Why diets are ridiculous

Tomorrow is International No Diet Day. It's brilliant in every way, says Caroline Corcoran, except for the fact that we should be following its lead all the time, not just for 24 hours

I'm not sure what the etiquette is for International No Diet Day. Do we buy each other a multipack of salt and vinegar Walkers? All head down to the Count On Us section in M&S for a minute's silence?

I jest, of course, because while International No Diet Day may sound like one of the many international days that pop up on social media and in journalists' inboxes on a regular basis – amusing, faintly ridiculous, without much purpose – it's actually a million miles away.

The day, celebrated annually on 6 May, promotes body acceptance and body-shape diversity. It declares a day free from worry over body shape and diets and it highlights the inefficiency of most diets and the potential dangers of some. Its ethos is something that I shout from the rooftops (or, more likely, the restaurant tables) because I love food and I detest the concept of diets. Healthy, balanced eating and sweaty games of tennis, yes. Diets, no.

I lost a stone as soon as I stopped counting calories, but obviously this wisdom – as with most of life's wisdom – only arrived around the time that I turned 30. Anyone else who's been the 15-year-old telling their mother that from now on they're only eating Quorn chicken-style slices, and lain beneath their Take That posters thinking they're going to be hungry for ever, knows that the no-diet message is often the most crucial for young people.

But there is a downside.

And that is that No Diet Day (founded by the British feminist Mary Evans Young in 1992 and now in its 23rd year) still has to exist at all, as do diets.

A belief still endures that a certain odd combination of food, or eating on some days but not others, is going to be the magic thing that makes those Topshop jeans your friends for life.

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary – the Institute of Medicine points out that most people who lose weight on diets regain two-thirds of it in a year and almost all of it in five years – we still believe that it is this, rather than walking to work instead of driving and learning to cook a healthy, filling bowl of chilli, that will keep the weight off forever.

You see, the Western world appears to suffer collective and repeated memory loss. I'm not talking about the people who are medically obese and do a one-off controlled programme to lose weight, but those who are eternally tweeting about their latest diet fad, even though in a few weeks the Atkins, or the 5:2, or the South Beach will inevitably send them – stomachs rumbling, hands shaking – to the nearest newsagent, where, if someone asked, they would hand over £50 for the last packet of milk-chocolate Hobnobs.

It's no one person's fault, of course. We've created this monster with a diet industry worth £2m in Britain alone and a belief that there must be a quick fix. We live in a world of plastic surgery and credit cards: there's always a quick fix. Except that in this instance, there isn't.

Everything about International No Diet Day is great, except for the fact that it's not the unofficial name of every day of the year. A day free from body worries and calorie-counting isn't enough.

Diets are ridiculous. They make you hungry, they make you obsessed with food and if the Institute of Medicine's stats are anything to go by, they don't make you thinner anyway, at least not for anything longer than a few weeks, making the whole thing so depressing I want to bang my head against a brick wall. Which, given our insatiable hunger for new diet regimes, will probably be plastered with posters advertising the latest weight-loss plan.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine