Food fads: my gut feeling is…

Cover of GulpHere’s a hint: your flavour of the month had better not be bacon, sausages, fruit juices, melted cheese or cupcakes. All the fun stuff, I think you will agree.

In fact, the way things are going in the world of dietary advice and precautions, you’ll be thinking you should stick to lettuce leaves. Well, you would be so wrong. According to the very latest from the food police, lettuce has absolutely no food value whatsoever and can in fact be harmful. Apparently, piling lashings of the green stuff on the side of your potential coronary just makes you FEEL better – and eat more junk.

Cover of The Diet MythHere’s a selection of some trending foodie books that appeal to me – in some cases for all the wrong reasons:

Gulp by Mary Roach – it has a great cover and is about the “strange wet miracles of science that operate inside us”. You’ll find the answers to questions like: did Elvis die of constipation?

Books on microbiomes. OK, now take a deep breath before you read up on the latest in faecal transplants. A good place to start is the Christchurch Press article: Is clean living shortening our lives? (4 November 2015, B3). Cover of The TastemakersWe need to get down and dirty and restore the variety of microbes in our guts. And, unfortunately, that means we need to know more about “stool banks” and “faecal transplants”. Tim Spector is your go-to man here.

There is also the possibility that we are just being manipulated by clever marketeers. The Tastemakers tackles this possibility by asking: Why does food have to be trendy? Why can’t it just taste good? Like a toasted cheese sandwich used to taste, before it was gentrified with artisanal cheeses and ancient grain breads?

Cover of The Sex Life of FoodAnd finally, just because every blog is improved by the mere mention of sex, there is The Sex Life of Food. Maurice Sendak bills this book as being “Delicious, funny and  – yes – sexy”. And I checked, there is no mention of excrement anywhere here! But,  best of all – I love the author’s name –  Bunny Crumpacker. I am not making this up!

Left to my own devices I would probably eat avocado on toast and cupcakes every day. Until I tired of it, that is. Maybe I should write a book on this!

Confused and befuddled with Grain Brain: Welcome to the world of dietary advice

I think we can be forgiven for feeling that all the dietary advice that dominates our headlines and magazines (even The Listener for heaven’s sake) is confusing and often contradictory. Always at the forefront of trends,  the library too has its fair share of titles to confuse and befuddle! At this point I hasten to add that this is part of our business, i.e. to purchase items that give information,  different viewpoints and ideas etc. As a society we are concerned about obesity, fast foods and lack of exercise, and of course publishers are well aware of these trends as well.

Fat was the harbinger of all evil until about 8 to 10 years ago, now it’s carbohydrates and its evil twin Sugar. However baking is still hugely popular with sugar always being a star component, although some Paleo books are doing their best to steal its thunder.

Cover of Why diets fail Cover of Taste sweet feast Cover of Paleo sweet treats

Low fat diets were considered essential for a healthy heart, but this book tells us that butter and fat actually make us slim!

Cover of Low-fat feasts Cover of 200 Low carb high fat recipes Cover of The grain brain cookbook

We embraced whole grains to now being told we have Grain Brains…

The Paleo diet has been holding its own for a while now still topping the charts, although Pete Evans of My Kitchen Rules fame and the kingpin of Paleo did have his last book pulled from publication as it contained what was considered to be unsafe information.  However paleo – and its cavemen and women – are covering all bases from smoothies, sweets, chocolate and fast foods, and of course Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat.

Cover of Clean living fast food Cover of Amazing grains Cover of Paleo desserts  Cover of Paleo Smoothies Cover of Edible

Interestingly, recent title Proteinaholic : How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do about  has come along to question paleo and its meaty companions …

An acclaimed surgeon specializing in weight loss delivers a paradigm-shifting examination of the diet and health industry’s focus on protein, explaining why it is detrimental to our health, and can prevent us from losing weight.

If all else fails we can always rely on insects –  low fat, low sugar, full of protein and tasty. Yum.

What do Hollywood and libraries have in common?

You may not think there is a lot in common between a library and Hollywood.  We may not be as glamorous as the likes of Angelina Jolie or Jamie Dornan, but where would they be without Unbroken and 50 shades of grey?

However it isn’t just books that we have in common, it is our need to keep up with The Next Big Thing, and nothing typifies this more than and diet and exercise industry. You may have just come to grips with the low-fat ideology which has spawned the likes of low-fat bacon for goodness sake, only to now be told now that butter is good!

