My sister found this pamphlet when she was going through a box of old papers with my mum a few weeks ago. It’s from a c1950 Westinghouse Refrigerator User Manual.
The part that particularly grabbed my attention was last sentence – the bit about brown vs white sugar! It points out to me that poor dietary advice has been around forever!
What is a healthy diet?
When it comes to diets just exactly who should we believe? There’s such a variety with the claims often contradicting each other. We could try:
Vegan – strictly only plants
Vegetarian- plants but also sometimes honey, eggs and dairy
Paleo – the food Ugg the cave man would be able to source back in the day – like 40,000 + years ago and way before McDonalds.
Whole 30 – beware this one has lots of rules! Whole30 program website
FODMAP – designed to help those with irritable bowel syndrome
Mediterranean – rich in veggies, olive oil, and fish like the food traditionally eaten in Italy and Greece
Ketogenic – when I was at Uni ketosis was a BAD thing. This diet has no carbs, just lots of protein and fat.
5:2 diet – based on intermittent fasting. Fast for two days then eat what you like the other days. Developed by Dr Michael Mosley
The Clever Guts diet – another from Dr Mosley
No cabs after 5
Atkins – only Generation X’ers and before will remember this one!
There are so many variations on how to eat healthily! The array of information available these days is overwhelming. Even with my background in food science I find it hard to keep up.
Food as more than fuel
In my late teens and in my early 20’s, I was anorexic and for a short time bulimic. I ate very little. I weighed about 47 kg and got annoyed if I went over 50kg. My BMI was less than 17. (A Healthy BMI is between 19 an 24) I exercised hard and stayed very fit but perhaps not healthy. I used to replay the words from the Ford Pills Diet ad over and over in my head. It was on TV when I was only 7 but it obviously had left its mark!
Before intermittent fasting was a “thing”, I used to fast all day Saturday, with the idea I could eat what I liked on Sunday. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, dizzy and light headed. I had frequent hypoglycaemic events not because I was diabetic but because I didn’t eat often enough. I was an absolute pain in the neck when it came to eating out!
I did a Food Technology degree at University and on reflection, this was no doubt my way of becoming a “food expert” and validating what I was doing. After Uni, I went on to work in the food manufacturing industry for a few years before moving into laboratory equipment sales. It is not uncommon for people with eating disorders to work with food in one form or another. Apart from my day job I had a side hustle – being a fitness instructor. More reasons to exercise and stay thin.
Once I was married, I would cook hugely elaborate meals. My husband also enjoyed cooking and we would often spend almost the entire weekend planning, shopping, preparing and cooking fabulous menus which I didn’t eat much of. Food was always on the agenda as a hobby, and as a fuel.
I am pleased to say that as I have gotten older I have become more sensible with my diet although it is still a balancing act of energy in vs energy out.
I still enjoy cooking and now that I am cooking only for myself (and I’m past the wine and wedges phase) I make it an intentional act to cook a decent meal a few times a week. There are always leftovers, so I have enough for those nights when I have less time. I plan my weekly meals (let’s say that again: I aim to plan my weekly meals because sometimes I don’t!!) – mainly because it means I don’t waste so much food or have to face the decision of what to cook each night.
I remain interested in nutrition and have considered returning to study in this field. When I was doing my first degree, issues like antioxidants and gut bacteria weren’t even on the horizon. Coconut oil was a BAD thing!
Nowadays, I also look out for foods that will have a protective factor against the diseases of older age. There is some talk (but little evidence) that turmeric will reduce the inflammation that contributes to arthritis and dementia. I am now taking turmeric tablets. It can’t hurt, and it might help. In a previous post I spoke about good mood food, food that feeds your gut bacteria and is thought to contribute to positive physical and mental health.
Finding the right food balance.
In the end I think we all know that no fad diet will work. There is no magic bullet. If you want to lose weight you need to use more energy than you consume. If you want to be healthy you need variety. You need to be flexible and not place any unnecessary restrictions on what you can and can’t eat. Get your advice from reputable sources that don’t have a vested interest and are not trying to sell you something. I have not fact checked any of the websites I have linked to in the above list – so do your own research. I think you need to be careful if someone is making money out of selling you a fad diet.
The best dietary advice I have heard recently is summed up in seven words from Michael Pollan:
The eat food part is the trickiest part to decipher. By this he means eat real food, not processed; food your great grandma would recognise as food.
The little imaginary fellow on my other shoulder keeps telling me how bourgeois this line of reasoning is. A great many people on our Earth will find this concern about the best way to eat to stay healthy ridiculous because they have NO food.. We should be grateful we have the food in the first place and do our best not to waste it and distribute it more equitably – but that’s a whole other topic for a different blog post!