Temptation Time

I love Christmas, but not the way it’s been turned into an excuse for weeks of over consumption. How did that happen? Money of course. Promotions start earlier each year – was it September this time? Each of us chooses the degree to which we throw ourselves in. Perhaps you don’t want seasonal excess to wreck your body (and bank balance) completely and decide to partake in moderation. Even if you favour the ‘bring it on’ approach, leaving damage repair for January, you might be supporting a friend who’d rather be more restrained.

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So here are some tips for resisting temptation:

1. Develop an automatic response. Immediately say, “No, thank you”, before you can engage your brain. That feels easy. The moment passes quickly. Gazing at cake/chocolate/crisps and pondering whether or not you fancy some, means you’ll almost certainly have some. If you gaze and ponder and then say, “No” it will take will power and feel like a big sacrifice.

2. Have a mindset that bad foods/drinks are nothing to do with you – they’re other people’s problems. Let your eyes slide over them as irrelevant. Then seek out some real food.

3. Focus on other things. Have a conversation, look at your surroundings, dance, take your attention onto anything you can’t put in your mouth.

4. Be prepared. Find out what might be on offer at any ‘Do’ you attend. Drink some water and eat something good before going out. Have emergency supplies with you (eg nuts or some cheese) in case everything is processed or sugary. Keep supplies at work too, ready for the inevitable appearance of mince pies and chocolates.

Have a look at this hilarious video of children resisting temptation in the famous marshmallow test.

Top tip – Temptation’s coming, so be ready but most of all have a very Merry Christmas.

Quote of the month

The school holidays are almost upon us and there’ll be lots of time to do fun things – hopefully in the sunshine.  Here are some words from the wise about the types of foods we commonly regards as treats.

Treat treats as treatsIce lolly

Michael Pollan

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Don’t treat your mouth like an amusement park

Joe Cross

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Every time someone calls junk a treat, please correct them. We will never make progress until people see eating cr@p as anything but a treat

Zoe Harcombe

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/Junk_Food.JPG

 

Sugar Tax

I was delighted to see the sugar tax announced in the budget. Official acknowledgement of the problem is a welcome step in the right direction. Manufacturers love sugar; every one of the 10 thousand taste buds in your tongue and palate, has special receptors for sweetness so it’s very ‘moreish’ (addictive). They wont want to lose their huge profits so they’ll do everything they can to convince us to keep buying. Hopefully a higher price will push people towards water instead.

What happens when we consume sugar? Sucrose is a 2 part molecule made of glucose and fructose. 80% of the glucose part will be distributed round your body to be used for energy. If your body isn’t using energy, insulin mops up the glucose to store it as fat. The other 20% goes to your liver to be safely stored as glycogen. 100% of the fructose goes to your liver, the only organ that can process it, where it will mostly be turned into fat. When you eat whole fruit, the fibre changes the way the fructose is metabolised. So glucose without exercise is a problem but fructose without fibre is worse.

 

Fake food

That’s why I’m disappointed that fruit juice drinks are exempt from the tax. Bought juice doesn’t contain as much goodness as you’d hope but has loads of fructose (one glass might = four fruits).

StrawberriesEating a couple of Kiwipieces of whole fruit a day is fine.

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Might we see increased use of artificial sweeteners? People mistakenly believe that low-cal drinks help weight loss but they don’t. When we eat sugar, our brain recognises the sweet taste and our body gets ready to store fat. When we eat artificial sweeteners, our body expects sugar and gets ready to store fat. When the sugar doesn’t arrive, our brain is confused and we get cravings to eat something. So we take in more food and we mess up the delicate signalling system our body uses to tell us when to stop eating.

For more on the science and the history of how we ended up consuming so much sweet stuff, watch Robert Lustig’s Sugar, The Bitter Truth on YouTube.

Still from video 'Sugar, The Bitter Truth' Robert Lustig

Still from video ‘Sugar, The Bitter Truth’ Robert Lustig (the lbs refer to the weight gain from drinking one daily for a year).

Top tip: Drink water instead of sweet drinks.

Perceptions of Normality

At every point in history, people perceive the things they do as normal, including what they eat. Socially, we have evolved to fit in with what everybody does. In these modern times, we also align our behaviour to the images and messages with which the media constantly bombard us.

Some years ago, there was a successfulCornetto advertising campaign to convince people that sugar was an aid to dieting – “eat a biscuit before lunch or an ice cream”! It seems ridiculous to us now but people bought into it then. The current trend is fat avoidance which we’ll no doubt look back on with disbelief. The sad truth is that experts in marketing can change what we think so that we’ll change what we buy.

