Food and I have had a bit of a rocky relationship in our time together. There’s been a bit of love-hate, a lot of mutual vengeance, and only lately have we started to play nicely together. It’s a relief, food’s actually not such a menace once you get to know it.
Food has suffered a real image crisis, what with the obesity epidemic on our hands and the burden of disease that carries: we hate carbs, fat is the enemy and sugar is the embodiment of Satan. It seems the more overweight we become, the more foods we wage war on…and to what avail? As more of our children weigh up into the echelons of obesity, we must’ve got something wrong.
I’m certainly not pretending I was immune to the food war; to the contrary; I was one the stubbornest fighters of ‘less is more’ on the food front. Suffering eating complexes, I refused to eat carbohydrates, didn't touch fat, swore off dairy and ate very little meat. That doesn't leave you with very much of the healthy food pyramid, let me tell you. Combined with training to run half marathons, I bendered my way to multiple foot, pelvic and femoral stress fractures on black coffee with outrageous sweetener helpings, berries and bean sprouts. Captain pretend-healthy became Captain cripple pretty darn quickly.
Things got out of hand when I turned up to uni for the fifth consecutive first day of semester on crutches - I’m pretty sure my classmates started to think I was a crazy attention seeker - I needed to take back some control. I did what the closet nerd inside me suggested and I hit the books to teach myself everything I could about nutrition.
Popular media today tends to parrot the less you eat, the more weight you lose. It’s logical and they make it easy for us; you can get your meals pre-prepared by a mass-production factory conveyor, presented in little plastic calories-controlled containers. Bon appétit. Fortunately our bodies are a little more complex than a simple in/out equation and in fact (this is the best news!) eating more of the right foods actually helps weight loss more than taking a knife to your calories.
"Popular media today tends to parrot the less you eat, the more weight you lose"
How can this be? Let’s start with flipping over that nice little calorie-controlled package and take a look at the ingredient list. How many of those ingredients do you recognize as food? Not too many! Numbers are not food. Neither are chemical formulas with more letters than the alphabet. And as for adding artificial colour, flavour and sweetener? I always thought it was a miracle someone could make a chocolate fudge brownie into a low-calorie diet staple and unless aspartame, acesulfame-potassium, butylated hydroxanisole, TBHQ and colouring citrus red 402 sound like elements of grandma’s recipe, it remains a miracle. Chemicals certainly cut the calories in food, but they don’t cut weight.
I’ll come back to the chemical issue in a second, but onto the good news first! When we restrict our calorie intake, our body goes into starvation mode: our metabolism slows right down to stop us burning energy and that energy instead gets stored as fat to protect our vital organs and functions. If we upped the calories, we’d burn more of them and in fact, store less fat and lose more weight than we would starving ourselves.
If you’re anything like me, you’re grumbly and listless when you’re hungry. Nobody likes being hungry, especially not our brains. By restricting calories we tend not to have the energy to do the happiness-endorphin-releasing physical activity we would do otherwise, we give into our cravings more often (those night-time binge eats are not helping!) and break down muscle: this trio is a menace to our physical and mental wellbeing and should be avoided at all costs! (And given that cost is eating a bit more good food, it’s really not too much of a stretch). More food, more weight loss… sounds like a good deal!
"Nobody likes being hungry, especially not our brains"
While we’re talking about good deals, I would like to reiterate that McDonalds Value Breakfasts do not count as a “good deal”. Not even the “lighter choice” ones. They may, in reality, be worse. Director of the Obesity Research Centre, Dr Barbara Corkey, pointed out that something doesn’t quite add up in the “too much food, too little exercise” obesity epidemic. We haven’t really stopped to consider that today, we eat more chemicals than whole foods. Chemicals and additives disrupt the cell signalling in the body, slow the metabolism, wreck havoc on the good bacteria in the body and can, in cases, cause chronic disease and cancer: weight gain is but a drop in the ocean when we come to additives. It’s not the food that’s the problem, it’s the not-food.
Additives are hard to avoid, they keep our produce from pests, stop our food spoiling, add flavour, colour, lower calories… you name it, there’s an additive for it. Hard, but not impossible. Organic whole foods, like the whole Bare Blends range, are not only free of additives, but also help reduce the damaging effects of the modern chemical cuisine. Antioxidants found in Bare Greens, Bare Berries and Organic Cacao provide an essential detoxifying effect on the body and aid the elimination of harsh chemical additives (they also taste delicious, without requiring artificial flavours or sweeteners!). I can’t get enough of them… in smoothies, breakfast bowls, juices and on salads, I make Bare Blends organic wholefood powders part of every meal to stay fit and healthy, maintain weight and feel great from the inside out (without requiring a chemical formula to help)!