Thursday, 14 January 2010

Boom or Bust

To diet or not to diet, that is the question.

A new year, a new set of resolutions.

Every January, regular as clockwork, new diet plans sprout in magazine and newspaper articles; failsafe, they scream at us, weight loss guaranteed. Buy the book, follow the xyz diet and the new, slim-line, attractive you will emerge from the flabby, overweight blob you are now like the actress slipping out of her fat suit.

If only it were that easy. There’s the little matter of left over Christmas chocolates, there’s the inclement weather which is so much more pleasant to look out on while sitting in a cosy fireside chair than actually being out in exercising the dog or shovelling snow and there is also the lack of  moral fibre and self-control,  both for me  always so much more pronounced during the chilly season.

Does it really matter ?

Of course, obesity is a real problem

Mail online says

Obesity rates in Britain are soaring with nearly a quarter of adults now classed as clinically obese.
Despite Government warnings that we are turning into a nation of couch potatoes and risking obesity-related illnesses such as heart disease and cancer, our waistlines keep growing.
While the Telegraph online tells us

Greed, rather than laziness, is the major cause of the obesity epidemic across the developed world, research has shown.

Both statements are probably true, we should not laugh off obesity. Being seriously overweight is not only detrimental to health, it also restricts movement, forces us into elasticated waistbands and makes us objects of ridicule or pity.

But what about the opposite?  What about Anorexia?

Anorexia is equally, if not more, deadly. For those of us, particularly the young and vulnerable, who take the vociferous diet gurus and arbiters of style to be apostles of truth the danger of self-harm is great.

Famous people who have died from Eating Disorders include Karen Carpenter, the musician, who died, aged 32, weighing 80 lbs. Several models have made the ED headlines, among them Ana Carolina Reston and Terri Schiavo. Dancers and a gymnast have starved themselves to death, as did Leila Pahlavi, the youngest daughter of the Shah of Persia. The American poet, Anne Sexton, who killed herself at age 46, suffered from anorexia and depression.

The list of unknown young girls and not so young girls – and nowadays boys, I have read – suffering from Eating Disorders is an ever growing one. You don’t have to be famous to be on it. 

My friend Marianne suffered from anorexia, long before we knew that that was its name. We were a group of four teenaged school friends; we met in each others houses after school listening to pop music, talking about boys, trying on somebody’s new trousers or top, experimented with make-up, tried smoking cigarettes and felt grown-up doing it; all of it very tame. This was in the days before drugs and binge drinking and sex at thirteen.

The three of us noticed that Nanni seemed to become really obsessed with what she called physical fitness, she would practice a new gymnastics exercise relentlessly, until she had mastered it. She did the splits and threw her legs up into the air at a time when we’d only seen dancers and gymnasts do it on TV.

She also seemed to eat less than the three of us, often going without meals, insisting that this was all part of a healthy regime and she would soon outrun and outperform the rest of us. We weren’t aware of having entered into a competition with her but we humoured her. Nanni was just being very silly.

Weeks later we became worried about her, talking about her behind her back, trying to get her to share special treats with us and saying we were getting bored with the physical exercise routines. We knew she’d stopped having periods; she was looking haggard and very thin under her baggy clothes. We became frightened, at a loss to understand what was happening to her; we withdrew from our friend.

In due course Nanni stopped coming to school.  We heard she had fallen ill. We tried to visit her at home, her parents  didn’t let us in; they said she wasn’t well enough for visitors, giving no explanation as to her illness, in spite of our questions. I remember that they appeared grave but also uneasy; they reassured us that Nanni would soon be well again but that we should stay away in the meantime.

All sorts of rumours went round the school about her condition but the word anorexia was never mentioned; we wouldn’t have understood its meaning if it had. Finally, we heard that she had been admitted to a mental institution.

We never saw Nanni again; her parents moved house. I still have no idea what happened to her.

I think I'll try and eat sensibly again, now that Christmas is over. What about you?


