Now that clean eating has gone the way of all the other diet fads, keep your eyes off the cake and follow my rules.
I am sure you noticed the banner that screeched, “Don’t call me clean!” alongside a photo of a beautiful young girl grasping a ten-inch Perspex tube. No doubt, like me, you assumed we had secured an exclusive interview with one of Donald Trump’s Russian hotel buddies and tore through the paper for the full set of photos, only to find that the young woman in question was by no means one of Putin’s finest, but a food blogger called Deliciously Ella. Or more likely, Ella Deliciously (half my spam is addressed to “Coren Giles”, so I’m guessing that is what happened here).
It turned out that the blunt object Ms Deliciously was gripping so firmly was in fact not a sex toy or sample bottle but a spiraliser, which is a thing used for turning courgettes into spaghetti by people whose diet allows them to eat courgettes but not spaghetti. People who live by the opposite prohibition, like me, have yet to be provided with a device that turns spaghetti into courgettes.
And the reason Ms Deliciously was asking not to be called clean, I gathered, was that the “clean eating” movement of which she is a leading light has this week suffered a catastrophic backlash against its values.
“Clean eating”, in case you are not a 12-year-old anorexic with an Instagram account, is the lifestyle trend in which beautiful, wealthy posh girls such as Ms Deliciously (daughter of a Sainsbury heiress and a former cabinet minster) and the Hemsley sisters, Jasmine and Melissa (privately educated former models), blog about how if you go vegan and gluten-free and cut out processed food you can be just like them. So millions of girls do, and then get very miserable when, despite losing half their body weight, they are still ugly, common and poor.
In a Horizon programme broadcast on Thursday night (which I didn’t see because I was in the pub) a Cambridge biochemist called Dr Giles Yeo threw the whole thing back in their faces. He excoriated the theories, ridiculed the research and revealed the absence of anything scientific at all in this ridiculous hokum that encourages healthy young people to live like allergy-raddled invalids.
And so what the fresh-faced lovelies who have made millions out of it immediately did, like hardened crims caught by the plod with their hands full of stolen jewellery, was chorus, “It wasn’t me, guv!”
Backing away from the crime scene with their arms in the air, the scrawny profiteers all claimed nervously never to have used the phrase “clean eating”, never judged anyone for what they ate, never suggested anyone copy them, weren’t never there in the first place, never done nuffink, it’s a fit up . . .
And so I guess that’s it with the clean movement now and we will all have to sit through the extended nutritional backlash. The celebration of dirty eating. All the fat bastards saying, “I told you it was a massive con!” and tucking right back into the factory pies and sugary cakes and fizzy drinks. Because that is how we eat in this country: not according to fads but according to backlashes.
Every diet you can think of: the calorie-controlled, the low-fat, the Atkins, the F-plan, the grapefruit, the Montignac, the SlimFast, the Hay, the cabbage soup, the paleo, the 5:2, the Rosemary Conley, the Mediterranean, the South Beach, the Dukan, the raw food . . . they all looked preposterous quite soon after inception and then lasted longer in the backlash than in their original manifestation. For while none of us ever followed any of them properly, we all sighed the great sigh of relief when each was discredited, said, “I’m never eating another grapefruit/cabbage/mouthful of Flora margarine/mackerel/kale smoothie . . .” and dived straight back into eating whatever we most loved that had been taken away from us under false pretences.
On Radio 4 this week, the brilliant Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell brought solace to Trump-befuddled snowflakes by reminding us that in American politics the major political earthquakes are almost always most significant for the extended backlashes that follow them. He cited McCarthyism and Vietnam and it was hard to argue. I’d say the same thing about the history of healthy eating over the past 50 years. The backlash is always more significant than the original message.
Don’t eat anything delivered to you by a man on a motorbike
Which is why we are so fat and unhealthy. Because the discrediting of each diet rings in our dumb, fat little minds as a de facto endorsement of everything it had prohibited. “You see!” we cry. “I always said that fat / sugar / potatoes / bread / wine / beer / meat / coffee . . . couldn’t be bad for you!” and in we tuck like never before. Simply because a diet invented by morons to cater for other morons has been discredited by yet more morons.
That’s why you see fat idiots sitting in front of pizza and chips with a pint of beer and a chocolate cake, saying: “If them scientists can’t make up their minds, I’m not going to sit about eating lettuce all day, am I? One day it’s this, one day it’s that. Might as well eat what I like.” Except it is not scientists proposing and discrediting these theories. It is just morons. Greedy morons who want to turn your own moronic failure to grasp the bare essentials of nutrition into money. And they are killing us.
We just need to be less stupid. Well, you do. I’m fine. I eat out for a living and I’m not fat or unhealthy or suffering from any of the weird ailments that the orthorexic authors of these diets always claim to have been cured of by them. The rules for eating properly, staying slim and living for ever are so obvious it makes my eyes bleed.
Just don’t eat anything out of a packet. Don’t eat in front of a screen. Don’t eat standing up, or on public transport, or in the street. Don’t eat without cutlery or out of a box. Don’t eat anything delivered to your door by a man on a motorbike or passed to you in your car through a hatch. Don’t eat anything a fox would ignore. Don’t eat anything because you “can’t resist” or because “a little of what you fancy does you good” or because you saw it advertised on TV. Don’t eat because you are bored. And don’t eat anything that contains ingredients you cannot visualise.
There is one famous prohibition, espoused by a great many people who claim to know what they are talking about, which goes: “Do not eat anything that your grandmother would not have recognised as food.” But alas that would restrict me to heimische pickles and Silk Cut.
On the other hand, she did live to 103.