Funny, angry, insightful, informative and narrative - those are the five words that I would use to describe The Meat Fix by John Nicholson.
It is a unique book and a welcome and important addition to the growing number of books advising fellow humans that the dietary messages coming from our governments are terribly, dangerously wrong. From Dr Kaayla Daniel to Barry Groves to Mark Sisson to Dr Malcolm Kendrick - there is no shortage of outstanding literature, whether on general dietary advice or specific tomes on soy(a) or cholesterol. What is unique about this contribution is the raw, personal nature of the writing and the nothing-spared approach Nicholson has to telling his story.
And it is a story - a story of a young couple who left the modern world to live closer to nature, who decided that they couldn't kill the animals in their new environment and so it would be unethical to eat killed produce if they could not kill themselves. They became vegan. The book becomes the most graphic documentary of what happened next that you may ever read.
In the brilliant The Vegetarian Myth, Lierre Keith only touches on the legacy of damage that her veganism left. If you want a blow by blow account of how a vegan deteriorates physically, mentally and emotionally - Nicholson delivers. Sometimes crude, often painful, always heartfelt. If you don't want to become intimately acquainted with conditions such as haemorrhoids (piles) and the bowel consequences of eating "more fibre than a horse", then don't read this book - or skip the passages that spell it out. If you don't like swear words, then don't read this book. However, destroying one's body from the inside out, because you thought you were the role model for healthy eating, is likely to make one pretty angry and the swear words made me laugh rather than cringe.
My husband read this book first and my curiosity was aroused when I heard him laughing on several occasions. "Bloke humour" I thought, but then I read it and heard myself laughing out loud. It's very much a case of "You've got to laugh or you'd cry".
Nicholson shares the conditions he and his life partner, Dawn, developed by eating fruit, vegetables, healthy whole grains and soy(a). As Nicholson says, "I would wager that no one reading this, not one person, has eaten more soya foods than me". The prize for this `exemplary' behaviour? Irritable Bowel Syndrome; acid reflux; no energy; no libido; obesity; forgetfulness; headaches; bloating; muscle loss; sleep loss; impaired mood and everything that could go wrong with one's gut having done so.
The couple's interactions with the British medical profession are horrific and funny at the same time. They became their own healers and worked out what they needed to do. Dawn was the first to suggest that maybe meat could be their fix and, if a vegan or vegetarian has ever wondered - how do you start eating animals again - this book will tell you. What do you buy? From where? What does it taste like? How will you feel? What happens next? From vegan to virtually Paleo, the whole journey is shared.
As "the meat fix" was prescribed and administered, Nicholson learned a vast amount along the way. The book moves from his experience of medical conditions to his learning about nutrition. He does a fine job of covering the key factors in the main areas of debate taking in fat generally; saturated fat specifically; cholesterol; sugar; soy(a); salt; five-a-day - and all the nutritional myths that need slaying.
While this is not intended to be a diet book, Nicholson's final chapter is an excellent summary of what to eat and what not to eat - no government plates or pyramids, just the facts about what should be in your consideration set and what shouldn't be.
We then have a post script "...And in the end", which is the best summary of the conflict of interest blocking change that I have yet seen. "If you're a government do you really want to push a message that might keep the population healthier but would also undoubtedly mean the collapse or decline of a lot of the food processing and agrarian industries which employ a lot of people and give up a lot of tax dollars?" Quite so.
The biggest disappointment with this book is that the people who most need to read it - the Nicholsons `before' - are those least likely to read it. The Nicholsons `after', or the we-were-never-as-daft-as-the-Nicholsons-in-the-first-place are those most likely to read and appreciate this narrative. This is no fault of the book, of course - it's the price that some people will pay for not listening to their body or not rethinking beliefs when more information becomes available. As Sally Fallon Morell says: "It's no longer the survival of the fittest; it's the survival of the wisest!"