  1. friko - what i know about eating: eat with care, eat for need and for pleasure. be grateful for food. know what feels good in terms of appearance and physical well-being because no matter what their qualifications, no one else can tell you what either of those states feel like!!! steven

  2. Dear Friko, what an important entry of yours. There are days when I don't eat anything at all and seem to have only thirst, which I still with much tea.
    Assume that mostly all should be allowed to be eaten, as long as it does good to body, mind and soul.
    Please have a nice Friday.
    p.s.: interesting indeed that there was 'feeding' in my mind tonight as well.

  3. Another one of our social ills. That picture on your post is so horrible I can't understand that mindset. She looks so sick. Ya moderation is the key to everything we do for sure.

  4. It's those ---- chocolates left over from Christmas, as you say!! I find it is easier to be satisfied with light meals or a salad in the summer.

    Horrifying picture there of the anorexic model.

  5. It’s true that in winter I tend to like more “comfort food” and it is also true that the cuisine from the southern United States is mostly fried food. I try to cook “Mediterranean” style at home, not because I should but because I like it better, but then I also like chocolate. Dieting is very difficult for people who enjoy eating!

  6. You know Friko, this obsession with body shape is nothing new [how many drawing of fat women can you find on wall art-Eygptian-aboriginal-American Indian? But sadly, it equates with our obsession with so called fame and the fact that how one looks is more iportant than who we are and what makes each one of us special.

    Of course the extremes are terrifying and worrying as more and more of us succumb to those extremes, but for the vast majority-who quiver over the scales the answer is quite simple...EAT LESS AND EXERCISE MORE.
    I tend to hover between ok and plump because after a certain age one's metabolism is non existant- but I have a diet along Mediterraen lines, limit my weekly choc intake to five squares a night until the bar is gone.

    The picture of the model was the stuff of nightmares.

  7. Such a troubled relationship we have with food these days. I tend to think that both the extremes of obesity and anorexia are symptons of our society of excess. We have too much and don't know how to cope with it.
    Eat less, exercise more is so clear and obvious but clearly not that easy to do or there would be no problem. I heard something interesting about the way in which what we call willpower functions suggesting that the part of the brain which controls control is very easily overwhelmed by the concentration required for coping with other challenges. So don't try to diet when you have just got a new job!
    I will be trying to eat sensibly but I know that what works best for me is the positive exhortation to myself to exercise more rather than the negative one to eat less.

  8. With each ten years of my life I seemed to add ten pounds. At the beginning of the year I vowed to get rid of that ten pounds. I did so until I hit sixty. Then I failed to get back to my normal weight. Alas, I now have to get rid of twenty pounds and my will power got up an went.

  9. I have struggled with eating disorders myself. I also watched my late sister struggle with disordered eating as well. It is such a fine line between dieting, obesity, eating healthy, and eating disorders.

    I like your idea of just eating sensibly. :)

  10. Quite sad about your friend, Friko, and what an awful photo. It is hard to believe that this poor girl thinks she looks good.

    I am one of the 1% of women on the planet who does not like chocolate so I am spared that kind of temptation although I love anything fatty and salty. Crisps, for instance!! There was no baking at Christmas this year as I decided that none of us needed the extra calories and a special dessert on the big day was enough. No one seemed to miss it.

    I generally avoid buying stuff that I know I'll be a pig about - for some reason I can resist easily at the shop but not in the house. In the back of my mind is an image I have always been afraid of - I'm over 6 feet and have a horror of being large as well as tall. Not anorexic, though - far from it.

    Sensible is good. Don't deny yourself always and take advantage of that lovely countryside! Good luck.

  11. for some reason, this chocolate addict stopped eating sugar a few weeks BEFORE christmas!

    I've noticed how MUCH of the sweet stuff i had been eating! Always try to eat nutrient dense, REAL food - lots of nuts, seeds and grains- but life is for enjoying too so I eat EVERYTHING but sensibly...

