Eat like a Viking



Not into Viking? Try ‘The 1:6 Diet’

Are you into the latest diet craze: eating like a Viking?  It’s a Scando/Paleo mash up with the usual promises: lose weight by restricting your food choices.

I came across an article in Vogue written by Kate Christensen, who decided to try the Viking diet while living in Maine.  According to Christensen, the diet is based on these key principles:

  1. Eat more plants: berries, nuts, fruit, root vegetables.  But local and seasonal please!
  2. Eat meat only three times a week. But be sure it’s wild or raised on a pasture.
  3. Eat fish twice a week. Also, eat seaweed.
  4. Cooked whole grains — such as oats, barley, rye — are permitted.

As with all similar fad diets, added sugars, processed foods, soft drinks and the like are forbidden.  Which is calorie control by default.  You lose weight because you’re eating less.  Other than that, it’s a moderate protein, high fiber diet, defined by the food supply you’d find in Scandinavia.

What do these principles mean for Christensen’s food supply in Maine?

  • Local seafood is available, although some of it is seasonal.  Thanks to overfishing, some traditional seafood is in short supply. Cod used to be abundant; not anymore. How will the Viking diet work if oceans are depleted of fish?
  • Local plant foods in season means apples in September, berries in August, greens in early summer, potatoes and perhaps carrots and other root vegetables in fall.  They’d have to be properly preserved and stored for winter, or there won’t be much to eat come February.
  • Local meats: well, she does start out with some frozen moose.  It’s likely that someone somewhere in Maine raises beef cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs and maybe rabbits.  But if everyone in Maine tries to follow this diet, the domestic meat supply is going to disappear quickly.  Game meat even more quickly.
  • Foraging for local wild plants like mushrooms, herbs and greens.  Well, as with the local meat supply, if everyone starts foraging, the supply will be obliterated quickly.  Then what?

She reportedly cooked all her meals everyday at home.  Something of a necessity, since there aren’t a lot of restaurants serving up local pasture-raised or wild game meats and foraged plants to the masses.  So if you want to eat like a Viking, keep in mind you’ll need to have a lot of free time to shop/forage, cook and clean up.

All these diets romanticize the idea of foraging and harvesting and eating wild local foods.  It’s an elitist and unrealistic fairy tale, cooked up by people who do their foraging at Whole Foods and Zabars.  If the Viking fashionistas started foraging in New York City, Central Park would be a wasteland in less than a day, stripped of anything remotely edible including possibly the zoo animals.  The environmental impact of all this foraging, fishing and hunting on a remote place like Norway would be similarly devastating.

Which got me thinking: if people want to lose weight on a gimmicky romanticized diet, let’s get real.  The 1:6 Diet is the way to go.  It’s based loosely on the (in)famous 5:2 Diet.  You eat normally for 5 days of the week and fast for the other 2 days.  So your calorie intake is roughly 70% of normal.  You could lose a pound a week on average over time.  IF you stick to it.  You could also just cut your daily calories to 70% of normal, but that sounds boring and doesn’t sell diet books the way a catchy name like “5:2 Diet” does.

The 1:6 Diet has a catchy title and is also a lot like a real Paleo diet.  Here’s how it works:

  • One day a week you gorge on meat, mimicking how a group of Paleo people would have to eat an entire animal as soon as it was killed.
  • For the other 6 days you fast, eating just a few plant foods like greens or a handful of berries.
  • You should also do a lot of walking and running on those 6 days, similar to what Paleo people would have done searching for animals to hunt or foraging for plants.

The environmental impact will be a lot less severe than traditional Paleo or Viking diets, since you’re only eating meat or fish once a week, while eating almost nothing on the other 6 days.  And you’ll certainly lose weight.  Unless of course, you can’t stick to it.  In which case you won’t be alone; I wouldn’t stick to this diet either.

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