British writer Kira Cochrane, who has a new column in Guardian, loathes the diet industry. She finds it "utterly depressing" that a woman's thinness is often treated as a "major achievement" given that "we live in a society in which women are, on average, paid 17% less than men, make up only a fifth of Members of Parliament, a 10th of leading company directors, and have little choice but to watch in horror as less than 6% of reported rape cases end in a conviction." But the fall before last, after finishing her second novel, Cochrane found herself depressed. She stopped eating and lost weight, but she was miserable. By spring she was feeling better and started to eat again: not excessively, just regularly. "I have none of those tales that crop up in binge memoirs, of chugging back vats of chips, making midnight runs to kebab shops, or digging half-eaten chocolate cakes out of the rubbish to gobble down gloriously in a single sitting," she claims. "I just ate what felt normal, without thinking about it." And she gained weight. She became, in her own words, fat.
At first, she explains, she felt great. She no longer had to have stupid conversations about carbs or compare dress sizes with friends. "It felt liberating," she admits. But as she gained more and more weight she realized all the downsides: Fitting in seats on airplanes, buses and movie theaters; the anxiety that accompanies folding chairs. "To be clear, I didn't hate myself — I've been depressed, I know what self-hate feels like, and this didn't come close — but I didn't feel completely comfortable in myself either," she explains. What's a girl who hates the weight-loss industry to do? She's going on a diet! And writing about it.
I won't be including updates on lost kilos (I don't weigh myself). I won't be providing fabulous tips for reducing the size of your behind (what do I know? I just plan to eat less and exercise more). I shall simply be charting some months in the life of a person who is, at best, reluctant about diets, and, at worst, disgusted by the very notion, but who knows, unfortunately, that something must be done. I warn you: there will be grumpiness.
Duly noted! But what exactly is the message here? In a world where we're bombarded by images of thinner-than-thin celebrities, there is some kind of bravery in not buying into the status quo. [But where does bravery end and self-destructive behavior with regards to health (overeating, slothfulness) begin? When I'm not taking care of myself, half the time it's because I'm being lazy and depressive; the other half because I'm telling myself that I am rejecting societal pressures. I never know which is which. -Ed.] And lastly, and oh-so-slightly related: Did anyone else's heart sink a little upon hearing that Queen Latifah joined Jenny Craig?