Should I clap?

25 Aug 2012

This is a blog about serial yo yo dieting.  Not a blog about those who lose weight for medical/psychological reasons. Parents don’t cause eating disorders.

“I’ve lost 10 lbs.  I’ve been on this marvellous new protein/low carb/grapefruit/wasp-sting extract/shark tooth/stinging nettle soup/ diet.”

Cue Oohs and Ahhs.

Call me a cynic but as I get nearer to 50, I have begun to observe that it is the same women (6 or 7 of them) who have lost the same 10-15lbs about 4 times in the last 15 – 20 years.  Each time, they vow that they will keep it off this time and each time, inevitably, they don’t.


  1. What were you like to live with when you on this diet?  Were you fun?  Were you happy?  Did you go out and enjoy a coffee with your friends?  Eat fish and chips on the beach with your children? Share a bottle of wine with your husband? Or did you become pinched, irritable, obsessive, grumpy?  Did you spend your time crunching your abs and measuring your seaweed extract, rather than playing with the children, talking with your teenagers, chatting with your husband, living your life?
  2. Last time you lost this same 10 lbs, did you life change immeasurably for the better?  Did you get a new job? A pay rise? Win the lottery? Get a new lover? Realise your life’s ambition to swim with Daniel Craig?
  3. No? Do you think your life is going to change this time?  How?
  4. What are you going to do with this particular set of new clothes you have bought to celebrate losing weight?  Charity shop?  Ebay, like last time?  Or are they going to sit, gathering dust and mournfully guilting you every time you open your cupboard?  Are they going to tempt you to slim into them again?
  5. How long does the euphoria last?  A week?  A month?  Is the admiration worth it?  Really?  From a load of superficial acquaintances for losing weight?  Have you nothing better to do with your talents, your education, your interests?
  6. Do you REALLY think that appearances matter that much?
  7. Are you REALLY doing this for yourself?
  8. Do you know what a hamster wheel is?
  9. When are you going to learn?

Diets don’t work.  There is science to prove it.

The diet companies are, in the main, owned by the big food companies.  You are buying into a complete snake oil myth by going on a diet.  You are, in fact, a complete mug.

However, what you are also doing is setting up your own children and other children, for a life time of low self-esteem, dissatisfaction and disordered eating.  You are putting your children’s and your children’s children lives at risk.  At a tender, vulnerable, innocent time of their lives, they are going to look for role models.  In our day, wanting to look like a model in a magazine was almost attainable.  Nowadays, it is not.  There is no pictures that haven’t been photoshopped.  What is displayed day after day, week after week, month after month in newspapers, magazines, TV and billboards is NOT REAL.  So your children (boys and girls) are growing up with the expectation that they should look like something that is unattainable. Literally. Whether this leads to an eating disorder or not is immaterial.  For the other 95% of children, you are setting them up for a fall.

(Vogue January 2011)                                    Vogue (June 1985)

Your children grow up with the idea that, if they are thin, life will be better, because YOU tell them that.  Directly and indirectly. Every day. YOU demonstrate to them time after time that YOU believe that life will be better if you’re thinner, when it is evident that nothing changes.  They believe that diets will work, because YOU believe that, despite the evidence to the contrary.  They believe that your unhappiness, your dissatisfaction, your low self-esteem is based entirely on the way YOU look, because that’s what YOU believe.  YOU are modelling a life time of misery and superficiality based on physical appearance.

If nothing else persuades you, let this.  This is what you are condemning your children to: “Repeatedly losing and gaining weight has been linked, in previous studies, to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and altered immune function”

So you won’t get an Oooh or an Ahh from me.  You won’t compliments or admiring glances.  NOT because I am jealous (see blog below) or admire your self-control or dedication.  NOT because I wish I could lose 10lbs.  NOT because I work as an advocate for parents of children with eating disorders.  In fact, NOT because of anything to do with eating disorders at all.

I hate to see people being taken for a ride, defrauded, duped, deceived, tricked  time and time again and, quite frankly, after 4 times, this conversation is beginning to feel like a Groundhog Day experience.

Try reframing.  What if you could put the energy and enthusiasm that you expend into measuring your snake oil into something more worth while?  What if only you spent a quarter of your snake oil money on sponsoring a dog, or giving a goat to a village in Africa or buying a round in the pub?  What if you stopped judging yourself on purely physical criteria? What if you could stop destroying your children’s self-esteem?  What if you got off the hamster wheel and pulled the wool from your eyes and stopped believing a clever, manipulative marketing claim?  What if you just stopped trying to please other women who really don’t care?  What if you just stopped wasting your life?

What then?



Charlotte Bevan, wife of a farmer, mother of teenagers, breast cancer survivor and parent advocate Secretary F.E.A.S.T. UK, Expert Carer, Echo Project, Institute of Psychiatry, talkhealth and Mumsnet Blogger

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