Rubbish in, rubbish out doesn't only apply to computers...
Posted on 13th January 2021 at 07:08
Diet is one of those topics we come back to again and again, both here on the Blog and with Clients. What never ceases to amaze us is how little thought – or planning – seems to go into what many people are eating each day. Whether on their plates or, increasingly, on the go. And, while most people are ready to accept the maxim of “rubbish in, rubbish out” as far as their computer is concerned; for some reason this logic often doesn’t seem to stretch as far as their bodies.
Why is this?
Well, we’d love to say there was one very simple answer but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. From our perspective there are many different factors at play accompanied by a large dose of irony. And, if that sounds a little strange, let us explain.
As we’ve said many times before, the human body is incredibly intelligent AND resilient. It’s both our saving grace and unwitting downfall. Every second, many tiny changes and adjustments are made to keep us functioning at an optimum level, taking into account the resources available and other demands being made on it. And, the important words here are “taking into account the resources available.”
By “resources available” we don’t just mean everything we eat and drink. Or the air we breathe. There are many other less tangible factors which can affect the resources we have available at any point in time. For example, the amount – and quality – of sleep and relaxation. How active – or not (!) – we are during the day. The efficiency of our Digestive System. And, here’s a big one. Any acute or chronic – ongoing – medical issues.
Regardless of how good – or not (!) – our resource levels are, our bodies will always make the best use of them they can. And, ironically, this can be our unwitting downfall which we often don’t realise until too late…
By being able to make the most of whatever resources are available, it’s not immediately apparent when they’re less than are actually needed. Or, all often, much, much less than needed. That a potential problem is brewing down the line.
While we may not be firing on all four cylinders and full of life, we seem to be getting by. And with those around us often sharing the same lack of vitality, it’s all too easy for this to seem “normal.” However, as time goes on, a slow imperceptible slide starts to pick up momentum until a tipping point is reached. When our bodies can longer “make do and mend”, to use an old adage which has resurfaced in the last few years. And this is the point when health issues can suddenly seem to appear although, in reality, the warning signs have been there for a long time… It’s also why people often find it so difficult to “join the dots” – to link “cause and effect” – as they don’t think in long enough timescales. Leaving aside a true accident or emergency situation, most issues have been a very long time in the making, they don’t just suddenly happen.
Added to this, sadly, is our tendency of wanting to make life as simple and easy as possible. Which makes us easy prey for all those labour saving and easy options in the supermarket. And in many other places too where, even a few years ago, we would never have considered going to buy our food. Garages, discount stores, garden centres. Complete meals, ready meals, pre prepared fruit and veg, energy drinks and more.
New products are appearing almost every day, designed to persuade us they’re just the thing we need. However, if you stop to read the back of the packaging, usually in very small – or incomprehensible – print, a very different picture starts to appear. Not only are they packaged to catch the eye but with a long shelf life, which really should sound loud warning bells on its own.
As an aside, have you ever stopped to wonder what is done to food to preserve it for longer than is natural? The processing it goes through and substances added to it. Or, to put it another way, to stop it from, quite naturally, rotting before it reaches the consumer. And, yes, we know you probably don’t want to think about it (!) but that’s essentially what’s happening.
As we’re generally trusting beings, we like to believe that everyone in the food chain, from farmers to the shops / supermarkets, have our best interests at heart. That the marketing is complete, accurate and truthful. If only life were that simple.
While it may sound rather harsh, the only reason why any product – and not just food – is produced and has a place on any shop shelf, it that it’s profitable and makes the suppliers money. If it didn’t, it simply wouldn’t be there. End of story. And, we’ve all seen this in action. A product on the shelf one week, before completely disappearing, never to be seen again…
Then, finally – we were about to say the “nail in the coffin” but thought better of it (!) – there are the plethora of “health initiatives” which just help muddy the waters further. Rather than making diet simple and easy to understand – which in essence it is – they focus on the latest “baddie”. Sugar, salt, fat. The list goes on and on.
However, all too often, one “problem” is simply exchanged for something potentially much worse, particularly in the long term. Sugar for artificial sweeteners. Salt added to ensure longer shelf life and then removed, to be replaced by artificial preservatives and flavourings. Full fat for low fat options which, ironically, strip out nutrients during processing and often require the use of more sugar to make the food palatable.
The end result is that much of the food found in shops has become more and more processed. It’s known as ultra processed food. Not only does this destroy its nutritional value, but ingredients are added which wouldn’t be found in home cooked food. Chemicals, colouring, sweeteners and preservatives. And this is on top of the declining nutritional values found in the raw materials themselves – fruit, veg, meat, dairy, fish and eggs – as a result of the increasingly industrial agricultural process.
So where are we going with all of this?
Well, we’d like to encourage you to really start thinking about what you’re eating. Are the choices you’re making – and they are choices, even if you’re doing them automatically – really helping you or storing up a whole host of problems for the future? Perhaps not this week, month or year but the birds will come home to roost at some stage, guaranteed.
At the same time, starting to notice how you’re feeling as you go about your day. The effects different foods have on you. Whether your energy levels, concentration, skin or sleep. As you do so, you’ll quickly be able to link cause and effect.
Yes, a sugary or processed treat may give you a quick boost but is it worth the crash that follows shortly afterwards? The ready meal may quickly fill a hole, but does it keep you feeling full or leave you reaching for something else to top up?
And, before we finish for today, let’s quickly dispel the two responses we most commonly hear from Clients.
The first is that eating healthily is complicated and time consuming. However, this isn’t the case. Like any skill in life, it can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. It doesn’t take long to master the basics and many satisfying meals can be prepared and cooked in less time than it takes to heat a ready meal in the oven.
And, if you want an easy way to stop being tempted by all the wrong things when you’re out and about, just have a small bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit with you to fill the gap. A packet of oat cakes, a banana or apple work just as well. Oh and how about a bottle of water? By having the right things easily available, you’re less likely to grab a highly processed, sugary or carb rich treat as a stop gap. It’s simple but works, IF you do it.
The second is that it’s going to much more expensive. Again, if you’re going for Masterchef standards (!), buying all sorts of unusual or rare ingredients then it can be. But, the store cupboard basics aren’t expensive and many are sufficient for a number of meals, so reducing their cost drastically. It’s simply a case of thinking ahead to what you’re going to eat for the next few days – or week – so that meals can be planned and any left overs incorporated into another meal.
And, there’s a very quick and easy rule of thumb for when you’re out shopping, whether your weekly shop or grabbing something on the run. Quickly look at the back of the packet and if it’s got more than 5 ingredients, put it back on the shelf. Not only does it simplify your shopping, but very quickly improves your diet no end. It also makes you realise how much supposed “food” on sale is really nothing of the sort. Perhaps, “food like” but not the food your body was designed to function best on. And, however much you may not like to admit it, you know exactly what they are (!).
As always, the choice is yours.
Picture by unknown author
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