It must be all the double cream

It must be all the double cream

I was both shocked and appalled by the article “No pain no gain” in The Sunday Times Style yesterday. Spread over four pages, this was an article espousing the benefits of crash dieting over losing weight in a more steady and sensible fashion.

First of all the title, No pain no gain, how Draconian. As it happens, I agree with them but I think I mean a different sort of pain. I’m talking of the kind you get the morning after a good run or boxercise class, when your muscles ache because you’ve had a good work out. They are talking about a constant niggling of hunger, not to mention the emotional pain felt when one inevitably falls off the crash-diet-wagon and stuffs the nearest thing resembling carbs down one’s throat. (Ouch, cardboard hurts.)

The imagery they use supports their idea of extremes. On the first double page spread there is a picture of a corset with a measuring tape pulled around the waist, straining it in. The invisible person wearing this corset seems to have a waist of approximately 25 inches. Is that the kind of measurement anyone apart from Victoria Beckham should realistically be aiming towards? (And I only say Victoria Beckham should be because that would entail putting on a few pounds.)

Now on to the thrust of the article. “New research shows that far from being bad for you, crash diets can be a safe and effective way to keep the pounds off,” proclaims the standfirst. Yes, you’ve got it, Tufts University in Massachusetts (a very honourable institution I’m sure) says it’s true so it must be.

To be fair to Olivia Gordon – the woman who wrote the piece – she does give the balancing view of Dr Peter Rowan who warns dieting and eating disorders go hand in hand (shocker) but really the damage has already been done. If someone even gets to this token section, tacked on the end of the article, they have already been lambasted with six paragraphs on the ‘joys’ of crash dieting:

“So what if we fasted for 48 hours, drinking only water, diet cola and black coffee, then munched a 400-calorie meal then fasted again for 48 hours more? We lost 1st in four days – even if it was dangerously extreme.”

It is precisely because of attitudes like this I want to get into the health and fitness sector. Somebody has to fight (and write) against all the drivel out there filling women’s heads with nonsense. Is it too much to ask for some responsible journalism where the issue of weight is concerned? People seem to forget the influence their articles can have and I expected more from Style to be honest.

The only saving grace was provided by the case study. Simon Glazin describes how he lost 7st in three months through using meal-replacement drinks in an effort to take control of his weight (21st at the time). In conjunction with his Dr and with the support of his family and friends Simon managed to turn his life around. He acknowledges such drastic action is not best-suited to everybody, “I would never suggest such a dramatic diet programme to just anyone. It worked for me mainly because it had to.”

But any good work done by this far from stereotypical advocate of ‘the right crash diet in the right circumstances,’ is promptly undone by the box-out alongside: “Crash and burn – extreme diets we love to hate” which provides a handy summary of the best crash diets and which celebrities endorse them. Thanks Style, where would I be without you?


N.B Following a comment from Olivia herself, here is a link to the online version of her article. I don’t think it illustrates the points I made about the layout, headline and strap but the writing is the same.