Christina Patterson: Diet books? They're just for reading

Share
Related Topics

The wrong kind of weather, and indeed management, may be the chief cause of delays on our own super-pricey trains, but in New York explanations for late-running trains are a little less prosaic. According to the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the main culprits, after engineering problems, are "fainting dieters". Only in the land of the free and the faddy could an urgent desire to squeeze into your size-0 jeans bring public transport grinding to a halt. The supersized, wedged into seats increasingly designed for baby whales, must be furious.

Those poor Americans! They don't understand. Diets are not something you do, but something you read. Diet books are, in fact, among my favourite literary genres. Not quite on a par with poetry, but certainly up there. On Christmas Day, after clearing up a meal that would have satisfied the most corpulent of our American cousins, I curled up with a plate of mince pies and my latest shiny, pink acquisition: Neris and India's Idiot Proof Diet. I read the Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution in Waterstone's Piccadilly, with a large glass of sauvignon and a bowl of Kettle chips. I read Gillian McKeith's You Are What You Eat in the foyer of a posh hotel in Guildford with a cafetière of coffee and a plate of chocolate biscuits.

A quick glance at my bookshelves triggers a treasure trove of memories. Fat Attack, Stop the Insanity!, Lighten Up, 6 Ways to Lose a Stone in 6 Weeks - all gave me hours of pleasure, punctuated by tasty treats. Am I fat? No. My thighs, like everyone else's, are currently a testament to enthusiastic consumption of festive food (average weight gain over Christmas is, apparently, 5lbs), but no one could call me porky. Like every other normal-sized woman in the country, I'd love to lose half a stone, but I can't be bothered. I'd really rather read the books.

On Boxing Day, I read French Women for All Seasons, a present from a friend and the sequel to Mireille Giuliano's internationally bestselling, French Women Don't Get Fat. I hated it. I hated it for the same reasons I hated her first book, in which she berated women who indulged in a glass of orange juice at breakfast or more than a single mouthful of pudding. Here, she adopts a similar tone. "French women" she says when describing her "50 per cent rule" are "apt to tell the person dishing, 'la moitié, s'il vous plait'". Well, bully for them. The more normal response would be to wolf it down and yell for seconds.

I hated it, in fact, because, like a thriller that reveals the killer in the opening chapter, it broke the rules of the genre. It's a genre that goes back a long way, arguably (though an apple would be a bit high in the glycaemic index for current tastes) to the Book of Genesis. Like so many of the great works of literature - Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Paradise Lost, The Faerie Queen - diet books are about a quest, a quest for a pearl of great price and one that will involve a series of taxing trials. It doesn't matter if the pearl is a medieval maiden or a skinny butt. It is ultimately unattainable, a dream that will remain forever wreathed in the mists of fantasy.

These are fantasy books without the goblins, the muggles or the dragons. Packed with strangely soothing pseudo-science (glycaemic index, ketosis, blah, blah, blah), they are profoundly repetitive, offering the same consolatory pleasures as a fairy tale or a lullaby. A fairy tale in which - deliciously, briefly - you take the starring role.

You are not, obviously, going to follow the diet, which is probably just as well. For then what would you have to dream about? Apart from a better world, of course, and you don't get that by cutting the carbs. Or perhaps, in the light of global warming, you do. But that would involve real sacrifice. You couldn't just read about not flying to Barcelona, you'd actually have to do it. Which would be even tougher than saying "la moitié" to chocolate pudding.

Meet the right royal sales force

It was, apparently, our future king who told Kate Middleton to get on her bike. Not literally (though that might have been a good idea in the light of the parking ticket she got on Wednesday), but in the good old Norman Tebbit sense of "get a job, love". This might sound a bit rich coming from a young man whose prime duty is to provide fodder for the popular press, but Prince William is, according to friends, keen for Kate not to go the way of all WAGs.

So now our probable future queen is selling tights. In this, she joins a fine tradition. Until the royal command to cease, Sophie Wessex sold her contacts and, er, her brains. Samantha Cameron sells posh stationery. Her husband, possibly our next elected Prime Minister, used to sell crap telly.

Oh brave new world of sales and spin! Truly, a Royal Family for our times.

* The HR department at The Independent is, of course, above reproach, but you really do have to wonder about the mental health of some of the people who glory in the name of "human resources".

Recent applicants for jobs as van drivers at the Norwich branch of B&Q were invited to gyrate to the Jackson 5's "Blame it on the Boogie". "It was a relaxed way to get the interview session under way," said a spokesperson for B&Q.

There is a huge gap between recruitment practices in the public and private sector. In the public sector, you have huge interview panels policing your every word, endless shortlist criteria and boxes to tick. In the private sector, you can do what the hell you want. In the City, or the media, this can be a cosy chat with your father's best mate. Elsewhere, as in Norwich, it can be a ritual humiliation dreamt up by psychopaths. Ones who have clearly been taking lessons from Donald Rumsfeld.

c.patterson@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test