There are lots of tempting Easter themed products in the shops now – well some appeared not long after Christmas! Most of them are designed to give a fun, spring-like mood with lots of flowers, chicks and bunnies. Easter eggs come in every size from teeny-tiny to humongous. I notice that the egg-sized ones now come by the half dozen in egg boxes – what a clever way to make you buy more. Most are hollow, some with other chocolates inside, some have creamy, sugary fillings and some of the smallest ones are solid with a sugar shell.
Whilst I find it sad that a joyous Christian festival has become an excuse to sell us heaps of sugary stuff, you can enjoy a healthier Easter without saying no to all Easter eggs or chocolate. Instead, aim for quality.
It’s certainly true that cheap, high-sugar, chemical-laden chocolate, consumed in large quantities, is going to damage your health. White chocolate isn’t actually chocolate at all. Dark chocolate (>70%) is best. It’s got a lower sugar content than milk chocolate and is good for you in moderation (check out my December article).
What about buying some chocolate egg moulds so you can have a go at making your own Easter eggs? Here are my efforts; I’m sure you could do better!
Another fun activity with the kids is dying boiled, hens’ eggs. Use onion skins or dandelion flowers, put them round an egg, wrap in a piece of cloth, tie with string and boil for 10 minutes. You‘ll get beautiful effects and you can eat the highly nutritious egg.
Top tip: Go easy on the chocolate eggs. Happy Easter.
The very inconvenient truth that nobody wants to talk about is that to resolve the obesity crisis, we need to eat less food. And we need to particularly eat less unhealthy food which generally comes in a packet and has a logo on it and is generally owned by a very large multinational corporation.
In a dramatic change of direction, ex-advertising executive (promoting the likes of Coca Cola and McDonalds), Dan is a founder and Chief Executive of Living Loud which aims to help people live longer, healthier and happier lives by overcoming, preventing and managing lifestyle illness. Here’s a piece he wrote comparing the food industry to tobacco and a great article about snacking.
For World Diabetes Day – not a day to celebrate
Western medicine will one day admit what has been known in the Orient for years. Sugar is the greatest evil that modern industrial civilization has visited upon the countries of the Far East and Africa.
The taste of sweetness, whereof a little more than a little is by much too much.
Henry IV, Part I
It’s World Obesity Day today.
If diets worked there would be really one diet, everybody would go on it, lose weight and that would be the end of it.
But 95% of diets don’t work (other than short-term). So what’s the answer? Don’t diet, learn to eat well.
Real, fresh food is the solution.
World Obesity Day
Action on Sugar
In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.
Ian Leslie in The Guardian
On the diet-heart hypothesis and the sugar conspiracy
Statistics say that by now 59% of you will have failed to keep your New Year Resolutions. Well done to the 41% who are succeeding!
Common resolutions were to eat more healthily (22%), drink less alcohol (17%) and learn new things (12%). Losing weight came in at only 9%. Curious then that 48% of the population went on a diet.
The media were overflowing with diet ideas during January. Weight loss related TV programmes filled the evenings; everything from paleo, to 5/2 intermittent fasting to sleeping longer. Leaving aside their quirkier features (like drinking lots of champagne), diets that cut out nutrition left the volunteers feeling terrible. The plans that worked best cut out processed food and drink. I loved an idea one of the participants had – when she saw cakes or sweet things, she pretended they were just cardboard displays so she couldn’t eat them!
Most standard diets work by counting calories (or equivalent points). The deprivation usually gives some quick weight loss but also causes an increase in the production of hunger hormones. So what’s the chance of long-term success? 5%. 95% failure is not a good return on your misery. Don’t blame yourself; regaining weight is a natural famine-recovery response, caused by the diet.
My favourite show was ITV’s Sugar Free Farm. There, away from the temptations of the modern world, a group of celebrities ate fresh-cooked, organic, free-range food (plenty of it) but no sugar. They worked each day in the fresh air. Most of them lost weight, 3 of them around a stone in 15 days. Best of all, they felt fabulous. So for healthy weight loss, ditch sugar, cook your own meals from fresh ingredients and let your excess weight melt away.
Top tip – Don’t be a failure statistic, learn to eat well.
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.
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.
Advertisers have dispensed with the idea of promoting a product’s attributes in favour of marketing the product’s image. This image is conceived by marketing psychologists quite independently of the product itself, and usually has more to do with a target market than the item being sold.
The result of this is that sweets and fizzy drinks are sold as fun for kids and adults. Even though we know they’ll rot our teeth, make us fat and wreck our health, we still keep buying them, eating them – and even giving them to those we love. Tragic but admittedly clever.
As one of my Eat Well Gang said,
“I suppose the Victorians had opium dens
– we have McDonalds and CocaCola.”
I’d like to add Haribo, Maoam, Rowntree’s etc to that.
While talking about breakfast cereals aimed at children, Dr Christiane Northrup said,
“Think of these massive doses of sugar as no different to drugs and alcohol. Premature death is coming from alcohol and sugar.”
Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) results in hunger, shakiness, weakness, dizziness, irritability and depression. I should know; for years I suffered on a daily basis. The cause – too much sugar. High blood sugar stimulated my body to produce insulin, which took the sugar back out of my blood (and made me fat). I didn’t understand the problem so I tried to control my symptoms with regular biscuits, bananas and chocolate. It was a disaster. At archery competitions, I ate sugar even more frequently. I just got headaches and felt awful.
My first inkling of the cause
Cereal – a poor choice for breakfast
was at work. Biscuits were provided in meetings; if I ate one I got hungry but if I abstained I was OK. My second clue came when dieting to lose the weight I’d gained eating so many biscuits; I was less hungry eating a little cereal for breakfast than a lot. Also I noticed the low-fat yoghurts I bought weren’t satisfying, they just increased my appetite. Now I know it’s because of the sugar they put in low-fat products to make them palateable.
Sugar has a toxic effect on the body and causes myriad health problems besides hypoglycemia. For centuries doctors have cured their patients of many ailments by replacing sugar with quality vegetable and whole grain carbohydrates and for centuries consumption has increased sweeping aside all resistance. In the 11th Century, brewers caught adding sugar to beer were dragged through the City of Chester in a cart with the overnight refuse of the privies. In the early 1900s, America had laws against “substances injurious to health” (like sugar) being added to food. Manufacturers (including Coca-Cola) opposed this, got the government on side and the health of the whole nation deteriorated as a result of the adulterated products that are now their main food. In the 1950s, Dr Gyland wrote papers to warn and help others but couldn’t get them published. In Britain, Professor John Yudkin tried to fight Ancel Keys and his lipid hypothesis having found a stronger corrolation between sugar and heart disease than there is with fat – he was sqashed. Even Keys himself couldn’t get published a paper he wrote late in his life against the direction nutritional advice has taken. Little has changed. Those reaping the profits still don’t want you to know the truth – sugar wrecks your health.
Top Tip – Stop eating sugar
NB Diabetics will need to balance their medication with their sugar intake.
To learn more about the sorry history of sugar in our food, read Sugar Blues by William Dufty and Pure, White and Deadly by John Yudkin. Here’s a Daily Telegraph artcle on the latter; we still have the same sugar-industry-led problem today.
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 won‘t 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.
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).
Eating a couple of pieces of whole fruit a day is fine.
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 (the lbs refer to the weight gain from drinking one daily for a year).
Top tip: Drink water instead of sweet drinks.