Last night I searched Twitter for eggs, meat, fish and salad and many results came back. Many people were saying these four food types were the basis of a healthy, nutritious diet.
Of course not everyone wants to eat, let alone restrict their diet to these items and today no one has to so long as they intake the nutrition their body needs.
Food tech has opened up a colossal industry for creating or growing food in a lab, which has glowing promise for the future without unsustainable, unhealthy farming practices or food production that is counter-productive to human health. Food producers have used nutritional science to fortify and enrich processed food so it can keep up with fast moving food trends.
However, apart from the wide agreement from many different people, including nutritional scientist Dr Zoe Harcombe, that eggs, fish, meat and salad would provide a varied and healthy diet, most people share opinions about food, which are only one piece of a jigsaw.
Humans as a Species
I think we all have a tendency to look at what relates to us directly, not the bigger picture of how it relates to humans as a species. Subsequently, the journey I have taken to find the best diet for me has been riddled with diversions taking me down a route, that I have been told would be right for me, only to return to one main path.
There must be one universal truth that applies to everyone, no matter what they choose to eat. Biology suggests the human body runs on fuel made up of many different components. Let us say, it runs on diesel, not on unleaded petrol, for sake of illustration.
What Powers Us?
This is not a point I have misled you to, in order try and sell you just another jigsaw puzzle. I have read so many books and articles where people do just that. In my mind, it is so distracting and misguided. I aim to stick to the idea of a whole jigsaw puzzle made up of all our experiences, viewpoints, biology, ideas and wisdom.
What is wisdom?
I believe that wisdom is what we have inherently as human beings. As a person with dyspraxia, I feel as if there are as many people wanting to mislead us over diet – to feed their own self-interests – as there are people wanting us to forget how to think. At school, it seems that we learn what to think, not how to think. Many people with secure jobs in neurodiversity are actually, in my experience, neurotypical, as are a many I have met working in academia.
Articles about conditions labelled as ‘difficulties’ or ‘disabilities’ such as bi-polar, ADHA, Dyslexia, Asperger’s, Autism, Dyspraxia and more are described by individual subjective realities and, more often than not, by people without any first hand experience of seeing the world from these labels.
Context is Forgotten
One of the problems is context is forgotten. We forget what we are, where we’ve come from and, in my mind most importantly, a universal truth. It is very hard to see the wood for the trees to know what size our universal truth is today.
Social media, for the most part, reflects modern thinking. I think education has drilled people into a ‘only one answer from one perspective’ mindset. We no longer learn to work in teams by following a process of putting our personal viewpoint into a melting pot so that more universal solutions can be found that reflect the needs of and represent as many different people as possible.
People seem to only see things as right or wrong. This is like religion. Most modern faiths do not share a universal truth at all. In fact they will actively go to war and try and kill each other to become the right faith and persecute others. Thinking has become narrow and minds are made up very quickly. People hear what they want to hear, not what is going on or being said.
Recently, the Independent Sage, started by Sir David King, debated various aspects of fighting COVID-19. Its opposers all used the same line of attack: ‘bitter people not included in the real SAGE’ being the big one.
Oh the Irony
Sage means wise. Wisdom does not come from a single track mind or a narrow mindset. It comes from hearing a spectrum of voices and creative, open thought processes, which resemble assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Committees and teams seem, to me, to operate differently and what is really needed for a SAGE is a team of people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, disciplines and interests.
Everyone sharing their viewpoint peacefully doesn’t make anything true or false, just a view and as the conversation progresses, some things emerge as universal truths, while other ideas are discarded. Often committees with pre-ordained agendas do not make that possible, mainly because they know what they want to achieve before the meeting has started.
In many homogenous collectives, such as the Conservative Party, with a majority background, race, family status, education and gender, different perspectives are discouraged or even blatantly dismissed before they have been heard, processed and considered. Other different voices are silenced or ignored. Some groupings of people, particularly those lacking diversity, can engage in 1984 sounding ‘Group Think’ where non-conformity is rejected by the majority.
