x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A piece of advice: stop listening to other people's dieting tips

Tales from the scales The trouble with diets is that everybody is an expert.

The trouble with diets is that everybody is an expert. Try mentioning the fact that you're on one and you'll receive the benefit of the wisdom of just about everybody you meet. Food is our common denominator. We all need it, we all eat it and we all see ourselves as experts. You don't need a university degree to be able to deliver an opinion.

Let me give you a piece of advice (you see, I can't resist it either). If you are watching your weight, don't tell anybody. Just follow the instructions of whatever diet you're on and don't listen to anybody else. If you're at a party or out for a meal, don't say, "I can't eat that because I'm dieting". Just quietly choose something else and pretend the only thing in the world you really want to eat is a delicious salad without croutons. "Rabbit food? What nonsense. I adore salads, especially in this hot weather," you will hear yourself say, and after a while you begin to believe it.

Restaurants are easy. They all have special vegetarian or low-fat alternatives these days if they are worth their exotic salts and peppers. After a while your eye becomes trained to flick down the menu, eliminating the gloopy, fatty concoctions covered with sauces, and find things you can eat without worrying. The thing to remember is that one naughty meal isn't going to make that much difference. If you are at somebody's home and everything is knee-deep in fattening oils, sauces, cream and the like, have small helpings, tell your hostess she's a wizard in the kitchen and do a few extra laps of the swimming pool the following day. Just don't do it too often.

"Stop beating yourself up about it", was one of the best pieces of advice I have been given. The other one was, "Stop weighing yourself". I consider myself quite a sensible and intelligent person but as soon as I start a diet I move my weighing scales to a prominent position in the bedroom and jump on them several times a day: before breakfast, after breakfast, with clothes on, without. As the needle fluctuates, so does my mood.

Why on earth, I ask myself, would any sane person weigh themselves after a lovely dinner? Am I seeking some sort of mental punishment for having enjoyed myself? Who knows? The reality is that I really do expect to see evidence of weight loss every time I step on the scales. Since I began my low-fat regime five weeks ago I have been determinedly avoiding this. With previous diets that I now no longer trust or have faith in, I have always been impressed and excited by the quick fix at the beginning. It's only now that I am doing it slowly that I have realised that was just water loss. I would shout with excitement and announce that I had lost half a stone in a week and then lapse into dark despair when most of it reappeared a couple of weeks later.

Four weeks into the new way of life (please note I'm not saying diet this time because I am so determined this will be forever) I have lost exactly 3kg. The flags haven't been raised and I don't hear bells ringing in celebration but I'm happy. My clothes fit so much better and, joy of joys, I have been able to tuck my T-shirts into the waistband of my trousers for the first time in about five years. When you're flabby around the waist you tend to wear loose fitting clothes and no belt. I actually put on a belt the other day and found I had to use the very last hole. This means that the 3kg I have lost came from the tummy area where I most needed it.

Even better, the dreaded body composition analysis machine at the Weight Loss Clinic in Dubai Healthcare City is now telling me that my "visceral fat area", that is the fat on which my vital organs rest, has reduced substantially. My health diagnosis has gone from "risky" to "alert". So the bottom line, if you'll excuse the pun, is that I'm on the right track.