Bowl of cerealBreakfast cereal arrived in the UK in 1900 and gained popularity in 1930 but even as recently as the 1950s and 60s, breakfast would have been cooked eggs, fish or meat. Ready meals were limited to Vesta chicken supreme with boil in the bag rice which I recall with misery cooking on a primus stove while camping but would never have eaten at home. Takeaways meant fish and chips carried home wrapped in newspaper. Nowadays people think it’s normal to order by ‘phone and have any variety of fast food delivered to their door.

What’s really normal? For millions of years we were hunter gatherers eating only meat and low-glycemic index plants. Farming started around 10,000 years ago increasing consumption of grains. Intensive farming, processed food and chemical additives burgeoned after WWII. This is the blink of an eye in human history. We have not evolved to the modern diet; our bodies still want natural meat, fish and veg.

Top tip: Eat real food – that’s what’s normal for humans.

Avoid Weight Gain this Christmas

Weight gain seems inevitable at this time of year but if you don’t want to start 2016 fat, tired and ill, how can you minimise the damage?steak salad

Eat as much natural, realS/W Ver: 85.83.E7P food as possible. Buy fresh meat, fish and vegetables and fill yourself with good home cooked meals. Bake your own Christmas cake (nice with a slice of Wensleydale and some almonds) and mince pies using butter and reducing the sugar content.  Make salad dressings, dips and healthy treats (ask me for my no-cook chocolate, seed and nut recipe). Doing a bit of something in the kitchen can be great fun if the family gets stuck in too.

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

My breakfast green smoothie prior to whizzing

The right breakfast can set you up for the day. Include some protein and fat eg nutty muesli with natural yoghurt, poached egg on toast, home made porridge (not sachets/pots) with flaked almonds and cream or a low-sweetness smoothie (mine is based on avocado and coconut milk).

The worst choices are cereal, toast with jam, fruit juices/smoothies and chocolate which will have you on a blood-sugar roller-coaster for the rest of the day, and craving for more bad things.

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Water

Have a healthy snack before going out and drink plenty of water before and during parties. You’ll be less likely to drink too much alcohol or over-eat. Sugar and vegetable oil are in almost all processed ‘party’ food and will cause weight gain. Soft drinks are sugary and, surprisingly, “diet” drinks also increase weight.

NutsHide biscuits, chocolates, cake, crisps and alcohol in cupboards and leave bowls of nuts, veg sticks and dips in plain sight. Treat treats as treats. Enjoy them but don’t make a meal of them. If you try to abstain and you’re more likely to have a blow-out. Ditch the diet ‘on it, off it’ mentality and allow yourself to have a little. Accept that there will be naughty goodies everywhere you go; you will eat some, and so will I!

Top tip – Eat well and have a Merry Christmas

Vive La France

Did you know that French kids don’t get fat? They have the lowest levels of childhood obesity in the developed world and it’s the only place where it isn’t rising. Children aren’t educated about nutrition and taught to be anxious about food, they are taught the joy of food and learn to love it.

At 2013 July Brendas 6home, the family eats together so children develop a taste for real food, not fake ‘children’s food’. Kids don’t snack randomly but learn to wait. Parents don’t use food as bribes or rewards for good behaviour – it’s for pleasure and nourishment.

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The French rarely buy ready meals or takeaways. Instead, they spend more than we do on real food, revelling in copious amounts of butter, cheese and cream. They consistently have the highest levels of saturated fat intake in Europe and the lowest levels of heart disease. It’s termed the French Paradox; how do they get away with it? But actually there is no paradox. Research, including a review last year by Cambridge University of 72 studies, reveals an “absolute lack of evidence that consuming saturated fat leads to heart disease“. Yet the old school dietitians still cling to the notion and only last month, Nigella Lawson was vilified in the paper for using coconut oil in her new cookery book. But the French aren’t doing something mysterious to cheat the death that their diet deserves; their diet does them good. They look at the British eating processed sugar and oil and think we’re mad.

The French government helps too, with tough policies designed to prevent commercial interests damaging the health of its children. Tax on fizzy drinks (Jamie Oliver is campaigning to introduce the same here), health warnings on TV ads for snack foods, incentives for fruit and vegetable producers, no hormone treatment of animals, no vending machines in schools, water only to drink with the children’s 4-course, freshly-prepared school lunches for which they have a 2 hour break! Sounds good to me.


Top tip: Like the French, learn to love real food.

(I wrote this month’s piece a few weeks ago and decided to post it as intended in spite of the recent terrible events.  It seems appropriate to celebrate the French at this time.)

