When I was a teenager, one of my best friends went on a diet where she ate so many carrots that she turned the colour of an oompa loompa. It was hilarious. It was ridiculous. It was a even bit dangerous because the carotene build up in her kidney pinched a nerve in her spine.
Another friend only ate baby food for 10 DAYS. The lack of chewing made her mouth go slack.
I have mates who tried the Israeli Army Diet during the 80s who still can't eat apples,cheese and chicken. Those who tried the Zone Diet are still good at calculating ratios. Fans of the Beverley Hills Diet ate fruit for 10 days and pooed for 20, those who flirted with the Caveman Diet got blocked up and those who attempted the Grapefruit Diet got pimples from adding buckets of sugar to make it seem sweet.
Those on the Atkins Diet dreamed about bread and those who tried the calorie counting walked around with a small book and a calculator and compared ridiculous entries like chocolate coated ants (seven calories each, if my memory is correct).
An all carrot diet. Not a good idea. Image via iStock.
I even had a mate who tried to access tapeworms because she'd heard that swallowing one was the best way to get skinny and when you achieved your desired weight you just opened your mouth over a plate of steaming spaghetti. Out it would come.
Fad diets were stupid. They were dangerous. They didn't work. You'd diet and then you'd lose weight. And you'd put it on.
But God how I miss them.
I miss them because they were short. They finished and then you got to eat cake. Sure you'd put the weight back on, but at least the denial was followed by decadence. Feast followed famine.
Now we live in an era of ascetic denial. And I feel like I am failing in food.
Failing because I eat cake. And biscuits.And chocolate. And lollies. And I eat them every single day.
Failing because I have a glass of wine nearly every night. I shrink from a green smoothie like my son reels from brussel sprouts.
There is fruit on it - it's healthy. Image via iStock.
Until recently I thought that was normal. But now I feel like I'm the only one not doing interesting things with kale.
Websites and my Facebook page keep popping up things like How to get rid of belly fat, and 5 foods you eat that are going straight to your stomach. How does Google analytics know I have a fat stomach?
I filled in a Healthy Diet Score questionnaire, thinking I'd score okay, average even. I eat fruit every day and vegetables.
I got 43 out of 100. Well below average. I felt deeply ashamed, until a fellow Debrief Daily correspondent admited to 39.
Are we alone?
We are living in an era of righteous eating. Of living a lifestyle of denial. We are like Franciscan monks who enjoy our penance and boast about our denial. We gloat about giving up sugar and our glowing sugar free diet. Of giving up carbohydrates and eating lean protein. Of eating raw foods. Getting rid of gluten. Deleting dairy.
These ways of eating are a lifestyle. A full time job. We have to search for activated almonds. Sugar alternatives. Quinoa and coconut juice.
The perfect view. The sunset is nice too. Image via iStock.
I feel as left out and alone as when I confess my aversion to shopping.
There have been moments in my life when I have become that interested in healthy eating. I turned macrobiotic and vegetarian at 19. It started with a brown rice fast which involved days of rice then days of fasting. I got up the first morning ate a bowl of rice and headed off to university. I fainted in the first lecture of the day. It's just not sustainable.
I try to eat a balanced diet. I eat fruit and vegetables every day. I eat meat every other day. I'm aware of the need for legumes and nuts and avocado as my fat. But I just don't have the time or headspace to focus on food full time. And I cannot, in a time of life that can be gruelling and tricky, deny myself pleasures that make more flesh.
We've come so obsessed with healthy eating it's become a serious psychological condition. Orthorexia nervosa affects equal numbers of men and women, but sufferers tend to be aged over 30, middle-class and well-educated. We all know a sufferer or two.
Healthy eating should not be pathologised. But neither should unhealthy eating.
I'm not mainlining Kentucky Fried chicken for breakfast. I just can't be bothered being obsessed with anything. I can't even be bothered being organic - let alone afford it. I just feel life isn't worth living if we can't have some cake, or a drink of wine. Or if I have to spend the day thinking about what I can eat and what I can't.
I know the current trends are probably the fad diets of now. Perhaps, one day, we'll look back at them with fondness rather than anger.
In the meantime, I'll let me eat cake.
This post was originally published on Debrief Daily.