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Will I be starving myself in 2015 just to lose a few pounds? Fat chance

By Mary Kenny

Before you embark on a post-Christmas diet, think: is it worth it? After a lifetime of yo-yo dieting of every conceivable variety, I have come to the conclusion that quite often it isn't. If I watch my weight carefully I might lose four to six pounds. But one way or another it usually goes back on again, and watching your weight is an awful nuisance.

Seeing the stunning French actress Catherine Deneuve in an eccentric little movie called Potiche (co-starring Gerard Depardieu, who is now gargantuan) convinced me that there comes a time to accept yourself and forget diets. La Deneuve is, at 70, nicely covered: even a little stout around the hips. She gave an interview not long ago in which she said: "I like to eat."

So why would you forego the pleasure of eating what you like for the deprivation of a regime which is either inconvenient or faddy? And is there any more boring creature in the world who, when faced with a delicious dessert carefully concocted by an anxious hostess, replies, "Oh no, I'm on a diet"? Eat what you're given! Be thankful for the riches of the earth!

Yes, there is much concern about obesity today and manifold reports about airlines having to redesign their seats to accommodate very fat people, or even hospital trolleys having to be reinforced to carry persons of great bulk.

A visit to the less affluent parts of the United States can be a revelation - and make those of us who are a little on the rotund side feel sylph-like by comparison. Clinical obesity is a Bad Thing. An endless intake of hamburger and chips, washed down by sweet drinks and followed by Black Forest gateau is not to be recommended.

The noble lady (Baroness Jenkin) from the House of Lords at Westminster who said recently that the poor didn't know how to cook was merely repeating what the earnest Fabian Society do-gooders started saying around 1909; that the poor prefer fatty, sugary food to wholesome, austere helpings. George Orwell wrote an entire essay on this subject, explaining that if your life is grim and tough, fatty, sugary meals are much more of a comfort than a Fabian diet of muesli and lentils.

So, if a calorie-rich habit gives you pleasure, why torment yourself with dieting? Okay, keep extreme obesity at bay for the sake of your heart, as well as the difficulty of finding a decent dress size 22 and over.

It helps never, ever to weigh yourself - though it's very vexatious if you go to hospital for a minor procedure and they put you on the weighing scales with an intake of breath and a barely concealed "tut, tut".

I just judge from my dress size, which has remained, since middle-age, at a consistent size 14 on the upper half and size 16 on the nether half.

I've occasionally lost a few pounds - yes, like everyone else, I've tried the fashionable 5/2 diet (eat what you like five days a week, fast for two) and I don't disparage it, but like all diets, it gets boring. But whether I lose a couple of pounds, or put it back on again, basically I remain a size 14-16 in the pear shape of human architecture.

I do a minor amount to deter clinical obesity: I try to walk half an hour a day. I tip my toes 20 times every night, which seems to preserve the basic outline of a waist. And there is one dietary law that I do think worth bearing in mind, and practising when it's convenient - the Prince-Lord-Pauper rule. That is: "Breakfast like a Prince: lunch like a Lord: supper like a pauper."

You eat massive breakfasts to set you up for the day. Is there anything as delicious as a truly organic slice or two of rasher, a melting helping of black pudding and a fried egg, accompanied by doorsteps of quality bread - the staff of life? Lunch is variable, but for supper I sometimes just have a yoghurt and a plain biscuit. That's the easiest diet to practice if you want to detox somewhat after over-indulging.

Some people need to be slender for the sake of their jobs - models and actresses and even perhaps television presenters cannot be Bessie Bunters. People in the fashion business - and Gwyneth Paltrow - choose to eat a leaf of salad and a small helping of cottage cheese for a repast.

But some who diet persitently look awful, in my opinion: the late Helen Gurley Brown, founder of Cosmopolitan magazine, practiced an iron discipline of lifetime dieting and rigid exercise and looked, to me, like an Auschwitz victim. How much more attractive is the well-covered Catherine Deneuve!

Men, too, who diet too much lose something of their manliness, to my mind. Their stature shrinks: they look fading, somehow.

Those who want to lose the flab, go for it. But to paraphrase Maggie T: you diet if you want to. The lady's not for dieting.

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