Why I fell for a fad diet
‘If a food makes me feel good and nourished, it can’t be that bad for me,’ says Cecile Meier.
OPINION: If you don’t hear from me next week, it’ll probably be because I joined a cult. It has become clear that I am the right kind of gullible to give away my possessions and move to a forest.
What am I talking about? Well, recently I went to an acupuncturist. She stuck pins in me, made me feel better, and then suggested I change my whole diet. So naturally, I did.
Looking back I wonder how this one session with a stranger led me to throw away my routine, principles and desires. Let’s start with the one-hour session.
After seeing a physiotherapist for a while and trying various forms of stretches and exercises, I was still plagued with persistent back pain. I thought I’d try acupuncture.
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The lovely lady asked questions about my sleep, diet, exercise and emotional wellbeing. She said I should make sure to eat the right kind of food for my blood type and told me about an app that made it all easy. It felt holistic and the needles must have done something because my back felt better afterwards. Or maybe it was all in my head. Who knows?
Growing up, my mum and grandma’s love of fad diets, homeopathy and natural remedies brought me a healthy dose of skepticism for such things. But still, I downloaded the app.
You select your blood type (mine is O) and then you can see which foods are beneficial (in green), which are neutral (yellow) and which are verboten (red). The theory is your body will allegedly digest the right food more efficiently, which will lead to increased energy and health.
It all seemed too familiar. My grandma has a colour-coded list of food she can and can’t eat stuck to her fridge door. I’d always rolled my eyes at it but now realise she was doing the blood type diet.
First, the app said not to eat bread. I love bread. I love bread so much I could live on it for the rest of my life. Especially since my husband is making sourdough at home.
Next I found out that type Os should eat lots of lean meat, poultry and fish. Just as I was trying to reduce my meat intake. We barely cook meat at home anymore, for ethical and environmental reasons.
OK, no biggie, I would replace the recommended meat with beans and lentils. Nope, red kidney beans and lentils both forbidden. Maybe I can have steak once a week, I thought, wondering what else I would eat on the remaining days.
The only easy element of the diet was that dairy was also to be avoided, which at least matched with my efforts to replace animal products with alternatives.
Oh, and did I mention that coffee was not allowed?
Despite the incredibly restrictive and seemingly random nature of the diet, as well as the fact there appears to be no solid scientific evidence to back it up, I decided to give it a go.
I hadn’t been feeling well lately – random nausea, low mood, low levels of anxiety, fatigue (no, I am not pregnant). I was desperate to feel better. That’s how diet merchants thrive. With the promise to fix all your problems.
So I replaced my beloved morning peanut butter and pear on bread with boring porridge and blueberries (they are beneficial for type Os). I replaced coffee with green tea, and bought beans I had never heard of before.
You are what you eat, they say. Meat-free, dairy-free, coffee-free, bread-free, sugar-free… after all of four days I was fast becoming joy-free as well.
It wasn’t going to work. I had made a commitment to reducing meat consumption and was feeling happy about that (besides, there is actual good scientific evidence that plant-based eating is good for your health). But without the meat, the type O diet was too restrictive. And I missed bread too much.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Giving up coffee for a few days made me realise how addicted I was to it. I often felt more anxious after drinking it, so I will keep going with the green tea for a while longer.
As for the rest, I will try and go with my gut. If a food makes me feel good and nourished, it can’t be that bad for me.