Book Review – The Meat Fix, by John Nicholson

John Nicholson spent 26 years as a hardcore vegan, living on a diet so healthy that no NHS practitioner could tell him how to improve it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t do him any of the good it was supposed to have done – he was fat and had no energy in addition to his joint pain, high cholesterol, and a serious case of Irritable Bowel Disorder.

Suffering for decades and finding no help from conventional medical wisdom, he tore up the rule book and started eating like he did when he was a child in East Yorkshire in the 1960s. That meant lots of meat and lots of fat – but it was all freshly made at home. Within days, he felt better, and has continued to do so. Now he’s shared his story with the wider world.

There are all kinds of diet books out there, most of which are trying to sell you something. Nicholson isn’t trying to do that. He isn’t even trying to tell us that everyone should eat like he does. He goes to great pains to emphasise that he isn’t an expert, that he doesn’t have The Answer when it comes to diet or anything else. He just says, ‘Hey, when conventional eating failed me, I tried this, and it works for me. It might work for you, too, but don’t take my word for it.’ Throughout it all, he retains the ability to make us laugh at himself and at the world, which I feel is essential when writing about Irritable Bowel Disorder and associated problems.

The first half of the book recounts his story, with all the pointless advice he was given and the research he found to show why it was pointless. The second details how what his diet now looks like. The big revelation for him was that heavily processed soya products were not only not healthier than meat, but were actually responsible for much of his illness. From there he expands on exactly why soya and the other components of his ostensibly healthy diet were slowly destroying him physically and mentally.

So what does he eat now? Organic, free-range meat and wild-caught fish; organic vegetables (minus corn and potatoes) wherever possible; nuts and seeds (no peanuts); gelatine; raw, unhomogenised milk and cheese wherever possible; cooking fat in the forms of lard, duck, and goose fat, extra virgin coconut oil, with butter and organic olive oil if they aren’t heated too much; low-sugar fruits like berries, apples, and pears; and green and herbal teas, avoiding anything with ‘natural flavours’ and/or sweetener. He even still drinks alcohol. He suggests sticking to vodka, gin, and dry white wine and recommends plain soda water as a mixer. No wheat, no vegetable oils (margarine, canola oil, etc), and of course absolutely no soya.

If this reminds you of Michael Pollan’s food rules, that’s because they’re very similar, apart from Nicholson’s unapologetic carnivory. They both boil down to the common sense that’s so difficult to apply in a culture set up to encourage us to ignore it: eat real food, not fake. Yes, it’s less convenient and costs more, but that’s money and time saved being ill.

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