Why is clean living such hard work?

I have never been on a diet. I've existed on cottage cheese in the week leading up to a Greek holiday, and once I ate cabbage soup for three days in an effort to get into a strapless dress, but that doesn't count.

I'm not talking about emergency weight-loss regimes. I'm talking about clean-eating, spring-cleaning-your-gut diets – the sort you might have been on for the past month – where the idea is to lose a bit of weight, but also to retrain your eating habits, feel better, wake up fresher and ultimately look like a hot yoga teacher.

That's your modern diet. They're not just about fitting into your "thin" jeans fast, but also flatter stomachs (balanced gut bacteria), peppermint breath, skin like chamois, and living mellow lives in sun-flooded kitchens with beautiful friends who have very well-oiled joints.

A mug's fix

If you eat this way for life – is the message – you will never have to trouble yourself with cellulite, chin hairs, manmade fabrics, threadbare carpets or old people (unless they look like that sexy Cruella de Vil model, with the shock of silver hair and the perfect arched eyebrows).

It never used to be like this. Diets were accepted for what they were: the lazy mug's quick fix. No one said they were good for you, and probably they were bad. Any weight loss that occurred was highly unlikely to last more than two weeks (everyone knew that), so dieting was just a bit of mad, eyes-wide-open self-flagellation, like wearing too-small shoes and ignoring the crushing pain in your little toe, because it was sort of worth it. Before a holiday. Post Christmas. Four weeks, tops.

You went on an (old-style) diet knowing perfectly well what you should do if you wanted to improve your figure: drink less, ban takeaways and crisps, never check what is happening in the fridge when you are passing.

Delusional rituals

But instead you chose a diet, because it was a short cut, and short term and you might not follow it to the letter anyway. You turned up wherever you went with a face like Melania on inauguration day, and wailed "I'm on a diet", which was an invitation for your friends to find ways of making you break it.

You moaned about it and then modified it. You would start the day on the F-Plan or Atkins or "no wheat and dairy, not counting milk in coffee" and then chuck back a couple of cocktails and eat everything in the bread basket.

Diets were one of those delusional rituals of life, like paying someone to wrap you in cling film and blankets (also a weight-loss trick) which just add to the general gaiety of life. Ultimately pointless, but sometimes we like to indulge, all the same.


Who can be bothered?

Only not any more. These days you would never go on an "Oh, I'll just scrape off the carbonara" diet, because the eating of good foods and things like bone broth, is a mark of the liberal, educated individual. Instead of being driven by the desire to look good in clothes (or just not to be the fattest one poolside), these diets have become lifestyle statements: good, right-minded people eat well and stay lean as a byproduct. And not just for January, for life.

Fine. Good for them. But I don't want to eat clean. I don't want to make milk out of almonds, or breakfast on green juice, or swap my white spaghetti for spirallised courgettes. I just want an inch off my waist in time for summer. I wish to reduce my spare tyre and maybe the jowly bit under my chin, while I'm at it. And I'd like to be able to have a ginger nut when it's all over.

Is that too much to ask?

The Telegraph, London