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Soups and shakes: retreading old ground

Judith Wills / 09 September 2020

Thousands of people will now receive access to a 1980s style diet of soup and shakes as part of an NHS plan to reduce the levels of type 2 diabetes in the country.

Diet shakes
An 800 calories per day NHS diet of soup and shakes has been introduced in an attempt to get the nation to lose weight and tackle type 2 diabetes

Last month I confessed to being confused about the conflicting advice and actions being implemented to help us stay healthy in the face of the ongoing pandemic. A few weeks later I am still bemused.

My last blog mentioned the half-price restaurant meals idea which was hugely popular throughout August and most certainly got people dining out again. So we scoffed and then we wandered home, perhaps via the supermarket where we found the shelves (already!) beginning to groan under the weight of the new stock of mince pies, Christmas puddings and cakes, some of which we may have purchased.

Once home we sat on the sofa, nursing a glass of wine and a nice bag of crisps, and found the newspapers and media full of scare stories about the strong links between obesity and not only covid, but also diabetes. This last one has, honestly, been known for years but new research has made the link even stronger. The fact is that diabetes type two can be prevented or put into long-term remission by being a reasonable weight and, in particular, not carrying it around your middle.

And yet, for the reasons we’ve already discussed and taking in levels of boredom, food availability and so forth, most of us seem to have put on at least a few pounds and sometimes a stone or two during the lockdown/post lockdown months.

So Boris and Health Secretary Matt Hancock between them have a continuing problem – at least partly of their own making – asking us to get to that healthy slim and fit level while still entreating us to spend as much money on food as we absolutely can.

And then of course let’s not forget the diet idea the NHS have come up with to help solve all this – the ‘soup and shake’ diet of around 800 calories a day, at first available for 5,000 lucky overweight UK residents and then perhaps to be rolled out for the whole obese population.

Soup and shakes. 800 calories a day. Now where have I heard that before?

Oh yes, of course – back in the 1970s and 80s, we had Slimfast. We had the Cabbage Soup Diet. We had Carnation Slender. And more. Many people lost weight on these fairly boring very low calorie regimes. And before long, the docs and scientists and experts came out against them, saying losing weight on too few calories over too quick a period of time was a recipe for disaster and not to be done. “It will all come back on again and you’ll lose lean tissue (muscle) too” they said.

Slow, steady, sensible, varied, healthy diet was the message. So we tried our best to follow that advice in the face of growing disposable income and the hugely growing catering, takeway and supermarket shopping industries. And so still the UK average weight got larger, and larger. Scheme after scheme was announced by the Government to help us be healthy. From the Eatwell guide and that plate divided into sections to the NHS Eat Well, Live Well website and various local schemes were tried and have failed to keep the UK collective weight down.

And so here we are in 2020, with soups and shakes to savour, as well as the endless tickings off and mixed messages from Downing Street.

We have done what we were told – locked ourselves down, never saw the grandkids, got miserable, had a few pies to compensate, were told to support our local pubs and restaurants, did so, got even fatter, and this is what we have to look forward to.

Give me a mince pie, someone. My fat belly can look after itself until my head feels better.

And it may not feel better until we find an ongoing way to eat less and exercise more in the modern world.

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