Successful dieting is no piece of cake

Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country

EVERY January since I was little I’ve made a new year’s resolution.

As a child these included letting my sister play with my Barbie, becoming a maths genius and being nicer to the planet.

The only one of these I made any active effort to keep was the last and I diligently wrote a letter to Margaret Thatcher telling her exactly what she should do to make the country greener.

This basically consisted of reminding her to throw her chewing gum in the bin and not to waste paper.

I was quite impressed when 10 Downing Street replied on her behalf to tell me she was taking note of my suggestions but disappointed she did not go ahead with my plan of fixing the hole in the ozone layer with a giant plaster.

As a teenager my resolutions became a bit more achievable.

Most Read

Although it was tricky to stop day-dreaming about Jon Bon Jovi, eventually he was usurped in my affections by all five members of Take That.

And as for vowing to stick to my curfew, this was sorted out for me when I was unceremoniously grounded for a month for breaking it on New Year’s Eve.

As an adult most of my resolutions are made rather rashly come midnight on December 31, after several glasses of champagne.

In the most part they involve some kind of vow to magically transform myself over the coming year, usually by way of a new diet regime.

There is just one major flaw with making this promise on New Year’s Eve and that is that, more often than not, I rise from my bed the next day with none of the enthusiasm and determination I felt the night before.

I forage in the fridge, looking for the perfect hangover cure, gorge myself on a full English breakfast and then, as I am mopping up the last remnants of baked beans with my toast, I remember I am supposed to be shunning carbs.

On some occasions, my dieting plans have been successful.

One year I spent most of January eating cabbage soup. Another year I ate only raw fruit and vegetables – so much so that my jaw seized up from all the celery chewing.

That year I lost a stone in four weeks and, understandably proud of myself, I spent February rewarding myself with all the things I had been starved of. Yes, I hold my hands up. I’m your classic yo-yo dieter. My wardrobe is testament to this.

Any stranger taking a peek inside would come away feeling very confused.

They will find tiny size-10 dresses hanging alongside a variety of outfits in sizes 12, 14 and 16, and a few voluminous size-18 cover-ups.

I’d like to tell you that the latter are left over from two pregnancies, but the truth is many of them fitted me at a point when I can’t lay the blame at the door of maternity leave.

To be honest, there aren’t many diets I haven’t tried in the past decade.

There was the Atkins – where you avoid carbohydrates to the point that your hair starts to fall out and you suffer from bad breath.

Then there was the South Beach diet, a system of knowing which fats are good and which are bad, which gets ridiculously confusing.

There was the Dukan method, of course: favoured by the Middleton clan in the lead-up to the royal wedding day.

This one involves a period of two weeks eating only protein, with vegetables introduced at a later stage. It works a treat but king prawns for breakfast, steak for lunch and a whole chicken for supper got expensive and I desperately missed the crunch of a lettuce leaf.

After the birth of my son I piled the weight on and tried a diet where normal meals are replaced altogether with shakes and soups.

Again, this was unbelievably successful until I tried to return to eating normal food and the weight returned.

I’ve even tried to invent my own crash diets.

I once lost eight pounds in five days eating nothing but cottage cheese.

Predictably I fainted on the fifth day, bashing my head on the pavement and ending up in A&E, where I was given a stern telling off and made to drink four cups of sugary tea.

It is here perhaps that I need to point out that I’m not advocating any of the fad diets above.

Quite the opposite in fact. They are soul-destroying.

Research suggests nine out of ten yo-yo dieters regain every pound they lose and often end up weighing more than when they started.

This is probably because they have put their body through the diet mill so many times that their metabolism has become ridiculously sluggish.

Most nutritionists claim the answer to this is to replace crash diets with an achievable plan for longevity.

In short, this means eating a little less and exercising a little more.

It takes longer to see results and the weight loss won’t be as dramatic, but, in theory, any you do lose, stays off.

In all my years of radical dieting, this is the one method I’ve never tried.

So while I would love to tell you proudly that this year I am giving up on diets altogether and accepting myself for who I am, I think I will take one last shot at it.

My new year will kick off with the same good intentions, but this time there is no fad diet attached and I’m throwing out the bathroom scales.

Instead, my resolution is to enjoy everything in moderation and cut back on the sweet treats.

After all, I know better than anyone that dieting is no piece of cake.

Please email me at or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter