Wednesday, July 17, 2002

I love the Guardian - apart from its Israel coverage - and I'm not saying that in a sycophantic way. I'm just saying it because it's true. So I've had stuff in my head for a while about food/diets/body image/women's stuff, and then yesterday Lucy Atkins wrote a very thoughtful piece on Bursting the Fat Bubble, which was sparked off by this article in the New York Times magazine.

I think it's like this: there's so much information and counter-information that how the hell do you know what's true? So first it was calorie control - as long as you don't go over your 1500 kcals or whatever, you're fine. Offshoots of this are - in the UK - Weight Watchers and Slimming World, the latter being the one where you count actual (food) sins. Emotionally healthy? You decide. Then it was fat-gram counting - Rosemary Conley (I think) says eat nothing that contains more than 5% fat. I think that's a very dull diet indeed, and had me craving, nay crazing, decent, wholesome food. Then there was the whole glycaemic index thing, which is basically about sugar content in things you previously thought of as good for you, like carrots. Somewhere in this timeline, obsessive exercising reared its head: eat what you want, just burn it off. Burn, baby, burn was the aerobic-enabled motto, and it wasn't about a suntan.

That morphed into (and not in a Mork and Mindy way) the high-protein low/no-carb diets like the Atkins diet and the Zone, which apparently work wonders so long as you don't go into ketosis. Oh, and aren't a vegetarian; it's basically chicken and vegetables. Nice, but hardly varied or vegan.

We are, apparently, 10% heavier than we were twenty years ago, and all because we live in a "toxic-food environment".

What kind of a world is it where our very sustenance is considered poisonous? Where large swathes of us (women, mostly) hate the bodies we have and yearn desperately for better, thinner ones that will bring with them the dreams we aspire to? Where - nearly - every woman I know could do a PhD on diets/food fat-content/relative merits of aerobic classes but feel their imperfections so intensely that their lives are never fully enjoyed? Where that still, small voice whispers in your ear, all the time, "you could lose a little weight, couldn't you?"

The tyranny of the functional food/diet industry and how it relates to the fashion sector hurts me. Badly. I'm healthy - ferchrissakes, I cycled eighteen miles yesterday - and curvy and womanly and reasonably wise, and I laugh and smile, but every other day there's a chink in my armour, and I can't help feeling bloated and ugly and like a new body will answer all my prayers.

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