Rowan Pelling: Stuff the diet, girls, if you want to keep your breasts and your boyfriend

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The Independent Online

I was never any good as a food faddist. My talent for self-restraint equals that of Posh Spice on a shopping spree down Bond Street. Even in my undergraduate, eating disorder day, I lacked the iron will to be an anorexic. I much preferred to have my cake and throw it up again, and I wasn't even any good at that.

When I was a student bulimic (par for the course in my English Literature set) I weighed a good two stone more than I do now. In fact, I didn't lose weight until I packed in the purging, abandoned the cottage-cheese diet that interspersed the ice-cream binges, and got a life.

My youthful experience as a food obsessive has left me sceptical about passing health trends and specialist diets. The scepticism resurfaced last week when several events indicated a mass outbreak of orthodoxia nervosa, which is a pathological fixation with eating whatever food is currently deemed healthy.

My older sister claimed she had a wheat allergy, at which point I said that we should praise God that she survived a childhood fuelled by loaves of Mother's Pride.

Then I came into work to find Annie and Dea, my features assistants, stuffing a week's worth of salad into the fridge. They had adopted the motto of our local café, "Fat arse? Eat salad!"

I told them that eating salad all day would mean stuffing down pizza all night, that if the salad thing did work their breasts would wither away and they'd never have boyfriends again, and that, in any case, the only way to get thin was: to be so stressed you have no time to eat; to take heroin and speed; to fall madly in love and live on moonbeams.

Annie then handed over a newspaper cutting about "the amazing exercises that help you lose weight just by breathing", acknowledging that she was teetering on the brink of insanity.

I confess there have been times when I've succumbed to the "my body is my temple" cult. As Annie pointed out, it was me who jumped on the Ashtanga yoga bandwagon, though I quickly fell off it again. But my friends still labour under the impression that I spend four hours a day in the lotus position.

At Tuesday's book launch for Chris Hart's novel Rescue Me, several friends said how well I looked. "Yes, that'll be the yoga," I lied. " It's extraordinary the benefits it confers on mind, body and soul." In fact my glow is due to a couple of weekends' reckless exposure to UVA and UVB beams.

My current thinner frame is down to a sugars-and-toxins-only diet that consists of chocolate, tea and wine. Stress has also knocked off a pound or two. Nothing, in my experience, accelerates the body's metabolism more than the pressure of four colliding and equally urgent deadlines. At times like these it's important to go out and party, smothering the stress with cheap booze and idle chatter. I was thwarted in this quest at John Redwood's 50th birthday party in the House of Commons since the wine was decent and the conversation demanding.

I was feeling rather graceless since I hadn't included John in our "General Erection Special" list of the 40 sexiest politicos ever. I knew that Nikki Page, his glamorous assistant, and an old mate of mine, would handbag me for this omission, since she assures me that the matrons of Woking go dewey-eyed over him.

The Erotic Review's qualification for sexiness entails being a flirt of the most incorrigible order. Alas, I didn't see John mixing thoughts on fiscal policy with lounge lizard innuendo.

Things could change if Nikki starts sending out for their lunches to the Eco Lab, a chic new café in Soho which pulls off the hitherto impossible feat of being healthy and hedonistic. I was asked over on Thursday to sample its most popular lunch, the "Eco Sex Box", designed to bolster the libido.

I took one back to the office for the erotic girls and, as Annie said when she plundered the contents, "it even smells of fanny".

Eco Lab deserves to succeed, just as Cranks deserved to fail, if only for the fact it's mercifully devoid of rafiawork vegan smugness. The owners, Charlotte Skene-Catling and Rohan Daft, eat meat, smoke like chimneys and drink like fish, so their detox is aimed at the serial temple-abuser. Furthermore, the till receipts list by name the things you buy there.

Life's rich tapestry will be massively enhanced when people rifle through their partners' pockets and wonder what kind of sex they've purchased for £7.50 in Soho.

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