A letter to mister Dukan from a girl who used to pull her sweaters down


I had planned to write an open letter to mister Dukan who has managed to create a buzz around himself cheaply by including a phoney and dangerous proposal in his to be published book. Some might point out the naturally gregarious media that take less than five minute to jump at the first nonsense uttered by a man whom we don’t really know where his gets his grand nutritionist title from. At the same time, it’s hard to keep your mouth shut in front of so much stupidity and I’m falling for it, of course. But as I don’t wish to stoop so low as to explain why I find incredibly stupid this proposal of giving extra points at the Bac[1] to pupils who would have a proper BMI, I will rather tell you a story.

(a bit long, I’m warning the ones who are in a rush, don’t click on ‘more’)

A story of a little girl who, around 13 years old, started to put on weight. She had never been very slim but, with the help of hormones and several other factors she managed to identify only years later, kilos started piling up at an age when the last thing you wish is to be called fatty. At the occasion of a consultation with her paediatrician, the latter, a stickler for these things – a precursor probably – sharply lectured her. It wasn’t possible, it had to be taken in hand, stop eating so much, come on madam, watch her, and you young lady, a bit of WILLPOWER, come on.

On her way out, she cried, she remembers. And the same evening, she started fasting, applying literally the diet that was in at the time and was named after a chef, Mister Olivier. With the passing of time, she now realises that she should have known better. Nevertheless, by dint of scrupulously eating plain yogurt, her mum watching her, slightly worried, she started to lose weight. A lot and fast. When you’re 13, it doesn’t take that long to slim down. Issue: she was tired. Very. So tired she fainted at school. The paediatrician, seeing her slimmer and staggering, yelled at her again. You didn’t get me, he explained, eating less doesn’t mean going on a hunger strike, and this diet was dumb, you just need to watch what you eat. How, why, this he preferred her finding out by herself. But it hung on one word the FAMOUS willpower. In the meantime, time for carelessness was over, bye bye Mister Olivier.

Except that it was too late. The rot had already set in. The little girl, with, so she thought, her censor’s blessings, gorged on all the cakes she had cut out for the past weeks. And even a bit more, just in case. It’s this just in case probably that she couldn’t get rid of later on. Just in case another doctor would order her to slim down again, just in case war would break out, just in case she would get dizzy again.

As the years went by, the little girl grew up, gained a lot of weight, and slimmed down sometimes. She, of course, didn’t stop after this first diet, one after the other with enthusiasm and foolish hopes.  Some diets worked, others less. One year, when she was finishing her studies, she straight out stopped eating or almost. Minus twenty kilos and the weird and stimulating impression that she was going to disappear. Ten month later she had gained 25 kilos and so on. In the 90’s, she discovered protein packets. Ahhh, packets. Pancakes powder with a metallic taste, plaster like and laxative vanilla “pudding”.  And the sta-bi-li-sa-tion phase. That was so alike Dukan diet, you couldn’t tell them apart, with meat and animal protein at every level and huge control over sweet veggies like carrots and green beans. Bad carrots. Again, jackpot, minus 15 kilos. And the appearance of the obsession. Of weight, of prominent hips, of the protein snack you’ll eat in two hours, fuck it’s long two hours. And no, I don’t want to go to hers, she will make lasagna again, I hate it. Well, I love it, but it’s the same, you get me. I smoke two packs of cigarettes a day but go on try to eat only a quarter of an apple for dessert and tell me how you feel. I’m happy, I fit in a size 10, but I think only of it and my breath stinks acetone from 20 km away. I’m brilliant at the same time, do you know anybody else with such a willpower? I’m just a shit, right, I gave up, I ate a carrot. I couldn’t stand peppers anymore. I’m not crazy you know? Do you still love me? How do you do this? No I’m not pulling my sweater down. It’s my tummy that I pull in reality but it’s still there, bloody hell.

And this impossible to chase impression that anyway there will always be kilos to shed, more, better. And controls from that doctor, well-established on place de la Madeleine, 120 euros a consultation to step on the scale, vaguely check her tension and sight that she should be below 55 now. He hardly bat an eyelid when she told him she wanted a child.

A desire that probably saved, if not her life, at least her couple and her reason, she now realises. Because in this body which, she thought, couldn’t welcome anyone as she hated it so much, two babies decided on an autumn day to settle and grow up. Babies who were in need, so her wonderful gynaecologist assured her, of carrots, green beans but also rice pudding, chocolate and any food she felt like. And she felt like a lot of stuff.  So much so that she never knew how many kilos she had gained during those seven months being pregnant. She stopped counting at 30.

After that, the little girl, as a mum, never again gave in to packets or other diets praised in the magazines. She even though erred for a long while from nutritionist to nutritionist, hoping to find out one who would find the words and explain her how to end up all this. Slimming down, she didn’t believe in it anymore, to stop gaining would already be good. But it was out of question to start starving herself again, out of question to weight all her food or to accept even once that an hysterical old bag measure her thighs to check if they are full of water. Never hear again that in Auschwitz there were no fat people.

On a fine day, just before her 40th birthday, she finally managed to knock on the door of the one who will never weight her, never promise any loss and never forbid anything, but who, cherry on the cake, will manage to make her loose more weight than all ever tried diets. By talking to her about hunger, emotions, satiety, the necessity to be fully aware of what she eats, when she eats it. Two years later, she has spent one week with friends eating a bit more than is sensible. Pretending that she didn’t tell herself once or twice that she was going to pay a high price would be a lie. Saying that she’s not afraid that it starts all over again, that kilos come back overnight would too be dishonest. But day after day, month after month, she finds herself believing in it. Maybe she’s out of this infernal circle. Maybe she will never go through this again.

There you go Mister Dukan. You and all your disciples, you and your inept precepts almost had me fall over to the other side. The side from where you never come back as one day the body can’t back-pedal. Because I believed, from very young, that being slim was the alpha and omega of happiness. Because believing in your dream, I ended up forgetting myself. Trying to correlate being slim and succeeding at the Bac1 is the last step of a long undermining started years ago consisting in making people think that fat persons are worms without willpower, unworthy of our so successful society. And with this, we create, day after day, more and more obese people, so anxious from the idea that they embody these values contrary to growth that they can’t stop eating to comfort themselves.

I’m convinced that we shouldn’t cultivate this disgust for fat, for obesity to lose ground. But this theory is not helping sales. It’s complicated, slightly far-fetched, almost shady. However, what I’ve kept in mind from doctor Zermati, with whom I’ve reach equilibrium, is something he told me during one of my last sessions with him: “You will be really fine when you will look kindly at overweight people you pass every day”. I try to do so because those people are my sisters and brothers. I am them forever, I have been them and will be them maybe again, because sometimes, life is so. It won’t take anything away from the fact that I’m human. I think it’s probably this that should give extra point for Bac1. Alas, we’re far from there.


[1] TN: Bac is the exam pupils have to take and pass at the end of high school to join university and higher eduction schools.



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