I've recently joined weight watchers, a relatively sensible weight loss plan with the emphasis on gradual weight loss, sensible eating and getting your five a day.
It's something I can live with. In the sense of being able to actually stick to it without dying of hunger and giving it all up in despair. And also and in the sense of being able to reconcile it with my shaky, but still existent feminist principles.
The written matierals,the website and the plan itself, are pleasingly free of judgement. There are no good or bad foods and you are not made to feel like eating is "sinfull" or "naughty" or shamefull in any way.
Instead there is a workable system calibrated to allow you to eat just under the amount of calories you use each day, losing a sensible maximum of 2lbs per week. So far, so good.
Encouragement and peer support is important so every week I go for a weigh in and a little meeting which is both deeply naff and oddly heartening. Yesterday I got a little round of applause for losing my 2 lb and felt surprisingly proud despite myself, my secret belief in participating "ironicly" suddenly and joyfully in tatters.
Here's the thing though: at the same meeting several people lost 3lb or even 4lb, And they got a round of applause as well.
"Hang on", I thought, "they're cheating: they're not sticking to the plan. The only way they could have done that is to eat much less than they're supposed to".
If the plan is designed to be healthy, then we should be encouraged to stick to it, shouldn't we? And if we do encourage people to eat even less, don't we set up a dangerous atmosphere of competition?.
I was waiting on the group leader to gently put them right or to remind everyone to eat a healthy and balanced diet and of course it didn't come. Because, silly me, no matter what sensible plan we follow, we are women after all and eating is always shameful and weight loss is always good.
We take that into the meeting with us, and any group leader who starts pulling us up on it will lose our custom