02-Planeta_manchette_175x100
Allegrini 2018

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! STARTING TODAY I’M GOING ON A DIET. MILLIONS OF PEOPLE SAY THESE THOUSANDS OF TIMES, BUT IT IS WRONG. THE ANTHROPOLOGIST MARINO NIOLA SAYS “HUMANITY WAS BORN WHEN IT INVENTED THE DIET, THE BASIS OF THE EVOLUTION OF OUR SPECIES”

There are some things that make you really think. How many times have we said or heard, “Enough! Starting today I’m going on a diet”. Millions of people say it in a thousand different versions. Too bad, though, that it is wrong. Humanity was born when it invented the diet, and it is precisely choosing what, how and how much to eat that the species evolved. In other words, we are always on a diet. It is true that we cannot automatically think of this every time we pronounce that phrase, but if an anthropologist reminds us in an article in one of the major Italian newspapers, like La Repubblica, we should at least think before making some drastic decisions. Niola Marino author, journalist and Professor of Anthropology and Myths and Rituals of Contemporary Cuisine at the University of Naples, writes, “Does man make the diet or the diet make the man? The second phrase is true.

Putting aside the prophets of well being like Dukan, Messegué, Atkins, Oshawa, and so on and so forth, Niola emphasized, “we have not actually invented anything the ancients did not already know without modern nutraceuticals, but they had a higher conception of man and his place in nature and society". And aesthetics aside, even when it comes to diet as a cure, our view is distorted. “We consider diet a part of medicine”, explained the anthropologist, “ while for the great Hippocrates, it was the opposite: medicine is part of the diet. This is Simply because giving everyone the food they need to keep body and soul balanced, is the first and indispensable prerequisite for all cures”.

Hippocrates’s famous motto, “food is your treatment and your treatment is food” has come to us as the leitmotiv of nutraceuticals. However”, continued Niola, “diet does not simply mean a way of eating, but it is a life style. This is where the difference lies with our idea of diet that is mainly a quantitative control of calories, weights and sizes. The Greeks spoke about life, while we have reduced everything to the size of the waist line”. The proof? "The sacrifices we inflict on ourselves to have a flat stomach and tight abs often do not produce anything but frustration, depression, anorexia and bulimia”. On the contrary, says the anthropologist, “diets are not for prolonging life indefinitely or to producing super performer and gifted highlander types, but rather to be happy, hardworking and have the correct mental and physical balance, the result of a virtuous circle of self-knowledge and its limits. It is the effect of the negotiation between needs and wants and between prevention and satisfaction. According to Plato, the responsible citizen is the best doctor of himself. No luminary can know more and be more concerned about us than ourselves. We are eons away from the amphetamine fitness idea we now call fitness and from the many food fads launched by nutrition gurus”.

On the other hand, Marino Niola concluded, even for the ancient Greeks “binge eating is the sign of a deplorable excess, because what makes a man is precisely, measure and rules. Unruly appetites are typical of brutes and beasts, like Polyphemus and politically incorrect manipulating of resources. Sustainable eating is the mark of civilization, political ideals and cultural criticism. The Greeks were a few thousand years ahead of us and our frugal abundance”.

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