Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.


Article Index

COMMON SENSE & EVIDENCE # 69, for September 19th

Diets – a dime a dozen

Professor Henry Fraser

“Diet: a short period of starvation followed by a gain of five pounds” (Anonymous)

“Diet: a systematic way of starving to death so you can live longer” (Anonymous)

“If you wish to grow thinner, diminish your dinner” (Henry Leigh, d. 1883)

Diets really are a dime a dozen. They’ve become an obsession with women’s magazines, and there are as many fads out there as people wanting “to diet”. Every other film star seems to get in on the act, not to mention endorsement of best seller diet books by past Presidents. So what’s it all about, and is it good or bad?

The most commonly accepted definition of a diet is “a planned or prescribed selection of food” (Chambers’ Dictionary) or “special, limited food and drink, chosen or prescribed for health or to gain or lose weight” (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary). In other words, it’s a limited selection of food and drink, self determined or prescribed by a doctor or dietician (or taken from the latest magazine) with a specific goal in view (usually loss of 10 pounds in a week to look good at a wedding). As the quotations above suggest, in the popular imagination it’s an imposed period of deprivation and distress, for some close to torture, and with dubious benefits. It may be associated with feelings of guilt or virtue, or alternating guilt and virtue, depending on the individual’s upbringing, relationships, self esteem, sweet tooth, sex (and frequency of sex).

But this is a great pity. Often the etymology of a word helps us to understand it better, and might even help us to return to the original meaning. The word “diet” comes from the Greek word diaita, meaning “mode of living, or diet”, so why not let’s return it to its original meaning, mode of living? Then my Editor would not have to suffer guilt, disappointment or fatigue (See Editor’s Diary, Daily Nation, Thursday August 26th, Page 9). We can all enjoy the fruits of a HEALTHY mode of living, while coping with all 10 of the challenges Roxanne has to face every day:

Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.

Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.

Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.

Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and

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