For a sizeable proportion of the population life is destined to be lived like a sinner pulled between the wild eyed horses of the food and diet industries. It is the function of the food industry to make you eat what you think you want, to make you think it’s your choice to have a large tub of chocolate brownie mini bites in your fridge. It is the function of the diet industry to make you think you want to eat something other than what you want and to make you feel bad about those same chocolate brownie mini bites. The horses of binge and purge never quite pull your limbs off but if they did the food industry would help you put them back on again and the diet industry would spin it as weight loss.

The following presumes that you are actually overweight and not one of the millions of naturally skinny people for whom unnecessary diets are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Before I go on I should probably declare an interest, it is my not very humble opinion that food is fucking delicious. I love all of it, herbivore, omnivore, carnivore, food is good, it’s a shame that food doesn’t actually rhyme with good, it should. Not all food is created equal of course, some is already crap before you eat it, so I have a rule to avoid any food that comes in a cardboard box, with the exception of All Bran, oh, and eggs, pizzas come in boxes too, sushi? Shit, scrub that, boxes are fine. My love of good food is why I have never been on a diet, ever, when I say diet I mean in the sense of eating under advisement, I would never do it, I hate the idea. It’s not that I haven’t ever carried a bit of extra weight, I have, it’s just that despite being worth billions of pounds the diet industry is fucking useless. Prescribed diets simply don’t work, can’t work, sorry, but it’s not like you didn’t know.

Diets don’t work because they don’t last, you will do it until you don’t. Mostly you will get bored, or lose a little weight, but that’s hardly surprising, you would lose weight if all you did was eat slightly less and here you are surviving on the aura of an avocado. Diets also don’t work because they’re not supposed to, they’re supposed to profit from your repeat failure and guilt, something people are finally waking up to. Diets are not as popular as they once were but they are still way too damn popular for my liking. We think we can do without them by eating better food which is true but unfortunately we aren’t actually eating any less of it. And when I say we I mean you. As a result we aren’t getting any slimmer and the diet industry has noticed and is taking advantage by pushing deliberately contradictory diets that are all anxiety and wellness and designed to exploit any current food fads and though you hate yourself for trying another one you do if only to shed the extra pounds from all that healthy eating so you can briefly fit into those favourite old jeans from the depths of your wardrobe, jeans you wore when you were young. I say briefly because you know from experience that the weight is going back on well before you come off the diet, the third diet you’ve tried this year because diets don’t work, if they did you would only need one, instead you find yourself eating nothing but boiled cabbage for a month and considering something that involves tapeworms or smelling like meat or sitting with chubby strangers in the village hall of the damned and just as you start to realise how bonkers it all is you discover the amazing foods that start with ‘Z’ diet but you don’t stick with that one either because there is only so much fucking zucchini a human can eat and did I mention that good food is delicious and diets really aren’t. It’s up to you and you alone to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s up to you to decide what that is and to come to terms with who you are and please bear in mind that the thing that happens while you are unhappy with the way you look, is your life.

You could always help the diet out by joining a gym, gyms can work, under certain circumstances. I should know, I’ve been going to a gym three times a week for about forty years, this is not virtuous, well perhaps once it was, now I do it because I like to eat a full English breakfast and drink too much beer on a Friday. The problem with training is much the same as with dieting, constancy, it only works if you keep doing it. Many make the mistake of outsourcing their determination and hire a personal trainer. In the short term this can help as a trainer will flatter and exhort you, will tell what a good job you are doing, how you’re improving and for a short time it will be true and you’ll become friends and share a mutual appreciation of counting to ten and then to five as your sessions descend into long chats about things that only interest your trainer interspersed with a little half-hearted exercise before descending further into something akin to an hour in a coffee shop without the coffee or the coffee shop. Eventually you realise that your trainer is little more than an expensive gym buddy who is seeing other people on the side and always ending your session five minutes early so he can sneak off to meet them and so you suggest a break and very soon any good you think you’ve achieved fades away and you’re back where you started, going to the gym on your own once a month, catching unflattering glimpses of yourself in the ugly mirrors, wearing increasingly baggy kit until your membership runs out or the following January when your Christmas indulgence drives you back into the arms of your trainer for one more try. It’s not just you of course, gyms can be pretty sobering places for everybody, with or without a trainer, in all the fourteen years that I have been going to my current gym I cannot think of a single member who looks any better now than when they started, they don’t look any worse though and that my friend is the point.

I know none of this sounds particularly encouraging but that just means you should probably lower your expectations or at the very least adjust them. For most of us going to the gym should not be about losing weight or dramatically changing shape, this doesn’t happen unless you’re a bodybuilder or emphatic crossfitter. The gym is a long term commitment whose principal aim should be no more than maintaining your body and fitness. Believe me that is enough. A good diet should do the same, first returning you to a sustainable weight, whatever that might be, and then maintaining it, you can twiddle the knobs by eating a little more or less, there’s really not much else to it. Have faith in common sense, draw up a simple plan, a programme, work it out for yourself, something that covers both food and exercise and then stick to it. Day in day out. Okay, not so simple but if you rely on someone else for your willpower you will fail over and over again. You can do it, you don’t need a specialist diet (unless you do) the gluten and the toxins are not out to get you and since I’ve brought it up it there is no such thing as a detox because you aren’t toxic, if you were you would be seriously ill or dead and a diet of coconut water, red onion and almond milk will do nothing but make you shit like a seagull. Eat normally, eat things that are recognisable as food, everything in moderation, even moderation, treats are good but not as a reward for feeling sad, cake is good, full English breakfasts are good, so long as you stick to the plan. Gauge improvement by eye, don’t eat junk but don’t go hungry, don’t weigh yourself and never, ever let someone take your BMI. Obesity is a state of mind. Life is short but the living is long, everything is forever and you can never stop. It’s why crime doesn’t pay despite the fact that it does, it just doesn’t pay regularly, and no matter how many times we tell ourselves it isn’t so, life is regular. Stop eating what someone else tells you to, stop wishing you looked like a selfie of yourself and don’t abdicate your responsibility. So what if you are carrying a few extra pounds? You earnt them, you own them, they are yours to lose.

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