For too long now we have been dictated to by magazines, newspapers and blogs telling us they know what’s best for our bodies. We follow them religiously, and when one doesn’t work we suck it up and try another one. From no carb diets, to reducing your calories, to only considering your fat intake and not worrying about the calories, to no food at all, it’s, frankly, too much. It’s time to move on.
We should start by using our common sense and considering our diets using knowledge we already have. I think it was actually my Dad that originally said this – “Why would you cut out a food group from your diet? That’s stupid.”. And it’s true.
Do you remember those trips to London’s science museum with the giant food group pyramid exhibit, teaching young children how to manage and eat a balanced diet, and explaining what people used to eat? This pyramid is embedded in us from a young age – we know, somewhere within us, that all diets should be balanced. My other esteemed cultural reference comes from 80’s television classic The Sooty Show, being an 80’s baby, and their high-impact episode about eating a balanced diet, their song hit the nail on the head. Eat in moderation – the knowledge for children was all there.
Check out the video and the lyrics from the episode:
Stop taking sugar, avoid getting fat,
That’s what they say now!
Here’s my advice which I give on the quiet,
Try and manage a balanced diet,
It’s a situation called…
…eat in moderation!
So what went wrong? No matter what, every adult is subsequently affected by the intrusive media portrayal of what we should and should not eat, despite The Sooty Show’s catchy message. And even when the media changes its mind, what we should and should not eat, we believe it. Not everyone believes it, of course, but I did at one point.
When I was young almost every women’s magazine had a section about food, detailing what you should and should not eat, and they still do today. They usually give you recipes and tell you how many calories each recipe contains, they would have straight-to-the-point articles about what foods to cut out, often entirely. One I distinctly remember was reading about cutting out both butter and oil to lose weight, as they are both high in fat. And on an impressionable young 15 year old, that has an effect. Nutritionally these recipes cut out all of the fat, even the good fats that come in oil and fresh butter, and leave you with almost no nutritional value, and almost no substance.
As I got older the media, including what I describe as the Androgynous press of newspapers, starting filling up how many portions of fruit and vegetables we should eat a day, this has since been doubled and fruit has in some cases been entirely removed. There was also the “carbs craze” and why they are so terrible for you, while at the same time introducing the odd idea that wine might cure cancer or chocolate is good for your happiness and your health. The mixed messages were endless, and still continue to flood the media today.
My idea is to revert back to the food group triangle I remember with such fondness, and Soo’s clear message in Sooty & Sweep, and start to use our common sense again. We don’t need to be told that fruit and vegetables are ridiculously good for us, we know that, we’ve known that for years now, just take a look at the size of the group on the pyramid.
We are now able to grow and buy fruit and vegetables cheaply and easily, and yet we still want fruit and vegetables when they are out of season, this need drives up prices for home grown fare so they can make some sort of profit, aka the overpriced organic ranges. We need to re-educated on the benefits of eating fresh foods that we can grow, and know when we can grow them. Eating seasonal fresh produce is both excellent for our health as well as for the environment – which we really do have to prioritise when thinking about food.
Some people might argue that diets are the only way to lose weight. Sure, women and men can lose weight dramatically quickly on faddy diets, but the weight is unlikely to stay off. Your body takes years to gain weight, again its common sense. So if you lose most of that historic weight in say six weeks, it can have some terrible effects on your health, like slowing down your metabolism – making it more difficult to continue to lose weight and lose weight long term, it can leave you deficient of essential vitamins and minerals, and this can result in loss of bone mass and unhealthy nails and hair.
From what I remember about some of these low-fat faddy diets, were the recommendations to eat processed low-fat alternatives, usually labelled ‘fat-free!’. These low-fat foods actually contain more sugar, and the sugar-free foods usually contain more sweeteners, so basically more processed chemicals and less nutrients.
What’s more if you start cutting out foods or whole food groups from your diet, the chances are the powers that be will decide that they actually cure cancer next month, and are imperative to staying alive. It’s simple, and it’s barely advice I know, but stick to eating your basic food groups (see the wonderful pyramid), keep your food natural, pick in season fruit and vegetables if you can, eat in moderation (thanks Sooty & Sweep) and avoid faddy diets. It’s time to move on.
Image source: Bubblebuster.com