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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum