Whole30, the latest must-do health fad in the US, comes with surprising dos and donts, and a belligerent attitude
It is a mark of the diet industrys brazen resilience that, in response to growing public awareness of how, for decades, it colluded with the sugar lobby to dump the blame for obesity on fat, it is scrambling to tell a new story. If you are doing dry January or Veganuary you are hopelessly behind; this year, its all about no-sugar January, from the very people who brought you fat will kill you no, actually, its bread! Well, someone has to monetise these U-turns.
Bread is still on the banned list. But thanks to all those annoyingly fact-based books and articles last year it is no longer public enemy number one. At the top of the US bestseller list is the Whole30, a diet book devoted to eliminating, for one month, dairy andgrains from your diet but throwing its weight against sugar as well. Instead, it is embracing of course good fats.
Whats fascinating is the crack the Whole30 has at other food fads. On the diets sorry, the programmes banned list are gluten-free pseudo-grains like quinoa. Pseudo-grains! The cheek of it! Also tofu and tempeh. Take that, hipsters! And theres a side-swipe at the Paleos for cheating with things such as fake Pop-Tarts.
You cant have alcohol on the Whole30, and the sugar ban encompasses honey, maple syrup and agave. You can have ghee in place of butter and you can also have the following philosophy, which the authors call tough love but I can think of other names for: Dont you dare tell us this is hard, they admonish. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. This reminds me of those actors who say actings not coal mining, or risking ones life in a war, then bat their eyelashes at how hard it is to be popular.
Endless studies detail how hard it is to break dietary habits, particularly when people are too busy or poor or harried to think five meals ahead and plan around a ban on every food item in the house. And while the science behind sugar addiction might be right, the same old diet-book tactic of going cold turkey and expecting a miracle seems doomed to end in more failure. By which time something else will have surfaced to offer us salvation.
Sorry to bother you
Everyone in my house was sick at New Year, testing what remains of my Englishness: that is, forcing me to do something considered standard in the US that to me feels rude, which is to bug the doctor on a public holiday.
This was not an emergency; it was a two-year-old with a heavy cold, and a query, raised by the pharmacist, about how to calibrate the medicine. I felt terrible. Our family doctor is very nice and is always on call and it took me several goes of picking up my phone and putting it down again before I could bear to leave him a message.
Then again, there is an obsequious part of my nature that likes to bother him precisely for the opportunity it furnishes to go on about how much I hate to bother him, differentiating me from all the terrible Americans on his list with different ideas about healthcare. I cant imagine why people find the English insufferable.