A thought struck me the other day as I was leafing through a pile of diet magazines. These people would be out of business if we were all the weight we wanted to be. I counted 12 diet, health and fitness magazines in one supermarket alone and they certainly don't carry the whole range. Then there are the health food shops and special sections in other food outlets with their shelves stacked with stuff to help you get thin, unspeakable powdered drinks, energy bars, slimming patches, vitamin-packed supplements to keep you healthy when you're dieting, low-fat everything, low-calorie meals, endless drinks with zero per cent fat in them, sugar-free sweets (such as the ones that I am sucking as I write) and several different types of sugar substitutes, none of which, in my opinion, taste anything like the real thing.
And what about the pills, creams, bodywraps, slimming belts, exercise equipment, counselling, hypnotherapy and other New Age remedies? Add to that the books, the television programmes and advertisements, diet clubs, spas and gyms devoted to ridding the world of unwanted fat, and it adds up to an industry worth billions - and we haven't even started on the government departments, the quangos, the conference organisers, the pharmaceutical companies and the people who make their living out of monitoring the whole business.
According to statistics, the UK slimming industry is worth one billion pounds sterling (Dh5.8bn) and the USA market a whopping $33 billion (Dh121bn), clearly reflecting the size of the country and of some of its people. These are eye-popping figures and I don't believe that they even scratch the surface. In the UK more than a decade ago, the Advertising Standards Authority found it necessary to lay down the law about how manufacturers can advertise their products, bearing in mind that many people with food issues are vulnerable souls.
Ads are now supposed to be honest, decent, truthful and socially responsible. In particular, they are not allowed to say that it's desirable to be underweight. The ASA report stated that the only acceptable method for losing weight is to take in fewer calories than you use and claims that weight loss or inch loss can be achieved by any other means are unacceptable. The ASA did manage to get rid of the really dishonest ads, such as the ones that claimed that some amazing herbal tea makes you lose weight. Claims for "overnight slimming miracles", or "no-diet, no-exercise" slimming products were also outlawed.
But after a flurry of press interest and a concentrated effort to weed out the fibbers and monitor advertisements it all died down and went away. In much the same way as the yo-yo dieter sheds pounds, then puts them right back on again, plus some more, the global determination of newspaper and magazine publishers and television programme makers to cash in on our insecurities about our bodies has ballooned.
The poor slimmer is bombarded every day with images of perfect bodies on television and in magazines - and the claims are getting sillier. The advertisers have just found cleverer ways of suggesting brilliant results without falling foul of the watchdogs. They are still telling us that we can eat all we like on this diet or drop a dress size by Christmas on that one, and they love nothing better than featuring pages and pages of puddings involving chocolate and ice-cream.
An ad I read this week for a new lipgloss claims that it speeds up your metabolism, helping you to lose weight. I reckon Sellotape across the mouth is a better idea but I am as daft as the next person and I expect that I will give it a try. Clearly the harder these dieticians and nutritionists work churning out their diets, the fatter we all get, especially women. The focus of the slimming industry has always been on women, which is irritating in itself. More fool us for falling for it. Men's magazines on the other hand are all about health and fitness.
The one statistic that should not make sense - but I am assured that it can be proven - is that as the slimming industry grows, so does obesity, especially in children. Now get your head around that one. As far as the UK is concerned, I blame the government (in general) and a succession of education departments (in particular) with their foolhardy determination to sell off school playing fields to developers. They have turned generations of youngsters into couch potatoes who do not take enough exercise and prefer to sit playing computer games.
Busy lives, poor diets, convenience foods, both parents working outside the home, the growth of computer games, soaring crime figures that impact on children being allowed to play away from home - they all play a part. Obesity levels are rising in the USA and the UAE, too. Maybe it is time that we all wake up before it is too late. In the meantime, I'm going to have to stop now as I've just spotted an ad for chocolate fudge brownie frozen yogurt ice-cream that promises not to ruin my diet. Less than five per cent fat and absolutely delicious, it says here. Must fly.