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What did Charing Cross in London originally mark?

Starting place for measuring the country's milestones
Terminus of first London railway station
Funeral procession route of Queen Eleanor
Medieval crossroads and marketplace

This is not a blog about dieting...


By Jessie

Well, OK it sort of is…

But don’t worry, I’m not going to passively-aggressively judge you for eating that (delicious) mid-morning cupcake today, unlike all those other lifestyle editors, women’s magazine columnists and bored bloggers out there, especially now spring has sprung down YouPlay way. Hell, I knocked back three double-choc Tim Tams and a large full cream latte while writing this – and I dared to enjoy it.

Because all that diet advice always sounds so patronising and hypocritical - kind of like the ‘frenemy’ who offers you large slices of carrot cake with one hand while pinching your back fat with the other. Once daylight saving rolls around and the mercury climbs above 20 degrees, you can't open a newspaper or turn on the TV without being assaulted by the same hysterical shriek to de-clutter, detox and DROP A DRESS SIZE BEFORE SUMMER!

Of course, this isn’t a modern phenomenon. History’s love of a fad has seen the dial on the ‘ideal feminine body shape meter’ swing from Rubenesque curves to pencil thin countless times. And the idea of ‘The Diet’ has been around even longer than that. Indeed the word “diet” comes from the Greek diaeta, which means ‘a way of life’. Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, widely considered to be the father of modern (Western) medicine, had a few sensible things to say about diets such as “let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” But he also encouraged “the drinking of neat wine” to alleviate hunger pangs, especially when partnered with a good bout of lunchtime vomiting.

Lord ByronI was surprised to discover that “mad, bad and dangerous to know” Romantic poet Lord Byron was one of the first celebrity diet icons and probably suffered from anorexia and bulimia. Obsessed and terrified by his “morbid propensity to fatten”, he would visit Berry Bros & Rudd, a wine merchant of St James, London, with other fashionable young men for regular weigh-ins on the hanging scales (personal scales not being widely available back then). It is recorded that in 1806 Byron weighed 88 kg but by 1811 his weight had plummeted to 57kg – mostly through living on biscuits and soda water, or potatoes soaked in vinegar.

 A true 19th century bad boy, he was accused by the popular media of inciting body-image angst amongst the impressionable, "the dread of being fat weighing like an incubus" on the youth of the day (hmm, sound familiar?) Byron also got into trouble, as did Nietzsche, for encouraging smoking as a diet aid, and he also regularly expressed his horror at the thought of ladies eating anything in public except lobster salad and champagne.

Incidentally, Byron’s contemporary Percy Bysshe Shelley also had curious dietary habits. According to website Lapham’s Quarterly Shelley was a vegetarian who “liked to test the inspirational qualities of various foods, and once badly poisoned himself by eating laurel leaves. (Laurel is the garland of the poets, and also contains prussic acid.) He also liked to lick tree sap”.

In 1864 Englishman William Banting sparked one of the first ‘modern’ fad diet crazes after publishing his Letter on Corpulence, a low-carb diet plan which helped him shift over 25 kg. After exceeding 100kgs (and at just over 5ft) Banting was desperate to cure himself of the obesity that had damaged his sight, hearing, and health and tried many remedies including rowing, Turkish baths and having his ears blistered. Eventually, he found success in a simple diet that basically cut out all bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer and potatoes, a plan which became so popular that ‘going banting’ became a popular euphemism for abstinance amongst Brits of the era.

This diet consisted mostly of meats, fruit, tea and at least “two or three glasses of good claret or sherry” at every meal. However Banting also had a secret potion: “On rising in the morning I take a table spoonful of a special corrective cordial, which may be called the Balm of life, in a wine-glass of water, a most grateful draught, as it seems to carry away all the dregs left in the stomach after digestion”.

