Gérard Apfeldorfer, Jean-Philippe Zermati

Steering Clear of Diet Dictatorship Publication date : October 2, 2008

What could be simpler than knowing how to feed and nourish ourselves? Even an infant can do it. So can a white mouse. But Westerners don't know how to, even though everyone worries about food: What should we eat? How? What is good for us? What is bad for us? Food has become an issue, and we are harassed by do's and don'ts.

The result is that we have become anxious about food, we feel guilty because we don't eat as we think we should. At times we behave like trusting children, blindly obeying questionable dietary injunctions; at others we are overcome by an eating frenzy, devouring everything we can — and we put on weight. It has been hammered into us that it is bad to be fat. We've heard it over and over again from doctors and public-health authorities. Even if we feel fine, we are afraid that we may be overweight.

But the dieting frenzy and the efforts of the medical profession and of public-health officials to regiment our eating habits have not put an end to the “epidemic” of obesity. The solution to obesity does not lie in more rules but in knowing how to eat — which also means knowing how to live and enjoy life.

This is a radical critique of the way in which nutrition in developed countries has been overly medicalised and exposed to the strategies of the agri-food business. The authors analyse the problems posed by obesity both for society as a whole and for individuals, and they offer specific, practical solutions to learn how to eat sensibly.

Gérard Apfeldorfer is a physician, psychiatrist and psychotherapist and the vice president of a research group on obesity, Groupe de Réflexion sur l'Obésité et le Surpoids (GROS). He is the author of Mangez en paix, Maigrir, c'est dans la tête and Maigrir, c'est fou (2000).

Jean-Philippe Zermati is a nutritionist, a physician specialising in sports medicine and a behavioural psychotherapist. He is the author of Maigrir sans régime.