Dom Joly: I'm going to eat like an elephant for a whole year

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The Independent Online

It might be my age or it just might be that I've succumbed to the same nonsense that I've ribbed all my Sloane hippy friends about, but it seems that I've "seen the light". I've had a "spiritual" moment out here in Indochina.

Like all great things, it started with me smelling elephant poo. We went to an elephant farm in the hills outside Chiang Mai. The idea was to look after our own elephants for the day. As well as feeding and washing them, we had to inspect their poo, as this is a good determinant of whether an elephant is healthy. Now you might imagine that an elephant's poo might be of a particularly nasty disposition. Well you'd be wrong. We all happily held a cannonball or two and sniffed it without any discomfort. As we were leaving, we were entreated by our mahout to "eat like an elephant" in our everyday lives.

Sadly, he didn't mean that we should stuff our faces with huge portions as often as possible. I already do that. He was suggesting that we should eat only fruit and vegetables – the diet of an elephant. Elephants suffer very little from cancer or heart conditions.

Without going into too much detail, upon my next bowel movement I realised that this kind of lifestyle choice might be deeply beneficial for me. So, in true "seen the light" fashion I have decided to become a vegetarian and see if I feel any better for it. I'm still going to eat fish as I'm not a total masochist and I am sure that, were elephants fleet enough of foot, they would be spearing salmon like there was no tomorrow.

It does help that I'm now in Cambodia, where vegetables actually seem to taste like vegetables and fruit appears to have been recently plucked from the Garden of Eden. I am, however, determined to eat like an elephant for at least a year.

This might come as something of a surprise to some, but it's not the first time that I've been vegetarian. As a moody teenager I became one for three years in a somewhat futile protest against animal experimentation. Eventually, like all waverers, I was drawn back to the rare side by the smell of bacon. Being a vegetarian is all about whether you can resist the smell of cooking bacon. My tip for the starter veggie is to spend a couple of months in a Muslim country. It just makes life easier.

I can still remember the day I finally cracked. It was a Saturday evening at boarding school and we used to have a buffet-style supper. There would be industrial trays of sausages and beans and chips and bacon, lovely bacon. I got nostril overload and I just snapped. I piled my plate high with the stuff and never looked back.

My wife is the same. When I met her she was a vegetarian with a weakness for hot dogs and beefburgers and steak. If the truth be told, she was never that good at being one. Then kids arrive and you start to graze their food, and it all becomes impossible. Until now. Now I shall eat like an elephant and I shall go forward strong in my belief until I wander past a bacon butty stall in London. Only then shall my elephantine resolve be truly tested.

I'm quite excited about this attempt at self-discipline. I don't think that I've ever denied myself a pleasure since an unfortunate day in Syria when I was filming and the director suggested that it would be "good TV" if I joined our fixer in fasting for Ramadan for the day. It also happened to be the day we crossed the desert and all liquids were forbidden – just the most unhappy day of my life.

Still, I think there might be a Christmas health DVD in this for me. Any offers, anyone?