Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Down with diets

Chances are you are on a diet. Everyone seems to be on a diet and for good reason. The world is struggling with “globesity”, a new word coined to reflect the escalation of global obesity.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), if immediate action is not taken, millions will suffer from an array of serious weight-related disorders.

Only recently tobacco was man’s chronic disease, but obesity has overtaken the tobacco and sits prettily in first place. Can we lick it as many have with cigarette smoking?

It is a hard road to climb, but for the sake of human preservation we must try. Was there ever a time during the last few decades, that diet was not on everyone’s lips from morning to night?

One cannot help but feel sorry for the word “diet”, since its real meaning has been lost in our popular vernacular.

Diet actually means “those things that are customarily eaten”, anything. Nowadays, it means primarily a food regimen designed to conquer excess fat. Diets can also refer to those who suffer allergies or diseases such as diabetes who wish to avoid certain chemicals in foods, such as sugar, salt, lactose, gluten, etc.

There are also diets to increase food consumption and encourage weight gain for the severely underweight, God bless them.

For the most part, however, going on a diet means you are trying to lose a few kilos.

Hundreds of reasons and thousands of books have been written to explain or eliminate excess fat and that is relatively new, since for the better part of human history food was not plentiful and diets were not necessary. In olden times, only the wealthy could become fat.

Times have changed. Men worked hard to get enough food. Any excess would be stored for later. There was no concept of excess or diet. While our bodies are essentially the same as our ancestors, we developed a larger appetite as food became abundant.

The concept of diet originated in the 1800s. Before that no one understood why some people got fat and others not. Could it be associated with sin, disease, magic? No one knew what to do, but something had to be done. In 1819 saccharine was invented, sugar was the culprit.

 Now we store food in our bodies and gradually come to the realisation that we eat more than we can burn. We may be wiser but we are also fatter. We are well aware that the consequences of a non-nutritious diet of sugar, starch and junk foods will drive us to the grave.

Obesity is rampant worldwide causing serious cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, enlarged heart, liver failure, varicose veins, arrhythmias, blindness, pulmonary embolism and more, yet we choose to ignore it as does a smoker with every puff.

 We live in a “fat” world. We must admit it.

The knowledgeable few are chronic dieters; yet how often do they lie on their couches, munching on what they call a “healthy snack” as they watch TV?

Even if you lead a healthy lifestyle, as a moderate number do, exercise, eat right, avoid harmful carbs, maintain an ideal weight, you still need to diet.

There are at least two periods that require dieting among the healthiest and most perfect among us.

January is a diet month for everyone. During the end-of-year holidays, our brains urge us to indulge in all that we long for. It assaults our senses, pursuing and chasing us until we surrender. We savour, we relish, we enjoy a little bit of this, a tiny taste of that, and before we know it we welcome the New Year with 2-4 extra kilos.

As if that were not enough, danger lurks around the corner waiting for the end of our joyous holidays, then it strikes. Scientists call it SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a common form of depression during winter, when days are shorter and nights are longer. Sleepless and irritable, we eat.

This is a subject that will not go away as obesity rates are spiralling across the globe. Diet we must.

Another “must diet” period during the year is just around summertime.

Out with our summer wardrobe and our beach-wear. Our mirrors show some bulges and pouches that we never knew existed. When did this happen? Hidden under our heavy winter garb and inactivity during cold winter days invited those unwanted rolls, and they must go.

The diet industry generates $55 billion in annual revenues. There are hundreds to choose from, but unless you start early, that bikini will not be so flattering after all.

A crash diet might do it in time for those beach parties. Absolutely not. The weight you lose quickly shall as quickly reverse itself. Any of the 500 or so diets will help you lose the weight, but 95 per cent of the time, it will find its way back.

The Handbook for Psychotherapy for Anorexia and Bulimia explains that, “weight loss is accompanied by ‘pometabolism’.” In other words, a body deprived of caloric intake, takes whatever it gets and makes it last a really long time by slowing down its metabolism.

Dieting is in the stars for us, if we wish to be healthy and look good, and don’t we all?

No, we do not like diets. Yes, we hate to deprive ourselves.

Solution: Maintain a healthy lifestyle and all else will fall into place.

“Better lose one supper than gain 100 physicians.”

 Spanish proverb

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