I’ve always loved food and been interested in it. And I relish a conspiracy theory, so this book seemed like the perfect combination to me. A critical look at what we’ve been told, and an open determination to debunk food myths, whilst setting out an informed food direction. I was hoping for some affirmation or new ideas. I got both. These were my personal take-aways (pun intended):
- Food is big business and controlled by a group of global Goliaths who fund science, PR and sophisticated marketing that seeks to manipulate the way we view food, buy it and eat it. They generate, pounce on and exploit our interest in food choices and needs.
- Don’t swallow the science. Food research tends to be biased and looks at things in artificial isolation. The results are most often small percentage changes, benefits or risks. I mean, doubling a risk of something when the risk is only 1 in 100,000 isn’t enough for me. Risk needs a huge side-dish of perspective.
- Enjoy real food and take pleasure from it, it is an investment in self. Detach from the notions of it causing death or early mortality, illness or self-harm. “If we start to believe food will make us ill, the chances are it will”.
- Consume food, coffee and alcohol in moderation. Move away from any sense of guilt, shame or indulgence, and retune to focus on investment and self care instead.
- Focus on yourself as an individual and what food does to your body. Set your own rules and regime based upon listening to yourself. Develop your sense of food-self, respecting your metabolism and mental health. Connect your emotional wellbeing and mood with your gut feelings. Literally.
- Adopt a Goldilocks principle – not too much, not too little, just the right amount. The Goldilocks principle is that something that falls within certain margins, it does not reach extremes. That way we can enjoy the ‘yes’ and some of the ‘no’ foods in balance.
- Include in your diet things like natural unsweetened yoghurt, butter (not low-fat spread), good eggs, oily fish, grass fed meat, game and wild meats, mushrooms, sugar not sweetener, beans and pulses, and natural probiotics. And salt, as long as it is consciously consumed – it improves taste, and a tasteless life is a wasted life, I say.
- Don’t let ultra-processed food producers determine how much you eat and do your calorie counting for you. Convenience food is inconvenient to health and wellbeing. It buys you time in the short-term but costs so much more in other ways. There’s a huge difference in the range from unprocessed foods through to ultra-processed foods. The latter being the one to avoid. Ultra-processed foods have labels and labels lie or at least bend the truth and mislead us, they skew the message and use percentages that are not clear to most of us.
- Calorie counting is an imperfect and inaccurate science and must only be used as a rough guide. It is better to focus on conscious consumption. With proposals for restaurants to publish calorie totals in government thinking, Spector says they systematically underestimate them – making an imperfect science even less reliable, I think.
- Breakfast is as important as any meal. And any meal can be skipped occasionally. It won’t hurt. Fasting is something thought to be beneficial. It’s okay to feel hungry once in a while. But skipping a meal should never be justification for bingeing at the next mealtime – this isn’t about offsetting. Just like exercising is not a license to run straight over to the vending machine afterwards.
- Don’t take vitamins or supplements unless you are not well and been advised to. I had started to wonder if I was developing IBS last year. Then I stopped taking daily vitamins. Problem solved. So I agree with this idea. And 15 minutes in the sun will be sufficient to top up vitamin D – which isn’t a vitamin, I discovered, it’s a steroid hormone. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be they food” said Hippocrates.
- Avoid the superfood trap. Other cheaper or local alternatives exist, for example, strawberries are a good alternative to goji berries. Again, eat consciously and in moderation.
- Think about the ‘buy local’ benefits and disadvantages. I learned local isn’t always the best option when considering environmental impact. For example, tomatoes grown in the natural heat and sunshine of Spain and imported, are said to be better than ones grown in heated polytunnels in England. There is a moral obligation also to the developed world’s continued and fair trade with developing countries.
- Water. Who knew that water would be such a confusing and tricky subject? I concluded filtered tap water to be the most ethical. And bottled spring and mineral water, locally produced and sourced to be a good alternative – or treat even. Preferably in a reused glass bottle, avoiding single-use plastic as much as possible.
- ‘-Isms’. It seems to me that lots of energy is focused on puritanical and quasi-religious approaches to food and diet. We don’t need to put ourselves into rigidly defined boxes. Be a flexitarian not a follower of rigid rules or definitions.
- Fish isn’t as good as we think it is. Some is unsustainable, other is intensively farmed. Again, don’t listen to all those corporate messages linking it to longevity and cognitive functioning. Best keep it, like good quality meat, as more of a weekly treat. Be open to trying a wide variety, move away from the standard cod, salmon and bass. And derive similar nutritional benefits through seeds, nuts and algae instead.
- The information about chemical use made me want to grow more of my own food. And whilst I acknowledge intensive farming is seemingly necessary to feed our huge global population, and that organic is a privilege of those who can access it, I want to make more organic choices in my diet.
- Overall, Spector has confirmed my resolve to make good quality choices with variety and diversity. To eat good simple meals cooked from scratch, using natural seasonal ingredients, and embracing more fruit and vegetables. Controlling portion size is important. As is knowing where my food is from. Making better friends with my freezer. And always understanding what my food is and how it is made.
1 thought on “This week I read ‘Spoon-Fed: Why almost everything we’ve been told about food is wrong’ by Tim Spector.”
Really interesting observations. I’ve read a few reviews of this book, many highlighting its controversial teachings. But I think, personally, that’s food, diet and the health industry in general. One minute this; one minute that, it’s confusing. So have a little of what you fancy and enjoy. Despite the reviews, what you’ve taken from it is entirely sensible and I agree with the principles too. I’m following a specific food plan myself at the moment. After years of battling with weight this plan I’m on tears up everything I’ve read before: Avoid low-fat and artificial sweeteners. Eat fat on meat. Have full-fat milk and yoghurt. Don’t eat too much fruit. It shakes Slimming World to its foundations. Good for you reading this and coming away with your own guidance, that’s the way to do it. Read around and find what works for you.
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