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Putting the Christmas glut behind her, Catherine Fellows weighs up the range of diets on the market and wonders if being fat is really the problem.

I don’t want to pick a fight with Naomi Wolf. I am willing to believe that there are many women eating themselves out of existence, physically and mentally, as losing weight becomes an obsession, and that is very serious. Let’s face it though, Ms Wolf beams from the cover of her book as beautiful and slim as any ideal sent to try womankind. What is more , she is probably a lot more healthy and energetic than most of the 65 per cent of her fellow Americans classified as overweight by a recent

are just as much slaves to food and their incapacitated bodies as Wolf’s abstainers. As the insurers will tell

Life Insurance survey. Many of these'

you, excessive, indiscriminate consumption is statistically linked with heart disease and cancer, not to mention decreased mobility and longevity, lack ofenergy, joint problems and so on. There are plenty of sound reasons for losing weight.

We all have different physiques and different metabolic rates (and consequently different healthy weights) and thank God for it. If we were a race of Action Men and Barbie Dolls surely we would be dying to be unique. But isn’t it just as much a matter of conditioning to accept that you are ‘meant’ to carry fat, as it is that you are meant to look like Kim Basinger?

Also, isn’t the emphasis changing when it comes to the significance of excessive eating? Would it be contentious to suggest that it is increasingly associated with other forms of over-consumption and their enormous implications? Isn’t is becoming increasingly urgent that greed (as opposed to being fat) should be socially stigmatised?

From the quantity of dieting books

Worth the weight?

on sale and selling it would seem that people are still struggling for whatever reason. The selection I have thumbed through covers the whole spectrum from ‘stomachs are unsightly for the 905’ to ‘you can change the world economy if you demand the right food’.

It seems to me that the most useful advice on offer is about attitude. Think before you eat: why are you eating, and why are you eating that? Learn to savour rather than guzzle. to enjoy good things and the light, healthy feeling after eating them in moderate quantities. The main message seems a tad ironic from the dieting gurus and from me: put food into perspective, don‘t think about it all the time, eat to live!

I The Scandals Diet Herman Tarnower MD and Samm Sinclair Baker (Bantam, £2.99). ‘This is the no-hunger, no-hassle diet that in-the-know BIG losers have been passing on to their friends, coast-to-coast.’ So says a US fan. This is traditional, common sense dieting: no alcohol, minimal fat and starch, no portion weighing or


calorie counting. The principal components are lean meat, fruit and vegetables, but Tarnower believes in providing the body with a combination ofprotein, fat and carbohydrate. You don‘t have to eat everything specified in the day by day plan, but you mustn’t substitute or add. The reason for this is psychological discipline as much as anything. It sounds great; basically, you are eating plenty ofsteak and salad and skipping the fries and sauce ‘and you can munch carrots and celery all day long. The only proviso is ‘don't overload your stomach‘ ‘plenty of room for lateral thinking I fear!

I The Cambridge Diet Alan Howard (Corgi, £2.50). This sounds like a godsend for those with severe weight problems who have tried everything. It is a tough option. The diet consists of a singularly unappetising range of ‘chocolate‘ bars, ‘milk’ shakes and soups scientifically formulated to satisfy every bodily need with a calorie intake of just 330 a day. No natural foodstuffs could equal this, the author claims. You buy your

“The List 11—24 January 1991