Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Possible Nine in Ten

I found this article via a little piece in Slate Magazine:

Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - Europe

Fad diets are making Brits fat, claims gastro expert
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 27-Nov-2009

Fad diets are contributing to Britain's obesity crisis, the president of the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) said at the Gastro 2009 conference in London this week.

There has been ongoing debate about which diets have the greatest impact on weight loss, and for the food industry this has had an impact on products, particularly in the aftermath of the low-carb Atkins diet phenomenon. Many diets have emphasised the importance of various proportions of fat, protein and carbohydrate.

But BSG president Professor Chris Hawkey told an audience of digestive specialists that if Britons continue to follow unhealthy diets and favour certain foods over others, nine in ten are likely to be overweight or obese by 2050. Currently that proportion stands at six in ten, according to the Department of Health, although a new BSG/YouGov poll found that only 49 per cent of British people consider themselves to be overweight.

"Food has been shrouded in myths and fairytales since time immemorial as people argue over what is good for you, what should be avoided or eaten to your heart's content," Hawkey said. "But what's important is to recognise that despite the popularity of fad diets, we are losing a grip on the fight with obesity.We need to do away with quirky diets and get people to realise what will keep them healthy in the long run."

Hawkey also highlighted BSG/YouGov findings about attitudes toward food and various diets. In particular, he said that one in 20 women would try the Atkins diet if trying to lose weight, although only two per cent of British people think it is healthy; 21 per cent of Londoners would try weight loss pills in order to lose weight; and nine per cent of Brits think that a diet high in fish is bad for their health.

Hawkey said: "The problem facing society is not the content of our diet but it's the quantity we are consuming and the consequential impact of obesity."

He also suggested some fad diets that he thinks are worth avoiding, including rawism, which involves only eating uncooked food; the Hallelujah diet, which only allows consumption of fruits and seeds on the basis of Genesis 1.29; the Hollywood Grapefruit diet, which claims that grapefruit contains an enzyme that burns fat; and the low-carb Atkins diet.


My co-writer and I have been bashing on for ever about the paradox of the worship of thin actually leading people to be fat. There is a whole section on it in Backwards in High Heels. It seems to me to be psychology 101: if the ideal is of Victoria Beckham, every Hollywood starlet who ever faced a paparazzi, all the women styled by the crazy Rachel Zoe, and the general insanity of size zero, this ideal can never be attained by normal women. To get and stay that thin you require constant hunger, private chefs, no fat EVER, laxatives, three hours or more of exercise a day, a lot of cocaine, and freakish diets (raw food, white food, nothing after 6pm food), in varying combinations. So when the normal woman tries and fails to fit into a pair of size six skinny jeans, she punishes herself by eating all the pies. And on top of that, all that stupid dieting screws with your metabolism, and your sense of self, and your perspective, so it gets harder and harder to know what normal is any more.

Finally it is not just Sarah and I shouting into the wind, but a lovely empirical professor, with scientific facts and figures shooting out of his fingertips. I am pleased he sticks it to the diet industry, which makes me crosser than possibly any other, but I am terrified that no one will much listen. This will be news today and forgotten tomorrow. Professor Hawkey might have right on his side, but he does not have a great big fuck-off advertising budget to spread his message.

In the meantime, the scariest figure in that short piece is the prediction that by 2050, nine in ten Britons will be obese. If that does come true, there is a very real danger that I shall start becoming as grumpy and shouty as Quentin Letts and start talking about the people who have buggered up Britain. So do let's hope, for all our sakes, that the predictive modelling is off.

Oh, and can I just say: fruits and seeds based on the Bible? And ??? And ?

There, all better now.

Posted via email from taniakindersley's posterous


  1. I do wonder at the mind that would research and devise and then subsist upon a biblical diet. What a weird thing to do... and how dull. Fruits and seeds... where's the joy?

    I do find the diet obsession a little peculiar, to say the least. Any sensible (sized) person knows about moderation and what not to eat and how to stay the right side of obese; we make all sorts of autonomous decisions all day long that keep us healthy (crossing the road, brushing teeth and so on) and then when it comes to the instinctive act of eating, we fall apart completely and give up control to an out-of-control money machine.


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