'Why I've had a gut full of the food police'

My diet is none of your business. There, I said it.

This week alone I have been told to cut down my salt intake, count my calories, cut out corn and potatoes, limit rice and pasta, stop eating sugar (as if), eat anything I want as long as it is organic (organic donut anyone?) and cut out caffeine. None, I repeat none of this advice has come from my doctor.

This advice has come from a friend, a family member, another family member, yet another family member, a writer, another friend and a celebrity….in that order. Some has been to my face and the rest through dramatic articles and ‘news’ stories. I mean, really, the advice is constant and contradictory. It’s endless and confusing. Apple juice contains arsenic (thanks Doctor Oz)…even dieticians and doctors can’t decide what is right.

Every few weeks I have a panic attack about what is in my fridge and pantry. I’m killing myself and my kids. It’s my fault. I have to take control. But which advice do I follow? If my kids and I are mostly healthy and at a reasonable weight do I really need to do anything at all?

There’s something to be said about society when we can critique each other’s eating habits. Eating is very personal. When did we become so comfortable with commenting about what we are eating? At least fifty per cent of the advice I’ve received in recent week has been from people who could frankly stand to lose a few kilos themselves.

I’m not innocent. I give diet and exercise advice. But only if asked. And then I feel guilty for preaching. If asked how I maintain my weight I describe what I do but I always make sure to explain that this is what works for me, it won’t work for everyone and we all have different habits, cravings and lifestyles. It’s really about eating what we like but not too much, exercising when we can and shaking off all the terrifying food advice we’re bombarded with. Do your best. There’s no need for extremes. I might decide to reduce my salt intake if I’m feeling unwell, count my calories if I want to lose a couple of kilos for an event, cut out corn and potatoes if they becomes too expensive, limit rice and pasta but not cut it out completely, reduce my sugar intake (sugar is my drug of choice but I am only a recreational user), eat organic if I can find affordable quality produce and reduce my caffeine intake if my children ever decide to let me have a proper night’s sleep.


This week I spent four hours avoiding sugar and caffeine thanks to a Facebook link to a horrific lecture about how it was poison. Okay, sugar may not be the healthiest substance in the world but do I really have to run screaming from it and so abruptly? I lasted until 2pm. I might just reduce it I think. I’ll do my best but Easter is coming. I can’t promise anything. Is life really worth living without experiencing the crackle of a quality hollow chocolate Easter egg as you bite into it? Isn’t a cheese and tomato sandwich spectacular with a sprinkle of salt on it? My mum grows her own corn. It is sweet, fresh and bursting with flavour. My dad’s potato salad recipe is spectacular (boiled potatoes, tomatoes, onions, extra virgin olive oil, salt and oregano).  I love steamed rice that clumps together and can’t eat chicken without it. Pasta is my life, just not every day. Coffee – I love you. Once or twice a day. You are my friend, my comfort, my five minutes of quiet time each day.

Come on dieticians…pick this apart. Tell me about my addictions, about the damage I am doing to myself and my family. Ignore the fact that we are all healthy and at a reasonable weight. Tell me about elimination diets, about breaking bad habits. Write some more sensationalised articles and books to scare me to death.

Obesity is a serious issue but I’m not obese. I’m no expert but I’m doing okay. Don’t gasp when I grab a biscuit (a work colleague) or raise an eyebrow when I scramble two eggs with yolks in the smallest amount of real butter (my sister). You look at your plate and I’ll look at mine. And for goodness sake, stay out of my children’s lunch boxes. I maintain that good quality potato chips with three ingredients (potatoes, oil and salt) are much better than your ‘healthy’ choice with fifty ingredients, most of which I can’t even pronounce. What is emulsifier? I rest my case.

Jo Abi is the author of the book How to Date a Dad: a dating guide released by Hachette Livre Australia. Her first love is being a mum closely followed by writing about being a mum. You can read more about her many and various exploits here.

What’s your diet like? How do you handle people talking about it?