Friday, 30 December 2011

Fruit and veg diet

I was bound to blog about this sooner or later. Our diet is as follows:
  • three meals a day
  • no eats between them
  • one of them, every day, to consist entirely of fresh fruit and vegetables
And let me admit that we suspend it under the following circumstances:
  • on Sundays
  • on days of travel (loosely defined as days involving travel of more than an hour in one direction: commuting from Cambridge to London wouldn't count, but a journey from Cambridge to Reading would)
  • when we are hosting, or staying with, family or friends
  • if suspension seems advisable on account of illness
The diet is an adaptation of a Lenten discipline we followed one year. I embarked on the present form, more or less, in February 2001. Clare joined me in using the diet some fifteen months later. We weigh ourselves on Monday mornings.

I am not a dietician, and would have no business making claims for the diet with any appearance of expert knowledge. Its main virtue is simplicity. It doesn't involve a lot of counting or calculation. That offers less to be perverted into fiddling, and might leave mental energy free to keep up the necessary will-power. Moreover, since the diet doesn't exclude any kind of food at all, it has a reduced risk of abstinences becoming hostage to cravings. And it does seem to deliver these benefits:

Moderate weight control. Not spectacular, but real enough when the diet times are compared with the times of suspension. On a recent cycling holiday, my suspension of the diet allowed me to put on 9lb in a week. That added weight disappeared almost entirely during the first week after the return to the diet.

Discipline. OK, this is part of the input to the diet -- you need discipline in order for the diet to work -- but it's also one of the delivered benefits. Following the diet helps to develop discipline. My appetite is huge. Some say that every home needs an Aidan to finish off the leftovers. A train journey long enough to suspend the diet will, for me, be a kind of linear meal, with snacks from the trolley, the buffet car, and connecting stations. That level of hunger deserves to be limited to three bananas and two apples between breakfast and dinner, and on most days the limit is one that I succeed in imposing.

Greater pleasure in food. I started the diet after Clare told me I had reached a stage of eating almost without noticing. That's a waste of food. I can say that food does taste better for the constraint.

Variety. The way Clare and I live our lives -- she has two core part-time jobs and a lot of freelance work -- means that the fruit-&-veg meal does not occur at the same point every day. I am not sold on unpredictability, but this level of it I enjoy. It makes me think of music with shifts of rhythm and tonal centre, perhaps something by Samuel Barber.

Regular opportunities for fruit and veg. This one's perhaps self-evident, but the widespread exhortations to fruit & veg suggest that not everyone gets these in their diet as often as they might.

The main drawbacks consist in the inverse of the above. For instance, if the diet helps to develop discipline, it also feels as though it's making heavy demands on one's discipline. I reach saturation with fruit long before I would reach it with chocolate or pork pies. But, so long as one accepts the view that fruit and veg are a good thing, this diet seems to be as good a way of reaching them as any.

I suppose you're going to tell me that belief in the goodness of fruit and veg is the opposite of what we now know to be true....


  1. On Tues 4 Jan I weighed 14st12 (94.55kg) -- 3lb (1.36kg) more than before the Christmas break. Let's see what a week back on the diet does to that...

  2. On Mon 9 Jan (yes, "Tues 4" should have read "Tues 3"), I was down to 14st10 -- ie a week of diet had taken off 2/3 of gain from the week & more of feasting.

    As I say, the degree of weight control produced by the diet is not spectacular. I don't propose to keep on announcing my weight publicly; I think I've made my point.