Denial is the secret ingredient in modern lives of convenience
No wonder the fast diets are doing so well. This January’s diet craze recommends eating very, very frugally two days a week – one version allowing just 600 calories per fast day for men, 500 for women. Whether this regime constitutes an old-fashioned fast is debatable. Whatever happened to black bread and black tea? It is hardly compatible with leading a normal life: a woman on the diet told a newspaper that over Christmas she went to bed at 7.30pm to avoid being offered chocolate.
On Saturday journalist Mimi Spencer, co-author of The Fast Diet, explained how to survive feeling pretty damn hungry. But fast diets are a wonderful way to pretend we can turn away from the murkiness of the modern food industry and spend a little time – say the month of January – feeling pure.
Fat is now such a dirty word that even Lance Armstrong won’t use it. Or so he says. Last week, in the first of his Oprah Winfrey interviews, he joked about how he had insulted another cyclist’s wife, Betsy Andreu, who had challenged his claim to be additive-free.
“‘Listen, I called you crazy, I called you a bitch, I called you all these things, but I never called you fat.’ She thought I said [she was] a fat, crazy bitch. I never said [she was] fat.”
Andreu responded to the interview by calling Armstrong deluded. But it is interesting that a man who rounded on anyone who questioned his purity and vilified in dreadful terms Emma O’Reilly, the young Irishwoman who was his masseuse – believes he can be amusing about the f-word. Not, I would have thought, a joke to share with Oprah.
Armstrong was a health hero. We enjoyed believing that he went from cancer sufferer to Tour de France conqueror, helped only by rubber-band bracelets and his sheer grit. His foundation, Livestrong, from which he has resigned, has pretty clear recommendations about what we should be eating. “Let us be your personal guide to becoming a better, healthier you,” says its website.
Armstrong looks extraordinarily healthy. And, of course, thin. A totem to discipline. He could do a Fast Diet, no problem. It’s a pretty safe bet that he would not put an economy burger into his body; just a lot of other stuff, via a syringe.
If you’re not a cyclist, or a cyclist’s wife, or a journalist or a witness who testified against Armstrong, it has been queasily enjoyable to watch his downfall. As always in these scandals, you’re left wondering how any of us believed such an unlikely story in the first place. We like people who beat inhuman odds, and we don’t really want to know how they do it.