The Last Diet You’ll Ever Need

by Mothership on June 27, 2009

As I sit here, stirring sugar into my tea (shh! My dirty secret) and wishing I had a custard cream left from the stash I brought back from England, I am thinking about a book I was reading to Five earlier this evening about astronauts and what they ate on board spaceships. It didn’t sound very appetising or glamorous and they also had to exercise in the most cramped and awkward conditions to prevent muscle wasting due to the lack of gravity. But I’m pretty sure they don’t complain or worry about their waistlines looking at issues of Vogue, Hello or the fashion pages of Astronaut’s Health and feel inadequate as a result.  My guess is they regard the food as mere fuel and just do their exercise so they don’t waste away, and besides, it’s probably quite difficult to weigh oneself where there isn’t any gravity.

There has been a lot of talk amongst my Twitter compadres recently about the trend for dangerously thin celebrities and models and how the entertainment and fashion industries are to blame for turning people into anxious, self-starving, body-obsessed miseries. If it wasn’t for them, the premise goes, we would all be happy with our body image and would not torture ourselves with dieting, failing to diet, bingeing, bulimia, anorexia, compulsive custard-cream eating and the rest.

It would seem only common sense that these entities would have a vested interest in making sure that we are not content exactly as we are, because who, then, would buy all the aspirational goods and services which create the profit to drive the machine?

We’d all sit at home being happy, having that second slice of cake whilst chatting companionably to our friends and families instead of poking anxiously at ourselves with dissatisfaction while the latest movie star flits across the screen insisting she is naturally a size negative 2 and she washes her face in gravel and cow dung. We might do something more interesting, fun and worthwhile with our time and money than perpetually trying – and failing – to turn ourselves into human toothpicks to the tune of $40 billion per year in the US alone while a few thousand miles away there are children literally dying because they don’t have enough to eat.

I recall a conversation over Thanksgiving dinner the first year we were in America after Five was born. One of the guests worked as a drug rep. in the pharmaceutical industry and she was very excited about a new wonder diet drug for which her company was trying to get FDA approval. She told us it was made from a plant that the Sani Bushmen of South Africa have chewed for centuries to suppress their appetite in the lean times of drought and famine. It is a fragile herb that only grows in a specific region, the homelands of these oft persecuted people. Now this large pharmacom had ‘discovered’ it, were trying to market it, and (she said indignantly) had unreasonably been slapped with a lawsuit by the Sani who were demanding restitution as they considered the plant theirs – it grew solely on their traditional land and had been appropriated without their permission. To be absolutely fair, as soon as I heard the words Big Pharma vs. Indigenous tribe, it was pretty clear whose side I would be on, no matter the details, but what really did my head in was what she said next:

“I mean, it’s not like those people EVER have to diet or lose weight! So what do they need it for anyway?!”

Husband could obviously feel the Vesuvius about to erupt next to him so, uncharacteristically, he stepped in quickly and quietly and pointed out to her, rather more kindly than I would have, that the Sani had a much more basic need for an appetite suppressant than we did – they got hungry and there simply wasn’t any food. This helped them with the pain of starvation.

“Oh!” She said, with a kind of dim, flickering light-bulb look.

“I never even thought of that”.

When you were small did your mother ever tell you to eat everything on your plate because there were starving children in Africa?
Mine too,  and like you I also used to tell her to pack it up and send it there, then.
I wonder what would happen if we could send our overconsumed dinners to the starving children in Africa plus the money we spend trying to uneat them again(all US$40 billion)
How many lives would we save?

And how many cute pairs of jeans would we subsequently fit into?

This specific set of data did not seem to be available readily on Google but I am planning to write to the World Bank and suggest they publish a white paper on this very subject.

I do not mean to belittle the agony of feeling unhappy with one’s size or weight. I have been personally tortured by that demon. I will go to considerable lengths to avoid face-time with a set of scales – why know the number? A whole day can be ruined by a set of random digits.

I do not think this befitting for a person of my intelligence.

I also find it inadvisable to look closely at one’s reflection when a little unhappy or hormonal. Mirrors tend to expand and retract in direct proportion with one’s emotional state – if you feel a little wobbly inside, you can be damn sure that’s what your eye will catch in the glass, regardless of what is actually padding your skeleton.

I got the best piece of advice regarding body image from a girl I once knew who was, oddly enough, a former anorexic. As soon as I began to feel anxious about my weight she rolled her eyes and told me to shut the fuck up, go to the gym, eat a little less, love myself a little more, and stop looking at the people who made me feel fat and ugly.

