Going off pop: another diet gimmick that’s sure to fizzle out
Is there really any point to the endless succession of month-long fad diets we're being subjected to? In a word, no
If you went Sober for October, grew some face fuzz for Movember, barrelled into Veganuary and Dry January and, now approaching the month’s halfway point, are in search of a shortlived lifestyle change to adopt, evangelise about and then promptly abandon at the earliest possible opportunity, fear not.
For Fizz Free February – that’s ditching sweetened drinks for 28 days – is at hand to solve your calendar-based gimmickry needs.
There is a grain of purpose at the core of these clunkily renamed months, of course. But what happens when the branding falls away, the momentum grinds to a halt and your diary has moved onto a different wackily named craze? If in February we swap our Diet Cokes for the steak and spirits we did away with the month prior, are we still playing by the fad food rules?
If Veganuary et al engender good, long-term choices among adherents, then they are entirely worthwhile. But I struggle to see them producing much in the way of sustainable change: the idea being that there is a finite time in which to regulate diet or behaviour, and that just as each month gives way to another, so too do the things we should give up.
Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has spoken at length about the benefits of low-carbohydrate, high-fat keto eating, through which he dropped 44kg in about a year; I imagine he will find the real challenge, as is the case with most dieters, is keeping the weight off – something that only really ever comes about with small, manageable changes that we can incorporate so seamlessly into our everyday lives that we barely notice them.
Which is why I have found his praise for Fizz Free February – about which he tweeted excitedly last week, listing Robert Peston, Matt Hancock MP and Jon Ashworth MP as fellow followers – a little strange.
Yes, encouraging people to reduce their sugar intake is a good thing, but shouldn’t we be telling them the truth: that being healthier in the long run is highly unlikely to come about through fanfare and whizz bang and balloons, but rather minor, humdrum tweaks?
I don’t know that anyone currently on the National Health Service waiting list for obesity-induced knee replacements, which come at a cost of £200m per year, is going to see any meaningful change if they avoid Fanta for a few weeks.
Last week I met the television medic Dr Michael Mosley, who has spent four decades charting what we put into our bodies. The two of us – people naturally inclined to bin a well-intentioned workout in favour of polishing off a packet of biscuits – agreed that the only things that stop us from retreating to our bad old ways are utterly dull in nature: walking up escalators instead of standing still; clearing cupboards of delicious, sugary temptation; putting trainers on when you otherwise wouldn’t to encourage a brisk walk here and there. It is these little changes that really make the difference, rather than nattily named, faddy overhauls that promise the Earth if you can just excise whatever food group has been declared the devil that month.
All of which is very boring, of course, and unlikely to inspire social media hashtags and petitions. But perhaps readers might join me in Mundane March, where the challenge will be making lifestyle changes capable of going beyond a 31-day window.
And if you need inspiration to reach for your running shoes, merely look to the divine, as the Vatican has set up its own track team. About 60 employees – including Swiss Guard soldiers and officers from the Gendarmerie – have begun running en masse along the banks of the Tiber.
And, ranging in age from 19 to 62, this healthy holy gathering is going official: this month, Vatican Athletics will compete in La Corsa di Miguel, a 10km race in Rome, and they are said to harbour aspirations of entering the Mediterranean Games and the Games of the Small States of Europe.
Rather than listening to bass-throbbing workout tracks, the team’s members (82-year-old Pope Francis is yet to join, but it is cold by the water at this time of year in Europe) natter away as they weave their way down the river, the aim being to use the sport as a means of promoting religious understanding. A loftier ambition than reaching a personal best on your fitness app, certainly.
We await the release of Nuns on the Run, a surefire workout DVD success, in due course.
– © The Daily Telegraph