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Let them eat carbs

Diet and social status have been inextricably linked for, well, pretty much since people first divided the day into meals. Only a small percentage of the world has ever been able to afford to choose what they put into their mouths.

Tastes, trends and shapes may have changed over the generations, from Rubenesque curves to sporty physiques, but not until the 21st century did slimness equal status.

It used not to be a bad thing to be a stout woman or a well-built man; it meant you had access to decent food, as opposed to the poor waifs in the next street who lived on little more than cabbage water. But then one day, circa 1990, it came to be that a hint of malnutrition about a woman became something to aspire to; the waifs sipping the cabbage soup were the wealthy ones, and the era of "you can never be too rich or too thin" was upon us. The ladies who could afford to lunch were the ones who didn't want to eat.

These days your body shape is about showing how well educated you are, how much you understand about food, nutrition and the way the body works, rather than simply not eating a huge dinner after six o'clock or popping laxatives before a big night out. Many women (and men) I have spoken to seem to have become nigh-on semi-qualified dieticians.

A New York-based friend explained to me this week about the 'Slow Carbs' system. Not low carbs (that's so last year, darling), but slow ones. What he told me was nothing less than scientific.

Diet is no longer about losing weight. It's about knowledge and social status, about showing people that you don't need to rely on some outmoded system aimed at the masses trying to shift their baby weight. Showing that you understand about glycemic indices and how protein works, and you are able to pay over the odds for the kind of foods you know will fuel your body in the right way; the human equivalent of certain car engines working better with the super-premium, high-octane petrol rather than the regularly stuff. Some women are V8s, others are white van diesel engines.

The regime of the moment is the Dukan diet, which was allegedly responsible for the world's communal gasps at all three Middleton ladies and their fabulously skinny bottoms and coltish limbs at the Royal Wedding last April. Nothing is too good for Carole Middleton and her girls, and Lighter Life, a Weight Watchers calculator or any sort of calorie counting just wouldn't do. No, Slim Fast, diet pills, gastric bands and the various weight-loss fads peddled by high-street pharmacies, are for a different kind of woman.

This style of weight maintenance was developed by doctors in France and aimed solely at upper-class women; ostensibly because the last thing people who can barely afford to put food on the table are going to worry about is astute food combining. It separates the wheat from the chaff, the haves and the have nots. It's the diet equivalent of carrying a Hermes Birkin bag, it marks the women who follow it out as in a league above the rest. The kind of women who wouldn't dream about following a diet endorsed by Coleen Rooney, but would bite the hand off anyone who knew what Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has on her breakfast plate every morning.

Where do I stand on all this? I say find what works for you and sod the trends. All I ever plan to do (and fail) is cut down on white bread and dairy; two foodstuffs that I doubt have seen the inside of a Middleton fridge for some time.


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