Because that is the problem. Not my weight or yours. That’s pretty easy to control, it’s just a math problem.  It’s the feeling, yes FEELING fat that is so awful and hard to battle. And therefore ugly. Why else would the two words go together as seamlessly as gin and tonic? Or thin and beautiful?

If we are constantly bombarded with images of perfect beauty, and these perfect beauties are having perfectly happy lives with all the perfect consumer goods that I do not have but a great deal of psychology and money is put into making me want then not only will I want to have those consumer goods but I will feel that I, too, need to look like those perfect beauties (being a type of consumer good myself, as a woman) and therefore need to purchase further goods/services in order to contort myself into the perfect female form in order to attract one of those white-toothed men in the ads (they do exist, don’t they?) who will provide the consumer goods I am coveting etc. etc.

I read the other day that 24% of women (and 17% of men) would trade three to five years of their lives to be thinner.

NEARLY A QUARTER OF US WOULD GIVE UP THREE YEARS! That is just crazy talk. They didn’t even say which ones, like, okay, I’ll give up three shitty ones in a nursing home where I can’t wipe my own ass and I don’t know if it’s Tuesday anymore. Just a random “three years”.

In the last three years I have borne and raised my beloved son, Two. Imagine missing that so I could squeeze into a smaller pair of trousers!  The mind boggles.

It was so awful that I felt inspired to write my own diet plan. I can’t promise you will be a size zero at the end of it, but you won’t care if you’re not by the time you’re done (kind of like they say about Dilaudid – not exactly a painkiller, but you don’t care that it hurts? Maybe that’s a bad analogy..)  Anyway, here is is:

The Last Diet You Will Ever Need:

Throw away your magazines

Switch off the TV

Do not watch Hollywood movies

Do not follow Entertainment figures

Do not compare yourself to other people. You can only look like you, just a few pounds either way. EOS.

Read good books

Eat good food when you are hungry. Don’t eat crappy food, it’s not worth it.

Laugh a lot

Spend time outdoors with people you love

Find an exercise you love and do it because you love it, not because you ought to.

Don’t look in the mirror when you are sad or feel unstable

Don’t weigh yourself

If you feel a bit fat, start moving your body and stop thinking about food.

Repeat, do not think about food. Think about life.

If you really need a biscuit, just bloody eat it. It’s not arsenic, you know!

Remember that life is brief and nobody will be engraving your dress size on your tombstone.

If, when you are done with the diet, you have any extra dinner money left over, do remember to send it to someone who is truly hungry. I have the feeling that once you have adopted The Last Diet You’ll Ever Need, you’ll never feel like you’re starving again.


1 westendmum June 27, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Well said.

2 Little Brown Bird June 27, 2009 at 10:20 pm

I agree. Everything is relative. I despair at women who obsess about dress sizes. Most mannequins in stores are UK size 8 or 10. Of course a top in a size 24 is never going to look as attractive hanging next to one that is size 10.

In the end, it’s all about how you feel.

3 Arlene Wszalek June 27, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Timely. Perfect. Thank you.

Arlene Wszalek’s last blog post..Wzzy: Ooops @flowersbyfarha thank you, too! :)

4 Kate Lord Brown June 27, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Bravo. Having been everything from ‘turn sideways and you disappear’ to ‘turn sideways and you cause a solar eclipse’ pregnant I’ve learnt it’s not the size of you that makes you contented, it is as you say what’s going on inside. ‘Think about life’ excellent advice.

Kate Lord Brown’s last blog post..Icons

5 Evitchka June 28, 2009 at 12:09 am

Again your wisdom prevails. Fasting from things like TV, Hello mags and celebrity-watching is a really good idea. Although I must say seeing a shot of Angelina’s cauliflower knees and Cameron’s acne and cellulite, in the scurrilous ‘Now’ magazine, did make me feel better.

6 Catriona June 28, 2009 at 12:25 am


Catriona’s last blog post..Comfort Food

7 liberty london girl June 28, 2009 at 3:51 am

Always thought that Eat less, exercise more was the best advice ever given. Great post xx

8 Potty Mummy June 28, 2009 at 4:02 am

Fabulous. Am off to eat a biscuit now. (Not a custard cream, though. I wouldn’t do that to you…)

Potty Mummy’s last blog post..They’re coming to take me away, haha!

9 Make Do Style June 28, 2009 at 5:32 am

I’m adoptin git forthwith – except the Hollywood moives bit, love films even the crappy ones.
I think the remark about the tombsotne is the clincher.

Make Do Style’s last blog post..I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll chop your bl**dy finger off!

