THIS week I attended the premiere of Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends the Musical; the stage adaptation of her popular TV comedy drama tackling weighty issues of dieting.

In one scene, members of a slimming group frantically peel off layers of clothing, shoes, even earrings. It’s a scenario that will resonate with anyone who has ever faced the dreaded ‘weigh-in’ at a slimming club. Every ounce counts, when it comes to stepping on the scales...

In Fat Friends, Mellor explores the concept of body image and the diet industry, and the pressure to be a slave to the scales.

Desperate to shed weight quickly so she can fit into her wedding dress, the show’s central character resorts to desperate measures which are sadly all too real, and readily available.

Diets are big business, and mind-bogglingly complex. Which one to follow? The Ketogenic diet, the Blood Type diet, Dukan, 5:2, Atkins? The one where you just breathe in the steam of lemon tea for two weeks? (There probably is such a thing). Or do you, like the pals in Mellor’s lively musical, bite the bullet and join a weekly slimming group?

It’s something I have done, on and off, for over a decade. The first time, I felt so ashamed I didn’t tell anyone. I remembered the time a friend once joined a class and her sister's reaction was: “Aren’t they all orcas?”

When I lost 5lbs in my first week I was thrilled, but the euphoria soon faded when I realised that, to continue shedding an ‘acceptable’ weight each week (at least two pounds seemed to be the norm), I would have to hand my life over to the formidable woman in charge of the weighing scales. I had to write everything I ate in a daily diary, and when I inevitably forgot to do so and tried to backtrack, I ended up making it up. Then I dreaded the next meeting because I hadn’t followed it to the letter and was sure I’d put at least two pounds back on, and how would I cope with the utter shame of it all when it came to the group session, and it was revealed how much we had lost, or whether we’d (gulp) had a ‘gain’? Everyone seemed to be following the programme religiously - one woman even asked, in all seriousness, how much of her daily treat allowance was in one Malteser. She’d had one the night before and was consumed with guilt.

Not being quite so honest, I couldn’t face the scales - so I didn’t go back. And so began a regular pattern of joining groups, full of good intentions, paying up for a series of sessions in advance, doing quite well, then slipping up and calling it a day. The kind of yo-yo dieting, wasted money and self-loathing that will be familiar to anyone who has been caught in the maelstrom of dieting.

And thus it ever was. I remember my mum trying to stick to the Cambridge Diet; while we tucked into hearty meals, cooked by her, she’d be unwrapping packets of shakes and soups, insisting it would all be worth it when she could fit into a bikini again. It seemed a joyless process. The thing is, I don’t ever remember my mum looking like she needed to diet. She certainly wasn’t fat, she wasn’t even chunky. But, after three children, and in her mid-thirties, she must have felt under pressure to diet. Maybe it rubbed off on me. I found my old diary recently and was alarmed at my obsession with skipping food. Yet I was a skinny teenager, I have photos to prove it.

In today’s digital age, pressures for girls and young women to be thin are intense. Even little girls are showing worrying signs of conforming to impossibly unrealistic, and unhealthy, body image standards. They are, I fear the next generation of on-off slimming group devotees.

* WHAT a lot of fuss about the Tesco Christmas advert.

Rather predictably, it has cause a social media storm because it shows a Muslim family ‘celebrating Christmas’. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, largely I suspect from people who probably haven't set foot in a church all year.

What I see in this advert is families of various faiths getting together in the festive season. Christmas remains a Christian festival, and many people celebrate it as such. It's also a midwinter feast; a time to eat and be sociable.

For me, the ad is a turn-off because it's all about the turkey. I don't eat a dead bird at the Christmas table. Guess there's no pleasing everyone. As one tweet said: 'Why not just enjoy Christmas and love everyone?’

* NICE to see today's youngsters introduced to the works of Enid Blyton. Bradford Libraries is celebrating Children’s Book Week, and the 75th Anniversary of The Famous Five, with Blyton-themed workshops for schools. And on Saturday, at City Library, there's storytime with 'Enid' herself (Bradford actress Irene Lofthouse).

Old-fashioned they may be, but I credit The Famous Five books with sparking my lifelong love of reading. The adventures of boarding school chums were a world away from my life as a child, and that's why I loved them. Great fun.