Social media seems to validate and reinforce certain messages and voices and muffle and silence others. Recent events by police in America has brought a wider cross-section of society out in the name of justice, but even with one communal truth – police should not kill people – there is disagreement over process.
In every sector and on every topic today, there is majority agreement, whereby people cluster around others with a similar world view. there is little to no interest in diversity, inclusion, variety or difference.
One big area, where the universal truth of humanity can reveal principles to base our choices on is food.
People pretend to reveal a universal truth, while the just want to sell one idea.
Now I’m Going to Share My Journey
I turn 50 in December. In 1970, I was born in a London hospital and my doctor grandfather noticed that I didn’t have a working thyroid gland, so I have been prescribed levothyroxine ever since.
My whole family were obsessed with diet. It was a constant theme. My mother decried the confusing and conflicting messages in the press. My father read books and tried different ideas. When one worked for him – I think it was a good one: Fit For Life by Harvey Diamond – he told everyone about it, with a full narrative, background and reasoning. Unfortunately, most people didn’t want all that context. They just wanted a magic pill and there were plenty of people who wanted to prescribe it.
A quick view of my life with diet
I have shunned set diets. To me, calorie counting, food weighing and portion sizing are all just one piece of a bigger jigsaw. Subsequently, my weight has not yo-yoed. All that instinctively didn’t seem to be the answer.
Yet, everyone was programmed by the propaganda and preaches it to each other verbatim. Back to religion. Diet and religion both follow the same construct:
- Each faith follows one doctrine
- There is only one answer to each question
- It all comes from the perspective of a, usually, white, male all-powerful God.
- All religions think they are right and others are wrong and will fight to the death over this.
- Most religions are exclusive to their followers and shun other people with different ideas.
- Many religions involve some form of worship, following out of date texts lacking any context.
- Followers of religions know teachings off by heart and accept them without quesiton.
See how easy it is to get distracted? Well, for me anyway. Back to my diet and me and if you’d like to skip to the conclusion, I’ll see you in a bit.
Looking back on childhood photographs, my weight seemed to go up and down as I was being inflated and deflated. This seemed to follow a pattern. On holiday I was slim, in school term time I was fat. Of course I was told many reasons why this might be, all contributing to cognitive dissonance. Mostly, my thyroid was seen as an excuse and the mantra ‘eat less exercise more’ would constantly circulate.
It might be better to look back from now with hindsight. When it comes to diet, hindsight and looking back at photographs seems to be quite revealing.
At primary school, we had set lunched. Everyone ate the same thing and we had PE twice a week and could run around in break times. School meals were stodgy, with Mrs Gilbert’s Leg (AKA spotted dick), sponge, custard, chocolate pudding, semolina (yum!) and rice pudding (skin on, yum). Mains were made up of meat, potatoes and overcooked vegetables. Dairy was a big part of my childhood.
I had a constantly runny nose and acne all through my second decade. However, pictures taken on holidays showed a much healthier, slimmer me than the grumpy patch at Brownies or school. Lucky was I with home life. I lived with both parents in a house in a country village with outdoor activities, chickens, health conscious parents, a kitchen garden full of fruit and vegetables and home cooked food.
My mother was even resistant to the growing propaganda from large supermarkets, processed and junk food. Very sadly, we were all subjugated by the growing dominance of funding-compromised public authority, drug-sponsored healthcare, advertiser and biased media influence from the late 1970s onwards.
I’ve wondered off again. No wonder is has taken me so long to get anywhere with this. At secondary school, I was given choice at meal times and could sift through information available to try and work out what was going on. A French exchange in 1983 led me to try out the new healthy food emerging and stop eating chocolate and sweets. However, eating dried apricots and sunflower seeds when you watch a small TV with 49 other people has its downsides. Backsides related downsides.
In my twenties, having just lost my mum to cancer culminating in aggressive chemotherapy in 1992, I began to question perceived attitudes about food. I read Fit for Life, which seemed to make sense. The main premise of Harvey Diamond’s book was to separate carbohydrates from protein and to eat only raw fruit before midday.
