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  Opinion   Columnists  21 May 2022  Ranjona Banerji | The diet — where dreams go to die...

Ranjona Banerji | The diet — where dreams go to die...

The writer is a senior journalist who writes on media affairs, politics and social trends.
Published : May 22, 2022, 12:27 am IST
Updated : May 22, 2022, 12:27 am IST

And there’s that whole dieting industry ready to 'help' you get your wallet so much thinner

The world of the privileged that includes voluntary diet control and excessive exercise. (Representational Image/ Pexels)
 The world of the privileged that includes voluntary diet control and excessive exercise. (Representational Image/ Pexels)

Try intermittent fasting, said everyone.

Works like a dream.

You just don’t eat for 16 hours, 18 hours, 22 hours and magically, your body fat all disappears.

In between, they said, in those eight hours, six hours, two hours, you stuff your face.

There was some scientific mumbo-jumbo about your body sleeping and waking and cells rejuvenating.

All dieting science sounds fantastic.

A kind social media friend said they lost “kg”s and “kg”s while intermittenting.

Another real-life friend said a relation had become half their size in spite of eating potato chips and what Bengalis call “bhaja bhujis” nonstop.

My doctor scoffed.

Someone else stuck in another note of caution: men appear to benefit more than women.

Anyway, I had nothing to lose except faith in a lifetime of other diets only a few of which actually worked.

In two months, I lost 2 kg.

In celebration, I gained another two.

Okay, I joke, sort of.

Three months later the pandemic arrived. And there we were at home, those of us lucky enough that is. Eating what we could and trying to make sourdough bread.

The world of the privileged that includes voluntary diet control and excessive exercise.

And battling with a wheat and water combination in a glass bottle which bubbles, smells like who-knows-what and turns black the second you close your eyes.
I gave up on the bread.

But carried on with the 16-eight hour fast-eat combo.

This time, nothing happened.

All right. I lie. In between lockdowns, I checked my cholesterol levels and they had plummeted. My statin intake was drastically reduced. The weighing scale told its own story, none of it pleasant.

Cause and effect? Who knows.

After two years, I have now officially given up.

The problem of course is that I know the problem.

But like all people who need to shed a few kilos, I want that magic bullet. A pill that melts fat away. A tiny bit of starvation discomfort. The easiest form of exercise. And as few dietary restrictions as possible.

And there’s that whole dieting industry ready to “help” you get your wallet so much thinner.

I’ve had friends who paid big amounts to dieticians to be told to eat 1 protein biscuit at 2 am, 6 g of cauliflower at 9 am and half a spoon of dal at 1 pm. How long does anyone stick to rubbish advice like this? I would reckon, minus brainwashing, about 15 min. Otherwise, maybe a week?

Then there are the new apps. Some trainer yells at you three times a week to move, move, move and after every meal you upload your calories. If the app maker has not heard of chicken stroganoff? Then either you cheat or you pretend that boiled chicken is the same as some well — cheesy sauced chicken.

A friend and I have done the famous GM diet three times. The first time we were in our 20s and the weight we wanted to lose was largely imaginary. Thus, it worked reasonably well except that after six days of one-day tomato, one-day milk, one-day chicken soup whatever, we never managed to reach and complete Day 7.

However, it did work for a week after that.Before the body ate potato chips in our sleep and without our knowledge, and thus all the gain was on the hips and tummy.

In subsequent efforts, we only reached Days 5 and 4 and then went out and had a few drinks with popcorn and finger chips. (Aside: You may call them fries, not French fries, blah blah whatever nonsense, but chips are chips. Except when they are also wafers. Either way, they are great side dishes when you’re supposedly dieting.)

Now these evil social media experts inform us that sabudana — often cited as some great non-carb thing for semi-keto diets — is nothing but overly processed pure carbs! No more deep-fried crisp delicious sabudana vadas then! And what about all that kappa in Kerala? In fact, I am terribly confused about tapioca itself. Is it a good or bad thing? Why do we think that tapioca is a cereal alternative?
Which brings me to that no-carbohydrate ketosis thing that people went crazy for. I never tried it. The extreme fussiness of it and the cost of the ingredients that you actually could eat were both prohibitive.

It was even worse than that other once-popular Aktins diet which was all very high protein-low carbs and you could only eat fruit after 6 pm or something. I remember some of us convincing an acquaintance that this included fruit cocktails which led to a very boozy evening and total death of the Atkins no-nos.
The alacrity with which this otherwise intelligent person was convinced of this so blatantly nonsensical theory demonstrates how and why dieting is such an impossible task if your will is not already made of iron and then reinforced by some other strong thing I can’t be bothered to Google.

You may notice that I have not mentioned temptation in the form of something sweet. This is just a personal thing. I know several dieters who become even bigger blubblery blobs when faced with chocolate or jalebis or whatever. With me, sugar is a hit-and-miss as a diet-breaker but to each his or her own favourite weakness. I think fried potatoes would do me in.

So, I have now restricted myself. Not much for dinner. No bread. As little rice as I can bear. Limited sugary stuff. All that yawn-inducing stuff you don’t want to hear or know about. It’s boring. That’s all I can tell you. No magic potions. No lying on a table getting bombarded by UV light that melts fat. No fancy gym. Just huffing and puffing on a morning walk.

My doctor finds this very funny.

As long as I don’t succumb to that diet pill that objects to fried food and causes anal leakage.

O no. Ageing causes enough problems without voluntarily opting for that!
Sorry if I ruined your breakfast.

Tags: diet change