From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Power of Five (11)—Diets

Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Power of Five"
One year ago on Round and Square (1 July 2012)—Bricolage Bibliothèque: Bike Seat
Two years ago on Round and Square (1 July 2011)—Flowers Bloom: Growing Up History
[a] Feedin' RF
Below, I list the Five Diets.

Diet. Is it really that hard to see where this is going? Think about the letters—scramble them, a little, if you wish: d...i...e...t. Just one letter—just one—and you have another word. Think about it. D-i-e-t. What happens if we alter something in this little tumbleweed of language? Well, it's another word, with a different meaning that gives us a new angle on what it means to diet. What do you say? Should we give it a go? Let's work with that extra letter. Of course, there is only one good answer. You know what I mean, don't you?

You scramble slightly and add a "y." Of course you do.


What else could have been on your mind? Are you playing games?


To be one with food is to be one with the Way. Perish the thought of any other combination. Are you a pessimist? Why would you subtract? Of course you need to add. That is what optimistic, forward-thinking people do (except with calories, but more on that, later).

And of course you add a "y." That letter is the difference between boring and effervescent. Perhaps we have "stud." Boring! Big crappin' deal. Who cares? Add a "y" and the world comes twirling into motion. Now we have something more than an upright post.
[b] Minimalist RF

Instead, we have study (入學).

Want more? How about czar? Again, pretty boring, right (except for a few tumultuous and awful scenarios in Russian histor(y), to be fair)? Well, czar may not make your boots shake, but crazy will. Think I'm wrong? Well, you haven't met my friend Patsy Cline. You need to hear her out.

O.k., enough with English language games. Let's get to the diets themselves. The very concept of "diet" (I speak of food regimens here) is not new. No, all of those monks, back in the day (I speak of the seventh century) who followed the Rule of (Saint) Benedict had a pretty stark and focused caloric intake—a pound of bread and two simple vegetable dishes. Hey, people. We're talkin' 1,500 calories tops (which leads to "topsy," not to mention "Potsy").

I don't know how much you have read about early monastic life, but a funny thing happened in the West over the, say, three hundred years between Benedict's Rule and a little bit more extravagant lifestyle that followed. Pious farmers die(ted) and gave their property to the monasteries. Over the decades, many more pious farmers died and eschewed their merely mortal sons (and daughters). It all went to the monastery

And they got loaded.

Suddenly, one pound of bread was four (if this sounds a little like Jesus, you would have a historio-geologic-bread-time). Now meat was a pound, and the vegetable piled themselves (with the help of Chaucer's cook's great-great-great grandpa) in heaps. Oh, yes. They also had a jug of wine (and Thou...ensome) every single day. Several scholars have counted the calories, and noted that we're talkin' 5,000 a day, and that's on the low-side.
[c] Pounds RF

That's a bunch.

That would pretty much cover an easy day in the Tour de France (a millennium later). But the bubbas weren't ridin'. They were readin' and prayin'. Unless we add controversial weight loss numbers (praying equals a thousand calories an hour, and a picture is worth a thousand words), those supposedly focused, hair-shirt-wearin' boys would be gaining about...well...a lot...every month.

That adds up, and some of these monks (by the tenth century) were big, big men.

I wish I could continue with my vast knowledge of monastic dieting. From here, you need to start with Peter Brown and Carolyn Walker Bynum. They will lead you to new discoveries, and, likely, a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies (but only if your Latin is so good that you can go toe-to-toe with my colleague Ellen Joyce).

So, having exhausted the extent of my Medieval Studies knowledge, I turn to American diets, post-1970. These have a peculiar "culture" of their own. Yes, it is quite possible for American historians to trace dieting fads all of the way back to Plymouth Rock. This is where I imagine chubby Puritans beating their entrails against the rock itself (punishment of the body stuff)...except for the fact that it would have been really difficult to be chubby. Seriously, there was no Miracle Whip in the seventeenth century.

Yes, and "dieting" has a history. I get it.

Still, if you are of a certain age (I am talking into your sixth decade), you know exactly what I am talking about (as we say back home). Something changed in 1970, or so, and it wasn't just Richard Nixon's paranoia (that goes way back). No, people started putting on the pounds. Jack Nicklaus did, and then others followed. That kind of weight gain was hard to accomplish during the war. It started (anew) in the 1950s, and kept growing.
[d] Advent RF

And then came the advent of Fast Food.

