The Nietzsche Diet

March 25, 2009

Posted by Nick Sarno


Due to a recent visit by my old friend/enemy, the stomach ulcer, I am going on a diet. It is the first real diet I’ve ever gone on and, in a way, I’m excited about it. It will last for a month, beginning the first of March. I am to abstain from all of the usual suspects: coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, spicy foods, tomatoes, citrus, etc. Additionally, I am to drink the juice of a potato every day (something about the starch is supposed to be healing) as well as a swig of aloe juice. While I don’t relish the idea of drinking potato juice, I’m sure I can do it. I’ve already been cutting back on coffee (from four cups daily to two, from two to two half-decaf) and giving up on spicy foods will be hard, but it’s doable for a month. The hardest thing, believe it or not, will be giving up tomatoes. Those suckers are in everything.


Thinking about this diet reminded me of the passage in Ecce Homo, where Nietzsche describes his perfect diet. I would never recommend Nietzsche as your personal trainer, but since this excerpt was taken from a chapter titled “Why am I so clever?”, maybe there’s something to it. (Bracketed ellipses denote my omissions…pardon any other typos, there was a small problem in formatting.)


I am much more interested in another question which the “salvation of humanity” depends much more than upon any piece of theological curiosity: the question of nutrition. For ordinary purposes, it may be formulated thus: “How precisely must thou nourish thyself in order to attain to thy maximum of power, or virtue in the Renaissance style of virtue free from moralism?” Here my experiences have been the worst possible; I am surprised that it took me so long to become aware of this question and to derive “understanding” from my experiences. Only the utter worthlessness of our German culture-its “idealism”-can to some extent explain how it was that precisely in this matter I was so backward that my ignorance was almost saintly. For this “culture” from first to last teaches one to lose sight of realities and instead to hunt after thoroughly problematic, so-called ideal goals, as, for instance, “classical culture”-as if we were not doomed from the start in our endeavor to unite “classical” and “German” in one concept! […] German intellect is indigestion; it can assimilate nothing. But even English, which, as against German, and indeed French, diet, seems to me to be a “return to Nature”-that is to say, to cannibalism-is basically repugnant to my own instincts. It seems to me that it gives the intellect heavy feet, Englishwomen’s feet. . . . The best cooking is that of Piedmont. Alcohol does not agree with me; one glass of wine or beer a day is enough to turn life into a valley of tears for me; in Munich live my antipodes. Admitting that I came to understand this rationally rather late, yet I had experienced it as a mere child. As a boy I believed that wine-drinking and tobacco-smoking were at first but youthful vanities, and later simply bad habits. Perhaps the wine of Naumburg was partly responsible for this harsh judgment. To believe that wine was exhilarating, I should have had to be a Christian-in other words, I should have had to believe in what, for me, is an absurdity. Strangely enough, whereas small largely diluted quantities of alcohol depressed me, great quantities made me act almost like a sailor on shore leave. Even as a boy I showed my bravado in this respect. […] Later on, towards the middle of my life, I grew more and more decisive in my opposition to spirituous drinks: 1, an opponent of vegetarianism from experience-like Richard Wagner, who reconverted in annot with sufficient earnest-ness advise all more spiritual natures to abstain absolutely from alcohol. Water answers the same purpose. I prefer those places where there are numerous opportunities of drinking from running brooks as at Nice, Turin, Sils, where water follows me wherever I turn. In vino veritas: it seems that here too I disagree with the rest of the world about the concept “Truth”-with me spirit moves on the face of the waters. Here are a few more bits of advice taken from my morality. A heavy meal is digested more easily than one that is too meager. The first condition of a good digestion is that the stomach should be active as a whole. Therefore a man ought to know the size of his stomach. For the same reasons I advise against all those interminable meals, which I call interrupted sacrificial feasts, and which are to be had at any table d’hdte. Nothing between meals, no coffee-coffee makes one gloomy. Tea is advisable only in the morning-in small quantities, but very strong. It may be very harmful, and indispose you for the whole day, if it is the least bit too weak. Here each one has his own standard, often between the narrowest and most delicate limits. In a very enervating climate it is, inadvisable to begin the day with tea: an hour before, it is a good thing to have a cup of thick cocoa, free from oil. Remain seated as little as possible; trust no thought that is not born in the open, to the accompaniment of free bodily motion-nor one in which your very muscles do not celebrate a feast. All prejudices may be traced back to the intestines. A sedentary life, as I have already said elsewhere, is the real sin against the Holy Ghost.


The question of nutrition is closely related to that of locality and climate. None of us can live anywhere; and he who has great tasks to perform, which demand all his energy, has, in this respect, a very limited choice. The influence of climate upon the bodily functions, affecting their retardation or acceleration, is so great, that a blunder in the choice of locality and climate may not merely alienate a man from his duty, but may withhold it from him altogether, so that he never comes face to face with it. Animal vigor never preponderates in him to the extent that it lets him attain that exuberant freedom in which he may say to himself: I, alone, can do that. . . . The slightest torpidity of the intestines, once it has become a habit, is quite sufficient to turn a genius into something mediocre, something “German”; the climate of Germany, alone, is more than enough to discourage the strongest and most heroic intestines. Upon the tempo of the body’s functions closely depend the agility or the slowness of the spirit’s feet; indeed spirit itself is only a form of these bodily functions. Enumerate the places in which men of great intellect have been and are still found; where wit, subtlety, and malice are a part ,of happiness; where genius is almost necessarily athome: all of them have an unusually dry atmosphere. Paris, Provence, Florence, Jerusalem, Athens-these names prove this: that genius is dependent on dry air, on clear skies-in other words, on rapid organic functions, on the possibility of contenuously securing for one’s self great quantities of energy. 


The choice of nutrition; the choice of climate and locality; the third thing in which one must not on any account make a blunder, concerns the method of recuperation or recreation. Here, again, according to the extent to which a spirit is sui generis, the limits of what is permitted-that is, beneficial to him-become more and more narrow. In my case, reading in general is one of my methods of recuperation; consequently it is a part of that which enables me to escape from myself, to wander in strange sciences and strange souls of that, about which I am no longer in earnest. Indeed, reading allows me to recover from my earnestness.

So, in short, the Nietzsche diet:

1. Don’t eat Geman food. (easy)

2. Don’t drink alcohol. (easy)

3. Eat a good sized meal. (yay!)

4. Don’t snack. (all right)

5. Don’t drink coffee. (not so easy)

6. Tea is okay. (okay)

7. So is hot chocolate. (yay!)

8. Take walks. (will do)

9. Don’t live in Germany. (I’ve been not living in Germany for years)

10. Read.


3 Responses to “The Nietzsche Diet”

  1. Ex Boyfriend Says:

    The style of writing is quite familiar to me. Have you written guest posts for other blogs?

  2. Sloan Says:

    i like your posting

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