Slim pickings

Head to head How's the New Year diet going? Keep at it and enjoy a better life, says trainer Richard Smedley. Give it up and learn to love yourself, says pro-fat Richard Klein

Pro-dieting

"It's true starvation diets don't work, but this does not mean you shouldn't diet at all. I don't go for the idea that fat people are desperately happy and that you should be content that way.

It's true advertising plays up to beautiful people, and this is unfair, but we are animals. People choose mates initially on how they look. This goes back to cave-man times. If you choose a mate you're going to pick someone who looks as if they're physically efficient.

Being fat does reduce your quality of life. Your risk of heart disease is bigger and there are postural problems and stress on the joints. My book is the first nutrition and fitness book for men. I wrote it with Jon Savill, a journalist for GQ magazine. They hired me to train Jon, who weighed 19 stone and had a 42in waistline, to be an actor in an action role. Jon ended up jumping out of aircraft and climbing rock faces in the Arctic Circle - things he wouldn't have done in a million years at his old weight. He was 15 stone when he finished, which is roughly where his natural weight was.

Anything is possible if you desire it. It's your choice to be the way you are. The diet I recommend doesn't involve eating less, in fact you could end up eating more. People eat the wrong types of food at the wrong times. If you miss breakfast, you'll be very hungry by 11 o'clock because you haven't fed your body for half a day, and you'll go for the type of food that will easily satisfy your craving, like a croissant with loads of butter on it. I train people individually for about pounds 200 a day. I often start by teaching them how to cook. If you can't cook then you end up in restaurants eating very fattening food."

Ex-paratrooper Richard Smedley has trained Robert De Niro, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Day-Lewis. `No More Mr Fat Guy', pounds 6.99, is published by Vermillion

Anti-dieting

"Diets don't work. Ninety-five per cent of people who diet put the weight back on over four or five years. After a starvation diet the body thinks it's starving and stores fat. It's counter-productive. The real problem is how we relate to our bodies. Fat is not intrinsically ugly. For most of history people thought it was beautiful. At the end of the 19th century women cultivated fat. There were books on how to become plump. Women wanted to have flesh cascading over the tops of their dresses - the point of corsets wasn't to make women thin but to re-distribute the flesh so that they had bigger breasts.

Even now men prefer women to have some flesh. It's only women who think men want them to be extremely thin, or they do it to impress other women. There's a porn star in the States called Teighlor who's 5ft 4in and weighs 500 pounds. Her fans write letters to the magazines going on about how they want to lose themselves in the folds of her cascading flesh. It only became fashionable to be thin this century. At the 1907 Paris fashion show Chanel suddenly featured models without corsets, dressed like boys. It had something to do with the whole aesthetic movement of modernity where people began identifying their bodies with machines. Nowadays people talk about having abs of steel.

My mother is enormous. She's obsessed with dieting. It's been the drama of her life. As a child I was very skinny and she was always trying to get me to put on weight. When I started getting fat at 35 she nagged me to diet. That's why I wrote my book. I'm hoping it'll help people like her to love themselves. What the government is measuring when it talks about obesity is the risk of dying young. But most people don't die young. You should only start worrying when your weight starts effecting your mobility."

Richard Klein, professor of French literature at Cornel University in New York, is the author of `Eat Fat', pounds 6.99, published by Picador

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