Food on TV

Perhaps it’s because of my professional interest, perhaps it’s because I love food, but I tend to notice the things (good and bad) that people eat on TV. I’m not thinking of cookery programmes which, curiously, I don’t watch. I’m thinking of people eating food incidental to the main theme. Take Gogglebox where families sit in front the TV scoffing biscuits, crisps and other processed, health-robbing snacks and drinks.

Then there’s The Big Bang Theory where an American guy with a brain the size of a planet tucks into takeaways most nights and whose standard order when eating out is a burger washed down with a famous fizzy beverage. He claims to know everything; doesn’t he realise how bad for him all this is?

My favourite in Inspector Montalbano. This Italian detective series is full of grand buildings, fast cars, beautiful scenery and fabulous food. We see the hero relishing dishes at restaurants, enjoying what his housekeeper makes and cooking for himself. He loves to eat and won’t hold a conversation when there’s food on the table. His eyes roll with frustration if the telephone rings when he’s just sat down. He totally celebrates the delights of good food.

Between the programmes come adverts. Of the edible products being promoted, I would advise against eating all but a tiny percentage. The pictures look wonderful – they know we eat with our eyes. To convince you of their natural goodness, they conveniently skip over the gulf between the healthy delicious dish you would enjoy if you made it yourself using fresh ingredients, and their finished product.

Dr Mercola has done a handy table of the characteristics of real food vs processed food products.  If you want to be shocked to your core by what happens to processed food, read Joanna Blythman’s Swallow This.

Top tip – eat like Montalbano

Dementia Fear

I am not a brave person; many things frighten me: IMAG0312injury – I was very fortunate to escape with only whiplash and bruises last year when someone drove across a junction and took the front off my car; cancer – of course; loss of mental faculties – for me the worst of all.

Currently in vogue, the carb heavy, low fat diet that has led to the obesity and diabetes epidemics has also been linked in new studies with Alzheimer’s (first referred to as type 3 diabetes in 2005).

"3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6" by Kubicki M., McCarley R.W., Westin C-F., Park H-J., Maier S.E., Kikinis R., Jolesz F.A., Shenton M.E. A review of diffusion tensor imaging studies in schizophrenia. J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Jan-Feb;41(1-2):15-30. PMID: 16023676. PMCID: PMC2768134.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg#/media/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg

“3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6” by Kubicki M., McCarley R.W., Westin C-F., Park H-J., Maier S.E., Kikinis R., Jolesz F.A., Shenton M.E. A review of diffusion tensor imaging studies in schizophrenia. J Psychiatr Res. 2007 Jan-Feb;41(1-2):15-30. PMID: 16023676. PMCID: PMC2768134.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg#/media/File:3DSlicer-KubickiJPR2007-fig6.jpg

What to do? Minimise sugar and cut down on processed grains. Eat some plant food at each meal. Vegetables are good carbs giving you vitamins, minerals and fibre; their antioxidants protect your brain. Berries contain antioxidants too plus other beneficial phytonutrients.  Celery, peppers and carrots contain luteolin which may calm inflammation in your brain.

FishYour brain is mostly made of fat so get plenty of omega 3s (eg from oily fish, chia seed or walnuts) and keep down your Nutsintake of damaged omega 6 (eg processed vegetable oil). Eat butter, olive oil, coconut oil and foods like nuts and avocados.

The spice turmeric contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Curcumin has been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells. For the B vitamin choline, eat eggs, meat, broccoliEggs and cauliflower. Choline may boost brain power and slow age-related memory loss. Red meat is an excellent source of vitamin B12 which is vital for brain function. When you’re short of B12, your brain actually gets smaller.

IMAG0057Other ways to keep your mental sharpness: physical exercise, standing up regularly to break continuous sitting, mindfulness, knitting, word or number puzzles, learning a language, making music, a stimulating career, social interaction.

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Top tip – eat well for the sake of your brain

 

Quote of the Month

Time is a created thing.

To say, ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’

Lao Tzu

freephotosbank

freephotosbank

One of the reasons that people give for eating processed food products instead of making real food from fresh is the time that it takes.  Keep an eye of the adverts you watch and you’ll find that a theme running through many of them is that you don’t have time for anything and the thing they’re selling will solve that problem.  We’ve swallowed the myth that we don’t have time to feed ourselves well.  Set yourself free from that.  You can always make time for what’s important to you.

Quote of the month

What good fortune for men in power that people do not think.

Adolf Hitler

The ‘men in power’ these days include those who profit from the processed food industry.  Joanna Blythman has been undercover in the food industry to find out how true this is.  If we really knew what was in all the artificial food we’re eating and the damage it is doing to our health, we’d stop and go back to cooking from scratch.