Over the past year I must have read dozens of articles in the national press, online and in magazines, debating whether obesity levels are rising because we eat too much carbohydrate (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, sugar etc) and wondering whether the long-held UK government recommendation (and also that of Diabetes UK) that a healthy plateful consists of around 50% carbs, with some protein and a tad of fat, is actually quite wrong.
The latest, covering two very po-faced pages in The Times earlier this week, meanders through the debate once again, talking about ketosis, toxic sugar, the role of insulin in the body - ad nauseam, yawn, yawn - quoting various boffins for both sides of the argument but finally reaching no definite conclusion.
And as usual, my hackles began to rise before I was halfway through. Why does every single journalist, author and expert seem to miss the point about all this?
All we need to do is look back to the 1940s and early 50s in the UK, when food was hard to come by and many goods such as meat, cheese, eggs and sugar were rationed. People survived on a fairly high-carb diet of vegetables (including the starchy ones like potatoes), wholegrains, home cooking with basic ingredients and bread they made themselves - a treat was a slice of toast laden with dripping or home-made jam or an omelette made with eggs donated by a hen-keeping neighbour. Few families had one car, let alone two, people cycled or walked to work, dug the veg patch and scrubbed the washing. Fast food was a non-existent phrase and the multinational food companies and supermarkets were yet to begin their assault on our purses and our waistlines.
The average person was slim. Obesity was almost unheard of and as a nation we were as healthy as we've ever been.
My conclusion - carbs in themselves can't be the 'baddies'. We stayed thin on a high proportion of carbs in the diet during those times. No - the problem is the sheer amount of calories many of us eat, whether they be endlessly high-calorie platefuls of nutritionally bereft simple carbs such as pizza, sponge, muffins and pastries, or frequent fatty takeouts and oversized snacks - or all of these. All the while, taking minimal exercise.
Unless we can get back to a more natural, whole and simple way of eating, learn to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full, and think of ways to persuade ourselves to move rather than sit at the computer, we'll carry on getting fatter and fatter. Whether we eat mostly fat or mostly carbs is completely beside the point.
Ate last night: Cubed shoulder of pork cooked with onions, garlic, cumin, raisins, red wine and a few other bits and bobs for three hours on low. Spanish sort of recipe, based on one I found by Rick Stein. Delicious. Served it with sliced cabbage and a tad of mashed potato.
PS My weight - more or less back to pre-holiday level now thanks to masses of gardening and avoidance of anything but three meals a day.
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