Have you heard about the new diet that is taking the world by storm? It’s amazing. It’s called eating sensibly.
There is no particular book that sells this diet. It doesn’t come with a trademark. Eating sensibly is not a fad that will make millions for its inventor.
The eating sensibly diet doesn’t cater to the fast fix culture. It can’t promise to change your life over night.
But the benefits endure. You will feel better over time.
All you have to do is eat reasonably well, reasonably consistently. Rather than crashing from one diet to the next, the key is to develop healthy habits that you can sustain over the long term. It’s not that hard once you figure out what real food is.
Here are some thoughts about real food. Do an inventory of your pantry and pull out the packets and sachets that normally go into your home cooking. Get rid of them. Learn to make sauces and dressings from scratch. It’s more fun and it tastes better.
Eat vegetables. Real ones that are in season. Potato chips don’t count.
Don’t fool yourself by drinking fizz with the word ‘diet’ on it. That Diet Coke is lying to you and you know it.
If you want a book to back this up I’d recommend the opening chapters of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. His three rules of eating are quite simple: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
“Eat food”. There’s a lot of substance behind that deceptively simple first rule. You have to be sure that what you’re eating is in fact real food. Many of us fuel ourselves on processed cheese, reconstituted meats and cardboard biscuits that, when broken down, don’t stack up. No wonder we eat too much. It’s because we’re hungry.
White bread? Won’t fuel you adequately. Children’s yoghurt? Mostly just sugar. Prepackaged frozen schnitzel slabs? Why not make your own with real meat, a beaten egg, flour and bread crumbs? It’s not quite as convenient but it is so much more like real food.
A warning light flicked on when I first heard about the new Fast Diet, also known as the 5:2 Diet because it promotes fasting for two days out of seven. “Fast Diet.” Get it? Clever and just a little bit sneaky.
The Fast Diet was launched in a book by an enthusiastic BBC medical journalist called Michael Mosley. The concept of fasting worked well for him, so he hit on this idea that you can fast two days a week and eat normally for the other five days. Magical health benefits follow, notably weight loss.
But what does eating normally mean? For many people, normal is pies, coke and biscuits. It’s sugar bombed cereals, minced up chicken nuggets and instant noodles with those powdered flavour sachets.
The normal food of daily life has become dangerously processed. Even so-called healthy alternatives can’t beat real food. Give me steak over an uber-processed soy substance sausage thingy any day of the week.
While Mosley is probably genuine about having discovered a lifestyle that suits him, I’m not sure it’s helpful to publish a diet book on a hunch. In a story on USA Today (March 19) he was quoted, “It’s just the beginning of something interesting. People need to try it for themselves and see if it works.”
That’s hardly responsible nutrition advice.
The Fast Diet has raised a few eyebrows, including both a feature article and an editorial in this week’s Bay of Plenty Times. Everyone seems to be saying the same thing: what really counts is how you eat during those normal days.
People who hunger for fast dieting solutions are often slow to learn that there is no magic bullet. The answer to better health might actually be as simple as learning to eat your vegetables.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 14 June 2013. Reproduced with permission.