Calorie-laden lunches, boozy get-togethers and lazy afternoons of lovemaking: In a glorious swipe at health bores, a top cancer doctor reveals why a lot of what you fancy does you GOOD

 We've heard it so many times before. The route to a healthy life is abstinence.

Turning down that second glass of wine, nibbling on a celery stick, choosing the green salad instead of the chips, obsessively protecting ourselves from every single UV ray emitted by the sun — the list goes on and on.

There can’t be many of us who haven’t thought at some point, ‘Enough! No red meat, no wine, no sun? It’s too much! What sort of a life is that?’ But now the person expounding this view is Professor David Khayat, one of the world’s most eminent oncologists and former chairman of France’s National Cancer Institute. Among his many accolades, he initiated a charter that changed the way in which cancer, cancer research and cancer patients were treated around the world — including here in the UK. In 2006 we awarded him a CBE for his efforts.


Now he’s determined to speak out against the cult of fasting, fitness regimes and self-denial. It’s his strong belief that this sort of miserable deprivation needs to stop.

Professor David Khayat (pictured) who is former chairman of France's National Cancer Institute, has penned a book speaking out against fasting, fitness regimes and self-denial

Professor David Khayat (pictured) who is former chairman of France's National Cancer Institute, has penned a book speaking out against fasting, fitness regimes and self-denial

‘Life is a gift,’ he tells me in his accented, but excellent, English when we speak on the phone — him in Paris, me in London. ‘You have to honour it by finding joy and happiness. What is the meaning of living if the time between birth and death is just spent with no memories?’

And the memories he encourages you to make include convivial lunches with friends, where nobody worries about how much they’re eating or drinking, lazy afternoons of lovemaking, days strolling in the sun, and he’s written about it all in his new book, ArrĂȘtez De Vous Priver — Stop Depriving Yourself! It is a manifesto for ‘hedonism, joy, conviviality, love and friendship. The pleasures of life. The things that give our lives colour and value’.

And as we prepare to return to a normal(ish) life, this sort of liberation is, surely, exactly what we all need to hear.

Of course he’s not saying, as he points out in the book, that ‘each morning you should get up, tell yourself you’re the most perfect creature in the world and can ignore any advice to the contrary’.


But what he is concerned about is how, by bending over backwards trying to mould ourselves into perfect creatures, we constantly set ourselves up for failure.

‘You know what it’s like. You lose one-and-half stone because society, or your friends, tell you that you should, but then because of the way your brain works, you’ll gain two stone, lose a stone, gain a stone-and-a quarter, and after ten years you’ll be fatter than before. And this does huge damage to your self-esteem. You end up thinking you’re not worthy of being loved, not worthy of living, and this in itself can create problems.’

He firmly believes stress has a contributory role in physical diseases. ‘Stress increases your risk of depression, but also of various forms of cancer and cardiovascular diseases,’ he says. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t worry about being obese, but rather that ‘women who are seven or eight pounds overweight, who aren’t ill, shouldn’t feel guilty for ordering a portion of chips.

Professor David Khayat said life is about having a balance, not about controlling every single minute (file image)

Professor David Khayat said life is about having a balance, not about controlling every single minute (file image)

‘It’s about balance — but within a life, not within a day. It’s about how you balance things over a week, over a month.

‘In France I’m seen as an Epicurean,’ he says. And it’s true; he’s famous for being friends with some of the country’s top chefs, admits he loves cooking for friends and says that, if he hadn’t been an oncologist, he’d have loved to own a restaurant. ‘But,’ he points out, ‘if you look at what the Greek philosopher Epicurus actually said, it wasn’t that you should have a life of debauchery and be always drunk. He said if you want to have a point of excess, you should balance it.

‘So, when I have a 2,000-calorie lunch with friends, with several glasses of wine, I enjoy it. But for the next 16 hours, I won’t have anything apart from broth, water and tea. And I won’t drink for the next two or three days, so I’m not drinking more than around ten glasses a week. It’s about balance, not about controlling every single minute.’

I don’t point out that ten glasses of wine a week is three more than the seven recommended in the UK; perhaps those Parisian wine glasses are smaller.

Life is a gift. You have to honour it by finding joy and happiness 

Frankly, what would I know? This bespectacled bear of a man, who, despite his huge intellect and accolades, comes across in person as smiling and friendly, has been working in medicine for more than 40 of his 64 years.

He’s clearly a bon viveur, but one who knows how to get the most bang for buck from life. His conversation is sprinkled with fascinating titbits of knowledge. ‘Did you know that the reason Italians can eat so much pasta and not get fat is because, unlike the French and the Brits, they don’t overcook their spaghetti? Al dente pasta doesn’t provoke nearly as much of an insulin response (which tells your body to store fat) as well-cooked pasta.’

Professor David Khayat explained enjoying life is the key to vitality and that means embracing your favourite vices but not to excess (file image)

Professor David Khayat explained enjoying life is the key to vitality and that means embracing your favourite vices but not to excess (file image)

Calorie-laden lunches, boozy get-togethers and lazy afternoons of lovemaking: In a glorious swipe at health bores, a top cancer doctor reveals why a lot of what you fancy does you GOOD Calorie-laden lunches, boozy get-togethers and lazy afternoons of lovemaking: In a glorious swipe at health bores, a top cancer doctor reveals why a lot of what you fancy does you GOOD Reviewed by Your Destination on March 22, 2021 Rating: 5

No comments

TOP-LEFT ADS