February Blog 2010


By Clive Lindley-Jones | February 12, 2010 8:56 am

Last month, we started our Feast or Famine season looking at how we eat and move and how this is starting to make so many of us sick and die before our time. This is a great paradox, for it is only recently that most people in the developed world have had enough to eat, and still so many people around the world go to bed hungry.

Quite suddenly, in the last fifty years, food has started to change more than at any time in the last 10,000 years. We are flooded with seeming choice and abundance, with cheap food at every corner on any given city street. Supermarkets, those wonders of human organisation, can carry up to 47,000 different product lines. We are being offered an unimaginable array of options that, at first glance, would seem to be an unalloyed benefit. Only on closer examination do we start to glean that all is not as it seems. Even our vocabulary has changed.

What do you think if I say the word cereal? Probably, unless you are over 75, you immediately think of a strange spun mixture of grain, coated with sugar and salt with a few of its lost vitamins added back to ‘fortify’ it, all wrapped up in a highly coloured box, which purports to be a healthy or fun option and to be linked to some sports person or comic book character. It might even be that for some of these products, the overall   nutritional benefit might lie more in the box than the contents. At least, the box, admittedly less palatable, might not be so damaging to our health!   But what happened to the idea that cereal was a grass-like crop that we might eat simply by cooking it?

Surely the change in the roles and status of women in our society must rank amongst the very best of changes of the twentieth century.  However, all change carries with it both the good aspired to and the unforeseen consequences of change. From one of the best and most important sociological changes is coming another that we need to adapt to and learn to handle. With the liberation of women from domestic servitude came a greater demand to shift the drudgery of kitchen work from small to large scale. This, along with the industrialisation of agriculture and food production, has caused this epic shift in our food manufacturing and eating habits. Old patterns of work sharing have changed. Time has speeded up.  It is wonderful to be able to open a packet of flaky pasty and quickly make a pie. But along with these great advantages have come some subtle but serious downsides. (See this month’s Film of the month.)

Food now has become a cause for concern and endless obsession. Advertisers play with our desire to connect to nature at the same time as more and more of us are more distant and alienated to our food sources. Instead of  a struggle to get enough,  over 1/3 of us are struggling with the dangers of too much, as I discussed last month when writing about metabolic syndrome and apple and pear shaped bodies.

A new study published this week in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine shows how childhood obesity and glucose intolerance are linked with premature death.The 24 year study showed how obesity, glucose intolerance, and hypertension in childhood are strongly linked with premature death from endogenous causes in young adulthood and middle age. Elevated cholesterol levels, on the other hand, were not associated with early mortality, although investigators caution against concluding that hypercholesterolemia in childhood is not harmful. “The linking factor here is almost certainly the obesity,” said lead investigator Dr Paul Franks from Umeå University Hospital, Sweden.

One growing understanding of the mechanism of how we are, most of us, getting fatter is the growing understanding of the glycemic index or GI. It is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. The concept was developed by Dr. David J. Jenkins and colleagues[1] in 1980-1981 at the University of Toronto in their research to find out which foods were best for people with diabetes.

Even better is the more nuanced and useful glycemic load (GL) which is a ranking system for carbohydrate content in food portions based on their glycemic index (GI) and the portion size.  The usefulness of glycemic load is based on the idea that a high glycemic index food consumed in small quantities would give the same effect as larger quantities of a low glycemic index food on blood sugar. Glycemic Load is the product of the Glycemic Index and the grams of carbohydrate (GL=GI*Carb grams).

Understanding the role and nature of these foods can help us select the right kinds of balance in our food choices, naturally controlling our potion sizes and contents of those portions by filling half our plate with vegetables and one quarter with healthy sources of protein and the last quarter with healthy forms of low GL, natural, whole, carbohydrates.

While it is true that diets make you fat in the long run, because too often we go for rapid weight loss with unsustainable and unhealthy choices and soon put it all back on. Even worse, we can sometimes end up with a poorer body composition than we started with. So learning to understand the effect of our GL choices can guide us to a more balanced means of designing a long term way of eating that will ensure our healthily body composition into old age, as I was discussing last month.

Actually, while the mechanics of portion size and GL etc are all important, when deciding to get healthy; there are other, far more important factors at play.
We need to know how to plan and cook healthy food, (I know people who think that soup, has to come out of a tin, and have never learnt to cook simple, economical soups from scratch), and when changing our eating habits towards sustainable, healthy, long term choices there are many things we can learn. What are those far more important things we need to change? The beliefs that we hold! We shape our entire life by what we believe to be possible and right for us. If we do not change our beliefs around ourselves, everything else will be in vain.

If you would like some help in shifting some stubborn and disempowering beliefs, or you just need some help in designing a better way of eating that  will naturally lead, in time, to a life long healthy body composition,  do what many others have done and ring up our office on 01865 243351 and ask to be e-mailed our Belief Change Coaching Sheet, or better still, come and see us for some personal in depth coaching to change those beliefs and/or organises your eating for a healthier life and may be  install some better beliefs along the way, that can allow you to go where, perhaps you used not to believe was your birthright.