As a heavily overweight person, I have an active interest in articles and opinions about obesity.
But, for the average person, in fact, probably for the trained person too, trying to work out what you should be doing to either lose weight or stay slim, is a complete fiasco.
The problem is that both politicians and some scientists are as prone to jump on a bandwagon as journalists and celebrities, and lucrative publishing deals make the problem worse.
So, what is the REAL science behind being fat like me?
The trouble is, there seems to be no one who is prepared to give a single answer; contradiction is the soup of the day and we are all drowning in it.
As a lay person who has personal experience of both gain and loss I would like to state two controversial ideas:
1. ALL diets work
2. ALL food can make you fat
Please note, I am not talking about being healthy here, just fat or thin.
Sometimes medical science forgets its origins. The human being is a storage device - it stores fuel which it needs to work. So, what I have discovered is really much more in the camp of the physicist:
Energy in minus Energy out = fat or thin
Now, I fully appreciate that the process of what actually occurs behind that fatuous statement is overwhelmingly complicated, but I have no wish to go and do 5 years at college just to lose weight. So I will stick to being dramatically over simplistic.
But in keeping it simple, a little truth pops up - if you eat too much QUANTITY, then your body will store more than is uses.
Now, that has some problems - different foods contain different amounts of energy and just looking at quantity is somewhat misleading. But, you know, as a rule of thumb it works.
I have tried lots of different diets with different balances of fats, carbs, proteins, water, you name it. And, if I stuck to them, they all worked.
Because at the end of the day, ALL of them made you reduce the QUANTITY you ate.
Currently, I am on a new diet. It is called the "to hell with diet books, I will just eat less and avoid too many sugary foods."
So, I don't eat breakfast, I have a sarnie at lunchtime (ham, chutney and tomato or something?) and then in the evening I have a normal main meal, though I try to eat little or no potato, pasta or rice. I might throw in a slice of homemade bread. I am eating curry, stews, fried stuff, all kinds of things. I don't stick rigidly to anything except one very important rule:
I EAT LESS!
And guess what? I have lost nearly 10 kilos in the last seven or eight weeks.
Okay, so on that basis, what about junk food?
Well, a Big Mac, no chips, is about 650 calories. Okay?
If I ate TWO per day, that would be around 1300 calories. (disgusting prospect, but some people like them)
If that was all that I ate, would I get fat?
No. Not sure I would be wonderfully healthy, but I would be okay and I would even lose weight.
The problem with junk food, you see, is not that it is some sneaky, fat producing machine, but that we eat it in ADDITION to our normal diet. If you ate junk food just as your main meal, unless you ate stupid amounts, it would not be a major issue. But if you have your normal dinner, then pop out for the evening and stuff a Big Mac into your face on the way home, then you are heading for problems.
Worse for a kebab (even a really decent one) and ram a big pasty in as a snack .... well, how idiotic can we be?
Well, very, apparently. Because we have decided that it is the EXISTENCE of junk food that is making everyone fat, rather than the pure quantity of what we eat.
Okay, leave junk food, what about eating at home?
We get that wrong too. Forget headlines about sugar and fats and whatever, but instead compare how MUCH we buy and eat (and waste) compared to 70 years ago.
I actually did not get fat on Junk food; I don't like it. I got fat on eating wonderful, healthy, beautifully cooked food. I am a seriously good cook. I got fat because I ate TOO MUCH!
The chicken that a supermarket sells you that will feed 4 people, fed 6 back in the 60s. In the sixties, our plates had large rims and our dinners sat in the middle bit. Now, our plates are bigger and we fill them to the edge.
Our food shop has gone up in price compared to then, which is mad. Because item for item, compared to salaries, most food is CHEAPER now. So why has our weekly shop gone up in price?
So, back to my question.
Are we looking at this entire subject the wrong way up? Are we being so obsessed with finding someone or something to blame and regulate against, that we are not looking at the blindingly obvious?
I believe we are.
The mediterranean diet is seen as healthy. But if you go out to the Med, there are plenty of fat, unhealthy people. Why? Because, those that eat sensible amounts are eating a wonderfully healthy diet. But those who eat three times as much as they should, are not three times as healthy! They are dying young of obesity.
So. Lets dump the politics and the books by doctors and achieve three things at the same time:
1. Reduce your weekly shopping bill
2. Reduce food waste
3. Reduce the amount we eat.
Is that really so politically difficult for governments and the book selling medics to get their heads around?