10 Jessica K June 28, 2009 at 5:45 am

That is my diet – except of course for the exercise (hate getting sweaty) but I do walk. But I love food, mainly healthy food, but dont beat myself up over eating a tub of Kozy Shack rice pudding. I work with women who are forever dieting and are always miserable about it. I dont weigh myself and never know what size I wear as depending on the brand it goes from a 6 to a 10.
When my 10 and 12 year boys come home from school talking about carbs and calories I know our society has gone mental. I told them they need some healthy fat, carbs and protein and to just eat and enjoy it.

11 Margarita June 28, 2009 at 6:05 am

What a perfect post. It’s wonderful. So true and to the point. I have always battled with my weight, and still do, but the fight is slowly becoming more of a realization of false expectations and healthy realities. It’s still hard though.

Margarita’s last blog post..Bullets. I’m lazy. It’s hot.

12 Purplejake June 28, 2009 at 6:30 am

Everything in moderation, n’est-ce pas?
I find I lose weight when I think less about what I eat. If I try and diet, I end up thinking about food ALL OF THE TIME, even when I’m not hungry and thinking about it makes me want to eat it. Stop obsessing and start putting your valuable time and money to more valuable use is the message you’re sending out and it’s totally true.
Pad out you post a bit and publish it as the diet book of the decade. You’ll rake in a fortune telling people stuff they already know and they’ll actually thank you for it!

Purplejake’s last blog post..Boys Night Out

13 exromana June 28, 2009 at 6:34 am

really great list for the “last diet”, may i add “dance a little” too?
re the proposal you are writing, the two UN Ag/food agencies in Rome, Food and Agriculture Organisation, (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development, (IFAD), could also be targeted. thanks for this great post.

14 So Lovely June 28, 2009 at 8:16 am

Brilliant post. I woke up today contemplating whether to buy a set of scales. I have never own any but when at the doctor this week they weighed me with my clothes and shoes on! I saw the number and the sane side of my brain said “ok, don’t panic, they didn’t weigh you naked”, the evil side of my brain said “OMG why are you so heavy”. After reading your post, I’m not going to buy scales today, instead I shall just carry on doing what I normally do, as I am not heavy or unhealthy (judging from happy doctor and clear blood tests).

So Lovely’s last blog post..No Good Deed…..

15 The unreliable historian June 28, 2009 at 8:53 am

This is so timely. I have been working on these very issues with my daughter. We only allow ourselves to watch TV after dark, do not buy magazines, have no scale in the house, and eat what our bodies tell us to eat. If I want a lot of raspberries then that is what I have for breakfast and lunch too. It works quite a bit better for my twenty-year old child than it does for my forty+ metabolism and there is no doubt that without the scale to flog myself with I have indeed gained some weight. But I am feeling so much clarity about the way in which media messages make me feel like crap, and the way in which just going outside makes me feel wonderful. I have discovered a large nature preserve near my house that contains caves, ponds, trails, very beautiful rocks, moss, trees, lichen, a stone tower, and numerous other wonders. Every time I go there I wonder why people do not just walk in the woods all the time. We have had many conversations about why gathering sticks for a fire might be an antidote to gathering expensive shoes. We are building an organic garden and bringing home sticks for the fence, seaweed and compost for the beds, and even begging friends to let us have some of their excess herbs. We are also dancing while we clean or do dishes, and more after we are done. I feel like your post here is a lovely sign that we are not alone.

The unreliable historian’s last blog post..But Sir, Don’t You Know?

16 Working Mum June 28, 2009 at 9:29 am

Intelligently written and sensible advice!

Working Mum’s last blog post..5 Reasons not to do a Concert

17 Arlene Wszalek June 28, 2009 at 9:39 am

Also – we should all get sufficient sleep. For one thing, the body needs it to rest and recover. For another, sleep deprivation results in higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that hinders glucose metabolization (in other words, too much cortisol leads to weight gain).

Arlene Wszalek’s last blog post..Wzzy: Stunning! RT @Sealbroken Shot of Salle Wagram before the Lanvin show started…

18 The Mother June 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I have an anorexic sister-in-law. She’s not eating herself to death. Nothing we say or do helps, and, as an adult, she can’t be compelled to seek therapy.

I am a nice 20 pounds overweight. I’d love to get it off. But I won’t let it ruin my life.

The Mother’s last blog post..Awesome!

19 Sassy June 28, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Heartreak: the media’s role in exploiting women’s vulnerabilities as second citizen status. You’re a natural leader in the fight!

