James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Hunt, kill and be merry, for tomorrow we diet

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How paleo do we go? Photo / Thinkstock
How paleo do we go? Photo / Thinkstock

People who know about these sorts of things tell me there is a new, awesome, fashionable weight-loss regime out there called the Paleo Diet, in which you go back in time to evolve forward by eating the sort of stuff our cave-dwelling ancestors would have eaten. If you have seen, of late, packs of furrowed-brow, Lycra-clad hominids walking close to the ground in the vicinity of your nearest Les Mills, looking for wildebeest to club and kill, then they are probably on the Paleo Diet.

While I can admire the Paleo Diet on some levels, primarily the level where it lets you eat meat - and I am a man therefore meat is my favourite food group - I struggle with it elsewhere. Take the word "paleo", for example; how paleo do you actually mean? Has fire and, therefore, cooking been added to our cave-dwelling knowledge-base? Or are we expected to find, kill and eat our lamb kebab in the raw? Because I am definitely not keen on that, I'm afraid.

Also I'm a bit confused about the philosophy behind the Paleo Diet wherein, as I understand it, everything we did to food after learning how to put cattle in fenced-off areas and grow vegetables and bake bread and all that processing stuff, was apparently somehow us marching down the road to evolutionary Armageddon. Please, paleo-people, don't also tell me that turning grapes into wine and then putting it in bottles was a bad thing, because then my reason for being has gone altogether.

And then there's something called the 5:2 Diet, where I am told you eat normally (whatever that is these days) for 5 days a week and for the other 2 days you eat only air or birdseed or something along those lines. Apparently this kickstarts some kind of weight-loss imperative in the body, presumably in the same way that water-boarding kickstarts a torture victim into talking or whipping a race-horse makes it run faster.

Dieting through fear on a molecular level might be another way of looking at the 5:2 Diet.

I have two areas of concern with the 5:2 Diet. One is a personal concern in that this means that 28.571428 per cent of my week will suck. And that is only the baseline number, because even if the 2 days I can eat only nitrogen or lettuce turn out to be awesome days, on every other level they will still suck if I can eat only nitrogen or lettuce or air or birdseed. What if the other 5 days of the week also happen to suck because of work/life/actual issues? Then I will have way too much suckage in my life - and that really sucks.

My second concern is more global, in that people who go on diets tend to get really competitive about their diets, presumably due to the lack of calories reaching their brain. Thus it is inevitable that where there is a 5:2 Diet, a 4:3 Diet is just around the corner. And then there will follow the 2:5 Diet because, hey, when we were all paleo on it and roaming the savannah in search of wildebeest, we often went many days without food and, hey, look, we survived! Except, of course, we survived and got obese with it, didn't we? So let us bring on the 1:6 Diet!

Or maybe we can combine the two. What we could conceivably do is hunt like cavemen 5 days a week, roaming the streets of our cities and town in search of unprocessed meats and nuts and fish, but avoiding evil legumes and bread and potatoes. And then on the other 2 days, we can do, well, nothing. That sounds like a diet that'd be fun and easy to stick to.

As you can probably tell, I really don't understand dieting. Oh yes, I understand all too well the need for it and the desire for it, but after all these years of thinking about it and trying it I still don't get it.

For a long time I worked on the theory that if you could somehow consume fewer calories than you expended on any given day, not 5 of them or 2 of them, that you would logically lose weight. But then all these experts came along to tell me that there is good weight loss and bad weight loss and if you lose the wrong weight you'll gain even worse weight and that if you exercise in the wrong way, not the right way, then it doesn't matter how much wildebeest or nitrogen you eat, you're still going to swell up like a balloon full of lard until you end up as a burden on the welfare state.

And society can't have that, can it?

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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