Die Diet Die!

At 83, still hauling 30 litre bags of potting mix about while gardening all day, Pattie’s doing something right.  What’s the secret Pattie?

“I always have morning and afternoon tea. I eat meat and 3 veg, with something sweet after. None of that fancy cooking,” she says.

Australia’s $790 million weight loss industry would turn that quick-smart into Pattie’s Just Eat Sensiblydiet cookbook, drawn from the simple cuisine of post-war Australia. It’s far less sexy than our current sweetheart, the Paleo diet, with its earthier hunter- gatherer lineage and pleasing contemporary focus on fish, grass-fed-field-happy meats, fruit and veg, roots and nuts (drop the dairy, grains, legumes, salt, refined sugar and processed oils).

But in an era of tantalising herbs, exotic vegies and delectable sauces shaped by glorious multicultural influences, eating á la Pattie just doesn’t fit the “cook with love” rule. And if you haven’t learnt good nutrition at home, you’ll probably just fumble along until your digestive system goes belly-up.

Whatever does it mean to eat sensibly these days?

When I listened to my naturopath, it was the Insulin Zone Diet: protein the size of my palm three times daily, 1 palm-full of fast glucose-producing carbs or 2 palms of ‘slow’ carbs, balance alkaline and acid foods, add a dollop of beneficial fat and zone-savvy, protein-carb-fat-balanced snacks between meals.  It took most of my evenings to prepare for each day. Subsistence-style living in the city? Too hard.

When I listened to my traditional Chinese medicine guy, it was “cook everything”: three meals a day, no sauces, no dairy and `savoury’ herb tonics twice daily, which also took several evenings to prepare. While the manager at my local wellbeing centre swore raw: “God no, don’t cook anything! A $300 juicer is your best friend”.

Before that, it was Dr Peter D’Adamo’s Eat Right for your Blood Type Diet (basically vegetarian for Type As like me), and before that came the “Whatever” regime, because I was too frenetic to care about health: tuna pasta five nights a week, pizza weekends and copious sweets/alcohol to numb the pain of enduring a ‘fabulous’ career.

How to eat sensibly was an elusive science known only to $150 per hour professionals, it seemed. So, after years of trial and error, and degrees of success with most of these approaches, here’s what I learned.

I should have just listened to my whacky Finnish neighbour, a small, wise, white-blond woman who never gets sick, has appropriate energy and a hilarious perspective on life.  She always knew what it took me a decade to work out. It goes like this:

Don’t skip meals.

Eat wholefoods; the less processed the better.

Target what’s in season. Not much ju-ju in a January apple…

Organic? Sure. If money’s an issue, go organic meat over veg.


Make it look good.

Make it taste yummy (within reason).

Eat the main meal at midday.

But don’t stuff your face. A tum needs air to digest.

Chew, lots.

Enjoy a light dinner before 8pm.

Alcohol? A wee dram, but not nightly.