying to change our diet, not only are we fatter in a world which is totally prejudiced against fat people, but we are in mortal danger of succumbing to every disease known to mankind.

There is heart disease, diabetes, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, bubonic plague and ingrown toenails and if all that doesn’t frighten you out of ever sitting down to a meal again, brand new research has added cancer as the latest bogey man.

I’m not disputing the fact that it is better for your health to be slim and it is certainly more attractive and comfortable to not carry around unwanted tonnage. But how can one believe what the mavens are saying when they keep on changing their minds all the time?

We cut out fat and then we are told that some vitamins are fat-soluble and if we don’t have enough fat we will be malnourished. We are told dairy foods should be limited but then we could suffer from osteoporosis for lack of calcium. So we should eat foods such as nuts to compensate. About 8 nuts per day should do it. Is it possible to just eat 8 nuts? They are so morish. How about 15 nuts, say? No, that’s not on because nuts are high in fat. Better to forget nuts, cause they are too tempting.

Do we eat protein or not? Meat is the best source of protein but the latest research tells us that red meat should be limited because of its high fat content. No more than 71 gms of cooked meat per day is optimal. 72 gms and you’re asking for trouble.

This statistic comes from the latest head-bursting study by the World Cancer Research Fund report.

We have been warned about the dangers of eating too much red meat before. Carbs are bad, meat is bad, sugar is really very very bad, caffeine is bad, alcohol is bad, but red wine is good because of the anti-oxidants in it.

Oh yes, those crucial anti-oxidants. Now they are enough to drive anyone crazy. So what are they exactly? Well, they are things that attack free radicals because free radicals are bad for you.

Wouldn’t you think that the experts could have chosen more appropriate terminology for the best friend that a person could have? I’ve always felt that anti-oxidants sound so negative and free radicals sound liberated and merry. Somehow, there’s an appeal to being “a free radical” dashing around your system and having a ball. But no, free radicals must be imprisoned and eradicated.

Let’s face it, the worst thing that could happen to the diet industry is the discovery of a diet that truly works and keeps weight off. Most diets will work for a short while, but it’s keeping off the weight that’s the problem.

I remember an Alec Guinness film called “The Man in the White Suit” (1951) in which a scientist invented a fabric that never wears out nor can it be dirtied. This causes an uproar in the textile and fashion industries who depend on clothing not lasting. It’s a brilliant comedy about an invention that is too successful and the parallels between this film and the diet industry are patently obvious.

Had diets really worked Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and all those variations on a theme would be out of business. One would go on a diet, lose the weight and there you are–Slim Forever. How about surgeons and the stomach by-passes and the liposuction goldmines? What a financial disaster for the diet gurus, the world of publishing, the advertisers and all those powdered formulae!

“The Man in the White Suit” was a comedy but it’s message was a serious one which applies to diet pushers. Don’t be too successful or you will shoot yourself in the foot.

There was a time when cutting out beer, cakes, bread, potatoes and other starches led to weight loss. It was called “banting” after William Banting who was an undertaker who published a booklet in 1863 about dieting. His “Letter on Corpulence” told of his own struggle with obesity.

When he was around thirty William Banting put on weight and so he was told to do more exercise. He rowed for two hours every day, became hungrier and put on more weight. After many visits to hospital he found that he was also going deaf and ended up seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist called Dr William Harvey who had coincidentally just returned from a diabetes symposium in France.

On Harvey’s advice. Banting went on a restricted carb diet and lost 46 pounds in 38 weeks. He was so pleased that he published his historic booklet.

Banting proceeded to distribute the booklet for free because he was delighted with the results of Dr Harvey’s diet. The diet is remarkably similar to an Atkins high protein diet, the main difference between the two is that Banting’s diet limited food quantities and fat. Every meal, however, contained lean meat or fish.

After having suffered from obesity for thirty years of his life. William Banting maintained a normal weight and died at the age of 81.

The World Cancer Research Fund now wants us to cut down on most of the foods that were prescribed for Banting. So what are we to do? There is some good advice in the report about cutting out sugar and not drinking to excess and all that, but how to reconcile the conflicting messages in the report?

There’s no denying that it is better to be slim than obese. But what puzzles me about the report is that according to the experts there is no definitive evidence that losing weight will cut down the risk of cancer. They advise that it’s just a good idea to lose weight, anyway. So why didn’t the WCRF make a study of obese people with cancer who had lost weight and are now not in danger of cancer? It doesn’t work that way, apparently.

Something tells me that this is not the last dietary report that will be brought out by a body of experts. Another brightspark will turn the info on its head, come up with another theory about what’s good for us and drive us completely batty. We’re almost there already and I maintain that we wouldn’t be so fat had it not been for the flood of dietary theories. After all, we were fine until the diet industry was born in the Seventies. Perhaps what we really should cut down on is reading diet books. We should take all this nutritional information with a grain of salt. Oh that’s right, we can’t do that cause salt is bad for us.

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