Friday, 1 August 2008

You’re on that Funny Diet, Right?

I get this a lot – and the range of sarcastic responses is so vast I am sometimes paralysed by choice. When that happens my colleague helps me out and says "No, he has a funny diet." This is the point at which most questioners wish they hadn’t asked.

There is apparent confusion between diet as in ‘what I eat’ and diet as in ‘a campaign to lose weight over a set period of time.’ This is odd, because given the right circumstances, most people understand the distinction. If said “Hey, I was watching a wildlife program last night and it turns out this one animal has a diet of soil and twigs,” few people would assume the animal was attempting to lose weight and would in a few months would return to burgers and fries.

Yet if I said “My diet is composed entirely of meat, eggs, vegetables, nuts and fruit,” many would ask “Wow – how long are you on that for?”

Somehow, society has given us the message that as humans we are entitled to have the things we enjoy all the time. We have grown up believing that the de facto state of affairs should be that we are deriving pleasure from what we do. Is this a western phenomenon, or worldwide? I am not sure. Either way, because of this, we tend to assume that when someone describes a diet that limits what they can eat, they must be “on a diet” rather than “this is their diet, period.” The idea that someone has taken the decision to restrict what they eat permanently, by and large, does not compute – and the more radical the change, the bigger the computational challenge.

Rather than rail against the world, I have decided to celebrate the opportunity this gives us for pithy, sarcastic responses. The rules are simple – either share the response you would most likely give to this question, or, if there is a different question you are sick of being asked, share that along with the response you prefer to give. The more sarcastic the better!

I’m tagging Modern Forager, Rob Wolfe and Natural Messiah....

See Also
Five Great Health and Nutrition Quotes

5 comments:

Asclepius said...

My normal exchanges go something like this:

Punter: "You're on a funny diet, right?"

Natural Messiah (seeking to enlighten): "Errr, to be honest it is YOUR diet that is funny. We're designed to eat meat (including fat) and plants - not grains, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes or cereals"

Punter: "No bread or potatoes - and what about the saturated fat? That can't be good for you. It must be really hard."

Natural Messiah: (sarcastically) "Yeah, this six pack is killing me".

Punter: (shaking head in disbelief at my madness, comes back with a final word of wisdom) "Everything in moderation!"

Natural Messiah: "Erm, actually it is 'Insulin in moderation'"

Punter: "Wha.....?"

Natural Messiah: "Forget it. It was a paleo joke!".

Methuselah said...

Ha! Sounds familiar. A common response I get is "But you can't not eat bread, pasta, rice or bread!", to which I respond "Do I look ill to you?"

Anna said...

I get this a lot too, except it is described as a "special diet". I try to find a way to respond that no, isn't really that "special", other than being real food instead of industrial food, and not bulked up with starch and sugar. Of course, they still think I am on a special diet, sigh.

Then if they dine with me, they are often surprised to see that if they didn't already know, it wouldn't really look like I eat anything "special" at all, just food.

When I invite people over for a meal the first time, they often think there won't be anything "normal" for them to eat. Other than the conspicuous absence of bread and starchy foods, it's just real food and I think everyone genuinely enjoys it. Last weekend I had some neighbors over ( an Irish family who work in the local So Cal biotech industry). I served bacon-wrapped dates, carrot & cuke sticks with homemade avocado Caesar dip for appertizers; day smoked BBQ pulled pork shoulder (Eastern Carolina style) with two kinds of BBQ sauce (traditional Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce and more familiar KC style sauce for the timid), homemade coleslaw, caprese salad, and marinated cuke & cherry tomato salad for dinner; broiled fresh figs with chevre & walnuts, as well as Peach Clafouti (made with coconut flour instead of wheat) with whipped cream for dessert.

On the surface, totally "normal" food (albeit a "regional" focus), though very little of it was "conventional" in the usual sense. Nothing was heat n' serve, nor premixed. Much of it was acquired without a package or a UPC barcode. Pork & eggs - from a local "backyard" hobby farm, peaches - from a friend's tree, figs- from my tree, walnuts - from an 80-some yo woman's backyard tree and hand-shelled, all veggies except cukes - from our CSA farm box subscription, milk - raw and unhomogenized from a pasture based farm in central CA, whipped cream, whipped at home. Spices, chevre, heavy cream & sour cream, and some misc ingredients did come from a conventional grocery store (though I do sometimes make chevre and crème fraîche, just not this time). I think everyone thought it was great (my family of course loves this stuff, though the guest kid might have been a bit less favorably inclined), as there were nearly no leftovers and nothing to scrape off plates.

So "funny" food doesn't have to be "strange" or unnatural food. It's all in the perception, yes? I actually do think it is pretty "special" to eat real food; it certainly is the exception these days.

Anna said...

One other comment (which I ill keep brief this time :-).

When I was pregnant 10 years ago, I was prescribed a low carb diet to manage what was diagnosed as gestational diabetes. I ate very little sugar or starch or even fruit in order to keep my BG in tight control. Every bite counted, so I ate good protein, natural fats, and non-starchy veggies, and had a very good pregnancy and delivery, and my baby was born very healthy at at a good medium weight.

I feel strongly that despite the sugar, starch and fruit restrictions, my diet was much more nutrient-dense during that second half, compared to earlier in the pregnancy, before the DGM dx.

Additionally, my weight gain evened out (it had started to pack on fast just before the GTT) and I had very little extra weight to lose after the birth. I don't think that would have been the case if I had "passed" the GTT and been eating lots of carbs.

So my response to the people who insist a healthy diet *must* include grain foods is that "if it is healthy for a pregnancy, then it is healthy for me now".

Oh gee, I said I'd be brief. Sorry.

Methuselah said...

Anna - that sounds like quite a spread - it made me hungry reading it, and I've just eaten :-). It just goes to show how powerfully we have been socialised to believe in the food pyramid myth if people's imagination seems to disappear as soon as they try to conceive of a meal without starchy carbs.

On the pregnancy point, I've always felt that diet becomes twice as important at that time and I am pleased to say that my partner is very much disposed to the idea of a strict diet when hopefully we go down that road in a year or two...

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