Say No to all things Lo

Throw away that diet water and low-fat cheese, tomorrow is No Diet Day. Rosie Millard reports

Have you ever spent £50 on three felt-tip pens flavoured with "food essence" at which you desperately sniff in order to curb your appetite? Or worn plastic knickers, to enable you to sweat all those pounds off your hips? Body Wraps? Slim-Patch weight control? Bought Fat Breaker Miracle Diet Capsules? Sainsbury's sparkling diet water? Or, miracle of recent dieting miracles, Thigh Tone 1, a body cream to shrink away your thighs - a snip at £24.95 for a month's supply?

Welcome to the insane world of dieting, a world that ensnares millions of women, every day of the year. All over the country, kitchen cupboards are bulging with synthetic trophies - diet cola, diet ice-cream, low- fat cheese, low-fat bread, sugarless muesli - all of them substitutes for real food, all costing a fortune and all holding promises ofbreaking that fat barrier or beating that paunch. The fact that they rarely, if ever, deliver their promise is somehow disregarded by the women, and the handful of men, who utilise them. Only four out of every 100 women who go on a diet will be successful.

Tomorrow all that will change. For tomorrow is International No Diet Day. This is not an excuse to shove 20 sugary jam doughnuts into your mouth in the shortest possible time, says organiser Mary Evans Young, but a day put aside for "celebrating the health, creativity and beauty of all people". Ms Evans Young, a crusader against the curse of dieting, founder of the organisation Diet Breakers and author of Diet Breaking, doesn't give a damn about those four successful dieters out of every 100. This feisty woman, who looks as if she could easily withstand the disingenuous charms of a fat-free peanut, wants us to stop dieting altogether.

The launch for International No Diet Day set the mood for this chocolate- chomping, doughnut-dunking utopia. The much-derided Sainsbury's Diet Crystal Spa water was given a special award for "summing up the madness of the diet mentality". The actress Dawn French was acclaimed for "showing women it is possible to feel good about themselves and their bodies"; and there were large plates of crisps at which large, well-dressed women were picking in a careless kind of manner.

Diet Breaking ('Diet Breaking', Hodder & Stoughton, £6.99), published to coincide with International No Diet Day, should help, too. Designed to "deal with the diet scam", it is full of such depressing revelations as how one in four women feels bad about her stomach, and case histories from ordinary-sized women who cry themselves to sleep because they feel fat.

"It's not about health. People always say they are dieting to be healthy," says Ms Evans Young. "Weight loss for health reasons only applies to a minority. There is a vast difference between a health diet and a weight- loss diet. Show me a woman who diets for health, and I'll show you a man who reads Penthouse for the editorial."

Diet Breakers, which Ms Evans Young set up in 1992, aims to help women break free from this mindless cycle of dieting. Her invective is reserved not for the country's legions of dieting women (apparently about 90 per cent of them between the ages of eight and 75), but for the £1m slimming industry. "Each product seems the perfect solution. It promises so much, and when it doesn't deliver, the consumer blames herself and goes on to the next product," says Ms Evans Young. She should know; she first started dieting at the age of 14.

The turning point for her came in 1991. "I was a career consultant specialising in women's issues," says Ms Evans Young. "One day at a conference, I noticed that when the biscuits came out, there was a real buzz. But only from the female delegates. They were saying things like, 'Well, I'll have just one now, and cut down later,' and milling about the plates of food as if they were the most important thing in the room. I suddenly said, 'Why don't you all spend as much energy talking about your career as you do about food?' It was as if I had lit a match. I realised I was on to something."

She then developed a course of workshops entitled Do You Really Need To Diet? and out of these the Diet Breakers club was born.

"You always see photographs of women who lose five stone with slimming clubs; well, I'd like to see a photograph of the same woman, one year later," she says. "But we seldom see the same woman a year later because the chances are that she will have put the weight back on.

"Meal replacements, like bars and biscuits, can be just as bad as slimming clubs. They cost far more than ordinary food, they encourage unhealthy eating habits, they are high in salt and additives, and they may not be significantly lower in calories. Oh yes, they'll say they are low in calories, but lower than what? A Mars Bar?"

So Lo-Bars are out and Mars Bars are in. "We only want to eat the Mars Bar because it's not allowed," says Ms Evans Young. "I advocate healthy eating, and removing the concept of good or bad food. People must first relate to food in a healthy manner. My grandson can have as many crisps as he wants, but he doesn't binge out on them; he's not forbidden them, so their interest is removed for him."

But does No Diet Day stand any chance of beating the diet moguls? "I think it will go some way towards counterbalancing the effects of our culture," says Dr Janet Treasure, a specialist in eating disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry. "And it may add a note of realism. Some of us are simply plumper than others."

The Labour MP Alice Mahon believes that "public awareness of the dangers of slimming is now growing". She is presenting a Bill to Parliament in an attempt to "draw attention to the perils and futility of dieting", and to regulate the diet industry. "In New York City now, all diet supplements have to carry official warnings stating that the product does not guarantee weight loss, and that there are serious health risks in losing too much weight too fast.

"I would like to see similar restrictions here; and with that, better education about healthy eating, particularly for young people. I would also like producers and editors of women's magazines and daytime television to stop contributing to this madness. On No Diet Day I will be eating what I eat every day," snorts Ms Mahon. "Exactly what I want!"

To join in with No Dieters in Britain, the US, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Russia tomorrow, you could wear a pale blue ribbon of support, take a loved one out to lunch, or enjoy a picnic; develop a positive body image, for you and for children. And bin that tub of thigh cream.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

    £12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

    £6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

    Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

    £120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee