Hang on to that last chocolate brownie

Beth Cooper Howell takes aim at those healthy but soul-destroying diets which cut the fun out of food


I’ve watched with interest the bumpy journey of bread through the ages – from its status as the staff of life to snubbed pariah in well-heeled circles.
The birth of cauliflower pizza bases was, I thought, short-lived, but no, they still exist and at some point, when I’m feeling much fatter than necessary, I may try them.
Unless you’re completely at ease in your skin – and thus akin to a goddess – it’s nigh impossible to have missed the world’s ongoing foodie obsession: the death of the common sandwich.
Whenever I see a new diet trend emerge, I wonder what my late gran would think. How have we catapulted ourselves from a basic eat-to-survive methodology into the demonising of an entire food group? And into the birth of yet another slew of books, blogs and one-hit-wonder TV shows telling us how to avoid it?
There are a thousand ways to label a diet, but at the end of the day, that’s all it is: a diet. And if it works for you, fab. If it doesn’t, you’re either doing it incorrectly, too poor to afford it or won’t give up cake, period.
According to pop culture and a range of experts, the latest way to lose weight, gain health and shed disease is to drop bread, pick up fat and make pizza and shepherd’s pie from cauliflower instead of dough and mashed potatoes.
When a family member (he refused to let me name him) went the way of the cave man a few years back – the version of this global carb-free eating plan called Paleo, appropriately – he dropped four dress sizes in less than two months and was able to glide around town incognito.
Fast-forward to now, though, and it has all come back to haunt him (mostly around the middle).
I’ve given the whole exclude-this-food-diet shebang a try. I tested a variety of off-shoots, which are all pretty much the same, really, if you’re having to swear off sugar, fry your broccoli bits in coconut oil and put butter in your coffee instead of milk.
When I didn’t lose any weight – and that’s just me because I know many who have – I booked a battery of tests to prove that I have vague, genetically-driven medical problems which are my ideal excuse for a life-long battle with bulge.
Bittersweetly, I am very healthy, according to my doc. Happy hormones, robust blood, a ticking-along metabolism, solid sugar levels and the bullish heart of a buffalo.
Peer pressure is not a pretty thing. If your neighbour can handle pasta-free pasta and a roosterbrood-less braai, then why can’t you?
Because you don’t want to, that’s why. And there’s nothing more stubborn than a woman hanging onto the last brownie.
I filled in one of those carb-free diet personal plans once. It came back with a menu fit for a rabbit.
There wasn’t anything new under the sun in this: if I wanted to lose weight, I had to eat less. The only difference was that I’d be eating a teaspoon of protein (cheese), rather than a finger of carbs (two provitas).
Nonetheless, to all of you who put butter in your coffee, salut! I’m going to keep it on my bread, where it belongs...

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