Eileen Holloway transforms herself from a size 26 to a size 10 after she is enrolled on a TV dieting programme by her mother.
But once the weight is off, she finds it impossible to maintain. She can't stop using food as an emotional crutch.
Spires' message, stated upfront in the foreword and throughout the book, is that overweight people use food like drug addicts use drugs and alcoholics use drink. They are addicts, and need help to overcome the emotional issues which make them turn to food. The unsympathetic host of the TV dieting show turns out to be a bulimic; another researcher admits she is anorectic. Spires sees over eating as the third eating disorder.
What makes it a slightly presumptuous message is that when we first meet Eileen she is happily chomping her way through takeaways and chocolates when she watches programmes like Strictly Come Dancing. I didn't see any emotional issues at play there. She was just being greedy. She doesn't have any knowledge of nutrition or the right things to eat. The ease with which she sheds all the weight is maybe portrayed as a little too easy. Spires wants us to believe it's easy to lose weight but virtually impossible to keep it off, unless you deal with the emotional baggage.
I found Eileen infuriating because most of her problems stemmed from being so unassertive. If Spires is saying that Eileen needs counselling to make her more assertive, and therefore less reliant on food as an emotional crutch, then we'd better reconsider healthcare provision because the NHS won't be able to fund that along with all the gastric bands and bypasses. The huge increase in obesity has mainly been caused by the introduction of takeaways and the rise in packaged and processed foods in the last 30 years.