Here are some weird tips for achieving a tiny belly:

  • eat less food than you need in order to function as a healthy human being
  • think about all the food you’re not eating all the sodding time
  • feel cold, exhausted and miserable every minute of the day (and night, since hunger is giving you insomnia and when you do finally sleep, you dream of food you didn’t even like until all this started)

Eventually you will get a tiny belly, albeit one still covered in excess skin and stretch marks. By the time you get to this point, you won’t be able to stop shrinking, but you will no longer care. The person who would have had the capacity to enjoy being thin – or indeed being anything – will no longer exist.

Anyhow, that’s my suggestion. I’ve decided to offer it since for the past two weeks (i.e. since WordPress decided to start charging for ad-free blogs) this site has been running banners offering “1 weird tip to achieve a tiny belly”. Yesterday I finally thought “fuck it” and paid £20 to block this nasty feature. Still, if you were coming here looking for details on how to make your stomach disappear, don’t worry, I’ve supplied them. For free. You’re welcome.

Apparently the “1 weird tip” thing is a well-known scam (although not so well-known that it can’t still be worth someone’s while to keep it going). According to the Washington Post,

The innocent-seeming “1 Tip” ad is actually the tip of something much larger: a vast array of diet and weight-loss companies hawking everything from pills made from African mangoes to potions made from exotic acai berries. Federal officials have alleged that the companies behind the ads make inflated claims about their products and use deceptive means to market them.

To be fair, I wonder just how much more “inflated” the claims of these companies are compared to those made by your average “respectable” diet pusher. Should anyone be outraged that there is not in fact one special tip leading to the most miraculous flatness of tum? Of course there bloody isn’t. That’s not to say these ads are acceptable (particularly as they also seem linked to straightforward online theft). All the same, I find it hard to get more annoyed with them than I already am with Weight Watchers, Special K, Slimming World, Celebrity Diets, Slimfast and every diet book ever written.

There might be ways to block these ads from your own website (alas, I only noticed this once I’d already parted with my 20 quid). Even so, it’s impossible to block them from your line of vision all the time. They get everywhere and they’re damaging. Even if you don’t waste money on pills and potions, the mere sight of them on TV and on supermarket shelves chips away at your self esteem. If you have an eating disorder the lies you read will justify your delusions. Every single diet product tells you it’s different – it’s not like all the others – but that’s what they all say. Don’t believe them.

What I’d really like to do is create some kind of hardcore, viral anti-diet ad campaign. So far nothing I have seen that claims to be “anti-diet” is remotely good enough. Either it’s someone trying to sell you beauty products (fuck off, Dove) or it’s someone insisting you still rate yourself primarily on the shape of your body (only this time you have to “celebrate your curves”). Nothing really focuses on the outright lies and the damage that diets do. There ought to be a public health warning. Nothing fancy, just someone saying, in a deep, serious voice, “this is all shit. Look around you. Is anyone buying a Boots Shapers sandwich actually thin? See? There you go”.

Sometimes I think of going into WHSmiths or Waterstones armed with a pack of little flyers I’ve printed out and cut up into mini-bookmark sizes. Each one will say the same thing:

You don’t need this. You know this won’t work. You’re fine as you are.

I will slip one into each and every book on the diet / healthy eating / crap “lifestyle” euphemism shelf. Except I worry this sounds patronising. Who am I to tell people what they should and shouldn’t read? It’s almost as bad as telling people what they should and shouldn’t eat.

It’s not my business if another person wants to change their size. It’s his or her body, after all. But all people, especially young ones, need to know the consequences and the compromises. When your stomach shrinks to tiny proportions, so too does your entire world. You need to be in a position to decide whether or not it’s worth it.