When even Healthy isn’t Healthy!

Food is not something we can exist without (well not for very long anyway) so is it really any wonder that so many of us have such a complex relationship with it? What’s your relationship with food? I’d really love it if you’d share your thoughts with me….

How do you feel about what you eat? Is your relationship with food unhealthy? Do you find that you have emotions attached to food? If so, it’s not really surprising as we are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us what we should eat, when, how much, what’s bad, what’s good……it really is completely non-stop (and I’ve just realised that I add to the mountain of information with my blog – oops!)

distorted body imageWe are all aware of conditions such as Anorexia and Bulimia which stem from distorted body image and can lead to serious health problems and even death. We have seen people become morbidly obese, eating themselves into ill health and an early grave.  There are reports in the news every day which tell us that certain foods cause cancer and heart disease, that our BMI should be a certain number and that our food choices will ultimately determine how well and how long we live. However, some nutritionists now believe that some of us could be at risk from a newly discovered eating disorder. Orthorexia is an obsession with ‘pure’ or ‘clean’ food which can lead people to cut out entire food groups, thereby depriving themselves of some essential vitamins and nutrients.

Come on inner peaceI read this article and thought ‘oh bloody hell that could be me!!’. Anyone who reads the stuff that I write knows that I have a deep interest in nutrition and a love of exercise but this article made me wonder if I do wonder sometimes if I over do it. When I have a rest day I’ll often feel restless because I’m very active 6 days out of 7; I know that my body needs to rest but my mind often requires a lot of mediation to get with the programme. I very rarely eat processed foods or refined sugars, I think about food additives and calories and make my food choices according to:

  1. How they will help me exercise and workout in the gym
  2. Whether, if I over indulge, they’ll make me fat.
  • Healthy foodsThat said, I’m not a big foodie, so I don’t feel as though I am missing out by choosing to eat those foods that we deem as being healthy – vegetables, fruits, lean meat, nuts, berries and fish. I actually like the taste of vegetables, especially green vegetables but I never used to; it was only when I started training seriously, in my twenties, that I began to understand the effect that food could have on my body. For that reason I wonder if I have just made the mental connection between doing what I enjoy (working out and exercise) and the foods that make it easier. Over the last 20 odd years I’ve experimented with food and I eat what best serves my purpose; cakes, candy, junk food, lots of bread and pasta and processed foods don’t so I don’t eat them. I’m not sure if this means that my relationship with food is unhealthy or not; I’m slim and pretty fit but I don’t get a great deal of pleasure from food as, for me, it’s a means to an end. I like to work out and I like my clothes to fit so what’s the problem? Food is not something we can exist without (well not for very long anyway) so is it really any wonder that so many of us have such a complex relationship with it?

What’s your relationship with food? I’d really love it if you’d share your thoughts with me as, even after all these years, I still find it a fascinating subject :O) x

Debunking Diets (Part 2)

The bread here tends to be of the baguette variety and not the sliced white kind which means that it’s not chock full of additives and preservatives. If you buy a baguette here you have to eat it on the same day because the following day it will be so hard that you could beat someone to death with it! 

This is part 2 of my post looking into some of the diets that are out there – what do they involve and, more importantly, are they going to work! The diet industry is absolutely huge with millions of $$$$ being spent every year as people search for the magic formula that will take them from fat to thin as quickly and as easily as possible:

The 5:2 Diet claims that you can lose 2 stone in 12 weeks by eating a ‘Mediterranean’ diet 5 days a week and just one quarter of your normal calorie intake on the other 2 days. capreseThe ‘Mediterranean’ aspect of the plan is to cut back on bread and cakes and to include more fats, from oily fish and olive oil, and use fresh vegetables and fruit. Apparently during the 5 days a week you are encouraged to eat ‘normally’. As, during the other 2 days your calorie intake should be around 600-800 (25% of your typical intake) we can assume that ‘normal’ will be between 2400 and 3200 calories per day.

The plan suggests that the 600-800 calories should be ingested in the course of up to 3 meals a day. Obviously this includes everything you eat but also everything that you drink as well so it will need a lot of careful planning to keep within these levels.

The fitness regime that’s recommended to go with the eating plan is short bursts of high intensity interval training (up to 20 minutes) three times a week with strength training on two other days to help build muscle and burn fat faster.

Verdict: I live on the Cote D’Azur i.e. the Mediterranean and I can tell you that the people here eat a lot of bread and also their fair share of cakes! Pasta and pizza are also very popular so why aren’t they all desperately overweight and turning to this kind of diet plan?

  1. They eat very little in the way of processed foods, meals are cooked from scratch using fresh and natural ingredients.
  2. BaguetteThe bread here tends to be of the baguette variety and not the sliced white kind which means that it’s not chock full of additives and preservatives. If you buy a baguette here you have to eat it on the same day because the following day it will be so hard that you could beat someone to death with it!
  3. The weather here tends to be very good with around 300 days of sunshine a year so people spend an awful lot of time outside, walking, swimming or playing sports
  4. Although cakes are very popular, they’re not eaten to excess for the most part and, again, they are freshly made without additives and preservatives.

