It’s apt that I’m considering this from the heart of January. I’m weary of the zealous enthusiasm with which so many of you seize your diets (and bodies) at the New Year. If your Tweets and social media posts are to be believed, green juice consumption alone must skyrocket in January. I imagine vast greenhouses full of wheat grass brazenly lighting up the dark winter sky.
I confess that in 1995, under the care of a naturopath and in the early stages of a very important and necessary change in my own ‘consuming’ life, I too went through a green juice phase. Said naturopath prescribed a daily dose and I was faithful…for a while. But here’s the thing; it tasted awful, as in really awful. I possess a broad palate and an open mind and that drink challenged the outer limits of both. There was absolutely nothing likable about it. It tasted like a large glass of Lake Erie.
Every morning…for a while, I would mix it up, stand over my kitchen sink (just in case), plug my nose (literally), and drink it. I did that…for a while (too damn long really) until one morning I took stock of myself. I wondered why I was doing this? That’s when the maxim made its first appearance. It prompted me to ask myself a vital question: Was drinking this increasing the pleasure of my time on earth or did it possess the potential to render that time interminable? The answer was easy.
So many of you are also currently heralding the powers of cleansing. No better time exists for this type of activity than in the penumbra of the holiday season. Our tender digestive systems taxed beyond reason with shortbread, champagne and gravy.
Cleansing has long been the sole domain of the fairer sex but recently I’ve noticed a small uptake in the number of (mainly portly) fellows going where no man had before. Cleansing and juicing often appear together in Tweets and posts and seem to be related in a way that will remain mysterious to me. The whole concept of cleansing challenges some of my long-held beliefs about the beauty and mystery of human physiology, namely the body’s ability to self-regulate. Underlying it all (and so often loudly present in the tone of its adherents) is a notion of the human body antithetical to my own. It is a body that is dirty, impure, or worse, toxic. To the casual observer, cleansing seems to meet two needs at once – it hastens the exit of all ingested evil while proportionally boosting the hubris of the participant. Cleansing also seems to loosen the discretion and inhibition of those participants who lavishly share the shiny sparkling-ness of a cleansed intestinal tract with all about.
All this cleansing and juicing rests to the left of the more traditional activity of dieting. Diets currently on heavy rotation in the realm of social media include the Paleo and the 5:2. A very intelligent woman in my social media sphere is so enamoured with the Paleo diet that in a recent post she suggested we all might be interested in some of the beneficial side effects of said diet (again having to do with a shiny, sparkling intestinal tract). I couldn’t imagine anything that I’m less interested in – thank you very much. That particular post fell wide of its mark and the only thing I was left to consider was my estimation of her intelligence.
Because I all too easily have perceived myself to be on the wrong side of the dial on my own scale I have had my turn at diets. Unlike the fantastical commercials, books, and testimonials my experience of diets is utterly and completely mundane. I’ve been around long enough to remember the Atkin’s diet (and its subsequent fallout) and have a very hard time distinguishing the Paleo diet from it. The most restrictive diet I was ever on was the Scarsdale diet. I recall utterly abysmal breakfasts of grapefruit, black coffee and dry brown toast. That diet definitely pre-dated my maxim. The last diet I attempted was Weight Watcher’s, which I gave up on the same day I started after eating all my points before 3 p.m.. I imagine all this artificial wrestling with myself as akin to wrangling a live octopus – utterly futile. The only resolution related to diet that I have really followed is the one brought on by following my maxim. I resolve to never undertake a diet that inhibits my pleasure here on earth.
Today there is no shortage of dietary idiosyncrasies. The list grows at an astonishing rate. Most diets and regimes enjoy the greatest success in the unfettered period that precedes solid science, prior to their claims being officially approved or refuted. Most don’t last long enough for careful scrutiny. They’re as fleeting as their results - unable to withstand the passage of time.
I’m wary of any regime carrying the scent of shame. If it makes me feel bad about who I am, it’s meant to be questioned. Real, lasting change is seriously inhibited by righteousness. There’s a tumble in the script for anyone mounted on a big, high pedestal. I know it to be true from first hand experience.
In the spring of 1994 I needed to make a change and seized upon a six-week stay in Boston to mark this bigger, better life. For a while I rose at dawn to briskly walk the paths along the Charles River for an hour or more each morning. I drank copious amounts of water and ingested a colourful array of supplements. After 2 short weeks I was certain I was born anew. Under all this puffed-upped-ness was another subtler and more sinister presence - failure. I was having a hard time living with myself under those lofty conditions and in the presence of such an effluence of health. The end of this is obvious – it involves a wagon and falling off.
Don’t think I’m advocating for throwing caution to the wind where eating is concerned either. My career is too long, too deep and too intelligent for that. All I’m saying, really all my maxim states, is Easy Does It. It’s a good reminder to me that there is so much more than living long and that living well deserves as much consideration.