5 Interviews on Gluttony for International No Diet Day

Food Lists International No Diet Day
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5 Interviews on Gluttony for International No Diet Day

May 6th is the 25th anniversary of International No Diet Day, a call to end obsession over the notion of one idea body type, and expose the harmful effects of dieting.

It’s 24 hours when we can take a break from obsession and restriction, and eat whatever we want.

The concept of a day without a diet, without restrictions — food anarchy! — is a challenge to the restrictions we impose on ourselves almost without thinking. It opens a path that to many of us is transgressive. Where would our appetites, unconstrained, take us?

How many McDonald’s hash browns would it really take to hit the spot?

From dieting to feasting and crossing the line into greed and gluttony: we present five interviews for International No Diet Day.

Join the conversation. Let us know what you think — and what you’ll be eating!

1. A renowned burlesque performer, Pagan O’Gasm works right on the edge of decadence, and sometimes, gloriously, over the line.

Pagan O’Gasm: Gluttony is necessary. Feasting too, but also gorging. I believe in Bacchanalia. I think we need to go crazy, then pull back, find balance for a while, and do it all over again. Burlesque is part of that spirit too. It takes life to extremes.

Years ago I was working in NYC, black in my soul from my day job at an investment bank. It was back when there were a lot of stories about people taking Ambien and sleep eating. I thought a lot about that, and created an act, sleeping, then pulling my pillow apart, feathers flying everywhere, and I had snacks hidden in my pillow that I would eat; Twinkies, Cheetos and at the end, a giant cake. I realized that all I wanted to do was sit in cake and rub cake all over my body. It was more than emotional eating. I wanted to bathe in cake, and be covered in cream.

It was a good act. I pull it out now sometimes still, when I need to be bathed in a cake.

Paste: What foods do you set rules around?

PO: Actually, I have rules around all my food, because I love to anticipate. I’ll do a vegan feast for Meatless Monday, or I’ll call it Meatball Monday and have exotic meatballs. Or maybe it’s Taco Tuesday or Thai Tuesday. Every Friday I have “fries day” when I go crazy with French fries — or at the very least, something fried. Hello Donuts.

Paste: What would you eat to celebrate No Diet Day?

PO: That’s a tough one. I love the tease and the expectation. I want the tension to be high when I finally get to dig in. Probably Bananas Foster. Anything you get to light on fire is good for a celebration!

Paste: In Heaven, with no consequences, no fat, no thin, no unhealthy or healthy, would there be food?

PO: I don’t believe in heaven, but if there is a heaven, how could there not be food? For me, there would have to be really delicious butter. Best quality butter. There’s magic in it.

2. A yoga teacher striving for balance in all things, for Melanie Viani every day is no diet day.

Melanie Viani: I’ve been practicing yoga for 15 years, and teaching for four, and I truly believe that if you eat mindfully and pay attention to your body, every day is no diet day. The tricky thing is when you’re pulling yourself out of eating imbalance. You have to listen to your body, eat slowly, ask, am I full? Sometimes a craving is your body’s way of telling you what you need. I’m not saying your body needs a donut, but maybe sweetness is something you need to account for.

I think it’s a good thing to feast occasionally. Especially coming together with family to eat a wonderful meal. But it can get too much, too gluttonous, and then you know it was not good for you. This Easter, we had two big celebrations in a row, one with my family, one with my husbands’. And they were both great! But I really felt it! Eating started to feel like work, which is not what you want!

Paste: What foods do you set rules around?

MV: I don’t really have rules around foods. I really believe in moderation, not denial.

Paste: What would you eat to celebrate No Diet Day?

MV: I have a really sweet tooth, so I might indulge it!

Paste: In Heaven, with no consequences, no fat, no thin, no unhealthy or healthy, would there be food?

MV: I hope so! I love food! My idea of heaven would be a variety of little dishes of all kinds of different things — like tapas — with lots of awesome dipping sauces. That would be perfect!

3. Minister, thinker and pioneer for LGBTQ equality in the Presbyterian Church, Meike Vandersall wrestles with the idea of gluttony as a sin.

Meike Vandersall: I have seen a picture of Hell that depicts people at a giant feast, reaching out with their hands to get to the food, but it’s just out of grasp. Not having enough seems worse than having too much.

Is there anything inherently bad in eating a lot or drinking a lot? Not necessarily. But the motivation behind it the lack of care around how it impacts your body, and impacts and other people around you is where the problem comes in. Feasting is restorative and beneficial. Gluttony takes you someplace much darker. To have a gluttonous experience is seeking peace in a place that you’re not going to find it. It really is a false idol.

Paste: What foods do you set rules around?

MV: Cheez-Its. And Cheetos. They re the things I cannot stop with. Can you blame me? They’re delicious, and they even put chemicals in there to make them even more addictive. I hardly ever let myself eat them, and if I do, only secretly so no one sees me.

Paste: What would you eat to celebrate No Diet Day?

