Judith Wills' diet and wellbeing blog: no kitchen, no dining, no wonder we're fat

Judith Wills / 07 February 2014

Now it is quite true that in order to lose weight – whatever you may hear to the contrary - restraint in eating habits is pretty much mandatory. So it may come as a surprise to new readers of this blog (longstanding ones will already know how I feel about food…) that I am terribly sad at the news that not only are dining rooms becoming extinct, but the latest news is that kitchens are on the same path too.

Apparently, according to author Julian Baggini* much fewer than half of us ever sit at a dining table to have a meal, and an estate agent survey** says that the size of kitchens in new homes is shrinking dramatically as most of us eat in the living room (while texting or playing computer games no doubt).

We no longer set any store by the traditions such as 'proper' mealtimes, family meals shared, leisurely chat to slow down mastication and digestion. We want meals and snacks when and where we want them, as we do something else. Fodder, largely to be scoffed with as little disruption as possible. And so it naturally – and sadly – follows that the kitchen is becoming redundant, fewer young people are learning to cook and a high percentage of us already rely on ready meals from the supermarket or takeaways. Yes even us over-50s.

And of course, that is why this lack of a kitchen or dining table isn't helping us to stay slim, but making us fat. Because that lack ensures we eat more fat, sugar and calorie-laden ready made junk masquerading as our new diet for life. And it makes us fatter. As that rather tedious BBC2 programme, Fat v Sugar, pointed out last week.

The thing is – food and eating is an essential part of life, to be savoured, enjoyed and lingered over. We should all make time – and space – for it. If we make sure our children and grandchildren can cook, can taste real food and enjoy shopping for ingredients, it will do much more to help them stay a reasonable weight than anything else bar encouraging them to enjoy the Great Outdoors. (When did you last see a child climb a tree, by the way?) Any supervised 10-year-old could cook the healthy recipe below, and would love it.

While I'm on the soapbox, I'm not surprised that a new study finds that when you tell an obese person that they have a disease, rather than a self-inflicted condition, they lose the incentive to try to lose weight and are actually likely to eat even more. So let's stop calling obesity a disease (which it obviously isn't – it just helps cause disease) and start – at Cabinet level – thinking of strategies that really will work to help evolve the Great British Lifestyle back into something that keeps us at a good weight naturally. Getting out of the bed they've been in for years with the food industry would be a start. If they don't, it won't be many years before there's 100% obesity in Copeland, Cumbria, rather than the currrent 75.9%. And everywhere else, too.

Meanwhile, I'm busy conquering that sweet tooth that overcame me late last year – I've been reading up on the subject and it seems it could be stress-related, more of which next week. The hula hooping has come to a temporary halt as I woke up the other day and my right hip and lower back were killing me, nearly as bad as four years ago when I fell off the wall. So bad I could only walk for two days bent over like an ant-spotting 110-year-old. So I've been rubbing in ibuprofen gel, wearing a heat pad, soaking in hot baths and doing my stretching exercises and I think, hope, it's getting a bit better, but I daren't go near the hoop just yet. Also, another blow, my old model C Concept rower's digital display has conked out so I'm pondering whether I can justify the £140 plus VAT expense of a replacement. I don't find gym-type equipment any fun if you can't see what you're doing on a display. I might get it for an early birthday present.

* The virtues of the table
** Marsh and Parsons

Ate last night:

Chicken satay skewers

This is a kind of 1990's retro recipe but it's yummy, easy, healthy, low carb and high protein. You just need to prep about 1¼ hours before you want to start cooking as the chicken needs to marinate for a good hour.

To serve two, cut two chicken breast fillets into cubes and place in a non-metallic dish. In another dish, combine 3 tbsps crunchy sugar-free (eg Whole Earth) peanut butter, a dash of honey, a dessertspoon each of finely-chopped garlic, chilli and ginger (or use Lazy brand ready minced), juice of a lime, 2 tbsp tamari (Japanese soya sauce), 1 tsp curry powder. Now mix this in with the chicken until the cubes are thoroughly coated. Cover and leave for an hour.

Thread the cubes onto kebab sticks. There will be marinade left behind - mix this with 100ml coconut milk (or ordinary milk or even yogurt would do). Grill the kebabs not too close to the heat source (or the peanuts will burn) for about 4 minutes then turn and cook for a further 3 minutes. Meanwhile boil up the marinade/coconut milk mix in a small saucepan (it needs to boil as it's been in contact with raw chicken), stirring. Serve the kebabs with the sauce on the side and with a large green salad of some kind. Those who want, can have rice too.

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