In 1903 American self-taught nutritionist Horace Fletcher became known asHorace Fletcher - the Great Masticator 'The Great Masticator' for launching a diet that let you eat whatever you liked… as long as you chewed every mouthful exactly 32 times (once for each tooth) before spitting out the remains. The diet’s motto was Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate and Kafka and Henry James were apparently advocates. Alarmingly, Fletcher boasted that he only defecated "once a fortnight with no more odour than a hot biscuit" – and carried a sample around with him to prove it. 

My personal approach to dieting (I don’t) would no doubt cause much haughty tut-tutting from the health-conscious, but I’m just not one for wilful deprivation, and when it comes to food (with apologies to Oscar Wilde), I firmly believe “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”. But I do understand that “obesity is really widespread” and “dieting is not a piece of cake.” [YP Boss: You’re fired].

But how do YOU feel about diets? Do you Dukan or adore Atkins? Are you into Pritikin, Paleolithic or raw food? Blood-type, liver-cleansing or gluten-free? Maybe you’re a fan of the classics, like the Grapefruit, the Israeli Army or the Cabbage Soup?

Or maybe you DON’T diet? Or you have an interesting diet-related tale to tell? Do share – I’ll bring the Tim Tams!

Jessie x

20 Responses to

This is not a blog about dieting...

October 11, 2012 at 4:04 PM

i just walk everywhere jess have a healthy diet and fruit ... dont worry about all these diets .. and drink lots of water

kragzy said:
October 11, 2012 at 5:30 PM

I don't diet at all, but I do not over eat either. My wonderful wife is a great cook - we always have lots of healthy meals that are also very enjoyable. The secret I think is portion size - eat what you like but not too much. The sinful bits of my eating - I love cream (yes, real cream) on my cereal in the morning. I can't see any point in making life miserable just to extend it. (Off the topic: I wouldn't be true to my OCD self if I didn't point out that Percy Shelley's middle name was Bysshe, not Bryce. Not a criticism, just silly old OCD kragzy at work again). Love the YP blogs.

Jessie: EEK! How embarrassing, I'll have to humbly wear that one! Can I say I was just testing you?? Thanks for pointing it out kragzy, all fixed now...

gracie10 said:
October 11, 2012 at 7:21 PM

Having once been a sufferer of anorexia, I am now embracing my Rubenesque curves. I was never meant to be skinny, and I realised that if I kept on like that I would die, and I wasn't ready to do that. So I cured myself, I do not weigh myself these days.

October 12, 2012 at 1:02 PM

I'll go with Lord Byron and confine myself to eating lobster salad and champagne in public. No problem.

dj1 said:
October 12, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Years ago, my wife tried the "Blood Type Diet". After a few weeks, she felt so marvellous that I decided to try it myself. Unfortunately, she was Type O and I was Type A. The Type A diet was not only vegetarian, but banned the best vegetables - tomatoes, capsicum, chillis, onions and garlic. The shortest-lived diet on record!

nan_j said:
October 12, 2012 at 2:38 PM

lol Beauregarde ... mind if I join you ?

Catchpat said:
October 12, 2012 at 3:20 PM

I believe in eating everything in moderation. I am a diabetic, but I eat SUGAR in small amounts. I even enjoy a small slice cake or an occasional biscuit with a cuppa. My weight is normal, I come from a family of diabetics, and had two diabetic pregnancies before being diagnosed as "the sweet type". I reufse to change my diet because what I do works for me...

October 12, 2012 at 3:39 PM

My late husband liked the Atkins style diet but it has turned me off bacon and eggs for breakfast ever since. The idea of eating so much protein was nauseating to me. I looked at the blood type diet. It explained why my hubby loved his high protein "O" diet but whilst I agreed with the exercise for "A" eg bushwalking and other less intense , less competitive pursuits, I would prefer mixed diet...a balance ...rather than the "A" I was supposed to like.

nan_j said:
October 12, 2012 at 4:54 PM

sorry for your loss ...and I am A positive and love eggs and bacon on Sundays

MarieC said:
October 12, 2012 at 6:04 PM

I believe that everything in moderation is the key - food and drink-wise! :-)

October 12, 2012 at 6:37 PM

Strictly Gluten Free out of necessity.