MV: I feel like I already had No Diet Day this year. I gave up sugar and gluten for Lent, then at Easter I ate literally everything, and then I felt sick. Nobody said this was easy!

Paste: In Heaven, with no consequences, no fat, no thin, no unhealthy or healthy, would there be food?

MV: I have though about this a lot! So, either, yes, there would be Cheez-Its in Heaven, but I wouldn’t crave them, so I could just have some and be completely satisfied. They’d just be delicious food, no more no less. Or, I wouldn’t want for anything, so I wouldn’t care if there were Cheez-Its or not.

4. A historian, lawyer, author and historical recipe re-constructor, Greg Caramenico eschews gluttony: bring on the feast!

Greg Caramenico: The great thing about the Romans is there’s not a lot of judgment about gluttony. Ideally, you wouldn’t be “unseemly,” but there’s not that same sense of guilt at all, generally speaking, well, Stoics aside.

Feasting, excess, is a big deal for the Romans, and they can really go overboard, because the supply chain is strong, and the infrastructure is so good. People are taking intense pleasure in eating; spices, fruits, fish, song-birds – even flamingo tongues, roasted pigs stuffed with sausages. I read about one feast where they served roasted rabbits with wings stuck to them to make them look like Pegasus-es! At a fest, the food is elaborate, and deliberately over-the-top.

The rest of the time, you’d eat what you could get, or afford. And again, I think that’s why there’s no concept really of gluttony, because there’s no flip side concept of diet. You’re only going to restrict your food intake if you’re sick. Nobody’s restricting something or eating something out of guilt. It’s a very different outlook.

Paste: What foods do you set rules around?

GC: Strangely, Sea Urchin! I love to eat it! And usually overindulging is not an issue, right, because it’s expensive. But I was in Normandy where it was quite cheap, and I realized, I can just keep eating this! I ate four. That’s probably enough.

Paste: What would you eat to celebrate No Diet Day?

GC:I love to cook and recreate Roman recipes. Things like gnocchi, or pepper stew with vinegar. But for my feast day, I’d start out with some sort of mix of figs and foie gras, have a slow roasted pig, stuffed with fruit and nuts — really hard to top that!

Paste: In Heaven, with no consequences, no fat, no thin, no unhealthy or healthy, would there be food?

GC: It depends on how you think about Heaven, I suppose. Roman gods loved feasting. And the Roman afterlife seems to have a feasting component, but all of it is very attenuated. It’s less real than life, not better than, as it is generally in Western Culture. But for me personally, absolutely! Bring on the feast!

5. From family feasts in her native Beijing, to chronicling the city’s culinary pleasures as the editor of City Weekend, Ami Li is always on the look out for an feast.

Ami Li: I was born in Beijing. Big city. Big extended family. And I’m an only child. I grew up in the US, and eventually moved back six years ago, and there’s one thing that remains constant: whenever my family meets up, there’s always a banquet. There’s the hierarchy of who sits where, the youngest serving the oldest, who eats when in the proper order, the round table and, of course, massive, massive amounts of food. We’d always have Fish – phonetically it’s synonymous with “plenty”, red braised pork, Peking Duck, the soup. Imagine plate after plate of hot and cold appetizers, meats, fish, stews and vegetables, after which everyone is served a bowl of noodles!

China in the past 60 years has a complicated relational to food. The Great Leap Forward, a huge push towards industrialization, ended up creating a famine as farming turned to manufacturing. If it’s not so long ago that you experienced a famine, it changes how you think about a feast. Rationing, famine, deprivation? That changes people. Now, being able to show people that you can feed them, and feed them well is very important. There’s an old custom that’d still observed today; at the end of the meal you leave a little bit of food on the plate to show that you are full and the host wasn’t stingy.

Another side to it, though, is after all this food, whenever my aunts and uncles would see me they’d say, “oh, you got fatter since the last time I saw you!” It’s a compliment in some ways, but also a judgment. A crisis of overabundance, really. And I was 12, 13, living in America then, and the last thing on earth I wanted to be called was fat. Then a minute later, they’d say “don’t forget to eat,” and offer me more food.

Paste: What foods do you set rules around?

AL: Anything crunchy that comes in a big plastic bag? I cannot buy it. I will eat it in one sitting. Air popped, or kettle fried, covered in cheese dust? It’s gone.

Paste: What would you eat to celebrate No Diet Day?

AL: If money were on object, I’d eat an entire tureen. I have one in mind, from a now-closed restaurant in Chicago, so this really is a fantasy feast. So, Pate de Campagne, and a bottle of champagne and then, a box of macaroons.

Paste: In Heaven, with no consequences, no fat, no thin, no unhealthy or healthy, would there be food?

AL: Of course! Both as a general reward for all the good deeds you’ve done, and also because it’s absolutely necessary. Food to me is the cornerstone of what it means to live a fulfilled and pleasurable life. Even after life. You know what I mean!

Photo by Rhett Maxwell, CC BY 2.0