Simon Kelner: Let's have a diet that won't leave us cheesed off


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The Independent Online

Nicolas Sarkozy has been getting a bit of stick from our Eurosceptic newspapers for allegedly telling our Prime Minister where to get off at an EU summit meeting. For instance, the Daily Mail, a paper not known to mince its words, yesterday called him "a posturing French Pygmy". But whatever the French PM said to David Cameron, it was his deeply ungallant remark about Angela Merkel that showed the French Prime Minister in a most unflattering light. Apparently, he said to a fellow EU leader about the German Chancellor: "She says she's on a diet and then helps herself to a second helping of cheese." Mon Dieu! I thought the French were proud of their cheeses! Surely he should be pleased that she went back for a double dip of Camembert.

But let's leave the issue of Sarko's sarcasm, and Britain's relationship with Europe, to others. I'd like to talk about cheese, which is very much in the news at the moment. As well as the aforementioned "Cheesegate" (sorry), a report has just been published which identifies fine cheeses as the most popular grocery item for shoplifters. Mrs Merkel, it seems, is not alone in illicit cheese consumption. I, too, have a weakness for cheese, even though I know it's not very good for me. Whenever I've been told off by a doctor, it's the thing I've been warned about, along with red wine, chocolate and anything else I might consider enjoyable. It's not helpful that one of my best friends is a cheesemaker, and whenever he visits he brings a piece of his own creation that's generally the size of the Rock of Gibraltar. And, as M Sarkozy identified, it's just not possible to be on a diet and eat double rations of cheese.

There isn't even one of those gimmicky cheese-only diets which dictates that if you eat nothing but Emmenthal for two weeks, you'll drop a dress size. There are advocates of all sorts of kooky weight-loss programmes: the advertising guru Charles Saatchi lost stones by eating only eggs, while Michael Winner took a characteristically less prosaic route to shedding the pounds by eating only caviar. The Atkins and the Dukan diets were based, it seemed to me, on eating very little other than fillet steaks, but nutritionists and doctors will tell you that the weight loss these regimes promote comes with risks. There are diets that revolve around high fibre, low cholesterol and no carbohydrates after dark, and all have various things to recommend them. But they all involve a certain amount of pain.

As far as I know, there's no diet that let's you eat as much Cheddar as you'd like. But never say never. Coming this Christmas: Angela Merkel's revolutionary Eat Brie, Lose Pounds Diet book!