Saturday, 6 April 2013

You are what you Eat

Throughout Human history starvation was always a constant threat. Now a new threat looms, the threat of obesity. People are getting fatter. Starting in the US this has now spread to become a worldwide phenomenon spreading to developing countries that have recently increased their citizens freedom. China, where millions once died from starvation due to the "wisdom" of past Socialist planners, now have the problem of expanding waistlines. Recently the UK Labour party detailed a Nanny State policy of controlling how foods are constituted in an attempt to control fat, sugar, salt and so forth. The last thing we need is more Government when they were one of the reasons we all got fat in the first place.

So how did this come about. This three part series details many factors that transpired to help make us fat.

Recently there has been a fightback by predominately libertarian minded individuals who were sceptical of what Government agencies told us to eat through their notorious food pyramid many of us would be familiar with. One such individual, Mark Sisson, is advocating that we retrace our routes to a more "primal" form of living. A lifestyle where people can reclaim their health by empowering individuals to think outside of what our overlords "the statists" tell us. There's no catch. No Ponzi scheme. This weight loss scheme is for real and the information is all freely available for anyone to implement. 

The site he runs is Primal Blueprint. A former triathlon runner, his website is full of useful information on diet and fitness. Being a former tri-athlete you would probably think there would be lots of high cardio exercise; on the contrary, its the complete opposite in fact he recommends against intense cardio as he's felt far better since he stopped. The basics behind the Blueprint are:

  • Natural Fats are your friend (Olive Oil, Avocados, Meat Fat etc). Avoid man made fats.
  • Avoid Wheat and processed starch (Bread, Pasta, Rice etc)
  • Limit Carbohydrates to natural sources, non processed food groups.
  • Have lots of Vegetables 
  • Limit Fruit intake, due to high sugar content in our modern fruit
  • Avoid anything pre-packaged
  • For Exercise - Walking is the backbone, accompanied by the occasional sprint and lifting heavy things. No Gym membership required.
Weren't we told that Fats are bad? I thought whole wheat was good? Limit Fruit? No running on a treadmill for hours on end? It completely goes against conventional wisdom. Best of all you don't need to be a nutritional expert to understand it all, you can simply just try it and see the results.

Government and their relevant agencies have been misinforming people on nutrition for decades. Do we need the state enforcing what we should eat? After all they are the very ones who told us to eat wheat. They told us to go to the Gym. They were the ones who advocated the modern low fat craze, that has incidentally got us all fatter.

Fat became the enemy, however in reality it has been humanities friend throughout history. This came about because sugar and more recently high fructose corn syrup were too profitable for big companies so they looked for another scapegoat to blame for health risks, choosing fat. The problem with declaring a war and banishing fat is taste; specifically when you remove fat from food it tastes like cardboard and no one would want to eat it. In order to sell the food the companies turned to sugar and artificial sweeteners (which are incidentally just as bad as sugar). When you buy any low fat food you are getting high doses of carbohydrates in the form of sugars (artificial sweeteners may have zero calories but instead mess with your bodies chemical signals and trigger further hunger cravings).

Humans crave three tastes,
  • Sweet
  • Fat
  • Salt
Mother nature gave us such a pallet in order to survive. Too much salt, as we have become accustomed to in processed food, is a bad thing however humans do need salt to live. We like fat as this is what we use for fuel (historically it was not carbohydrates) and our cells are composed of fats. The human body also needs sweet foods, in moderation and in a non processed form. Understanding this you can see why fast food is fatty, sweet and salty - they go for the whole taste pallet to get you hooked.

Many people are now questioning conventional wisdom. Why should I need to do endless pointless exercise to maintain a healthy weight? Is a Calorie a Calorie or should it be nutritional value we worry about? Why do we count calories? We don't count how many breaths we take or how often we go to the toilet. Our body just regulates these functions on its own. 

All Calories are not created equal. If two people were to live on a diets of 2000 calories a day, with one eating fresh vegetables and meats, the other just drinking Fizzy Drinks who would have the healthier diet? Calorie counting is flawed as it neglects what good food to eat and that everyone is different. Programs like Weight Watchers are generally wrong as they still try and let you believe you can eat the processed foods you want by just starving yourself and trying to suppress your bodies chemical signals. Sure you can loose weight by constantly starving yourself but its no fun and it doesn't do you any good. Many people just relapse back to bad ways and put the weight back on as they can't fight their bodies natural chemical signals. Even for the few who succeed life's too short to be miserable and constantly hungry.

If you eat the correct food your body will tell you when your full and when you need to eat. You don't need to go on some starvation plan or eat food that tastes like cardboard. Your tastes adjust. Vegetables no longer taste bland and you begin to experience the sweetness of tomatoes and peppers. You enjoy natural fats such as cream, natural oils, avocados, nuts,  fatty meats such as bacon, full fat cheese and yogurt. They keep you full and your bodies chemical signals in a correct state.

Historically we moved away from what we were genetically setup to eat caused by a number of factors that all compounded with one another. Governments, Regulators, the Food Industry, abundance, Nationalised Healthcare and most importantly us. We all eat the junk food that was been sold to us, yet all the time the correct food was always there available to us to eat. However Junk food is not as bad as you think. I highly recommend the Film FatHead.

What constitutes healthy foods are however a matter of opinion. There are some who don't eat meat. Others don't eat meat or dairy products. Others who only eat grass fed meat or free range chickens. Others don't drink tap water because they believe it to be harmful. It's all a personal opinion and can vary from individual. 

My view? To engage with the majority you can't go on some vegan rant about the dangers of tap water giving you cancer. With a message like this you will never connect with the majority. My own diet includes non grass fed meat, dairy and non organic produce and personally I feel great. I think meat is too nutrient dense to ignore and there is debate that humans do actually need it. Dairy such as butter and full fat cream tastes great on any meal and I include it as part of my diet. I have a price point so don't go organic. The key point is avoiding processed foods and eating lots of vegetables  This I believe would resonate most with people as it's not too restrictive and many could stomach such changes. That's why I like the Primal Blueprint, there's less fixed rules and more of an emphasis to eat real food.

Contrary to belief, it is very cheap to eat real foods. A 1kg of onions for 50p, a 1.5Kg of Carrots for 90p, 0.5kg Spinach for £2. Rather than pay full price for meats look out for discounts and freeze them for later consumption. What about Offal? In the past I would have turned my nose up at it, but I now think it tastes great and at only a fraction of the cost of meat yet still contains huge amounts of nutrition. 400g of livers for only 25p - if you wait for the discounts. These are just some example prices that I pay no doubt you could do better. Worried about cooking time? Don't, you will no longer need to go to the gym or run endlessly on a treadmill - lets face it who wants to do that for fun? People will blame fast food for being too cheap as a cause of their weigh issues, I'd argue real food is cheaper as illustrated above. There simply is no excuse, nutritious meals can cost pennies if you are shrewd.

Ultimately its how people want to live. If people want to eat junk food then they should be free to do so. If they like Coke then they should be allowed to drink as much as they want or can afford, with no Government tax (however this will no doubt come into force at some point). If the abundance of food was really an issue then why are the majority of millionaires not stupendously obese? In reality they generally live healthier lives than the rest of us, despite having the income to eat endlessly day and night. I enjoy occasionally eating out, takeaways, junk food, desserts (scones, clotted cream and jam are a favourite) - just not all the time. That's my choice.

Your choice is also what you want to do. Want to loose a little weight? Want to feel less depressed or less sluggish?  Give real foods a try. Its the ultimate liberation to know you will never have to worry about your weight. You won't regret it. Your personal health is the best investment you can make.


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