The Diet Delusion

By William J. Furney

If you’re on a plane and your tray-table won’t come down because it’s perched at a perilous angle on your enormous gut, wouldn’t it be a massive wake-up call to take action to save your health before you’re grounded entirely?

That was the male passenger in the row in front of me on a recent flight from London, and it served as a very visible reminder of the epidemic of obesity all around us. The giant-stomached man wasn’t alone in his severely swollen abdomen on this mid-afternoon fight either: many fellow passengers, children and adults, wheezed, whinged, waddled and squeezed their pudgy selves into complaining seats, as they waited for another feed.

But the catering truck hadn’t arrived for the four-hour flight, the captain announced at the 3pm departure time, and we daren’t take off without food and drink. So we sat and waited and by time the food truck turned up and left, we’d missed our departure slot and had to wait for another — in the end totalling an hour’s delay for food that no one really needed (earlier, the bars and restaurants in the departures area of Gatwick Airport had been jam-packed, and it’s a safe bet many on my flight had been indulging in holiday lunchtime fun).

None of this mattered to me, because I had brought my own nutrition, including ingredients for future dishes. My hot curry powder, however, raised eyebrows when the bag containing it was stopped and checked by security: “Is this really curry powder?” the agent asked. I’d wanted to reply, “Yes, and it’s explosively hot — a real taste bomb”, but thought better of it.

Does anyone care anymore about their health and fitness, and what fuel they’re filling themselves up with? Why do we allow ourselves to balloon to such disastrous, putty shapes — and then deride those who wish to stay in-shape, as though they’re insane to want to take care of themselves and look good?

Of course, there’s one thing you can’t do and that is call fat people by their name: fat. And you certainly can’t blame them for their portly condition. It is not, we are told, their fault. Even doctors are in a dilemma as they sit across from obese patients and rather than telling them to move more and eat properly, they simply cave in to the political-correct nonsense and reach for their prescription pads to write up what will be a lifetime of drugs to treat diabetes, heart disease, cancers and other diseases of diets gone wild.

And parents who feed their kids till they almost burst and develop alarming weight-related conditions also get a pass: again, it is not their, or anyone’s fault. (Little junior just has a man-size diet.)

In a recent piece in Britain’s left-wing and financially imperiled Guardian newspaper titled ‘We’re in a new age of obesity. How did it happen? You’d be surprised’, columnist George Monbiot, tried to rail against “obesophobia”, or fat-shaming, and failed. At least judging from reader comments, as many people pointed out that today’s meal sizes are massive compared to what they used to be and many parents are all too eager to give their pint-size kids meals that are anything but child-size. Plus, everything is laced with sugar — a point Monbiot, who is battling prostate cancer, at least scooped up.

“The shift has not happened by accident. As Jacques Peretti argued in his film The Men Who Made Us Fat, food companies have invested heavily in designing products that use sugar to bypass our natural appetite control mechanisms, and in packaging and promoting these products to break down what remains of our defences, including through the use of subliminal scents,” he wrote. “They employ an army of food scientists and psychologists to trick us into eating more than we need, while their advertisers use the latest findings in neuroscience to overcome our resistance.”

It’s no wonder the global diet industry is projected to dramatically expand to $278.95 billion in the next few years, from around $168.95 billion now. We’re desperate to shed the pounds, but we’re going about it all the wrong way. Quick-fix diets don’t work in the long term, because most people quickly revert to their processed-food feeding frenzy and it’s culinary Groundhog Day all over again. The only effective “diet” to achieve and maintain a healthy size is a lifestyle (permanent) one.

And taste is highly overrated and irrelevant, as I attempted to explain to my 17-year-old daughter, Wallis, recently. Who cares about a fleeting sensation when the lasting effects are important? I’d said — a point also lost on my son, Reuven, 15, who’d said ahead of our inaugural Summer Dinner last Friday: “You’re allowed to have anything except that disgusting slop you always cook for yourself!” It is true that the youth of today have a lot to learn, which is surprising given that they’re addicted to their phones and social media in general. You would think they’d be better informed.

Meanwhile, it turns out that all the actual food humans need to live healthy, slim and happy lives is already fully processed and packaged for us. All you have to do is reach up and pluck it from a tree or crouch down and pick it from the ground.

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