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Notes to self

Globetrotting writer Gaby Doman reflects on the everyday ups and downs of being a modern woman

Tabloid on Saturday

It’s been a little while since I had a full-on ranty column, but I feel one coming on today. Perhaps it’s because of that time of year or perhaps it’s because I am surrounded by health-conscious women, but all I hear anyone talk about is how they’re on a diet or about a “trick” they’ve found to losing weight.

I don’t think these people are silly, but I do wish they’d be kinder to their bodies. It gets me mad that people promote these diet fads and profit from people’s desperation to lose 10kg in six minutes or whatever other ridiculous tactic they use.

Diets are really stupid. I’m no health expert, but I have tried everything to whittle my waist and get “xylophone ribs” as I used to say (shudder). I’ve spent most of my adult life switching from doing what I want, which was mainly eating pizza and barely moving, to being miserable on juice diets which I suppose were my way of punishing myself for the binges. So, I can guarantee you that diets don’t work. Ever.

One of my Facebook friends has just embarked on a Weight Watchers diet. This is my own personal opinion, but I just don’t see the joy (or point) in counting the value of every morsel you put in your mouth. We all know chocolate cake is tasty but naughty. We all know a banana would be better and more nourishing (but perhaps a nice compromise would be a chocolate banana shake?) Why do we need to tot up the numbers of everything? If you’re serious about losing fat, forget looking up how many points that cake is and go for something with a little nutritional value. Or make it your only treat for the week. SO EASY. These daft points-based diets seem to make it all so needlessly complicated. If I was counting food values all day, I know I’d be thinking about food non-stop.

And don’t even get me started on “detox diets” which, due to the fact their vegetable based, seem to have people fooled that they’re healthy. As a girl who has struggled with eating issues, I don’t think there is anything more dangerous than perpetuating the idea that food is somehow “toxic” and that we need to periodically stop poisoning ourselves with it. What rubbish! If you eat well, food is medicine. Delicious, delicious medicine. All juice diets do is make you lose water weight and muscle and become and evil person for the duration of your self-imposed starvation period. You’ll put all that “weight” back on the moment you eat normally again, though the muscle loss might be harder to fix.

Which gets me on to another subject; the scales. I’ve dropped three or so dress sizes over the last few years and every now and then people ask me how much weight I’ve lost. The fact is, I haven’t lost any weight. I’ve gained. I still wince a bit when I see the number when I step on the scales because my brain is so programmed to think lower is better. In fact, I’ve gained about 5kg from the time when I was barely eating, but nowadays all my clothes from when I was technically lighter don’t fit anymore because they’re too big. So scales are useless unless they measure muscle and fat percentage.

I read today that the pursuit of skinny, rather than strong, has meant that this generation of women is the weediest ever. How depressing. We starve instead of eat nutritionally rich foods, we avoid the gym in case we “bulk up” (which is nonsense, actually).

The silly thing is, the way you actually get to look good (through eating sensibly and working out regularly) is so fun! I eat delicious food for every meal and I’m never hungry. The gym makes me feel alive and strong and buzzing with energy and I feel like I’m in control. I never feel better about myself than when I’m lunging with more weight on my bar than my male instructor. I look back on when I used to be shaking with hunger and miserably sipping on watery green juices all day and wonder why it took me so long to realise that you can’t live like that.