Switch on any TV or radio station, or pick up a paper today and you’ll see that the world of UK nutrition has been brought into sharp focus by the mainstream media. Why? Well, The National Obesity Forum have had the temerity to publish a report which states that, contrary to what we’ve been brainwashed into believing over the last 30 years, eating a diet high in fat, might actually REDUCE your chances of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Now this is something that is not actually news to many of us, for there has been a choir of dissent within the world of nutrition which has been preaching this message for quite a number of years now. However, the government and a number of other mainstream public health bodies have yet to “get on board”!
In fact, in response to this morning’s report the chief nutritionist for Public Health England has stated that “Advice to eat more fat is irresponsible and potentially deadly”. Wow, pretty strong words there! However, rather than backing down, The National Obesity forum have come out fighting by allowing one of their senior advisors, Dr Aseem Malhotra to speak on their behalf. He has responded with an equally strong message, stating that “The change in dietary advice to promote low fat foods is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history. We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes. Eat fat to get slim, don’t fear fat, fat is your friend.”
Dr Malhotra is someone I have been avidly following for the last few years, because while his straight forward messages about diet and obesity have been in direct opposition to the mainstream dietary advice, they have always struck me as revolutionary with their common sense! He is a cardiologist at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and consultant clinical associate to the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (which has to add a heap of weight to his arguments…right?! oh, and, no pun intended!) and for a long time he has been very outspoken about his belief that it is sugar and not fat which is the culprit of Britain’s “obesity crisis”. While the anti-sugar lobby are now undoubtedly making headway in the public consciousness, the message to eat more fat has not yet been so well received. But maybe the tide is about to start changing?
So, as a trainee health coach, what’s my take on all of this? Well………over the last 30 or so years of following the guidelines from public health (and therefore too, many mainstream slimming clubs) we have been advised to focus on eating low fat food, and calorie counting if we want to lose weight. Lord knows I have tried this approach myself enough times. Has it worked…….ummmmmm, in the short term I guess, yes. But have I succeeded in keeping the weight off? No.
Now, this could be blamed on a lack of willpower at not continuing that way of eating ad infinitum, however I would argue that eating “fake foods” is absolutely not a long term solution to a weight problem. And make no bones about it, that is I what I feel this low fat message encourages….a reliance on and acceptance of “fake foods” or “food like substances” to feed us. Foods which have been processed and altered in order to lower the fat content whilst still maintaining some semblance of chemically enhanced and sugar laden flavour. It brings me back, yet again to my Muller Light habit! This belief that we must eat chemically altered food because it says ‘low’ or ‘no fat’ on the packaging and we have been reliably informed (by people who really should know better) that if we eat these products, we will lose weight. And we all know that losing weight automatically results in gaining better health right? Wrong!! Yes, obesity is damaging to health. Yes, being overweight puts you at a far greater risk of developing a myriad of life limiting issues, but so does poor nutrition. And poor nutrition is almost certainly something which can occur from blindly following a diet which aims for rapid, (but not lasting) weight loss. And for what it’s worth, I realise I might be accused of being a tad cynical here, but if we all suddenly stopped believing in and funding this message, just imagine how many huge multi-national, companies would start losing out……..Maybe this has a little something to do with the reluctance to revisit the Low Fat message and contemplate how maybe we might just have got it wrong?!!
What is the alternative? Well, in the words of another of my favourite nutritional gurus, Sarah Wilson, the only answer must be to “Just Eat Real Food”. Yep, it’s that simple. Real food. Real fruit, vegetables, grains and meat. Real food that you buy in its original form (or as close to as dammit!) and then you take home and transform into a delicious and nutritious meal where you know (and can pronounce!) all of the ingredients that have been added to it. The way our ancestors used to eat. Intuitively. In line with the seasons and focusing primarily on food that is produced locally to us. Simple, unrefined food which does not contain masses of added sugar or added chemicals (I’m guessing now is not the right time to have the organic debate!!)
And so from where I’m standing today, I find all of this unbelievably exciting! It feels as though the underground rebels are rising up, banging on drums and making their voices heard.
The revolution is coming and I know which team I’m on!!!