Why the clean-eating zealots are on thin ice

No, you don't have to follow Gwyneth Paltrow's lead.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

No, you don't have to follow Gwyneth Paltrow's lead.

OPINION: Don't we all hate the self-righteous, self-appointed prophets of so-called healthy eating?

Who wouldn't want to take on the do-gooding, colonic-irrigated, detoxed-to-osteoporosis-level Gwyneth Paltrow brigade and their insufferable #eatclean #GetTheGlow Instagram hashtags?

The great Lionel Shriver, uncompromising author of the novel Big Brother, based on her brother's life with, and death of, morbid obesity, certainly did this week at Cheltenham Literature Festival. Shriver slammed people obsessed with "clean eating": they should, she said, "be for a period in danger of starving to death, to find some perspective on real hardship".

I'm not that fierce, but any virtue-signalling egg-white omelette or cauliflower pizza makes me yearn for deep-fried Mars bars and confit de canard, preferably on the same plate. Over-reaction? I never reached Shriver's brother's condition, although it often felt like it in my head.

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I have spent my entire life (well, since age 13) trying to kick a food habit that at times took hold of me, separating me from the rest of humanity, and all too often overtaking my mind to the exclusion of normal preoccupations, human relations and career decisions.

This addiction set me apart from my classmates, and at times my colleagues. (It didn't help that I worked at one time for French Elle magazine, where the default body size was Ines de la Fressange's.) It affected my health: in addition to back pain and wobbly blood pressure, I was lucky not to have lasting sequels from the cocktails of benfluorex and amphetamines prescribed by one of many diet doctors I made rich over the years, that enabled me to fit in a size eight Christian Lacroix number.

I just lost 16 kilograms I had gained last year. (Bad year: addict's classic response.) Like an alcoholic on the wagon, I can think of a Big Mac (or two or three) without feeling the gut-wrenching need to get one. Yet also like an alcoholic, I know the need may bite me for real again at any time.

There are many people like me; more of them in Britain than in France, for a number of cultural and class reasons. We are good for a laugh, or worse. Apparently the Vale of York NHS trust believes we are subhuman enough not to deserve equal treatment with the rest of the British population.

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This means we blimps had better get used to limping, being in pain or, in many cases, not being able to perform our jobs. Over half of British employers said in a poll commissioned by Crossland Employment Solicitors last year that they were unlikely to recruit an applicant at interview stage if they were obese.

Comments included concerns they "wouldn't be able to do the job required" and "are unable to play a full role in the business".

If a solution ever comes, it certainly won't be from smug, preaching harridans who foster the impression that we live a binary culture in which one can only choose between the neurotic size-zero life of oligarch tottydom or the far more common 29+ BMI life.

Somehow our society has to find a way to help people control their eating which walks that thin (sorry) line.

Oh, and that Lacroix number? Still in my wardrobe. Can't fit in it.

 - The Telegraph, London


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