Berlin: Better than Paleo

For optimum health, make sure to soak your feet in Wurzeltod and treat your undereye area with Kaiser Borax.

For optimum health, make sure to soak your feet in Wurzeltod and treat your undereye area with Kaiser Borax.

Judging from the mass of squidgy, regretful people who have started queuing in my gym every day of the week, New Year’s resolutions are as popular as ever. And no matter where you look on the internet (trust me; I live in the internet) there are so many thousands of articles teaching you how best to achieve your health, weight and wellbeing goals for 2015. I can’t help but shake my head in wonderment because what none of these bloggers, and women’s magazines, and gym brochures, and probiotic yogurt adverts seem to have caught onto is that there’s no need to make all this effort to lead the perfect healthy lifestyle. Berlin is the perfect healthy lifestyle. Just living here is enough to force you into all the most important habits you need to develop to get the perfect, fit, healthy and outstandingly gorgeous body possible in 2015. Let’s look at the facts:

1. Make sure to walk at least 10,000 steps per day.

Health experts concur that you ought to aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps every day to maintain optimum health. In Berlin, 10,000 steps is a pitiful minimum; by the time we’ve taken all the various different types of recycling to each different bin and then wandered to that place which makes the best coffee ever, we’ve usually hit about 15,000 steps. Even more if the first café you go to turns out to be closed for no reason, the next café is hosting a one-off beat poetry event, the third one you try is buried in scaffolding and the fourth one doesn’t have any soymilk (or only has soymilk). Factor into that the fact that a sizable number of our apartment blocks have up to 6 floors and no elevator, and that all of the supermarkets are just small enough to have everything you need except for that one crucial item on your shopping list (most of the groceries at Lidl, then over to Kaiser’s to get an aubergine) and we’ve basically gone hiking. Plus, if you get a job like mine, the dizzying nightmares about your boss are enough to make your legs thrash wildly at night so you even get your cardio while you’re asleep.

2. Saturated fats are good for you now

Recent scientific assessments are showing that the horror stories about the dangers of saturated fats are unfounded; actually, it’s healthy and advisable to get natural, unprocessed fats in your diet and saturated fats like butter or animal fat aren’t related to heart disease like we thought. Berlin has got you, baby: here we love butter, oily fish, cheese, whole milk & co…the mincemeat is 30% fat (ONE THIRD. Though I suppose the more fat is in there, the less room there is for scrotum) and we even have something called ‘Schmalz’, available to buy in tubs, which is literally just molten animal grease ready to use for every application you could imagine. An old lady tried to make me eat home-made schmalz once but she’d just finished describing how she’d melted it off a large piece of pig back-fat and suddenly I didn’t feel hungry at all any more. It’s a dieting miracle!

3. Get more whole grains and fermented foods.

There is so much more whole grain stuff on the market over here. This odd company Seitenbacher sells all kinds of interesting whole-grain products including triangle-shaped spelt snacks vaguely sweetened with apple juice and lemon, granola bars which could get you up a mountain like a sherpa on amphetamines, and about nine thousand muesli mixes. In the true style of most German companies, they also sell a bunch of completely unrelated products such as fancy oils, gummy bears and cup-a-soup. And fermented foods? Dude, this is the country that invented sauerkraut – in case you didn’t know, sauerkraut is just cabbage which is salted until it releases all of its juices, and it then ferments in the salty cabbage juice until the millions of bacteria have produced enough lactic acid to preserve the cabbage ready for times of famine. It’s unbelievably good for you, and if you don’t fancy that the place is also full of pickled gherkins, trendy korean places to fill you full of kimchee (although the hipsters may induce nausea) and the best fermented foods of all time: beer and wine. Hell, we even combine the best of both: for some reason several bakeries have now started selling wholemeal sauerkraut bread. I don’t know why anyone would make this. I tried a sample and it tasted like the smell I experienced that one time when a bottle of salad dressing exploded in my rucksack and slowly seeped down my lower back and into my pants as I began the long walk home one day.

4. Get lots of fresh air.

Man, in Berlin it’s a challenge to avoid fresh air. Most apartment contracts legally oblige you to open all your windows and let the crisp German wind blow through your apartment at least once, if not twice a day. This is an actual true fact, you British people who don’t believe me. It’s to keep mould out.

5. Stay away from processed foods.

Every time I go to the UK I am blown away by the sheer number of ready meals and processed snacks that you can choose from. It’s a technicolour dreamblast of different edible things in plastic trays; bhunas and bean hotpots and tofu shapes and pasta bakes and ratatouille and unforgivable things in orange sauce…beyond that there are the lunch shelves, groaning with thousands of different types of premade sandwiches so square and uniform and cardboardy it’s like they’ve been mass-produced our of carpet scraps in a carpet factory. And if you don’t want a sandwich there are wraps and pasties and hummus pots and quinoa salads and superfood nori rolls and oh holy cholesterol, batman. We don’t have that here. If you want something to eat ‘to go’, it’s pretty much a freshly-filled bread roll, a kebab, or a burger. There is processed food and ready meals available but wisely the German food scientists have created them to look and be so disgusting that it is more appealing to cut off and sauté a piece of your own hair if you’re in need of a quick bite to eat. All the fresh stuff here is so wonderful and so delicious; the bakeries call out to you, the vegetables in the supermarkets are all in big boxes tumbling over each other; it’s mostly just simple and more often than not resembles stuff a medieval farmer would vaguely recognise as food (case in point: remember 3D Doritos?).

5. Avoid stress and get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Ok, so I haven’t been able to embrace this one. I haven’t even been able to gesture feebly towards it. But I bike home and I see the world kicking back; people enjoying a beer sat at a Späti table, friends laughing in the warm light of a bar furnished entirely with vintage sofas, kebab vendors having a laugh with each other as they get the chips ready. Berlin is such a chilled place and I need to learn its secrets. Maybe go vegan, or get a dog, or dye half my hair green. Something like that ought to do it.


Rose T