Four years of health and food blogging and more recent arguing on Twitter has culminated in the current form of my diet, leaving veganism far behind, but firmly centered around 5 lbs of white flour a week.
Of course, this diet reflects everything I know about nutrition, and is perfect for me (now). Which means it’s just what I currently want to cook and eat, out of the many possible healthy diets, and will likely evolve. But I’ve been baking several loaves of natural yeast bread per week over the last year, and I just find bread more interesting than potatoes or rice at every meal. Good bread requires craftsmanship, and you learn how to control the many variables, almost instinctively, to consistently produce the best bread most people will every try.
And I’ve returned to butter, eggs, cream, and meat, not because I’m no longer afraid of them (I never was), but because they’re traditionally prized items. You can’t really appreciate the human culinary tradition without marveling at their richness and taste. It’s a very visceral thing, that connects us with our past, and sets off all our reward centers, confirming that, yes, this is exactly what we want.
So, sure, a few years ago, I was satisfied with the taste of fresh veggies and starch, and was fascinated with their nutritional completeness and satiety. But eventually, we want to try and taste new things (especially since I never had any ethical reservations about eating meat), and it’s always fun to experiment with your diet. And there’s so much out there to learn and enjoy.
By default, I’m a little bit of a contrarian, even if I have to find a fringe group to be counter-counter-contrarian to. So my diet will center around 5 lbs of white flour a week (ok, maybe 2/3 of that will be white, the other 1/3 will be spelt and rye) to make a daily fresh loaf of bread. Yes, I love baking and eating bread, but more importantly, it’s basically the most universally feared food of the 21st century. These days, bread is synonymous with “weight gain”, or even “poison” in some circles.
Oh, and of course, I’ll also use about 1/2 lb of white granulated sugar each week for my Kool-Aid. Sugar alternates with bread at the top of everyone’s food paranoia list.
The inclusion of a whole chicken per week, with a dozen eggs, a 1/2 stick of butter, and occasional cream further confounds everybody, since no matter on which side of the carbohydrate fence you might sit, almost no one believes you can mix high carb with fat and cholesterol, and expect a healthy ending.
But don’t worry, the glue that holds this diet all together is some fruit, a bunch of fresh vegetables, and a lot of weekly exercise. While it may sound scary, this grocery list doesn’t even add up to 20,000 kcal per week without adding another 10 lbs of potatoes, onions, and carrots, etc. And we’ve all forgotten that this is basically how people used to eat. In fact, I’d say my new diet is pretty close to what they ate during the mid-Victorian era, which is supposed to be the healthiest period of recorded human history. There’s really not a lot of guesswork here.
So I’m going to this neo-Victorian diet partially to troll the ridiculous online health community, but also because I just love anachronisms. I use a bike to buy groceries. I have a manual pasta making machine, and I like making a well of flour on the countertop and cracking an egg into it. I like making chicken soup out of a whole chicken in my ceramic coated Le Creuset cast-iron dutch oven. I like buying sacks of flour and sugar at the store. And I buy very little prepared food. People just don’t live like this anymore. They haven’t in a long time. (But more recently than the Paleolithic era.)
So what are the safeguards in this diet? How can this work ad libitum? Well, you try baking all your own bread. It pretty much takes 9 to 24 hours to make a 1400 kcal loaf. Plus, the 1/3 whole grain keeps me from eating it all in one sitting. Also, a whole pot of my soup has about 800 calories, and it’s hard to finish it all in one night. It’s also hard to drink 2L of Kool-Aid for the measly 250 kcal you’ll get from it. And who wants to break the rules? Do you see Civil War re-enactors drinking Coca-Cola?
|5 lbs of flour (2/3 white, 1/3 rye)||9,000|
|Whole Roasting Chicken*||4,000|
|10 lbs of Potatoes||3,500|
|1/2 Stick Butter||500|
|1/2 lb Sugar*||900|
|Minimum Total||18,900 kcal/week
= 2,700 kcal/day
+ more fuel/ingredients as required
|*Not sure who could have afforded this.|
I will be following your progress. Keep us posted.
I’m glad you’re enjoying your diet/hobby. But that Victorian health paper, “How the Mid-Victorians Worked, Ate and Died,” is garbage, and people need to stop citing it. As I pointed out on Carbsanity, the first sentence contradicts the body of the paper.
> “Analysis of the mid-Victorian period in the U.K. reveals that life expectancy at age 5 was as good or better than exists today,”
But then we find out they meant “age 65” not “age 5”
> “Victorian contemporary sources reveal that life expectancy for adults in the mid-Victorian period was almost exactly what it is today. At 65, men could expect another ten years of life; and women another eight [24,32,33] (the lower figure for women reflects the high danger of death in childbirth, mainly from causes unrelated to malnutrition). This compares surprisingly favourably with today’s figures: life expectancy at birth (reflecting our improved standards of neo-natal care) averages 75.9 years (men) and 81.3 years (women); though recent work has suggested that for working class men and women this is lower, at around 72 for men and 76 for women .”
They compare Victorian life expectancy at age 65 to Modern life expectancy at birth. That’s totally unfair, because life expectancy at 65 is still about 10 years longer then at birth, even with today’s low infant mortality. If we compare life expectancy at age 65 for both groups…
…then Modern US Americans beat the mid-Victorian English by a whopping 9 years for men (84 to 75) and 13 years for women (86 to 73).
Also, did you notice that they blamed death in childbirth for shorter life expectancy in women after age 65!? Need I say more? The authors, Paul Clayton and Judith Rowbotham, were not paying attention to what they were writing. And the pay-to-play journal, “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health”, will obviously publish anything. They all belong on a list with Brian Wansink of academics to never take seriously again. There’s a fatal typo in the abstract itself, a meaningless comparison at the heart of the core argument, and apparently sexagenarians were getting pregnant in Victorian England often enough to skew the death statistics!
I’m glad someone else has noticed this – elsewhere I saw a general claim that Victorian post-infancy life expectancy was as good or better than ours, followed up the reference, and at once saw the same ‘5’ vs. ’65’ problem that you did. But “life expectancy at age 5 was as good or better than exists today” has been repeated hundreds of times on the internet, with an impressive-looking link to what you would have hoped was a genuine paper.
I did find a paper that calculated the period expectancy of life at age 5 was about another 50 years, during the 1860s – which fits a lot better with other available statistics: http://www.ehs.org.uk/dotAsset/51232af0-0ec5-4f88-a774-af1f8c53beec.pdf
I couldn’t find your blog post on this – can you give us a link? Thanks.
how’s your weight doing since switching to these foods? do you still bike a lot?
Yeah, I find nothing ever changes, but I gravitate to the high-carb, low-fat diet, and never roast the chicken. Yep, still ride the bikes, because it’s fun. My weight will only go if I binge on fatty junk food for a few days, but I’ll bring it back down the following week on my normal routine. Generally, everything is pretty stable, eating a lot of refined flour. Maybe committing to mindful eating will get me down a kilo or two. I guess I’m trying to stop eating those unnecessary 500 calories after dinner every night …