Five Times a Day

Nutritionists, politicians and the entire food industry all agree that we should all be eating a minimum of five portions of fruit and vegetables every day in order to prevent death by happiness. Five portions a day, plus keep your salt intake to below 6g a day and your fat intake to below 90g; have any of you actually tried to do this? It’s just not that chuffing simple!

To start with, there’s the problem that fruit, once eaten, does not exist. Just try this; wait until you’re hungry, and then eat an apple. Feel any better? Feel sated? Feel as if you can now happily wait until dinner before eating again? Or do you just feel roughly as hungry as before, except now you taste vaguely of apple? Do you just wish you’d had a Snickers instead?

Eating a lot of fruit and vegetables just misses the point of eating as far as I’m concerned. I eat because if I don’t then I get hungry and that’s a deeply unpleasant sensation; it makes me feel queasy and bad-tempered. So when I eat something, I like it to have some sort of noticable effect on me; by eating lots of fruit, the only noticable effect so far is that I now buy more fruit.

I also throw away more fruit as it rots like a bastard.

The only way I’ve found to increase the amount I eat is by eating as I would normally, but also eating fruit and vegetables regardless of how hungry I am. So I now slice a banana over my cereal every morning; I’ll still get hungry by 11am, but hey, at least I’ve eaten a banana and the world at large insists that this is A Good Thing. At 11am I now eat an apple, and I remain hungry until lunch at 12noon, which would have been the case had I not eaten the apple — but at least I’ve eaten an apple. At 4pm I eat two satsumas, etc. etc.

Then there’s the problem that almost all food these days is basically made of salt and fat with a bit of artificial flavouring thrown in for taste. It’s inescapable, and I had no idea how unhealthy everything was until the people who make the food started clearly labelling their products with these details, details like “One serving contains 87% of your recommended daily intake of saturated fat and 2.9g of salt and 97% of your recommended daily intake of bowel cancer”. Then, if that wasn’t terrifying enough, you discover that one serving is marked as being about a quarter of what you would normally eat and that you essentially commit suicide with every meal.

A demon? No — an homunculus.

If it wasn’t enough being bombarded with information telling me that a bag of salad counts as being ¼ of one of my daily portions and that a bar of chocolate should only be consumed under controlled conditions and preferably without actually eating any of it, it’s also become impossible to switch on the television without seeing someone grotesquely obese being publically humiliated.

There’s the diet programs, the celebrity diet programs, the ‘oh my God, check out this really fat man’ programs that are basically just the modern-day equivalent of people visiting 18th century Bedlam — programs that show us people so overweight that they haven’t been able to stand up for two years and now rely entirely upon their wives to bring them their daily ration of twenty packets of crisps.

Most of these programs appear to be presented by Gillian McKeith, an irritating homunculus of a woman who has a strange fascination with fecal matter. Make of that what you will.

I’m still eating that chocolate I mentioned earlier. It is creamy and good.

I’m left wondering how many portions of fruit and vegetables I need to eat to be able to start feeling the positive effects. I will concede that since making more of an effort to consume five portions a day I’ve successfully avoided catching a cold, despite my landlady, my workmates and some recently-visited friends all having them in close proximity to me. However, I can’t tell if I’ve avoided getting ill myself because of my diet or because over the last few years I’ve just had every possible cold there is and am now immune. Either seems quite possible.

At any rate, all of these health warnings and fat people on television just makes me want to rebel and pig out on Chinese takeaway. But I don’t, because I’m afraid that Gillian McKeith will find out and come and make me look at my own waste products in a disparaging Scottish way.