20 nappyvalleygirl June 29, 2009 at 10:43 am

Very well put. Life definitely too short to worry too much about weight – and food is one of its great pleasures.
On that note, I’ll have another glass of that delicious sugary lemonade in my fridge….

nappyvalleygirl’s last blog post..My family and other animals

21 geekymummy June 29, 2009 at 11:01 am

I like your post. I would add that it isn’t your size that matters. It is your fasting blood glucose, your cholesterol and your blood pressure, whether you can climb stairs without getting out of breath. If those all check out Ok, you are doing something right, whatever your physical size, but if they are out of whack, time to rethink something about your lifestyle. People often fret because they diet, and lose “only 10 pounds”. But 10 pounds, if you need to lose it, can make a really big difference to your health, and should be celebrated. We should focus on health not appearance.

geekymummy’s last blog post..Evidence of motherhood

22 Nish June 30, 2009 at 2:37 am

Agree with geekymummy. Health is so much more important than looks. Plus, you can always look good whatever your size. All we need is to dress to suit the shapes God gave us, not the ones we wish we had!

Nish’s last blog post..Treadmill Walkers? This post is for you…

23 Jacqueline July 1, 2009 at 1:43 am

What sensible advice.

24 Laura McIntyre July 1, 2009 at 10:46 am

I have much pregnancy weight to lose , i need to stop obsessing and just do it. I love your advice

Laura McIntyre’s last blog post..Dance Baby Dance

25 A Modern Mother July 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

I sooooooooooooooooooooooo agree.

Want some custard creams?

A Modern Mother’s last blog post..Whatever rows your boat…

26 Metropolitan Mum July 3, 2009 at 12:54 am

The other day I read that the majority of women have some form of perception problem when it comes to their own bodies, i.e. we see ourselves much bigger/ugglier/… than we truly are. Keeping a good distance from a mirror is a very good advice. Nobody looks that close at you anyway. Unless they love you in the first place, and then they wouldn’t obsess about that little bit of flab around your waist.
For me, losing these last pounds of babyweight isn’t so much about the weight itself or the numbers. Also, it isn’t about how other people look. I even think I look great as I am now.
The point is, I am afraid to lose touch with the woman I was before motherhood. As me-time becomes quasi nonexistent, holding on to my pre-baby weight is the easiest option to hold on to that woman.

Metropolitan Mum’s last blog post..Wednesday Weigh-In Vol.6. Or: Have your cake, don’t keep it!

27 clareybabble July 4, 2009 at 12:42 pm

This is all so true. I love watching Gok Wan, who says it doesn’t matter what size your clothes are, but how you look in them, i.e. that they suit and flatter you. I always try to keep this in mind when shopping, especially as I am one size in one shop and a size bigger in another. Great post x

28 katherine July 4, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I really think it’s time we started to educate our kids better, in school, at a young age about good food and nutrition. I don’t know whether the old style “domestic science” is taught anymore; I know I hated it when I had to do it (I wanted woodwork and metalwork but girls weren’t allowed in my Secondary Modern) but I learned did stay with me. I see so many kids in the schools I work in who are obese, or heading that way; and, looking around town on a Saturday, see so many painfully thin young girls, out shopping and I’m surprised they have the energy to walk. When did it all go wrong? Is a normal, healthy weight a thing of the past?

katherine’s last blog post..A Tag of 8’s (which took me about 8 weeks to complete)

29 Mothership July 5, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I have been very lax in responding to all you lovely commenters on this post – apologies, I usually try to be more punctual – but I have been away in a place with no internet connection which at first bothered me terribly and then I found rather relaxing. However, I do want to say thank you to all of you for chipping in with your thoughts and support and I am glad that I am not the only one who thinks we live in a world gone mad.
West End Mum, I think it’s grand that you want to get somewhere you feel comfortable with, and if you can do this in a way that makes you feel good about yourself than this is fantastic. It’s when getting fit and healthy makes us feel shitty about ourselves (most diets and weight loss plans) that it all goes horribly wrong. Good luck, and also, as your baby gets bigger you’ll find that it’s easier to remember other ways to be the person that you really are/were. xo

For those who offered me a biscuit, I gladly accept, especially if it comes with an offer of a cup of tea and a cosy chat. I’m all over it.

30 Metropolitan Mum July 6, 2009 at 1:12 am

Erm, erm. I am Metropolitan Mum, not Westend Mum. I take it as a compliment, though. :-)

Metropolitan Mum’s last blog post..A new breed of yummy daddies

31 Mothership August 4, 2009 at 10:13 am

Oops! So sorry Metropolitan Mum! I was writing this on the fly and scrolling up and down. How v. rude of me. Many apologies.

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