Slender sexpots or bulging beauties? (Women’s Voice, 1974)

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SLIMMING FIRMS love fat people. It sounds stupid till you think about it. They also love thin people who think they are fat. The reason is that fat people can be made to worry. And worried people can be persuaded to buy. Every year the slimming industry turns over £50 million in Britain alone. If you’ve read the adverts, you’ll know the extravagant claims they make, but you may not know that many have long ago been exposed as a complete fraud. You many have read the Food Standards’ report that proved ‘slimming’ bread is no less fattening than ordinary bread, it only costs more.

Most notorious are the ‘sweat-it-off’ brand products, including Stephanie Bowman garments and those ridiculous ‘Trimjeans’ – inflatable plastic Bermuda shorts, in which you have to perform some strenuous exercises. (But you can also wear them about your garden and home, and kill off your family).

It has been proved that doing the same exercises has the same effect, with or without ‘Trimjeans’. If you really work at it, you temporarily lose a very little weight. What Trimjeans claim is to lose you lots of inches. It’s a clever con-trick. You may lose them from one part of your body, but if you look a little further you’ll find they’ve just moved on to cling somewhere else. What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts, so to speak.

The only way to slim is to eat less over a long period of time. It is dangerous to cut out one particular kind of food, even carbohydrates. Crash diets are useless. If you become able to lose weight very quickly, then you also become able to put on weight very quickly. Your weight becomes volatile. And that’s what keeps the slimming firms ticking over. But there’s something worse than fraudulent adverts and over-priced sweat garments. Some slimming products can do serious damage to your health, and slimming can kill you.

Many slimming aids come in the form of pills. These are made of all kinds of glucose, drugs and laxatives. Taking any of them for a period longer than three months can be dangerous, yet there are no warnings, and the pills are sold freely over the counter, often to very young girls. Some of the pills are amphetimines, which act on your central nervous system. Some are barbiturates. You should avoid both at all costs, because they are addictive.

Some of the pills are anorectic, which means they act to depress your appetite, and this can affect your blood pressure. Many appetite depressants and meal substitute biscuits are made up of methyl cellutose, which swells up inside you to make you feel full, and also possibly sick and dizzy. The swelling methyl cellulose can irritate the walls of your stomach. There is some debate as to whether it can cause cancer. Other pills activate your thyroid gland, to speed up your body functions in the hope that you will burn up fat. You are more likely to burn up your system and your nerves.

Laxatives

As for laxative, you can see the crude logic involved. Presumably the food is meant to shoot through you before it can turn to fat. Prolonged use of laxative is very harmful, and there is no proof to show that they have any long-term slimming effect.

All these products come under fancy trade names. The women who take them may also be under medication from their doctors for some illness, and the different pills could act on one another. Or they may be taking pills over a long period without ever knowing what is in them, or what harm they can do.

One of the spin-offs of the slimming business is a disease called ‘anorexia-nervosa’. This particularly effects young girls, who become obsessed with losing weight to such an extent that they enter a nervous sate where they just cannot eat. A typical victim of this disease was a school girl who lost a pound a day till she was under five stones, and then she died. The disease was not unknown before the cult of slimming, but it has increased rapidly in the last few years. At the very least, it causes extreme disorientation of your mind and body, and you are liable to end up in hospital.

The slimming bosses don’t concern themselves with such problems so long as the money keeps rolling in. No one asks you when you buy these pills whether you are epileptic, whether you are already taking tranquilisers or other pills, or if you really know  what you are buying.

Weight watchers

One branch of the industry might be called its psychological war-far wing. Slimming clubs. Weight Watches, a secretive organisation more like a Masonic league, founded by Professor W. H. Sebrall Junior, and introduced to Britain in 1967. You pay about £1 a session and 30,000 people have coughed up so far. Then Silhouette Club, with 34,000 members; and Weight Checkers International, launched in ‘Woman’ magazine, with 35,000 members. The Slimming magazine club, linked with the Daily Mirror Sliming club claims 12,600 members.

At the end of the list come all the small operations through the country with their own diet sheets and individual methods of public shame. One club in Great Yarmouth, for instance, publishes a list of all the members who have put on weight each week in the local newsagents window. Often the big firms run on a franchise system. The person who pays to use the name and run the club also pockets the fines imposed on over-fat members.

But then, if you’re very rich, you certainly won’t want to take such a tedious road to the body beautiful. Women’s Voice readers may not believe this, but you can now buy private cosmetic surgery where you have parts of your superfluous body fact actually carved off. The operation takes four hours or more, and it leaves major scars, but they try to make it so the scars come under your bikini. If you’ve still got a few hundred pounds to spare after that, you can have a tube put inside you which by-passes the small intestine. It’s called a jejuno-colic shunt, and it shunts the food you can’t stop eating right out of you again. And did you know, in America some rich women are even having tape worms inserted into them, to keep them thin. Enough said!!

Obscene

The biggest obscenity imaginable is that all this takes place in a world where masses of people are starving – some of them in the so-called affluent societies of the West. In Britain we are now down to our 1953 eating standards because of the fantastic rise in food prices. On a world scale, hunger and malnutrition are a gigantic problem. It could be solved. All the wasted technology that goes into making multi-flavoured slimming products could be set to work to solve it. If the people of Bangladesh had had enough money to shore up their river banks there wouldn’t be flood and famine and cholera there now.

If you had control of the food industry, would you persuade everyone  in Britain to eat 120lb of harmful white sugar a yar, and then con them into buying slimming products too? Or would you try to make sure that everyone had a decent nutritious diet? We’ll never have the chance to make that decision till we squeeze Mr Cube and his mates out of existence. Till we stop worrying about our own fat, and start planning to take back the fat profit that swells and bulges in the coffers of our rulers.

Women’s Voice, paper series, 12 (1974?)

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