di-et (n)

1. The usual food and drink of a person or animal.
2. A regulated selection of foods, for cosmetic weight loss.

It’s no secret that the Western world has a burgeoning obesity problem – an astonishing 75% of British adults today are classed as overweight. Chances are, the situation in the global Jewish community is just as bad, if not worse, and as a nation, we will be dealing with the health implications of this for decades to come. Clearly something needs to change.

But if I had my way, the second definition of the word ‘diet’ as outlined above would be banished from the dictionary. You might think that’s a rather self-defeating attitude for a Weight Watchers leader to take, so here’s what I mean. It seems to me that the term ‘diet’ indicates a short-term, quick fix – cut out a major food group from your daily menu, lose a stone, fit into the dress, and then go imageback to ‘eating normally’ again. But that doesn’t solve anything! Most people following these sort of ‘diet plans’ ultimately end up heavier than they were to start with, and they mess up their metabolisms as well.

The only real, long-lasting solution to the perpetual problem of ‘excess baggage’ is to learn to eat ‘normally’.

Take the analogy of reading. Many of us enjoy a good book, but when other chores are pressing most of us naturally understand that we need to close the book and put it to one side – we certainly don’t throw the book in the bin simply because it’s time to do other things. That would be ridiculous.

This, my friends, is the difference between a crash diet and a heathy eating plan. If you unyieldingly decide to cut out those little treats you really enjoy from your life, ‘ban’ certain foods from your home and severely restrict your calorific intake when it comes to losing weight – that’s the culinary equivalent of chucking your novel into the wheelie bin instead of putting it away on the bookshelf until your next reading break. Whereas if you learn to enjoy those treats in moderation, resign yourself to losing weight at a steady, but slow (think 0.5 to 2lb a week) rate and rein in your portion sizes, you will set yourself up for a lifetime of healthy and enjoyable eating habits.

You really only need to implement four simple measures in order to set the ball rolling when it comes to losing weight.

Learn to regulate your portion sizes. We have outrageous expectations of what constitutes a normal portion in this ‘supersized world of ours. Buy yourself a smaller plate if it helps, and follow the guidelines on the back of the packet so you know how much the average person should be eating at a meal.

Keep track of everything you eat. We are absolutely expert at kidding ourselves when it comes to the food we put in our mouths. It’s so easy to ‘forget’ that extra chocolate bar or delete the leftovers we filched from our kids from our memories. Writing everything down, with scrupulous honesty, means you’re much more likely to self-regulate.

Plan in advance so that you always have healthy, filling and tasty foods within reach. An empty cupboard and an empty stomach at the end of a long day is a lethal combination that will send you hurtling into the arms of the nearest pastry as soon as the opportunity presents itself!

Find yourself a support system – don’t try to go it alone. An overwhelming temptation for unhealthy food may always be lurking in the background, but if you surround yourself with healthy eating peers and mentors, you will find it much easier to stay firm and stand your ground.

The final, and most crucial factor is to learn to accept that these changes you make are yours to hang on to forever. If you can honestly say that chocolate need never feature in your life again from now until 120, then go right ahead and banish it. But most of us, I think, will not fall into that category. So allow yourself a little of what you enjoy, while eating healthily and sensibly the rest of the time, and banish that ‘diet’ forever.