The rest is history. In this teleological back-glance of dieting, it "all" began (in the United States) in about 1970. McDonalds had taken root, and Colonel (Kernel) Sanders was right on its thickening tail. 

My dad is a good example. Well proportioned throughout his whole life (and from about 1972 onward until today), he got fat in the late-1960s. 

How could that have happened? 

Well, he had farmed lush, North Dakota fields throughout the late-1950s and early-1960s, and burned formidable calories in the process. Then he took his family to Wisconsin (cheese, bratwurst, grains) and started graduate school. He read-and-read-and-read (one summer consuming forty major anthropological in forty days). And he gained at least thirty pounds. I remember the day during the Christmas holiday in 1969 when my grandmother, dad's mom, exclaimed "'re fat!" 

He was not amused. By the next Christmas, he wasn't anymore.

Dieting is like that. Most of the time, people just decide (定). On the other hand, a whole passel of diet names started to enter the vocabulary from about 1970 on. If you thought that there were a lot of state capitals (or fast food restaurants....or movies), you have no idea how many diets have come and gone. 

[e] Tubular RF
Still, a few of them are iconic. 

And some of them still have tentacles that continue to create other diets...which, in turn, create still others. If you don't know about this, you haven't been in a bookstore, or followed the only things still popular in a "dying" American book industry. If you write a great business book, the next pull will be to have you make a diet book out of it; win an Olympic gold medal...and others will urge you to make a "Fencing Gold" diet book from the inspiration (and press). 

Heck, if I ever get my management book out there in full view, I'll do something like "The Eleventh Century Diet," or "The Emperor's Teachers Diet.

Oh, I get it. I won't blow that chance.

Neither did Dr. Atkins, Dr. Ornish, Dr. Weight Watchers, Dr. South Beach, and Dr. Paleo. 

The last of these would be by Dr. Grog, who you have met in many of these 900 Round and Square posts: 

          Grog say: I kill Mastodon, then eat. No sugar; no grain. Just meat (uncooked—I 
          not invent fire yet). Paleo good. Neo...bad (although I not know about it..since 
          it hasn't happened). Grain cause blood sugar rise, increase blood pressure,
          patriarchy, writing, societal differentiation, hierarchy, oppression, slavery, 
          and the doom of all humanity. I just cook big Mastodon (and mostly eat 
          tree grub...since Mastodon hard to kill). Doctor say my blood sugar "normal....
          blood pressure, too.

Well, Grog...right. You may choose which diet (these are The Five) leads that way.
[f] Gainin' RF

So, of all the strange and eviscerating regimens from which we could choose, these are the five. Together, they represent are the totality

Remember, if you think that this is a "top-five" list, such as you read on Yahoo, you are very badly mistaken. No, these are totality.

Well, it isn't "The Best of..." It is totality. These five diets are "diets."

If that doesn't make sense...go back and read the introduction and the links!

The Five Diets (United States and its "Outreach," c. 1970-2013) 
(feel free to click the links) 

Weight Watchers
South Beach

Honorable Mention**
Diet of Augsburg
The Japanese Diet
Jenny Craig 
The Diet of Worms
** The RSQ board will occasionally make use of the "honorable mention" opportunity to throw in a few more things to think about. The Honorable Mentions have a little bit of history and culture to consider. The RSQ Board has its reasons.

A brief (sort-of) explanation. 

Weight Watchers: major revenue and reach. Atkins: it has never died, much though many of us have mocked its ketosis-inducing folly...except that Ornish seemed to have the answer, but (much though I adore the guy) buried us in heaps of pasta. South Beach takes Atkins and gives him some flavor. Paleo is the latest trend. The key is blood sugar. Have you ever walked down a supermarket aisle? It's all sugar and (processed) carbohydrate. And the Neolithic (paternal-grain) culture caused all human suffering. Still, I would not get to teach another country's history and study other languages if not for the domination of grains and the power of the written word. This very blog has roots in paternal grain culture and oppressive social orders. There is a reason that Claude Lévi-Strauss notes that writing (which came from grain...really) is the key to all human oppression.

'nuf said. The cosmologists have the last word. These are The Five. The Five Diets.

The Five Convenience Stores
[g] Mediterranean RF


  1. I love how Paleo is like reverse Modernization Theory sometimes...

  2. Yup, it's almost Rousseauian (although ol' Jean Jacques probably would have balked at spearing little rodents and eating tree grub).

  3. This is my favorite fiver yet. Grog's quotation made me laugh out loud. Rob, feel free to inhabit the voices of your sources more often; a good fiction makes a great poin :P