January is the month of new diets, new eating regimes and ever more bizarre food restrictions. We are bombarded with articles about lifestyle changes to enhance our health and well-being; magazines are full of meal plans and recipes which promise to ensure we won’t die any time soon. It is all very exciting and everyone seems keen to share their favourite titbit of information about what is a good, a bad or even a super food. I wish they wouldn’t. I am disinterested to the point of rudeness – and here is why…
Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a big Victorian house with her parents, her older brother and sister and 10 old people. The little girl was happy and contented and quite precocious. She would talk to the old people and their visitors, be excited about going to nursery, playing on the swings in the garden and seeing her friends. She would spend time with her Grandad, walking into town past the smelly mills and chattering nonsense. She would tag along with her brother and sister, running and climbing over rocks on the moors, learning to cycle around the yard, watching Top of the Pops and Jackanory. She played with dolls, she built cranes out of Meccano and joined in the battles of cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, japs and commandos. What fun times.
And then one day the nurse came to check on the health of the children at the infant school, inspecting their hair for nits and the skin between their fingers for ringworm. The nurse suggested that the little girl could do with losing some weight. The little girl was only seven years old.
From that day the little girl followed one diet after another in search of weight-loss. There were times when she found it – like the year she spent eating only fats and protein, or the year when she replaced all food with liquid, or the times she attended weekly classes to be weighed and get rewarded with stickers if successful. As the little girl failed at each diet her body returned to its original shape. And so the little girl had to start again, and again and again. Each new diet did work – for a while – but eventually the rigid regime was impossible to maintain and as the weight returned the little girl noticed that her body got bigger and bigger. So now not only was the little girl fatter than when she started she also felt like a massive failure.
The years passed and the little girl became a large woman. A large woman who felt she had failed at what was expected of her – lose weight, become smaller. All that effort and all she had to show for it was a fat body. Sometimes, when the little girl, who was now a large woman, thought about all her efforts, all the energy it had taken to not succeed at weight-loss, she wondered what her life would have been like if that nurse had kept her mouth shut and just seen a seven-year old little girl, free from nits and ringworm, happy at school and well cared for by her family.
Over the years the large woman read books and articles about being fat, about being healthy and studied the research about the relationship between health and size. The large woman was shocked to find out that there were different opinions about the risks associated with fatness and that there was no conclusive evidence that being fat was the source of all maladies. Eventually the large woman decided to ignore the voice of the school nurse and instead tried a different way of being – one that was not devoted to diminishing her body. As the large woman connected with other fat people and joined groups dedicated to celebrating fitness and health rather than diets and thinness she finally felt that she had found a life in which she could live happily ever after.