Diet conjures thoughts of strict adherence to a plan for shedding pounds, or some fad you have heard people’s parents recommend.
Like ascended masters who have succeeded on the path of righteous eating, old and new diet books call to you, “Come eat and be merry!”
These diets promise gains in the looks department, losses of belly and butt fat, healthy appetite, self-control, unmistakable feelings of positivity, spirituality and/or the ability to run off and have the best sex you have ever had. However, they also require a commitment of body and mind when in fact they do not know your own particular chart of divine self.
Not ever has any written diet experienced the specifics of you. If you do not even know how you get on with bacon or beer, kale or raw meat, how could you expect a strange book to account for your unique metabolism, tastes, anxieties and other variables? At best, you could adopt certain guiding principles from such literature, but the truth is you have to allow yourself your own adventure.
You might not even have any goals when one day you discover what works for you. You have your life in which to make discoveries.
It is okay to strike out, to renege on resolutions, to fatten up, or get bloated or dehydrated eating terrible shit like packages of MSG and pasta (with traces of rice) that pretend to be long-grain, a McDonald’s McRib, or entire spoons of GMO peanut butter. What is not okay is when one is not observant, when one does not take note of the experiences he or she has when eating in certain ways.
I have experimented with (or rather experienced) two idiosyncratic diets. The first, wholly my own creation, I called the North Pole Diet (subsequent Google searches, however, reveal there is another possibly more or less legit diet by the same name). In a manifesto I posted on my blog in 2009, I passionately banned myself from a few things:
- No restaurant food
- No alcohol
- No soda, coffee or tea
Then I waxed all Mose for the other bullets, preaching commandments:
- Drink water and eat fruit for the juice
- Eat only what you need when you need it
- Eat not for enjoyment but for health
- Eat with friends
- Share with friends
- Create art
- Promote the arts
- Love the people you love however you love them
- Don’t look back
I took this diet on when I was completely broke during the height of the economic downturn and my own stupid time of paying $400 a day to record an album.
The North Pole Diet was exhilarating because it forced me to cook at home and experiment with vegetables and healthy meats such as chicken and fish.
Royally, I screwed up a bunch; for example, once I baked chicken breasts, potatoes, onion and carrots with a cute crust punk girl. She said she never cooked but wanted to learn. I imagined that I would do okay. How hard is it to bake chicken?
But when we sat down to eat, we found the meat pink and undercooked in places. It made us paranoid so we baked it again and had to laugh.
Don’t even ask me about the watery “summer soup” I made with broccoli, mushrooms and every oil you are not supposed to make soup with!
Instead let’s go over what worked.
I asked my mom for recipes, and more often than not I would hook up with this cool kombucha guru I knew named Kat (I loved her “mothers”), and we would make actually good baked chicken (free-range thighs) and asparagus. We built our friendship around hitting farmers’ markets and stealing from big chain organic places.
I even curated and edited a North Pole Diet poetry book for which I solicited local and regional writers, whom I asked to cook something with friends or alone, document it with photos, write out the recipe, and launch into a poem brought to life by the experience. It was funny. We had the book release at a restaurant/bar, ironically. But whatever! I made pumpkin pie for everyone and we basically sold out of books.
The other diet I took on in 2011, after going on an acid and weed altered excursion with artists to Assateague Island, was Raw Veganism. No more Wawa’s meatball sub garbage. Yes, I had reneged on North Pole and was getting gerbil cheeks.
But, Jesus, Raw Veganism was almost too healthy. My hair was beautiful again (not to mention I learned the whole not showering so much thing). I consumed tablespoons of olive oil (not raw) and blackstrap molasses (not raw), and then I would eat sprouted everything, with a head or two of kale, or collards, and with piled on raw nuts and seeds, shredded carrots and raw beets. Housemates called me dinosaur and rabbit.
But no one could deny that the diet was working miraculously. I had more and better energy than anybody. I lost the gerbil cheeks and looked excellent in no time.
The only thing I thought that might be getting messed up was my ability to get hard. I had just started seeing someone. Raw garlic seemed to help (although, according to “hard science” from the internet, studies have found no conclusive evidence that garlic affords this benefit); more than anything, it was really just getting over nerves that helped me.
Furthermore, I was amazed to find I had the holy, floating one-piece poops of a grass-eating, wild Assateague pony. I weighed in at 160 pounds, which I believe was decent for my height.
I drank wine and vodka because someone told me they were raw. Admittedly, I was loving the whole nine yards of this diet because I felt ascetic, like I was committed to doing something nice for myself, and it gave me something fun to talk about with strangers at parties and potlucks.
I used to love talking with this one guy, a cool puppeteer. He was my polar opposite because he was the raw meat guy. I watched him make smoothies out of meat, raw milk and eggs. He had to get his raw milk from “dog ice cream” suppliers.
He was as healthy as a kickboxer in appearance, and he did tons of jogging and weight lifting. He excelled as a standup comedian and video artist and was a rock solid optimist.
It was lovely to be counterpointed by his extremism. We were both doing so well, and despite our different dietary creeds we were conversant with each other’s reasoning and experiences. We had good shit to preach, and outsiders respected us.
“Make friends with a few fruits and vegetables,” for example, was a silly mantra I coined while stuffing my mouth with handfuls of raw kale, pomegranate jewels, and banana slivers. I felt elated in my warehouse loft with the cold winter sun slanting down through a window on me.
But in time I gave even this diet up for frozen custard. But still I really have not turned unhealthy.
Nowadays I just know a lot more about food, and more importantly I know about my own body and mind, and I have friends who eat and cook healthily; we still steal from organic places. Everything is awesome.
A final thing I should mention about doing an experiential diet is the importance of uncovering through experiment what types of exercise or activities you need to do in relation to your dietary consumption.
For example, I learned on a bike trip through Michigan that I could (and definitely needed to) go hog wild in downing pizzas, pumpkin pies, huge stacks of buttery pancakes, gravy fries, burgers, doughnuts, Gatorade, soda, turkey, fried white fish, cheddar popcorn, pasties, Snickers, crab legs, and Frankenmuth’s World Famous Family Style Chicken Dinner (actually, that one was a bad idea).
Swallowing all this, my buddy and I still looked good each day that we got on our bikes. You actually need some butt cushion to get on your bikes day in, day out on a long trip like ours. We processed this grand buffet without incident because we were biking between 50 and 100 miles a day.
During Raw Veganism, I barely needed to exercise at all, though I got my energy out of my system by walking to and from work most days. During North Pole I did jogging and ice skating.
But enough about me! Try your own experiential diet.