Paleo is still huge and cavemen everywhere must be beating their clubs with glee as there seems to be a never-ending plethora of books published in this area. Fasting is also popular although having holidayed with someone when they were on their fasting days was a pretty unpleasant experience, and one I don’t wish to repeat. Of course you can also use this time to detox using juices and smoothies, or you could munch your way a plate of raw food. It would seem that actually cooking food is akin to devil worship in some circles!

ECover of Embrace the suckxercise has also gone through a variety of Metamorphoses over the years. Jane Fonda feeling the burn has now been replaced by so-called gyms or  “boxes” where you push around tires and lift heavy chains. Perhaps all that paleo has indeed turned us into cavemen/women?

HIIT is  also big, High Intensity Interval training … gone are the days of slogging it out on the treadmill for hours on end. It’s all fast and intense now, perhaps better for the time hungry?

Craft is another area that is trend focused.  Fancy a bit of scrapbooking/mosaic/ beading? Well actually no, now it is all about quilting, knitting and a side of crochet, and if you branch out into the vintage aspect of things all the better.

Cover of Yarn, yarn, yarnYou may have thought hacking involved some sort of illegal action with computers, however now we have life hacks: Any Procedure or Action That Solves a Problem, Simplifies a Task, Reduces Frustration, Etc. in One’s Everyday Life.

This has been big on social media so we should expect more books on this subject in the next while.

Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother

Lionel Shriver did have a “big” brother, he died from an apparent obesity related illness as 55. This knowledge made her latest book Big Brother feel all the more uncomfortable. It is a no holds barred look at the obese, fat, weight challenged  – call it what you like, but it’s a bumpy ride.

Pandora’s older brother Edison comes to visit. She hasn’t seen him for four years and he is unrecognisable. Weight gain has left him bloated and barely able to walk. Pandora is horrified but pretends that she isn’t. By the end of the first chapter I am feeling uneasy.

Search catalogueEdison is portrayed as gross, out of control, aimless and self-centered. Pandora’s husband – the taut, tight Fletcher – is a manic cyclist and health food fanatic who is equally as horrible,  and Pandora is somewhat cold and detached. She has made a fortune producing custom-made dolls that resemble the people who receive them. Each doll has a talk function where they utter scripts provided by the giver, usually an opportunity to provide sly digs about the recipient’s bad behaviours. The dolls are funny but with a sting in the tail, a bit like Shriver perhaps as again she has compiled a cast of fascinating, brutally honest and utterly unlikable characters.

Pandora eventually acknowledges to Edison that she is worried about him, but he steadfastly refuses to cut back on his food intake. Descriptions of massive amounts of cheese, fast food, cream, piles of pancakes and butter left me feeling somewhat unwell. Just as  unappetising is Fletcher’s quest to become the ultimate lean machine, producing dry, bland,  fibre based meals laden with self-satisfaction.

Pandora decides that she will take Edison in hand, and rents them a flat for a year in which he will have to lose 163Ibs or be sent packing.  They both embark on the diet shake based system-  as Pandora is horrified that she put on a bit herself, and the abandoned Fletcher remains bitter and twisted in the family home while brother and sister bond over their joint sense of deprivation.

Will Edison lose all the weight? Can Fletcher and Pandora’s marriage survive the separation and accusations that go with Pandora’s quest to help her brother? Will I ever be able to eat again without  memories of Edison’s rather unfortunate episode in the toilet?

I am left with a huge sense of ambiguity about this book, I can’t decide whether it gives the finger to our obsession with diet and weight, or literally feeds into it. Would I recommend it? Yes, most definitely but be warned, it’s not pretty.

A myriad of ways to lose weight

The diet industry is hardly suffering from any downturn in the market if the number of books published in this area is anything to go by.  Losing weight is no longer about eating a bit less and upping the exercise regime.  We already have food combining, the Blood type diet, GI indexes and the famous Israeli diet that suggested eating the same food for two days at a time (if you consider apples and salad food that is). 

Not to be outdone the diet meisters are still coming up with plenty of new ideas for immediate and long term weight loss.  We have The Miracle Juice Diet: lose 3kg (7lbs) in just seven days by Amanda Cross, The Genotype diet by Peter D’Adamo where you can apparently turn off the bad genes and turn on the good genes to create a new you!

Going against the Grain: How reducing and Avoiding Grains can Revitalize your Health by Melissa Smith challenges all that we thought was gospel by suggesting that our intake of grain is responsible for our inability to have successful weight loss, and my personal favourite,  The Doona Diet (we might call it the Duvet diet) by Jane Worthington, where sleep makes the metabolism more efficient (Now that sounds like my type of diet!) 

Those of you who prefer a bit of humour with your 1200 calories a day, might enjoy,  Dr Fatkins Resolutionary diet: How to eat what you want and pretend to lose weight.