This story is an attempt at pulling many different threads together to create a whole picture of how nutrition governs our mental and physical health and maintains our body shape. I can’t ask if you’d prefer the good or bad news first, so will just go for it.
Rather than peppering the flow with citations, I will show the books and sources of this information at the bottom. As a journalist, I aim to follow the facts to reveal the hidden story about weight, nutrition, exercise and health. Therefore, I’m building a complete picture to be relatable for adults in the United Kingdom under Lockdown and similar sudden changes in circumstances. therefore, first, let’s get it out of the way:
The bad news
Diets are not just for after Christmas, they are for life. Our ‘diet’ is what we eat on a regular basis. Feasts or famines are occasional. We see a high percentage of Brits on “diets” ‘most of the time’ today. Imagine the end of rationing in 1954, then the 60s when bananas and other exotic items were first appearing in the UK. In 1958, John Yudkin wrote This Slimming Business. A 25p guide to what food manufacturers and other quacks were trying to sell us. This was before the government started to interfere in our nutrition.
Weight gain affects those who work from home more than those who do at least part of their commute every day on foot. People who stop going out to work regularly – as many have during the lockdown – results in weight gain. It is preventable but not by following any diet, calorie counter, short term restriction of starchy foods or exercise boot camp.
The good news
Neither a blow out at a wedding buffet nor an indulgent, well deserved holiday are going to set your waistline on an undesirable trajectory outwards. When we over eat on occasion, our bodies respond by increasing our metabolism to burn off the excess energy. Therefore, just as the weight creeps on when we stay at home every day, keeping up a routine of taking exercise or a walk three times a day could replicate some of the previous activity when going out to work.
To set new goals for staying at home, imagine your day when you went to the office and plan a daily routine so your daily activity level does not drop off. For those who cycled long distances to work, perhaps find an activity converter to translate your weekly game of squash or cycle commute into steps.
During the winter in the UK, we do not make enough sunlight to make vitamin D between October and April. If we are inside a lot, it is good to take a supplement each day when we do not see spring or summer sun for at least 10 minutes a day, with longer for darker shades of skin. Vitamin D3 (animal protein) or D2 (plant) 10mcg (1000 International Units) or 25mcg (4000 IU) each day will suffice.
This is prevention rather than cure and is not a remedy or inoculation against infection, nor is it anti-bacterial. It is good to take a supplement each day, which supplements vitamin D in a nutritious diet and it is fat soluble so easier to absorb if eaten with food containing healthy fats (fish, meat, eggs, dairy, olives, avocado, coconut, nuts, seeds, oils from any of these).
How to Stay Healthy During Lockdown
There are a lucky few people who will not naturally face worsening health during Lockdown. These people have not had a greatly disrupted daily routine. However, those people might still struggle to find the motivation to jog on spot, do sits ups, use the staircase for steps or follow a yoga or dancersize instructor on YouTube.
In order to maintain your weight and health during lockdown, it is very important you keep up some activity twice of three times a day. Otherwise after 3 months your weight and metabolism with have adapted to your new routine. This is to prevent you from bouncing off the walls or experiencing the huge surpluses of adrenalin that give you that buzz after exercize.
Why do you think so many people are on permanent diets?
Nutritionists and doctors now know that short term, restrictive, high activity diets do not work long term. Our bodies are designed for 12 weeks of famine and intense exercise and adapt accordingly, to help us survive and keep us alive. That is the very reason short term diets do not work. When we reduce our calorie intake to less than what we need, our metabolism slows down to conserve energy so we have enough to get through ‘hard times’.
Too much information is taken out of context. Yes, people who had been in prison camps for a period of time became skeletal. Do you wonder how they survived? When they were released, special products had to be made to bring them back to normal eating again. They could not just tuck into a roast dinner on leaving their prison. Their bodies had adapted to keep them alive through extreme hardship, inadequate food and excessive activity.
How do we deal with our sedentary lives today?
The bad news: you cannot sustain an unrealistic, fashionable, sinewy teenage boy figure all your life, even if you were a sinewy, teenage boy once. If you become an athlete, perhaps you will maintain your size and shape, depending on the consistency of physical activity and, as you get older, the increasingly nutritious diet that you eat.
Think about ‘acquired taste’ and, perhaps, memories of being sick on the first few days of family holidays abroad. These are natural phenonema. Firstly, our young bodies are able to process just about any foods, which means we do not need rich, nutrient dense foods, such as anchovies, avocados, olives or too many eggs to get micronutrients we can access from chicken, potatos, cabbage, rice and peas.
Government Induced Malnutrition and Malnourishment
Have you noticed how, since the First and Second World Wars, we have got used to increasingly processed, starchy food? Since the COVID-19 pandemic, costs of vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and dairy have increased exponentially, or so it seems.
Real food prices have gone up. This source, taken from BBC news, shows that:
Food prices in UK supermarkets and shops have risen by 8.3% since January, an index compiled for the BBC shows.
Meat and fish – up 22.9% – registered the biggest price increases for any one category in the survey, with fresh fruit and vegetables up 14.7%.
General store-cupboard items, such as tinned foods, were the next most inflation-busting sector, registering a 15% increase, while fresh fruit and vegetables went up by 14.7%.
The research, carried out for the BBC to find the impact of food price rises on the average UK household also showed that a pack of 4 croissants, chicken and ham went up by over 40%.
While supposedly ‘developed’ nations have governments and official bodies, which started dictating what and how much people ate in 1976 (USA) and 1983 (UK), preventable, non-communicable diseases have been rising, the cost to healthcare has increased steeply and those afflicted are getting younger.
Despite trials, studies, research and evidence to the contrary and improved transport, the NHS, official bodies, dietary associations, the government and their mouthpieces in the media all spout the same advice: to base every meal on starchy carbohydrates.
How DID we survive this long without government telling us what to eat?
We may wonder how, through all the pestilence, plague, poverty, famine and wars humanity even survived. Well, I suppose until a hundred years ago, a huge amount of people didn’t vote in the UK. It’s like, “now you’re allowed to vote for us, we will create the circumstances in which you will have to”.
This is true for only a few people in special circumstances, predominantly someone who is taking sustained, vigorous exercise straight after every meal or all the sugar and starch will be stored as fat for warmth and reserves as it contains little other use. White bread, white pasta, white rice and skinless white potatos have had all their micronutrients stripped out, to extend their shelf life and make way for additives and flavouring. Food manufacturers have also exploited information about the micronutrients we need in our food to supplement their products into enriched and fortified foods, to be sold at an elevated price for their unnatural nutritional qualities.
Our bodies are not accustomed to empty calories in enriched and fortified foods, which are the same as dietary supplement packaging trying to sell their products for nail strength, hair growth or to slow down wrinkles.
If you’re approaching, going through or have had your menopause, consider the role that mironutrients play in mental and physical health.