Thursday, 4 November 2010

Good riddance to the calorie

Wayhey! Apparently, the calorie might be on its last legs!

Let’s have a street party. After all those years of people counting them dedicatedly, in the belief that one or two fewer would change their lives, it appears that that tyrannical little unit of energy wasn’t really very accurate.

In my own years of diet madness – which started with an obsessive faith in the then received wisdom that 1,000kcals per day was the scientifically correct amount required to lose weight – I used to keep a diary of my calorie intake: and grams of fat and grams of salt and grams of starchy carbohydrate and grams of fibre and …

Well, you get the picture. Like most other women, my own dieting was of the yo-yo variety. It’s bad enough trying to live off 1,000 calories a day, but at one stage, my doctor told me to cut to 800 per day because I could not get quite below the weight listed in some book somewhere that he unquestioningly considered correct form my height.

But in so instructing me, he also revealed either his own lack of knowledge about food intake, body weight and health – I was actually very active and close to athletically fit at the time, but he didn’t bother to consider any of that – or something rather less pleasant. I shall probably never know which it was.

Only many years later did I discover how unhealthy his figure of 800kcals was: for instance, an elderly woman who is bed-ridden still requires approximately 1,200kcals per day to maintain her body weight.

And I was stupid enough to assume that, as a doctor, he was a knowledgeable authority figure who should be obeyed.

Oh, I remember the days of heavy workouts in the gym, followed by a protein drink and then later, at home, a bowl of boiled vegetables with nothing other than salt to make it palatable.

And the soufflés made from egg whites alone – one of the gems that I found in my bodybuilding books.

The Other Half, who used to do much of our household cooking in the days before my culinary road to Damascas moment, recalls one particular evening when I ended up in tears because I couldn’t weigh all the ingredients for the stew he was cooking.

They’d then have been noted down in one of those diet diaries, as I struggled to control my food consumption in a way that suggested that I was actually struggling to control my life.

Fortunately, those days are long gone – and almost perversely, seven years after giving up dieting I actually started very slowly losing weight.

It seems that, having been allowed to find its own balance, my body is now responding positively and in a sustainable way to good eating.

On that note, I have to say that I have now seen the basic food survey, as mentioned in yesterday's post. After a standard series of question, it posits the issue, through two questions, of offering “healthy options”.

So what we are offered now is unhealthy, then?

Quite apart from that – and the patronising aspect of the idea of providing signposts for 'healthy options' – just what are 'healthy options'?

For instance, one dish that recurs as a vegetarian option is broccoli-cauliflower cheese. Okay, so one might say that the cheese isn't 'healthy'. But the rest of the dish provides two of your five a day. Which is apparently healthy.

And it's simplistic in the extreme to simply dismiss fatty foods as 'unhealthy' (as I touched on a short time ago). The point is balance – and variety.

I shall have huge fun when they finally send us the proper form, responding to this unnecessary but trendy (and box-ticking, I suspect) exercise.

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