The problem with dieting in London – Esame Okwoche

The problem with dieting in London – Esame Okwoche

I know a Nigerian lady who is always on some kind of diet plan. I will call her Mercy. Mercy is hitting 40, physically she looks good for her age. She is moderately built, not too much tummy, just enough to suggest she is a mother, but her eyes, her eyes bear testimonies of countless days without proper nutrition. In her eyes there is always something that seems like regret, or a dissatisfaction, perhaps of her inability to eat food, any food, food she loves, especially with her being a great cook.

dietMercy is always wishing her life away, her days away, hours away, to that one day in the week when she could eat every and anything. Six days in the week Mercy permits herself water and caffeine or cola, which comes in the form of diet coke, (and yes, I did try to explain to her that coke whether ‘diet’ or ‘zero’ is not healthy) and an indulgent snack which for her is either fried plantain crisps or coconut coated peanuts. Despite all of Mercy’s attempts (misguided as they are) at weight loss or a healthier life, Mercy never looks refreshed or lively, instead she has this wide-eyed look to her, like someone caught in a surprise…

A while later, Mercy announced that she was on a new diet, Cambridge, she said. I thought she said she was going to Cambridge, the university, so I stared with a startled look. Not because Mercy cannot go to Cambridge, but as far as I knew she had no plans of continuing her education, and, anyway, an institution as prestigious as Cambridge always raises a surprising brow no matter what.

I had high hopes for Mercy’s Cambridge diet. I thought that a diet with a name like that would be different, unique, set apart from the numerous others. I thought at last, perhaps, the universal rule book of dieting would be changed, torn, binned. I thought it was good bye to the stay-hungry-for-long stretches, then hanker for food and be miserable whilst you do, then cut your eye at people who are not dieting or who are enjoying their food, type of diet.

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But Cambridge was disappointingly undistinguished.

Dietary plans abound in London and elsewhere. With promises to transform your live, cause you to turn heads this summer and next. They offer ‘simple flexible weight loss plans with meals that range from 63p to 63pounds and above. They include everything from shakes to 28-day fat burning plans to the more health conscious plans designed to keep you trim, hunger-free and healthy. But do they really work?.

I am not a nutritionist and this is not me trying to be one. I don’t need to be one however, to see that these ridiculous dietary plans for the most part are useless or short lived. And I am convinced that most women who have become addicts of these bogus schemes are aware of its ineffectiveness.

The obvious question then is, why do they continue to indulge in this elaborate waste of time? Why do people continue to pay for gym memberships they do not attend? Why buy trolley loads of slimming food and shakes and supplements, only to have them line your kitchen cupboards? Why?

The reason I believe is that ‘diet’ or the idea of dieting, or having a gym membership card has become a social barometer by which many people in London and elsewhere measure their position on the social ladder..

The gym membership etc then becomes or acts as a point of reference, a refrain in a conversation over velvet cake and coffee or drinks or refreshments of any kind, or other forms of leisure. The idea of dieting or dieting, or the direct debit going out of your account every month end to that membership club you do not attend, becomes an anecdote, elitist almost, used among upper working class N, and others who feel that the injection of an extra curricular activity of such a nature adds to their rudimentary, oftentimes predictable lives a certain flavour, a certain, je ne sais quoi!

Permit me to end with 7 tips I have found helpful in maintaining a reasonable weight in London and elsewhere.

  1. Chew your food: don’t be in a hurry to swallow, chew, chew, chew.
  2. Watch how much you eat. Instead of one packet of custard cream biscuits eat half and slowly decrease the amount. Chew.
  3. Try not to stuff yourself at night. If you must eat at night avoid meat or anything heavy

4.Walk instead of driving all the time!!!

  1. Get a bike!
  2. Enjoy. Eat what you like.

7.Remember to Chew… and walk…

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1 Comment

  1. Joy Ehonwa

    Reduce your portions, remember to chew, and walk! These are the three main things I’m doing, in addition to drinking more water and cutting out late dinners. And I am losing weight in a healthy way! I know someone on Cambridge right now and the weight loss is drastic, I just hope she will sustain it somehow; one cannot drink liquids 3 times a day forever. Lifestyle changes over crash dieting for me, any day!


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