Melanie Morris: Let's make a pact to abandon frantic starving and enjoy the lead-up to party season for a change
LADIES, it seems that we've officially missed the boat to 'drop a dress size' before the party season. Apparently, if we were to have any hope of fitting into last year's little black dress, we needed to have started our diet on Monday.
I'm not sure who the experts are who dictate this deadline -- maybe they are related to the scientists who declare what date Easter should fall. Or Mother's Day, or Pancake Tuesday. Whatever, these days, there seem to be more 'diet deadlines' falling, than special events themselves.
There's the New Year's resolution diet, the Easter diet, the summer frock diet, the bikini diet, the festival diet, the big day out diet ... and then back to the party season slimathon, just in time to round it off with a big festive binge before planning the New Year purge. It seems our calendar is now one big yoyo-dieting circle.
I know because, as the editor of a women's magazine, I get news of every diet, 'quick fix' treatment and revolutionary exercise regime; each promising results like no other.
Yesterday, I returned from the bank holiday to find details and sample packs from a new diet on my desk, a pair of cellulite-reducing tights and an offer to try a new Pilates studio in Stillorgan.
Meanwhile, one editor, fresh from a session of upside-down yoga, was writing about an exercise-free inch-loss system and our beauty editor was heading out to be strapped up to a fat-melting machine.
Have we gone mad? Are we now totally losing the plot, spending our late autumn months fasting and abstaining until December appears, with a tin of Roses and a bottle of Baileys under its arm?
Back in the day, November was traditionally the month to give up the drink. As far as I remember, this was originally for some religious purpose, but we all really knew it was so that gentlemen could justifiably indulge through December.
Now women, having been fed multiple helpings of Tess Daly, Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue are encouraged to devote the last few weeks before the silly season to beating themselves into shape.
The ads for meal replacement regimes scream from chemist windows, Amazon are delivering libraries of obscure diet books and slimming clubs have new member queues snaking out their doors.
Before long, carbs will be banned after six and office girls will live on porridge and Cup-a-Soups before evenings on the treadmill; all in a mad attempt to get thinner, leaner and more toned, before the 'big reveal' at the office party.
Can we all just take a moment, please? Can we literally put everything down and stop? What's all this in aid of and where is it going? How many diets are started every Monday, only to end up in a heap of cupcake wrappers by Friday night (and that's before the X Factor feeding frenzy)?
Let's be honest with ourselves here and decide what we really want from this year's party season. Is it to forget about what's going on in the 'real world' for a few hours and let our hair down with our pals, or is it to wriggle into a size eight dress?
In my work, I've been asked a million times what diet works, and my answer is always the same -- quite simply, the one you can stick at.
I guarantee that anyone who devotes the next six weeks to smart eating, regular exercise and some clever underwear purchases will not only be a size smaller by party time, but they'll feel as fabulous as they look.
And chances are, unlike their pal who's starved their way into a bodycon bandage dress, the steady slimmer won't regain weight half as quickly.
We can all get in shape for a memorable December, and look brilliant in our clothes, but we don't need to kill ourselves in the process.
So this year, let's make a pact to abandon the frantic starving, get a bit grown-up in our attitude to food and exercise, and enjoy the lead-up to the party season a whole lot more.
Here come the girls!
Melanie Morris is editor of IMAGE Magazine