I was reading an interview with renowned British Chef Jamie Oliver (I’m a huge fan of both his recipe books and his never-ending desire to make the nutritional world a better place … on both sides of the Atlantic), and feel so strongly about a subject he touched on that I decided it should be the subject of this blog:
Answering a question about the effect of processed and fast-foods on our health he says:
“Well, I think it’s pretty simple really: forty years ago we ate mostly fresh, local food, and we knew where that food was coming from. But then fast and heavily processed foods crept in and totally changed our palettes and food businesses. And ultimately, this food is killing us. Obesity and weight gain are the most obvious symptoms, but the problem I have in telling this story is that there are also loads of skinny people suffering because the garbage they are eating is affecting them in a different, but equally dramatic way….”
This is something I feel like nutrition professionals battle in today's world. With the help of glossy magazines, diet commercials and ‘coat-hanger’ models on the fashion runways, the world that we live in continually reinforces the fact that ‘skinny is good’.
Some people work very hard at eating very little. Others are blessed with metabolisms that mean they can eat a lot, and not show any outward consequences. Both of these scenarios can exist in both a healthy and unhealthy realm. It’s the latter that worries me. As Jamie says, people who are over-weight are all too familiar with the well-publicized health-risks associated with their diet. I’m not saying that their situation is easy – it’s extremely tough, but it’s out there, spoken about.
Individuals who look fabulous, but live on processed, nutritionally-devoid foods fit into this category. And they worry me. While society outwardly applauds them, their bodies are suffering in silence. Depending on what studies you read, 10-20% of people who incur Type 2 diabetes are NOT overweight. There are similar statistics for heart disease. As Jamie states "Heart disease and other diet-related illnesses are some of the biggest killers in the US, way bigger killers than homicide though you’d never know that from the news." It’s not good enough just to ‘look good’ on the outside.
Being mindful of what we eat is the first step to keeping us healthy. This does not mean living on salads forever more. This means knowing that whether or not it shows on the outside, eating food which has a recognizable source, embracing different colors and flavors, and trying to make ‘fresh’ choices wherever possible really can help keep you healthy … and happy (but that’s a subject for a whole other blog!).
For those of you who are parents, if this isn’t enough to convince you, think of the example you set for your children. As I’ve discussed in an earlier blog, your own eating behaviors are the most powerful form of nutritional teachings you have. No matter what you say or instruct, it is more likely than not that your children will grow to eat like you do. And that’s fine, if you all have a super-human metabolism and a physiology made of steel. But it’s very possible that even if you are able to carry off eating badly for a few years, at least one of your children will not be so lucky. That’s the lucky-dip world of genetics for you. So think about them when you decide to go to that fast-food drive-through for the umpteenth time in a week….
Embrace food and the role that it plays in our life. It nourishes our bodies and delights our minds. It brings us together on big holidays and special celebrations, and sharing home-made meals is the ultimate form of hospitality. Sure, we live in a fast-paced world, where time for perfunctory activities such as eating it tight. But if we don’t eat well, it’s hard to live well.
And isn’t that the aim of the game?
I, for one, would like to set my body up for success in those sunset years.