Dieting for Dummies

There have been a few media stories lately telling us that now it is sugar that is making us fat. Oh really?? Since when was that news! I remember when we were kids, we used to tell our little brother who loved lollies that he would get “sugar diabetes”. Rather ill-informed I must admit but clearly even then, we knew that sugar was not something you should eat a lot of. I am not sure there are not too many people who open up a bottle of Coke and think, “Well, this is going to be good for me.”

After a teenage brush with anorexia, I have been on a diet for over 50 years, and have been on everything- Israeli Army, Grapefruit, Atkins, Scarsdale, Middlemore Heart Diet, Weightwatchers, Jenny Craig, 5+2 and many of my own invention, like the famous peanuts and wine diet, the eat-nothing all-day-and-then-cake-and-chocolate-at-night diet, the swimsuit starvation diet - a great favourite before overseas trips. The list is endless, but they all have a single common element at the core -restrict the amount you eat and restrict the sugar. And they all work, so long as you keep on doing it, which is not always easy, especially with “strange and punishing regimes”!!

After all these years, I could tell you the sugar content, fat content and calorie rating of any given processed food and while I guess it could be said that I have specialist knowledge in this area, even your average Joe must know that there are hidden sugars in processed food.

I do agree with the new theory that the old Food Pyramid is upside down, the carbohydrates should be at the top and the proteins at the bottom. The “fear of fat” theory then starts to get the debunking it deserves. It is not the fat, it is the combination of fat and carbohydrates that is the issue. Butter is OK, but butter on bread is not. Chicken is OK but chicken and chips are not. The way we eat usually combines fat and carbs and hey presto, how to gain weight in one easy meal.

The psychology of why people are overweight is still, after all this time, poorly understood. Like what is it with the deliberate sabotage thing? I used to run a weight loss clinic and I would see it again and again, someone doing really well, the end in sight and then a total collapse. For a while I played around with the idea that it seemed to go in a three-week cycle, thinking that maybe that is the length of time most people can concentrate on something or maybe it was linked to menstrual cycles. Neither idea really stood to up to scrutiny.

So, why are people getting fatter and fatter and faaaatttter? My theory is alcohol which links back to the sugar issue. Wine is full of sugar, I used to say to my clients if you drink a bottle of wine with dinner, you may as well have two dinners instead.

So, now we really can’t win. Who wants to give up wine? Not me. Guess it is back to the peanuts and wine diet again.  L

 “The Fantastic Fat Woman”. which I wrote ages ago and was published in an anthology called The Third Century. It may provide a slight bit of amusement for some!!


This story was published in The Third Century, a collection of  New Zealand short stories edited by Graeme Lay.


In my dreams I am always fat. Not just a little bit fat, no I am enormous. Huge, gargantuan, massive, mountainous. My hair is big too, a mass of dark curls, round and bouncy. And when I throw back my head to laugh, the curls jump round my face. My smile is red, my lipstick glossy. Behind it, my white teeth, straight and perfect.

I wear shiny, slippery dresses of bright green aquamarine taffeta. The dresses are like landscapes. They undulate and roll over the hills and mountains of my body. At the neckline is an aquamarine frill, a shore by the aquamarine hillside, its stiff pleats the dunes. The dresses have big pleats flouncing and flowing as I move. I am a huge peacock.

In my dreams I eat. I eat with gusto. In my dreams my tongue licks the jam and the cream from the centre of the donut in one smooth movement. My white teeth tear through the juicy pork smothered in apple sauce and I laugh out loud as I tear potato wedges through the piled up sour cream and devour them. My curls quiver. And I drink iced-coffee through a wide straw, my lips moving up and down sucking with pleasure. And I lick sugared strawberries, the sugar dropping onto my mountainous bosom and dusting the deep, damp recesses of my cleavage before I bite into the sweet soft redness. The food is always soft, warm, moist.

There is no sharp crunch. No celery in my dreams. No hard uncompromising cabbage leaves or stiff pointy carrots. There are no cold green cucumbers, no hard dry crackers. And everywhere I go, I am prancing and flouncing, my feet covered by slippers with green jewels which match my dress. Laughing and eating.

I wake in my cool blue and white room as the radio alarm brings Bob Marley to me with a discordant jangle. My white bed is undisturbed by my narrow honed and toned body lying flatly under the covers. In the early morning half-light of dawn, I can’t remember who I am. The shiny green dress ought to be here somewhere?

I swing my legs down to the floor, the spray–on tan from yesterday’s filming makes them look brown but my feet are white, was it the slippers? I cross the smooth wooden floorboards soundlessly and pull back the white drapes (hand-made in Italy) careful as always to keep my much photographed body away from the window. They wait outside constantly nowadays, those who want yet another image captured on film, pinned down on paper.

I see the long black limousine waiting in the street, ready to carry me to yet another photo session. The chauffeur leans against the car and lights a cigarette. I see the smoke curl up towards the pale sky. Another day of hunger has begun.