x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Eating for pleasure can be as tedious as dieting

I do sometimes think that the traditional model of three square meals a day as biological necessity is a myth; but I also wish the five small meals a day model would retreat into obsolescence.

It's tough to ignore a vibrating phone that's right under one's head. Monday commenced with a persistent succession of BlackBerry alerts that eventually broke the inviolable spell of my half-slumber. Three missed calls, several texts and emails from my bank - all before 8am. "Great," I thought, and, "coffee."

For those blessed to have been spared the scourge of identity theft, let me tell you: it truly is the most mundane thing imaginable, with the ultimate casualty less likely to be lost funds than the wasted hours of your life spent reversing the damages. And besides picking up the phone, if there's one thing I've always been lousy at, it's figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing - at least according to normative social values. Though that doesn't mean I harvest instant disdain for things like cake balls, TOMS shoes, and that grating song about somebody you used to know, anyone attempting to steal my identity would be wise to stick with my finances. These days, my diet isn't quite so pathetic as it is distracted: coffee until noon, chew on paper clips, crush half a sandwich for lunch, mistake knot of anxiety in stomach for satiety, ignore remaining half-sandwich, plan serious dinner, fall asleep while it's in the oven, wake up ravenous at 2am and eat toasted crumpet smeared with condiments.

A friend recently lamented the weight gain that resulted from a nightly routine of entertaining clients after work. They always dined out and his clients were more interested in steak than sushi. "I am so over dining," he said, stressing the last word like it was nasty. "I just wish there was a human equivalent of kibble, like dog food. Everything you need in one compact supplement." Even as someone who loves food, I get it. It's predominantly fuel: plain and simple. I certainly don't have the time or the attention span to savour every single thing I eat and a pleasure-orientated approach to eating can be just as tedious as a 10-day diet of whatever vegetable soup people are eating these days to lose weight that they're destined to immediately gain back.

Though I'm not rallying supporters here, I do sometimes think that the traditional model of three square meals a day for everyone is pure drudgery and that its biological necessity is a myth, and I really wish the five small meals a day model would retreat into obsolescence already.

The British actress Joanna Lumley swears by skipping breakfast - and lunch. If I tried that, I'd be malnourished and poorly functioning, with a ruined metabolism. But Lumley, 66, insists that she feels fabulous and just because I don't advocate her lifestyle, it doesn't mean I denounce it.

There are some insane diets out there and I'm not known for hiding my contempt for them. People want to "have their cake and eat it too" - a grotesque image of passivity and entitlement if ever there was one - and many dream of a meal plan that includes the freedom to eat Kit Kats all day long. Other diets advocate eating whatever you want within a one-hour window every day, and nothing more. The spam folder in my inbox is crammed with ads for unregulated amphetamine-laced diet pills. But it's hard for me to understand how such extremism can present an attractive option to people who want to live healthier lives. And like identity theft, it's the world we live in. It's weird and it's worrisome and it's usually not something people begin to think about until they're forced to.