“If they do no other good they do at least this, that they prepare their patients early for death, undermining little by little and cutting off their enjoyment of life.”
Michael de Montaigne, 1595
Michel de Montaigne, one of Descartes's immediate philosophical predecessors, was skeptical about the promises of philosophical and medical expertise. His library was stuffed with medical texts that pledged to cure disease and to extend life if only you would submit to the dietetic and therapeutic disciplines of medical expertise. Give up wine; give up meat; avoid chills; sleep only on your right side; take rhubarb pills three times a day. Montaigne would have none of it.
It wasn't just that he doubted whether such nostrums would deliver the promised effects—although he did doubt this very much. It was that the purpose of extending life, even if it could be so extended, was not worth the price asked for. If you put the conduct of your life under the care of physicians, Montaigne thought they would make you miserable: “If they do no other good they do at least this, that they prepare their patients early for death, undermining little by little and cutting off their enjoyment of life.” Montaigne concludes that by all means, listen to those who may have authentic medical expertise, but do not give up your freedom of action in so doing.
Fast forward some 400 years and Montaigne echoes can still be heard. In her article “Food on the Brain”, published in New York Woman, Elizabeth Gleick took a searching look at what the Diet Obsession actually does to women. She came to the melancholy conclusion: “It's rare woman who is satisfied with her weight or the way her body looks. Most women, whether they are actively doing anything about it or not, would like to lose 5 to 10 pounds (2-5 kilos)”. The whole dieting obsession, she concluded, was “a huge burden and tremendous waste of energy. It is a little terrifying to imagine how many brilliant ideas and how much enjoyment of life are lost, pushed out of mind by thoughts of chips and chocolate, or by pledges to sweat it off”.
There are a number of reasons why one would want to lose weight and put them selves through one or the other “diet regime”. In an article, “Would You Dare Not To Diet?”, published in Options, Kathryn Hughes quotes the results of an American magazine survey: “...the majority of women place a weight loss of 10-15 lbs (5-7 kilos), at the top of a list of “Things That Would Make Me Happy” - well above success in love or work”. “Diet” to most people is a set of un-pleasurable regimes designed to restrict what one eats so we can lose weight. In doing so, Dieters become strangers to one of the most important ingredient of a balanced diet – pleasure. But we will get back to 'pleasure' in due time.
If you wonder how we got to this situation, there are a number of books and papers on who the media manipulated us into seeing “beauty” and even our personal success in this way, this book does not deal with it though.
What it is about is a way of living a healthy balanced and happy life. Are there any rules for this? Yes, there are, but you can learn to live with these :-)
Avoid Harmful Food
(at least majority of the time)
(if only moderately)
Be Calm and Relaxed
(at least while you are eating)
Chew Your Food Properly
Do Not Eat Your Stomach Full
(if you can, stop close to ¾ of full satisfaction)