    Aloha, dear Friko

    Comfort Spiral

  12. steven - not only a poet but also a sensible man.

    robert - no food, no sleep? you have days when you are less than kind to yourself. Take care.

    QMM - you've hit the nail right on the head, moderation in all things, how easy life would be.

    Bonnie - sitting at the computer for hours doesn't help either! at least there one shouldn't eat, a crumb might get into the keyboard.

    Vagabonde - I always prefer Mediterranean food to stodgy Northern European food. How come French women don't get fat? Is it because they are said to spend a long time over their meals, chewing thoroughly?

    Moannie - Yeah, I use the old metabolism excuse. Seriously, there is just too much food and I cannot always say no.

    elizabethm - sensible eating and exercise - the only way to get and stay slim. As you say, it is no easy to stick to this regime. I have a sweet tooth....

    Darlene - Mine too, unfortunately, but better weather and lots of walking will take care of the extra pounds.

    Shattered - Depression and Eating Disorders go together, but healthy eating helps towards a healthier state of mind. Good luck.

    Deborah - Not buying stuff which makes you fat is a very good idea. Unfortunately, Beloved loves chocolate but as he eats the milky kind and I like the plain kind there shouldn't be a problem. Christmas is always my downfall - homesickness is much in evidence and I just have to go out and buy, and therefore eat, all the spiced cakes and biscuits which belong under a German Christmas tree.

    Cloudia - how on earth did you manage that? Aloha, Cloudia

  13. Interesting post, Friko! I've had a look round your blog (love the snowy scenes of your part of the world)and will be back. From a look at your reading list, I'm guessing we have similar tastes.

  14. Everything in moderation, including food. Not a bad motto, but almost impossible for some people to live up to these days. We just seem to live in an age of excess. The diagnosis of a serious health problem associated with over-eating is eventually going shock too many of us.

  15. I think Martin's just said it for me! I don't diet I go by one pair of shorts which I've had for years... if they don't fit I eat less and exercise more.

  16. Liebe Ursula,

    ja, ich gebe Dir in allem uneingeschränkt Recht. Denn beide Extreme sind immens gefährlich, ich erlebe es jeden Tag bei meiner Arbeit. Nichts desto trotz, kaum sind die Feiertage vorbei, kann auch ich mich nicht ganz befreien von dem Drang die reizende und sooo schmackhaft erworbenen Pfunde möglichst schnell wieder loszuwerden. Nun gut, es ist eine bewegungsarme Jahreszeit, im Garten ist wenig zu tun und die Spaziergänge sind aufgrund der strengen Kälte doch ein wenig verkürzt. Außerdem können Vitamine jetzt doch nur guttun, aber dafür gleich zum Kaninchen zu mutieren, nein, das geht doch zu weit. Bewusst essen, Appetit auf etwas Frisches ist jetzt sowieso vorrangig, aber auch die Lebenfreude und die kann nun mal nicht mit dem ständigen Blick auf die Waage sich entsprechend entfalten. Also einfach ein wenig acht geben.

    Die Geschichte Deiner Schulfreundin wundert mich nicht, Essstörungen wurden früher stark negiert und auch in der heutigen Zeit, gibt es zwar viele Informationen, aber nicht alle sind wirklich wissenschaftlich fundiert und manche sogar schädlich.

    Ich finde es toll, was für Themen Du hier ansprichst und beteilige mich gern bei Dir.

    ganz liebe Grüße nach einem wirklich schmackhaften Abendbrot ohne Kalorienzählerei...


  17. Vicky Lane - thank you very much for visiting, look forward to getting to know you.

    Martin H - too much of everything, that's our problem.

    Fran Hill - I admit to liking is figures better than that of the model in the post.

    ChrisH - An excellent idea. there is a problem as one gets older, somehow the whole bone structure seems to broaden. I don't know if that's possible or if it's just an excuse.

    veredit - Damals wussten wir wirklich nichts von anorexia. Warum meine Freundin so drastisch diesem Wahnsinn verfiel, haben wir nie rausgefunden. Wir waren eigentlich alle 'normal' und auch recht schlank.
    Lass dir dein Abendbrot auch weiterhin schmecken, auch ich geniesse meine Mahlzeiten ohne mich gleich zu ueberfuellen.

