When healthy is not so healthy

We are swamped with information on what is healthy and what is not. When it comes to nutrition, the world of science seems at war with itself. Every day we have a new enemy. Sometimes fat is bad and we have to cut that out and sometimes its carbs and then sugar, and then additives and dairy and god knows what and eugh, it’s so boring as no one seems to have a clue. What is true though is that marketers (including once myself when I worked as Head of Marketing for major brands including food companies), jump on top of what is currently trending in the “social memetics” zeitgeist feeling and run with it, in a bid to sell stuff to us (including me). Healthy is the slogan for wholesome goodness. Natural. Organic. Plant-based. Sugarfree. Fatfree. Dairyfree. Nutfree. Glutenfree. Whatever! We are marketed foods under a slogan of health that often are no better for us then the “junk food” alternative we deny ourselves and then binge on later as we feel we have “earned it” by having a healthier option earlier. My advice, DON’T check calories, but check the small print. Just because it’s plant based, sugarfree or fatfree, does not make it good for your health!

We need fat and we need carbs and we need sugars. What we don’t need is too much of any of them. This is obvious. What is wrong is when foods which are extremely high in fat or carbs or sugar are marketed as healthy when they are quite simply not! Check out below. One is an “organic, natural coconut yoghurt with natural strawberry flavourings” and the other is “clotted double cream vanilla ice cream.” In our minds we make the assumption that yoghurt is good and low fat and ice cream is high in fat and bad. We assume natural means less sugars and more nutritional value, but we are wrong. The yoghurt has 4x the amount of saturated fat than the ice cream. The ice cream has 3x as much sugar than the yoghurt. To maintain flavour, low-fat products tend to have more sugar, low-sugar products tend to have more fat. It is a trade-off. Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates, but this doesn’t necessarily make it better or worse for us.

It is down to OUR BODIES and what WE NEED. Food is medicine and should be PERSONALISED MEDICINE. A person with heart disease should be watching saturated fat levels as they increase LDL cholesterol which is bad for your heart, but a person with diabetes should be watching sugar levels and so we much tailor what we eat to our OWN INDIVIDUAL health. A person trying to watch their weight should avoid the yoghurt (especially if it makes you more likely to feel deprived as you had the “healthy option” and not WHAT YOU WANTED in the ice cream and so binge eat on the ice cream later). A person trying to muscle should have the ice cream (more protein). A person with low calcium levels (elderly people or women post menopause trying to prevent osteoporosis from low oestrogen levels), should have the ice cream too to boost the strength of their bones. A person wanting a quick energy high should have the ice cream as sugar is a faster supply of energy than fat but a person wanting to stay fuller for longer should have the yoghurt as fat is more filling.

What is clear is that neither the ice cream or yoghurt is GOOD or BAD. What is clear is that you have to be AWARE of your own BODY and its current medical condition and its HISTORY and of your activity levels and you must base your food decisions on this. Being self-aware and honest with yourself can lead to better health choices. You have to do what is right for you, based upon your present health, not a younger you or healthier or less healthy or thinner or fatter you. I used to have anorexia. When I was in recovery I had to eat loads. Now I am a normal healthy weight, and if I carry on eating like I did in recovery I will no longer be healthy. I have to adapt my behaviour to my current body and its nutritional status. Good nutrition is medicine and so eating to be your healthy self is therefore “HEAL-THY-SELF”. It is using what information you have available at a time to heal your body and make it the best version of itself. It is also about being honest with yourself and accepting when you need to have the less favoured option in order to empower yourself and improve the condition of your body and make yourself the best version of you that you can be. It is also about being aware of your habits. If you know that if you have a healthy lunch you binge eat at supper, then give yourself a bit of what you fancy and then stop. Swap the black and white idea of bad and good. There is no bad and good, right or wrong food, just food but some food may be better for YOU and knowing yourself and accepting your current body mindfully and honestly is the crux of this. Do what works best for your body and read the small print.

Do what works for YOUR HEALTH. Avoid the marketing and HEAL_THY_SELF!!!


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