All of that said, the eating plan that is proposed with this diet IS very healthy and, as you will be cutting your weekly calorie intake and cutting out processed and junk food I’ve no doubt that you will lose weight. However, what I cannot for the life of me understand, is why you wouldn’t just cut the number of calories that you eat each day to give yourself the same weekly total rather than carrying on as normal for 5 days and then drastically reducing intake for the other 2. I understand the principals of fasting and it can be very beneficial in terms of overall health but, in order to maintain the weight loss, participants will need to continue eating in this way long term. Cheating on a dietAs you are effectively, ‘depriving’ yourself 2 days a week I wonder what affect this will have psychologically on people who are fasting purely to lose weight. If you come to dread the fasting days and see them as something to be endured rather than something beneficial then I would expect the tendency to be to ‘cheat’ on the fasting days or to overeat on the other 5. Although the testimonials for the plan were good, the fasting days were also described as ‘hard’ which, for me, never bodes well. Healthy eating should be a pleasure and not a torment.

When all is said and done, what this programme advocates is eating less crap, more fresh fruit and veg, cutting down on calories and exercising more so not really what you’d call ground breaking.

 

Unhealthily Fashionable?

All of this really goes to show that what what we perceive as being healthy may not necessarily be so and, frankly, any processed foods (including most sliced bread that you find in supermarkets) will never be as healthy as those that Mother Nature provides for us!

How do products that were introduced to help people who suffer from medical conditions become ‘fashionable’? A good example is gluten free food which was initially marketed to people who have Celiac disease (or wheat intolerance) but now seem to have found their way into the mainstream. For some reason, people seem to have got it into their heads that gluten free = healthier; is that really the case?

Gluten free breadIf you have ever tried gluten free bread, you will know that it lasts forever without going off (when I say forever that’s a slight exaggeration but it will be at least a week). It does then beg the question – what’s in it to keep it fresh for so long? Well, here’s the ingredients list for one of the most popular:

Water, Tapioca Starch, Brown Rice Flour, Canola Oil, Potato Starch, Egg Whites, Dried Cane SyrupTapioca MaltodextrinTapioca SyrupModified Food StarchYeast, Gum (Xanthan Gum, Sodium Alginate, Guar Gum), Salt,Locust Bean Gum, Cultured Brown Rice, Brown Rice and Enzymes.

Modified_food_starchYou will see that there are 3 different types of starch: tapioca, potato and the mysteriously named ‘modified food’ starch. These are all used as thickening agents in the bread making process and whilst the first two, tapioca and potato, are words that are familiar to us ‘modified’ is not so clear – what is it that’s been modified and, more importantly, why? In the case of gluten free bread, the food that has been modified is unlikely to be wheat but could be corn or rice. These natural ingredients are then mucked about with in any number of different ways from roasting them, to adding a positive electrical charge or treating them with either potassium or sodium hydroxide…..sounds appetizing?

From starches, we move on to sugars in the form of dried cane syrup, tapioca maltodextrin and tapioca syrup. All of these ingredients have next to no nutritional benefit but are all high glycemic refined sugars which will cause your blood sugar to spike. They will give you a quick burst of energy which will wear off very quickly and leave you craving more.

Canola OIlMoving on, canola oil is our next ingredient; don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is something similar to olive oil or rapeseed oil, it isn’t. It’s very cheaply produced which is presumably why it’s popular with food manufacturers and it’s also genetically modified. Added to that it is also often a refined oil which means that it is partially hydrogenated and therefore contains trans fats which are well known to have a very negative effect on heart health.

The last unfamiliar ingredients (at least unfamiliar if you make bread at home) will be the various types of gum which are used. These are not considered to be harmful and are used as thickening agents and stabilizers; they are created by fermenting sugars with a specific bacteria. That said, they can in no way be considered natural ingredients.

All of this really goes to show that what what we perceive as being healthy may not necessarily be so and, frankly, any processed foods (including most sliced bread that you find in supermarkets) will never be as healthy as those that Mother Nature provides for us! Aside from all that, if you don’t have Celiac disease but eat gluten free product anyway you will be limiting your consumption of whole grains which have been proven to help with heart health.

wholewheat breadFor comparison, this is the list of basic ingredients that you will need if you make bread at home from scratch:

  1. 1 kg strong bread flour.
  2. 625 ml tepid water.
  3. X3 7 g sachets of dried yeast , or 30g fresh yeast.
  4. 2 tablespoons sugar.
  5. 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt.
  6. flour , for dusting.

As you can see there is something of a difference between the two lists of ingredients, in fact, one bears no resemblance at all to the other!