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Idiot’s Diet

People diet for a lot of reasons.  Some want to lose weight and others just want to be healthier.  Many of the big fads seem to be more of a social thing, something people do with friends when there isn’t anything good on teevee.

It’s hard to call yourself a real blogger if you don’t write about a diet at some point, so it’s high time for the Barataria approach to better living.  It’s called the “Idiot’s Diet”, and it’s very simple – never eat anything you don’t understand.

This can cause a lot of trouble if you know something about food already, since a little knowledge is often a dangerous thing.  But with time the harmony of mind and body will set you free with a developing sense of smugness that makes a good stand-in for health in a pinch.

In practice, the Idiot’s Diet always starts in the grocery store.  You can find many people practicing a version of this as they meander the aisles picking up packages of food and food-like products so that they can carefully read the label.  Many times these are cautiously set back on the shelf as though one of the ingredients is radioactive waste.  They are already practicing the Idiot’s Diet, even if they don’t know it.  How much Polysorbate-80 should you eat in a day?  If the even the question makes you a little queasy, congrats!  You’re already on the Idiot’s Diet.

Rows of fresh veggies and fruits are easy – you can eat those all you want.  Eggs are good, as is fresh meat.  Pop Tarts?  Cheetos?  Do you even want to know?

There are places where the Idiot’s Diet breaks down, of course.  High Fructose Corn Syrup is a popular demon-spawn food to pick on these days because it’s made in some kind of industrial process. HFC-55, as it’s known in the industry, is a corn product that is 55% Fructose standing in for ordinary sugar at 50% Fructose.  Sugar comes from … well, it’s an industrial process that is centuries old that is often refined in a very dirty old kettle, sometimes in an undeveloped nation that still practices a form of slavery (such as Florida).  That’s entirely different, right?  Right?  Oh, nevermind.

The other problem with the Idiot’s Diet is that people often feel like they understand what they are getting at a restaurant, which is pure delusion.  There are only so many ways to make food taste really good and most of them involve a boatload of animal fat and a heaping dose of sodium.  A variation on the Idiot’s Diet is the Radical Idiot’s Diet, which is that you should never eat anything you can’t identify at all.  Go for this approach and you will never eat out again.  It’s a great way to save money, sure, but it’s not a lot of fun.  It can also cause awkward social situations, especially across ethnic lines, when being “polite” at a party means just not asking a lot of questions.

There are foods and food-like products that very few people understand which are not bad for you.  My training as a Chemical Engineer gives me no fear of Lecithin, a common soy derivative that makes something like an edible form of soap.  There’s a better way to sell it as safe, of course, but that’s not the point.  If the appearance of this humble stuff in the ingredients turns you off then by all means don’t eat it.

Some common things like colas contain the biggest surprise.  Does Phosphoric Acid sound like something that you shouldn’t eat?  The short answer is “Yes!” but you probably already knew that.

What the Idiot’s Diet comes down to, at first, is reading the labels.  But it goes way beyond that.  Things that Mother Nature didn’t bother to put a label on, like fresh veggies, are always good.  Once you become good at it labels aren’t as important because a glance at a list of ingredients that is more than an inch tall probably includes at least something that you won’t understand.  You can just put that highly processed “food” carefully back on the shelf and keep going.  Wipe your hands on your pants if they feel a bit icky.

It may not have a fancy website or teevee show, and there’s probably no way to make money selling it.  But the Idiot’s Diet has many advantages over most of the diets out there, mostly in its simplicity.  A lot of people already practice it, too.  Simply never eat anything you don’t understand and you’ll be happier – or at least a bit more smug.  Both are good.

14 thoughts on “Idiot’s Diet

  1. DAMMIT!!! NOW I read this…after bringing home two “Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuits” from Mickey D’s (On the other hand we’re having pot roast cooked with fresh veggies for dinner tonight)!

  2. This is a big departure for you but it is funny & so true. I do this most of the time but not always. But isn’t the idea of your blog that people can understand things if they want to? Seems to go against that. 🙂

  3. Jack: I dunno, I think I understand what you get from McDoogles – a heart attack! No, seriously, I have cravings for that stuff once in a while. Funny.

    Anna: Been too serious lately, had to branch out some. 🙂

    Jan: Yes, this is a way to think about the processed foods you eat at the very least. A little bit of highly processed flour may not be a big deal, but something full of stuff you don’t know? Eh, not so much. I like to cook and I tend to eat mostly fresh stuff. It works. 🙂

  4. If I only ate what I understand I think my diet would be nothing but meat and potatos. I guess that is what I like to eat now so maybe I practice the Idiot Diet already.

  5. Erik –
    As I would eat home made eggs, bacon and biscuits, the Rainbow Room version did NOT seem to have added salt. Excessive salt is what keeps us away from fast food establishments.
    When both of us were working, we often had neither the time or the energy to build a meal from scratch and sometimes relied on on convenience food. That should not be taken to mean potato chips, TV dinners or other such fare…however some brands of frozen entres are better than others “Healthy Choice” is among those “better” brands.
    Still…your overall message resonates.

  6. Jack: I don’t mean to yank yer chain too hard, I know the appeal of those things. Heck, I eat even worse many times. Ready for the big confession? I eat those sandwiches you get at Holiday or SA gas stations and have to microwave!

    This particular post came out of a Sunday breakfast conversation with the kids. I’m trying to teach them the right thing, even if my own gas station eating habits are really atrocious. 🙂

  7. I don’t get most of the diets I read about and they seem to be getting more complicated all the time. Whatever happened to a balanced diet with some exercise every day? But I see your point here even thought its obvious you were being funny, there is a lot you probably just shouldn’t eat.

  8. Dale: Yes, I was mostly kidding around here, but this is part of a three-part real plan – balanced diet, a little exercise, and don’t eat what you don’t understand. More or less what Grandma said! 🙂

  9. Sara: Well, I wasn’t specifically targeting McDoogles as something I don’t understand, since I often think that I know just what’s in that stuff. But .. if that’s what happens to it (or, more accurately, doesn’t happen) then I think I can file it under at least “mystery” if not “I do not understand”. 🙂

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