It was Kate Moss who famously said ‘Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels’ – which is all the proof anyone needs that the woman was as high as a kite and completely delusional.
Many people have experienced the tedium of dieting and for most women it is just another unpleasant part of life since from early childhood girls are cautioned against that second helping of anything yummy because ‘it will make you fat’.
That’s where it starts but the pressure continues; no sugar, only a scraping of butter, no milk, salad instead of starch, three seconds on the lips, three months on the hips, all that sort of thing. I’m a veteran and you know what, I’m still fat.
My mother was a compulsive dieter and sometime in the early 70s diet food hit our shelves. Diet food was the answer to all weight problems – full of ‘lo’ and ‘lite’ ingredients – we could eat as much as we liked and not get fat.
It was then, I believe, that the obesity epidemic really started. The world was full of poor fatties dutifully sweetening their coffee with vile saccharine then adding a dash of fat-free so-called milk, having a small slab of sugar-free chocolate as a treat, and looking forward to a lunch consisting of a rice cake with low-fat spread, and a cup of sodium-free diet soup.
That’s not food, that’s punishment. No wonder most victims relapsed, went on pizza and KFC binges, or enjoyed a lost weekend alone with a chocolate cake, a couple of tubs of ice cream with selected sauces, bags of crisps, several big bars of chocolate, butter croissants, and sweet champagne.
Do not judge them. Diet food is an inhuman form of torture – and I should know, having tried several diets myself. There’s the X Factor diet where you can gorge on carbs but avoid all fats – cheese-free pizza with boiled potato, anyone? Jelly-tots for pud. Then the High Fat, medium protein, low carb diets – dairy and most veg allowed, even fatty meat, but beware of fruit – ideal for most men, except for the caveat on booze.
Then there’s Weigh-less – limited diet, strictly weighed and eaten in exact amounts exactly when they tell you. It really works brilliantly, ‘works’ being the operative word. Weight Watchers – worked for Fergie, South Beach, and a host of others where you eat actual food. Then there are the special food diets, like The Cambridge Diet, where you are limited to water [no lemon], black tea and black coffee, and the packets of soup, shakes, porridge and energy bars they sell you.
There are lots of versions of this but they all have one thing in common: the prepared foods are very expensive and tasteless. You may not be hungry and the weight will probably be falling off, but after a month of forcing down bland drinks, the smell of a colleague’s packet of microwave popcorn is likely to send you into a fit of hysterical tears.
No thank you. The answer would seem to be to avid extremes and enjoy good food in moderation. Now, I don’t want to blow my own horn or anything, but I am by nature of being an excellent shopper: if shopping were an Olympic sport the US would offer me automatic citizenship and a billion dollars just to be on their team, because the know I’m a sure gold medal winner.
I can’t take all the credit: I need to thank my grand mother, and my mother, my father and his father, my husband, my daughters, my friends with allergies, everyone for whom I’ve ever bought Christmas and birthday presents, and of course God, who gave me a brain like an adding machine and a sharp eye.
It’s surprisingly easy to find gluten-free products for the many with gluten allergies; nut-allergies are a little trickier because so many items contain a warning that they are produced in a factory that uses nuts. But no or low sodium? A cinch.
You can get almost anything sugar-free, and most products are fat free or ‘lean’ in the case of meat: buying for vegetarians and vegans is simple in big supermarkets and there is often a fair variety of alcohol free beers and wines, and free range chicken and eggs, while organic vegetables are de rigueur in the Republic of Rosebank.
It’s never been easier to shop for Vegan dieting teetotaler friends who have allergies and lead an ethical lifestyle. It is getting a bit harder though to shop for the rest of us.
Take cough mixture. The good stuff is all kept behind the counter under the assistant’s beady eye, and if you want one that contains both sugar and alcohol [nothing to beat that slow burn of the sweetened cherry flavoured boozy elixir hitting those raddled lungs and working its magic] you are regarded as an addict. You may as well just ask outright for morphine or medical grade cocaine.
Then it’s off to the dairy aisle for a sweet milky drink. Except all the milky drinks are artificially sweetened and ‘lo-fat’. How about a yogurt then? Again, there is an array of low fat and no fat and all contain artificial sweetener and nothing appears to be ‘live culture’. At least the butter is butter although it might as well be an gold ingot considering the price. And half of it is unsalted.
If you chose to abuse your body with margarine, there is a fair variety, but much of that too is ‘medium fat’ or ‘with olive oil’ and presents itself more as a medicine [‘love your heart’, ‘recommended by the heart foundation’ etc etc] than as the oily sludge it is.
Commercial milk, like bread, had the goodness extracted ages ago – be it “full cream”, skimmed, lo-fat, to anyone who was raised on cow’s milk in the 60s and 70s it all tastes like bilge – so grab whatever’s on special and head to the meat.
Decades ago meat was stamped with different colours to distinguish its grade: I think Purple was best while Green was really only for stewing. This is no longer the case – instead we have vacuum packs of Dry Aged and Lazy Aged and no matter how pricey, it all seems to contain gristle and nowhere will it say A nicely fatty cut of rump from a young animal, aged just enough to be tender without being turned.
As for the ice cream, look carefully if you want the real thing. There are Sorbets and Ice-cream flavoured dairy desserts trying to trick you: unless it says Full cream Ice Cream, it isn’t ice cream, no matter how enticing the caramel fudge or choc mint flavour.
Food should taste like authentic food: Fry’s Soy ‘Veal Cutlets’ are no more veal cutlets than Macon is Bacon: if there is any doubt, try it on a cat or a child. Sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate? Diet Coke? Sorry – it’s simply not The Real Thing.
I would rather have a small helping of food than a large helping of tasteless skinny. I might change my mind of course, but only after Kate Moss shares her drugs with me.