Tonight I stumbled across “Eat to Live Forever with Giles” on Lifestyle You. British food critic Giles Coren, who is a forty-five year old father to two young children, is reflecting on his mortality and has decided to investigate diets which claim to make you live longer. So after a quick assessment from his own doctor in the UK, Giles is off to the home of dieting, the mighty USA.
First up Giles meets a couple who are on a calorie restricted diet which tricks your body into starvation mode. Paul and Meredith are “calorie-restricting superstars” who apparently have 100 000 followers. Paul is in his mid-sixties, but doesn’t look a day over 64, so something must be working. And Meredith wears huge sunglasses inside the house, so I reckon her eyesight might be a bit dodgy.
Still they’re aiming to live until 125. Call me a skeptic, but I reckon that’s going to be a bit of a stretch. They serve up Giles a lovely breakfast of a slice of wheat free rough brown bread with lemon juice poured all over it.
The sight of it makes me re-evaluate Meredith’s glasses. They say we eat with our eyes, and I guess if she could see what she was consuming, she probably wouldn’t eat anything. As it is, when they are cleaning up the table, Meredith has left most of hers on her plate.
After breakfast, Paul and Giles don 15 kilogram body vests and go for a hike through the woods to work off all that indulgence. If you want to get one of these, www.weightvest.com. (Cue shameless logo placement.) Paul rambles on about all the science behind his regime, but honestly, I felt that all that was missing was some Nike shoes, a purple cloth and a letter to the alien space ship commander and these two were about to be knocking on Heaven’s gate.
Back at his B&B, Giles tries to take his mind off his hunger by reading a porn magazine. But he must have left those in London, so he is forced into reading a magazine called “Life Extension” with Suzanne Somers on the cover.
Ms Somers starred in one of those American remakes of good British comedies. She’s right into everything that’s organic, but that seems so incongruous to me, because I don’t think she comes with many of her original parts. All sorts of things on Suzanne have been stretched or enhanced, but I’m not seeing any of that as proof of extension of life. In fact I am reminded of Joan Rivers’ and poor Kanye’s mother, whose lives were cut short in their quest to appear more youthful.
Later that night, Giles talks to the camera about how cold the room at the B&B is. He says his body is achy and shaky. Sounds to me like you might be coming down with a cold, Giles. You know what’s good for that? Citrus. Hold tight. It’s only another four hours before you can have another slice of soggy lemon bread.
Too bad if you are coming down with something, Giles, because at breakfast there’s not a lemon in sight, not even one that has been boiled and intended to be eaten whole. This morning’s fare is a range of pickles: a teaspoon of each. What is particularly disconcerting is that Meredith is at the table, but neither speaking nor moving. Like she had phenobarbital and apple sauce as a starter.
But even more disconcerting than that is the next part of Giles’ quest. He’s off to find out more about the micro-bio. This means meeting up with the unusually glamorous, given her speciality, Dr Orneta in New York. Dr Orneta is the nation’s leader in the field of… poo transfers. This involves taking the excrement of a “healthy” person, blending it up, putting it into a rubber-tipped squeeze bottle, all ready for “the transfer”. No need to explain how that happens. Fill in the gaps (LOL).
Cut to the next shot of Giles walking up the hill to Paul and Meredith’s and judging by his gait, which is quite normal, Giles bailed at the last minute on the shit injection. Suddenly, barley boiled with onion skins seems pretty appetising.
Happily, Meredith is mobile again, but still not speaking and remains conspicuously silent and stony faced when Paul tells Giles that he is too busy in his life to be a faecal donor, but Meredith would be an “ideal candidate if she so chose.”
Finally, Giles bids his goodbyes to Paul and Meredith, who watch him walk away, hands clutched together.
Back in the safety of his B&B room, Giles makes his assessment. He’s lost a few pounds, the science of the microbiology of the gut is interesting, and Paul, Meredith and Doctor Orneta are all freakin’ nuts.
Next up, Giles is off to Primalcon, a Californian weekend retreat for Paleo enthusiasts. The first two people he meets are a pair of Australian food bloggers. They say that paleo changed their lives. For a start, it got their mugs on tele. They babble on about how wonderful paleo is, but Giles’ interest is only piqued when he hears that there is no bread on the breakfast menu, or any other menu either.
Then everybody joins together for exercise in the sledge-hammer challenge.
Brad, a triathlete, does the hard sell on Giles about the Paleo diet. He aims to live to 1-2-3, which of course has catchphrase written all over it. Giles is concerned about the fat content of his paleo lunch, but to be fair, he has just come off a week of eating air infused sauerkraut, so anything would feel a bit that way. But most worrying for Giles is that he thinks he’s likely to squeeze out a hard poo, and armed with knowledge about how to get his gut biology right, screws his face into a grimace.
After lunch, Giles listens to the effusive testimonial from Mark, whose promotional material says that he is sixty, feels eighteen and looks thirty. Giles shoots this claim down: “Well I’m forty-five, and he looks like he could be my dad.” Touché, Giles. Touché.
But then Mark takes his shirt off.
Mark and Giles have a jacuzzi together, and having now gazed upon Mark’s pecs, there is something slightly homoerotic about this, so to get it all back on track the men talk about ketones and metabolic machinery and fat burning beasts.
So, thinking that there might be something to this paleo thing after all, Giles hightails it to Kentucky to meet a man who lives it in its “purest form”. Imagine Giles’ disappointment to find him living in a house and wearing clothes that were not formed from the pelts of decaying road kill. He does have some farm animals in his backyard and at times turns it into an illegal slaughterhouse, but that makes his less paleo and more Doomsday Prepper. “That’s what’s great about America,” explains Derek. “You don’t have to ask permission until somebody complains.” The cornerstone of democracy.
Despite Derek’s scant regard for neighbourly considerations, he is, definitely, EXTREME paleo. He eats everything raw, and that includes every bit of the lamb whose throat he proceeds to slit.
Amazingly, Derek has a girlfriend and she and Derek’s father both join the dinner party, and only eat salad.
Giles heads off after dinner, pondering the virtues of raw liver…and decides that he needs to seek out the Fruitarians. Of course, they only eat fruit. Nuts are fruits, right? Because there are plenty of them around at this gathering.
After a few entrees of coconuts and jack fruit, the Fruitarians bring out the big gun….the durian – the King of Fruit. The durian is known for its drug like qualities and therein lies the conundrum for the Fruitarian; they want to only eat fruit, but after imbibing on the durian, they’re dialling out for pizza.
Harking back to a previous experience, Giles poo-poos the Fruitarians, and heads off to the nearest diner for lashings of processed goodies, especially cheese, which has been lacking from all of the diets he has tried so far.
As he muses over the salty taste of bacon on taste-bud, he realises that none of these fads is yet to produce anyone of any substantial age, so the next part of his odyssey is to find old people and dissect them.
Well at least dissect their culinary habits.
In Phoenix, Arizona, he meets Bernando whose secrets to a long life are “obedience and moderation”. And fish, fruits and vegetables. He is a spritely 113 and can whip up a smoothie like a boss.
His meeting with Bernando has given Giles an epiphany of sorts. Moderation. Everything in moderation.
But the subtext of this, without running the risk of being ironically preachy, is that there is a certain worry about fanaticism in any facet of life: diet, exercise, politics, religion, Star Wars films, thermomix….
It’s about finding the mix in life to make you happy, and not worrying about those who disagree with you. Live life to your own rules, and be happy in your choices. As Giles points out, you can live to a hundred and forty, or live a boring life that feels like one hundred and forty. Moderation not deprivation.