All You Need Is Fish?
The Perricone Prescription is the latest in a long line of dietary regimes, and appeals to the object of one of our most burning desires—eternal youth. Its programmes propose not only to make us thinner, but also to get rid of the niggling and conspicuous signs of ageing, manifest as wrinkles, folds and flaps on our bodies and faces. There is nothing outrageous about this desire, which has obsessed humanity since the (ironically) age-old myths of the ‘fountain of youth’, through alchemical traditions and religious promises of eternal life. However, perhaps more disturbing is that the author, Dr Nicholas Perricone, of this book and of The Wrinkle Cure, presents aging as some kind of illness that needs to be ‘cured’, rather than a natural process which brings with it maturity.
This book, already a bestseller in the US, offers ‘a second chance’, as one of Perricone’s patients puts it in praising the dermatologist who ‘changed her life’. The mere words ‘a second chance’ seem to trigger more desires, seem to reach out of the body’s folds to past events which are so stubbornly unalterable—drawing together and merging indistinguishably the changing of appearance with altering one’s past and life. We do not even have to ask—‘a second chance’ what for? To do what?
Perricone offers allegedly motivating and inspiring headings that signpost narratives about past patients, scientific elaborations and lists of food, dietary and exercise plans, as well as advertising Perricone’s electrical-stimulation glove which apparently exercises facial muscles. Chapter headings and sub-headings like ‘It’s Never Too Late’ accompany calls for ‘The Fountain of Youth’, ‘The Birth of a Wrinkle’, ‘The Scientific Secret of Youth and Beauty’. Warnings that ‘It Gets Worse’ link up with titles reminiscent of the fictional universe of the cinema: ‘Carbohydrates—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’, ‘Little Shop of Horrors - Trans Fats, or Polyunsaturated Fats’ and ‘Glycemic Horrors’ should make you think twice whether you really want to find pleasure in a doughnut. Here a scientific discourse is tightly interwoven with one of myths and fictions—through science to the fictitious, so to speak.
According to Perricone, inflammation rests at the root of all our bumps, lumps and dimples and also in grave illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. Perricone suggests that inflammation and ageing are linked to each other: “Inflammation, at the cellular level, precipitated by poor nutrition, pollution, sunlight, irritating skin-care treatments and stress, is the single most powerful cause of the signs of ageing.” The Perricone Prescription offers programmes to overcome inflammation through a 28-day eating, exercise and skincare plan, a three-day diet for ‘quick’ results, recipes for the diets and 50 before-and-after photographs.
Inflammation, according to Perricone, can be alleviated through changes in lifestyle such as a high protein intake, drinking a lot of water and (unsurprisingly) refraining from alcohol, cigarettes and coffee. In particular, protein intake is significant in battling our ageing faces: the best source is fish containing DMAE, a ‘powerful antioxidant’. The three-day diet promises a quick facial fix and is designed to convince us of the potency of Perricone’s diet.
Whilst the three-day diet looks manageable, and consists of three portions of fish (salmon mainly) per day, four eggs in the morning, a lot of berries of all sorts and a lot of water, it does bring some problems, as my little (and I must confess briefer than three days) experiment with it revealed. On the purely practical level the diet is expensive, particularly when it comes to salmon, and particularly if your income is not in the higher brackets. The shopping for these days for one person has cost as much as I would normally spend on two for a whole week. This brings us to my second handicap, namely that I like cigarettes and also bananas, bread and butter, carrots, chocolate, and coffee, pasta, pastries, pizza, popcorn and potatoes, all of which would have had to be eliminated from the three days diet and heavily restricted in the longer version.
Before I would have got to the nitty-gritty of these ‘no-no’ foods I was constrained by a far more mundane reality: the supermarket I buy my food supplies from did not have any cantaloupe or ‘blueberries, if possible,’ nor for that matter macadamia nuts. Torn between my supermarket’s inability to cater for my needs and Perricone’s voice in the back of my head insisting that ‘the more closely you stick to this diet, the better results you will achieve’, I saw myself a further step removed from a wrinkleless existence. In a sense, I have failed before I even started.
Nevertheless, I did buy some salmon, I bought a lot of tuna, a honeydew melon, spring water, and some strawberries. As you may guess by now, given my paltry dietary efforts, I could not bring myself, at seven in the morning, to swallow an omelette made of three egg whites and one yolk, nor did I have enough time or desire to grill or broil salmon. Perhaps I just do not believe in the sacrifice/beauty equation.
However, since that day I’m trying to eat a lot more fish than before and to drink more water too, and I’ll keep The Perricone Prescription’s suggestion that it is ‘never too late’ in mind for the future. Ultimately, it ‘s much more appealing to try to soothe our desires, even if we don’t necessarily smooth our skins, through a harmless diet, rather than through the grafting and carving techniques of cosmetic surgeons.