I Don’t Diet

Fruit diet, vegan diet, juice diet, paleo diet, low carb diet, ketogenic diet. These are dieting fads which been proven ineffective or even harmful. Yet, they never seem to die out. Tweak the composition a bit and a fad with a fanciful new name but based on the same questionable principle emerges.

I’ve come across books that tell you to avoid all things that produce spores – no mushrooms. Some gurus say no dairy. Some say no eggs and meat. Some say no seeds/beans. Some say no fermented stuff – wine, miso, soya sauce are out. Some say no coffee and tea. Some even say no grains. Some say no carbohydrates. Some say no seafood.

I’m not making this up! These books have once been bestsellers. If you adopt the “collective wisdom” of these gurus, you may end up with nothing to eat but their books.

Good luck to you if you’ve bought an e-book.

There is so much literature on nutrition that practically every food type had its turn on the pedestal and stoning pit. The role can switch with the next viral video or blog entry by an “influencer” .

So what’s good and what’s bad for you? Perhaps for obvious reasons, fat was the first food type that was demonised. During the Atkins era, carbohydrates took fats’ place and just fell short of being labelled as toxic. The popularity of low carbs diets might have lasted if not for Atkins’ untimely death and his leaked medical report showing a history of heart disease, hypertension and other health issues while on the diet.

Fortunately or unfortunately, such things get forgotten and people are going on their “ketogenic” diets again.

With the publication of The China Study by Campbell and son, even animal protein got accused to be cancer promoter.

And just when you think you know what good fats and bad fats are, Simopoulos pointed out that our ancestors were not consumers of vegetable oil and our bodies are not equipped to handle all that omega 6 fatty acids. Butter is healthier!

Then there’s coconut oil pills and a host of micro nutrients whose names even I can’t pronounce.

The one thing that all this scary, promising, disappointing and downright confusing literature have in common is that they give rise to diet cults with their tenacious adherents. You’ll have no trouble selling the right books and products to the right cults. No wonder the food and wellness industries are sponsoring all this conflicting research, each one trying to break the ground under a competitor’s feet. Every time a new (surprising) report is announced, we’re not looking at raw research data. We’re looking at a competition for market share. It’s a trillion dollar industry in the US alone.

What is my principle? Well, apart from drinking lots of tea, reading, writing, travelling, taking pictures and exercising, I just enjoy my food (and wine) and of course my cooking. All I need to know about nutrition and physical fitness, I learned in secondary school.

Chan Joon Yee, writer, adventurer, home chef