  18. Amazing and insightful post. Balanced and articulate. In my humble opinion is not what you eat but how you eat and how often. I am one of those lucky sods that has a fast metabolism. People often wonder where I keep the food I eat. But what they don't know if that I don't gorge on food. Cereal and a piece of toast in the morning, a light lunch - sandwich, plus a bowl of fresh fruit and caramelised nuts and seeds - and in the evening, tea is usually cooked by my wife and it's something healthy. When I do cook, I usually make sausage hotpot (vegetarian sausages) or chicken and rice, or mackerel and salad. So, it's not what you eat, but how you eat.

    Greetings from London.

  19. I finally figured out how to become an official follower of yours. It is no surprise you have so many followers. You write so well. Quaker makes Chocolate Crunch Rice Cakes which have only 60 calories each but I don't know if you can buy them in the UK. I haven't been reading blogs or writing mine for a while but just got back to both again. So I'm probably rambling. I am awed by your writing especially the old musings.

  20. I'm going through the same thinkings at the moment. My hubs and I are doing the "don't put it in the shopping basket then you can't eat it" diet. I'm vowing to up my exercise this year too rather than do silly diets. A very thoughtful and well-constructed post. Thanks.

  21. I have two friends with daughters suffering from Anorexia. One daughter is nearly forty and the other is twenty-two. It's a horror.
    I've struggled all my life to keep my weight in balance with my height. My two sisters are reed slim and sometimes my worry about weight has less to do with health than with vanity. There's also the fact the obese are the 'pariahs of the month' in North America and being overweight is touted in the media as being a sign of moral weakness. I agree that the problem of obesity is a result of having way too much - but it is also a result of a move away from whole food since the end of the Second War. Processed foods hide a multitude of additives, sugars and fats, and these foods are always the cheapest - thus the strange phenomenon of the very fat poor.

  22. I know this story well. My cousin, who I grew up with, was anorexic. It is a serious mental illness, and she never got over it. She too failed to finish high school, stopped having periods and was unable to function normally for the rest of her life. She died at 45. She weighed 65 pounds when she died. I think that this disorder is still not well understood.

  23. That photo of the model is frightening. Anorexia is such a sad, lonely, unloved condition. Why do the fashion magazines prefer to show models so impossibly thin?

  24. Friko
    I have just caught up with your most recent posts. the snow scenes are beautiful. Yes I will try to eat more sensibly in the coming year.
    Thanks for your comment about Buddy. He does keep me busy.


  25. Not only is the obsession with appearance and slenderness a symptom of mental illness, it is a sickness of misplaced values. Do you think someone trapped in the rubble in Haiti is going to care if a rescuer is overweight? We need focus on being better human beings and quit trying to measure up to some standard set by a compulsively sick society.
    This was a very thought-provoking post.

  26. A Cuban in London - that sounds like a really healthy and well balanced diet; few carbs I notice.

    Karin - thank you for visiting. I hope to visit you. Keep blogging, it's fun.

    Argent - excellent diet, yours. I must try it. Except my old man likes chocolate and buys it and while he is as thin as a rake, watching him eat it makes me fat.

    Pondside - Exactly. It really is a very vexed problem. A healthy lifestyle, everything in moderation, would take care of it but we don't always manage that. All the same, I would hate to be really fat. It slows you down too much.

    20th Century Woman - Like Pondside's above, what a terrible tale and how sad to have to watch impotently.

    mollygolver - I don't know either, surely this degree of thin cannot be attractive to anyone, man or woman.

    Chancy - nice to hear from you gain, Chancy. Enjoy buddy.

    Kass - Obsession is the word; If we had a few other worries, like the Haitians you mention, perhaps we wouldn't think so much about meaningless, purely cosmetic problems. Thank you for visiting.


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