Least Faddy Diet Out There
Diamond also spoke about the relationships between food and health and suggested taking a vitamin and mineral drink called Life Source Complete. This seemed to my brother and I to be a little side street from the main path we were travelling on. It also didn’t teach us very much about dietary supplements, vitamins or minerals except that they were generally of benefit. Sadly, those whose interests were threatened by Diamond set out to discredit him, with one man going so far as to call Fit For Life ‘A Fad Diet’ when it was probably the least faddy diet out there.
I’ve wandered off again, just like my understanding about food. Back to my story.
During my twenties I juggled a sporadic income with a healthy appetite. I worked in a café where socialising happened, beers were drunk and much food was eaten, however it was balanced with the amount of walking involved in London Life. Therefore, I was slim but seemed to still inflate and deflate, making me feel heavy and lethargic at times. This, I found out, was possibly due to water retention or inflammation. I resolved to eat more healthily, but questioned the new emerging health food shops, especially as the staff working in them didn’t seem to be particularly healthy themselves.
Bowing to the strong messaging, I tried cutting out meat and not much fresh fish was available. French, Italian and Spanish restaurants provided the variety of foods I liked the most and they also served salads instead of cooked vegetables quite often. I also loved Indian and Asian food and their restaurants were often the most reasonably priced.
It seemed English food was predominantly stodgy. In the late 1990s, after writing about health for the Camden New Journal after my journalism course, I worked for 5 years in Old Street, London. As I was approaching 30 and frequently had periods of lethargy, water retention and inflammation, I thought about what to eat a lot.
I still walked a lot and veered towards real food whenever it was available in my lunchbreaks or when eating out. Then I started to make a salad each day, which I really enjoyed preparing and eating, for all its flavours. Salads also featured at each meal on holiday with my family and as a choice in local restaurants out with friends.
One bombshell I need to drop here is about eggs. The media had gone to war on them. Even my mother had been persuaded that a maximum 2 eggs a week was healthiest. Stories of food poisoning shared a nest with widespread misinformation about fat, cholesterol and protein. No one knew what to believe, but people stopped eating eggs and took to breakfast cereals instead.
I had one experience I won’t forget. When I was 20, I shared a flat with a Japanese girl called Mamiko. Her parents, who spoke no English, were visiting. Our lack of a common language made no odds and I spent a bit of time showing them around when Mamiko was at college. Then one morning, while Mamiko tucked into my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes (with a banana on top), they busied around the kitchen making me breakfast at 6am.
They wanted me to experience their Japanese breakfast. Having treated me to my first, and really delicious and sensational sushi the night before, they wanted me to have the very best start to the day and put a large steak on the table for me to eat. One time only, but I don’t think i went hungry that day. They also gave me, what I thought was called ‘Japanese bean cake’, which took me from being very hungry indeed to feeling as if I had a lead weight in my stomach. No idea what it was but for calorie counting, that would not be counterproductive.
After commuting for five years and staying slim but feeling a constant rollercoaster of energy and blood sugar, I started a new job for Deafblind UK. This involved quite frequent stodgy, starchy meals and with less exercise than I had been used to, I started to gain actual weight. Due to the frequent inflated feeling, I tried to fight it.
My weight gain made me lose confidence in everything I had tried and to seek out new, better solutions. Was it my level of exercise? Was it not working in an office? Was it eating out? Was it alcohol? I was fighting a losing battle.
In 2004 I stopped smoking. That coincided with the weight gain too, so maybe it was just that. In 2006 I went all out and stopped drinking tea and coffee and only ate raw food. My skin, hair and nails looked fantastic but I put on weight, felt lethargic, drained, sad and bloated. I decided to stop drinking alcohol.
I managed to have no booze for 5 months and my tolerance to alcohol dropped seems to have totally wiped out. As wiped out as I was after a glass of wine at the end of it.