LIBERATED for a season from those chains that bind the
contemporary churchperson - those hours slumped in front of the
word processor, or over the photocopier, or (in my case) before the
TV - this is the season when we can restore our systems. Exercise
in the open air, regular injections of good food and wine - that
should do the trick. Except that Eat, Fast and Live Longer
(BBC2, Monday of last week) suggests the opposite.
Michael Mosley was on a quest: as he approaches middle age, he
sought the most up-to-date research on how he might stay younger
longer. He found a simple answer: eat far less than you want
In the Great Depression in the United States, when people were
really hungry, life expectancy increased by six years. He met
people who ate great breakfasts of fruit (just the peel of apples,
because that is where all the nutrition lies), and, for the rest of
the day, nothing. Tests showed them to be superhuman. Others
recommend a fast of four days, which he tried to good effect. But
the most startling results come from the 2/5 regime. For two days a
week, you limit yourself to 600 calories, and for the other five
you can eat whatever (and as much of it as) takes your fancy.
Not only did this, after five weeks' trial, deliver a marked
improvement in a wide range of health indicators, showing a huge
reduction in the likelihood of Mosley's succumbing to heart
disease, but it also significantly enhanced his brain function.
It seems likely that this derives from our hunter-gatherer
ancestry. Meals were sporadic; so hunger forced the body and the
brain to repair itself, to grow new cells, to sharpen up its act to
maximise the chance of finding another source of food.
For a brief moment, I wondered whether I would give it a try.
But then I remembered those times when lovingly prepared quiche and
sausage rolls after this, that, or the other meeting are the only
sustenance on offer, and realised that it would be ungracious to
refuse. This stylish programme was marred only by its failure to
consult those who actually know what fasting is all about: monks
Channel 5 broadcast one very positive message on the coat-tails
of the Olympics. Fatima Whitbread: Growing up in care
(Wednesday of last week) was, first, a personal journey, in which
she revisited the places where she had suffered as a result of her
abandonment by abusive parents, and showed her love for her foster
parents. Second, it was a plea to young people to be inspired by
her success, and to all of us to consider becoming fosterers. This
was moving and topical.
Wonderland: Young, bright and on the Right (BBC2,
Thursday of last week) presented a contrasting kind of young
persons' achievement against the odds. Joseph Cook and Chris Monk
were committed to, respectively, the Oxford and the Cambridge
University Conservative Associations. Cook had been the president,
but suffered ruthless skulduggery; Monk was desperate to be elected
to the committee.
The interesting thing was that both were rank outsiders. It
seemed that they craved success in this unfashionable milieu to
overcome what they felt to be the terrible stigma of their
comprehensive-school education. My initial appalled fascination
turned to pity.