gracie10 said:
October 12, 2012 at 6:56 PM

mmm ... bacon and eggs ... my grandfather ate that for breakfast every day of his life (as far I as can remember), and despite health issues lived on to a good age. Definitely a favourite sunday morning breakfast. When I was a toddler I used to back up to him, with a book in hand, wanting him to put me on his lap and read the story to me. He was a great favourite of mine.

oxo said:
October 12, 2012 at 6:58 PM

I would love to join Beauregarde and Nanna_i but I have a metabolism that isn't just slow - I think it's dead!! I decided that in April enough was enough and I was going to lose weight. The only diet that works for me is willpower and counting calories. I try to keep below 1500 a day and write down everything I eat. And I'm delighted to say it's working. I have lost over 23 lbs and I am buying and wearing trousers 2 sizes smaller. We're just moving into winter here in UK so next summer I am hoping to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. It'll be expensive but will be worth it. Good luck to all dieters!! (I do occasionally sin but can usually make up for it over the next couple of days -just a matter of planning)

gm1951 said:
October 13, 2012 at 8:02 AM

I have just returned from a week in Hawaii for a family wedding. I now understand why Americans are the size they are - EVERYTHING comes with fries & trying to buy proper vegetables in Waikiki is almost impossible - not to mention the cost of food in Hawaii. Fruit is also very expensive & not readily available - bananas are priced as each, not by weight - they were in excess of $1 US each. Nothing comes as a small portion & trying to explain that fries are really not what we call vegetables is exhausting. Their salads consist of chopped up lettuce & 1 small cherry tomato. Glad to finally be home - going shopping today for fruit & veg - yippeeeeee

falcon8 said:
October 13, 2012 at 1:56 PM

At age 59, I am still the same size as I was when 15, not varying by more than 2 or 3 kilos either way over that time (despite eating like a horse during my teens and twenties). I don't diet, but I prefer to eat fruit, veges, nuts, grains, cheese, eggs, bread (with real butter), and milk, and enjoy beer and wine in moderation. I do eat some meat - bacon, ham, salami's on occasion, and adore pork crackling. I shared a house with a guy of 20 stone who couldn't lose weight despite the fact we both consumed the same type and amount of food and drink and were employed in the same work, so I understand and feel sorry for those who genuinely cannot keep weight off, but too many use excuses rather than putting some effort into controlling their diets and doing light exercise. The good news is that you can control your weight and still eat any type of food you want by using proper portion control - I was once told that the easiest way to keep to your natural weight was to always leave the table still feeling slightly hungry, don't snack between meals and don't follow diets which restrict the range of food or drink.

pdiaco said:
October 13, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Stay single. Couples eat way too much, usually to the detriment of the one who does not need to eat anywhere near as much as the partner. Physical acitivity (including heavy brain activity) is the prime means of burning calories ingested.

gracie10 said:
October 13, 2012 at 8:31 PM

Might work for you pdiaco but not for everyone - plenty of singles who are overweight. Perhaps that is because they are not happy to be single. Personally, I am blessed with a fast metabolism, although not ultraslim I am still ok, ie. within normal weight for height ratio, and this is without watching out for anything too much. Do have a reasonably healthy diet with lots of vegies, wholegrains etc. Plus moderate exercise.

October 14, 2012 at 10:22 AM

I do think single people tend to be slimmer. When I was married I struggled with my weight. I'm not sure why. Is there a link between chaos and weight gain?

Mojito said:
October 14, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Congratulations OXO on weight loss.....keep it up now you are home again. And I'm a lover of bacon and eggs too but today we were out of butter, meat and eggs so I had Nutella and banana on wholemeal toast and fresh grapefruit. I think thats balanced.

October 16, 2012 at 3:49 PM

As with Valkyrie21 I am gluten-free and hate it! It was not 'til my daughter was diagnosed with the condition that I was aware my 'tummy troubles' being anything sinister. I reckon that the replacement foods are high in fat and have stacked on weight since eating nothing but gluten-free. I hate it. I love summer for the salads and best of the berry fruits.