We’re all going to diet

Posted by in July's Magazine

Tom Wheeler: The No Recipe Man

In these uncertain times – the chief uncertainty surrounding which will obliterate us first, climate catastrophe or total societal meltdown – it’s somehow reassuring to remember that two things are certain to outlive us all: the cockroach and the fad diet. When the apocalypse arrives, the only discernible sound will come from a neon green, seventeen-legged roach, cheerfully explaining to our strewn corpses that he cut all non-radioactive food from his diet a year ago and he’s never felt better.

But what a shame it would be if we were to take our leave from our scorched, ravaged planet without exploring the full range of batshit mental diets currently available to us – after all, why should the cockroaches have all the fun? So your doughty columnist has selflessly taken it upon himself to investigate some of the more innovative self-deprivation plans on the market so you don’t have to. Really, you don’t.


The Indomitable Gaul Diet

Briefly popular in the period around 50 B.C., this variant on the Atkins Diet experienced a surge in interest some two millenia later when the druid Getafix’s magic potion was made available in larger branches of Holland & Barrett. The regime is based unlimited quantities of wild boar, goat’s milk and very little else. Alcohol may be taken in moderation, with the proviso that excessive consumption can lead to ill-advised attempts to steal Julius Caesar’s laurel wreath. Stated benefits relate to superhuman strength and increased ability to hold out against imperial invaders, which may yet come in handy in the current political climate. Known side effects include accidental tree-uprooting and intolerance to bards. Rating: 8/10

The Relegation-Threatened Football Manager Diet

Inspired by the points-based methodology popularised by Weight Watchers, this is a gruelling programme under which the dieter has nine months to attain the magic 40 points mark. Successful completion demands 110% commitment, a never-say-die attitude and the ability to take things one meal at a time. Meat is allowed with the exception of venison-based ready meals, which are specifically excluded because there’s no easy game at this level. Those struggling with the regime may call on a substantial but fickle support group, but if they remain unconvinced, the diet is likely to be terminated without notice. Rating: 17th

The Edinburgh
Festival-Goer Diet

Our city offers a wealth of possibilities for the intrepid foodie, from Michelin-starred fine dining on Leith Shore to pavement pizzas on Leith Walk. And while it’s widely claimed that Edinburgh’s population doubles during August, the large majority of visitors tend to congregate around a few entirely predictable locations. So it really isn’t all that hard to find somewhere pleasant and relatively quiet to eat, as long as you keep at least 100 metres away from any thoroughfare whose name begins with the word George. 

You would think, then, that a month at the Festival would be a story of constant gorging and weight gain, but in fact the reverse is true. Presented with a choice between a nourishing feed and yet another £6 pint of fizzy piss in a plastic pot, 98% of performers and attendees come to the same unwise conclusionIf and when solid food finally does pass the lips, it inevitably takes the form of a ghastly pasta salad from the nearest miniature supermarket. Its contents, like its packaging, take thousands of years to biodegrade, giving it same the nutritional and calorific impact as a bag of marbles. This pattern is repeated daily until Edinburgh’s visiting population makes its way home, two stone lighter but with increased susceptibility to scurvy.
Rating: ***

The Marie Kondo Diet

This recent phenomenon revolves around delaying the eating process by laboriously folding foodstuffs into compact and easily accessible shapes. This is effective with lettuce leaves, wafer thin ham and Kraft cheese slices, but rather more challenging with soup. While the time taken arranging the meal has been shown to discourage overconsumption, this has frequently been undermined by dieters’ realisation that the food in front of them sparks no joy whatsoever, prompting them to bin the lot and order a double cheeseburger instead.

Rating: X

The Food-Eating Diet

Occasionally, among all the noise and fury of the internet, a coherent voice emerges loudly and clearly. Even more occasionally, people actually seem to hear it. Even if you’ve never read one of Michael Pollan’s books or essays, it’s likely you’ve heard his most famous mantra: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The second and third sentences are self-explanatory. The first might appear redundant but isn’t. The “food” to which he refers consists of recognisable ingredients as distinct from factory-processed amalgams of would-be nutrients. He clarifies the point nicely: “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

I honestly can’t argue with or add to that, so I’ll leave the last word to Pollan too. “If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.” Rating: Amen

Twitter: @norecipeman

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