It seems that everyone and their mother these days is banging on about philosophies of food – so maybe I will take a turn. There was a time, way back, when I was in what you might call ‘diet panic mode’. I was looking round the various options and all I could see was a load of contradictions. Eat lots of grains, cut out the grains – eat meat and you will die horribly, don’t eat meat and you will, um, die horribly – ‘X’ substance of any kind whatsoever will save your life, ‘X’ substance of any kind whatsoever will kill you and all the pretty girls will dance on your grave giggling . . . it just about did my head in.
I did notice two things though that have lingered with me. The first was exploring the so-called hypo-allergenic diet, which involves cutting out everything that humans are known to be most sensitive to, regardless of whether you are actually allergic to anything. The reasoning being that these are probably harder on the system in general. The interesting thing was how this corresponded almost perfectly with the food we actually evolved to eat way back (which is these days defined in the so-called palaeolithic diet – good luck with that one in modern society!). Both suggest that the optimal food is basically the simplest – many types of veg, fruit, meat, fish, honey etc. but go easy on the bread, grain, pulses, dairy, processed stuff, mystery chemicals etc. It was an interesting conjunction, one from a fairly direct modern science of allergies and the other from ancient history – and it was the only thing (=regime) I ever saw that rang at all true. It made other rigorous options like vegetarian or macrobiotic or Atkins (or grapefruit, or starlight, or living on miso soup and lentils, or whatever other eternal crap is out there) look much less sound.
The other thing that lived with me was the ayurvedic approach that recognises that different people have different requirements, which suggested that any kind of culinary evangelism or carefully controlled regimes can be off-beam anyway! The ayurvedics will probably hate me though because instead of going ‘wow’ and following their system, that was my excuse to just give up listening. Enough was enough – I was getting just too stressed out. This kind of joyless calculation and endless worrying isn’t what food should be about. After that panic mode was over, for a long time, whenever I heard some vegan frothing at the mouth on the subject or some earnest guy saying follow ‘X’ and save your soul, all I heard was a faint buzzing sound. I still do, though one must of course be open to all actual genuine information. The hardest thing I ever faced in this business was overcoming my revulsion at the preaching and ideology and iamrightyouarewrong (not to mention the aggression and hate it seems to whip up all too often) to find any small kernels of actual info in there.
And then there’s the small matter of human instincts. Go against them at your peril! Maybe the reason the hypoallergenic/Palaeolithic ideas got through to me more than any other was because they seemed faintly familiar, from some primal place inside me that already knew what it needed . . . Not that I am a practitioner. I hate absolutes far too much to ever align myself with any creed directly (absolutes must surely be one of the most poisonous and illusory aspects of human thought). But it does offer some interesting ideas that can be thought about and built upon. For me anyway.
These days, I am still somewhat ‘anti-diet’. However, I do have a personal recipe for life that I try and follow (doesn’t always succeed, especially when I am busy and fed up, but I try!). It goes something like this: Know what makes you feel good and eat it! Keep up with the facts as far as possible but if anyone starts telling you what to do, walk away. Then cheer up and get on with life! Being happy and fulfilled (not always easy I know) will do you more good than any diet I think.