Iam not a braggart and it is true I have much to be modest about. But in one respect I do not suffer from any false sense of modesty. I can say without beating round the bust that I am an authority on dieting. I have been at it through most of my life and the way things are going, I will remain a veteran practitioner of the art till I call it a day.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not an incurable anorexic whose eating disorder will not let him/her look any more substantial than those sorry specimens who sashay up and down ramps in oversized clothes that hang limply loose. I am true to my calories and am a living testimony to the nutritiousness in all that I ingest.
The problem is really not with me. It is those body mass index charts evolved in the west which say that should you stand so much in your socks, then god help you if the scales go beyond a point. It is of course a silly arithmetical average for all of humankind, unadjusted for the skeletal structures of different sub-species among humans. I would not have even cared to look up those charts had not words like ‘fatty’ (when I read in an English medium boarding school) and the vernacular mota (when I attended college on Kolkata’s College Street) relentlessly stalked me through school and college.
Dieting and dietary misconceptions have blighted my life for as long as I can remember with my mother painting rice and potatoes as the villains of the piece while sweets somehow never made it to the banned list. Then when I grew up and decided to adopt a scientific approach to the subject and read up all that I could access — in the late 1970s, I came across a wondrous entity called the Atkins diet.
More than changing the way I looked, it changed the way others looked at me. Unsurprisingly, I caught the eye of my wife to be and to cut a long story short she took over my diet and has forever complained thereafter. She says I played a fast one on her. After she took over, the scales for me never went back to where they were when we were dating and I was on Atkins, prompting her to say with bemusement that she thought it was girls who lost interest in their looks once they got married.
My theory of course is that it is the newer theories of dieting that are the culprit. My opting for a balanced diet and discarding the Atkins diet’s diktat of going off carbohydrates and living on just proteins made me ‘healthy’ and in need of dieting for the rest of my life. But when Robert C Atkins died a few years ago, the innumerable obituary notices made me realise how mainstream his dieting recipe had become over time. As a true expert on the subject I had spotted an idea almost before its time had come, only to discard it in favour of more current wisdom. Over time, the currently favoured theories will be discarded in favour of newer theories, taking me on an unending quest.
Today’s dietary literature emphasises that you must eat healthily and one or two shots a day can in fact be beneficial. Fruits are supposed to be excellent fodder to remain healthy but they are an utter nuisance because they are an appetiser which helps you digest your food double quick and look for absolutely-forbidden between meals snacks.
As age has caught up with me and I have tried to combat the consequences of healthy living, I have been bewildered by an inexplicable phenomenon. The less I ingest the more the body gets used to it and the scales keep playing back the same old refrain like a needle stuck in a broken record, or a mechanical toy that keeps uttering the same rubbish, in case you are too young to have seen a gramophone disc.
By the time I began to have serious doubts about notions of healthy living, deliverance came in the form of the findings of an Australian researcher. He said as you eat less and less your body gets adjusted to the lower calorific intake and manages to make do with less, thus requiring you to eat even less so as to oblige the scales. This is the human body’s evolutionary inheritance from having had to survive famine.
So here I am, facing a dilemma. The doctors say I am in disgusting good health. My blood pressure at the beginning and end of the treadmill test remains identical and I am not panting at all, but my body mass index says I am near the danger zone.
My wife keeps saying with mildly-disguised disapproval, ‘Look at you’, and our son who has taken to clicking decent photographs relishes capturing me in poses which highlight an ungainly middle.
So I will soldier on, reading up all that I can access on dieting and remaining a practitioner of the distilled wisdom of the ages in the field and looking ruefully at the scales which have neither imagination nor gumption.