“Oh I will eat anything as you know,” she says in her airy Phoebe-like manner, when I ask if she wants anything specific. I am glancing through the summer menu of a trendy new restaurant with some delight, my eyes stopping at chicken mousse on toast, which I then suggest we start with.
“Except bread,” she adds.
“And sangrias, you must try the white,” I have already said, before I am crushed by the disappointing news that we cannot order anything on toast.
“Ah, no no I am off sweet, sangrias have sugar,” she says.
“Oh isn’t that red meat? Plus honey glazing m’dear, can’t eat sweet.”
“Arancini?” I say, staring dangerously at her.
“Coated with bread crumbs,” she replies weakly.
My friend X has been on a diet ever since I’ve known her. We go to the fanciest restaurants in Delhi and we go to the old favourite dives but no matter where we go, it’s always the same thing for her: fish or soup with water.
She never eats a thing wrong, and claims never to do it secretly as well. She goes to the gym daily, has done yoga, running, cycling, pilates and zumba by turn over the years, however, something mysterious is keeping her weight intact.
I don’t know about your city but in Delhi, wherever you go, whoever you meet is always talking about losing weight, and no one ever does. All the people in my life (barring one) have remained the same size in the last decade, or gained weight.
This is not to say everyone’s fat, in some cases not even after gaining weight. Oddly enough, the shape and size of the person is not a factor in this – fat people want to be slim; slim people want to be slimmer. It’s like the Stepford Wives on a Diet.
If no one is ever happy with their weight, then what’s the bloody point of being any particular weight at all? This diet disease has no cure. Having lost 15 kg twice and been silly enough to put them all back on both times, I have learnt a thing or two about being on a diet. Most importantly: no type of diet ever lasts.
X and I met for coffee recently and, after carefully going over the menu, she chose the following for her post-lunch coffee: brownie shake, chocolate cream with salted popcorn and, to offset the sweet, french fries.
The reasons for the weight not changing slowly emerge: People who deny themselves foods they love cannot stay in that state of deprivation forever. I have had friends stare at me meaningfully if I order anything that contains a) wheat b) sugar c) dairy d) carbs e) red meat and f) oil. In short, anything that can be broadly classified under the category: Tasty.
“You can eat sprouts for breakfast,” a dietician friend told me once, looking cheerful as I recoiled in horror, “they are so delicious!” Oh, so that’s the problem. I am not dealing with humans here, these are some sprouts-loving zombies that chant “I’m too fat, I’m too fat” as they chew their way through my city’s vegetation.
|How long do you think you can give up bread for?|
On a more serious note: If all the women (and some men) I know are always on a diet, then who is eating at the hundreds of new restaurants opening in Delhi every day? And if everyone is eating well, then who are the Indians who make India the third most obese country in the world?
According to NFHS-4 data released in Jan 2016, the number of obese people in the country has doubled in the last decade. These are people who walk among us, talking nonstop about what they don’t eat anymore.
The diet disease is affecting conversations. Listening in to the other table’s gossip, while pretending to work, is one of my favourite pastimes. Earlier people would discuss their sex lives and bosses or, at least, movies – now the conversation begins with “tu toh aaj bari slim lag rahi hai yaar!” and spirals downward from there. It’s amazing how people can talk about dieting over lunches and dinners. It’s a bit like that old joke about ordering diet Coke with pizza.
If you are on a diet for life, you are doing something wrong. The simple equation for weight-loss is: input minus output equals to weight. Since you cannot exercise your way out of a 3,000 calorie meal every meal, every day, you must, I admit, restrict the input but please do it rationally. Eat everything in moderation and, for god’s sake, stop talking about it.
If you ate mostly everything but in smaller quantities than you used to, and work out for an hour a day, you will lose weight. But more than that you won’t be a clone of the next person droning on and on about how you eat nothing but are still gaining weight; how you must lose 500 grams; how you never liked sugar anyway; oh my god how boring please stop.
I am now on way to lose the 15kg again, this time by increasing my output and moderating the input but not dieting (never dieting again) and not talking about it except to very close friends or with those who ask. The weight-loss is slower but there are more chances of it lasting because I am eating everything and there will no drastic change in my input after six months or a year.
How long do you think you can give up bread for?
Ten years? Are you not going to eat anything sweet for the next 35 years? If you ate everything in smaller quantities, you won’t have to talk about it endlessly because then you’ll just be doing the regular thing (people with optimal weight don’t eat like we used to, dude, so go from 100 to 50-60, not 10), and then we can move back to sex lives and bad bosses.
Think of the joy you will bring to the next table; and, phew, what a weight off everyone around you.