Mirror, mirror on the wall..

looking_in_mirror_1600_wht_5647Who is eating most of all?

Scientists are interested in factors that influence how much people eat.

Previous research has shown that the size of plates, even their colour can have an effect. As can background sounds e.g. the sounds of the sea makes fish tastier.

Eating with a fork rather than a spoon (which makes people underestimate their meals), using paper plates or even giving people toys with their meals can make them accept smaller portions.

On of the latest ideas is putting up a mirror in the dining room so you can see a reflection of what you are eating. Given a choice of chocolate cake or a fruit salad those eating in front of a mirror enjoyed the chocolate cake less (those eating fruit salad were unaffected).

Researchers at the University of Florida where the experiment took place said that having a mirror in the room makes diners more careful about their behaviour including watching how much they ate. “A glance in the mirror tells people more than just about their physical appearance. It enables them to view themselves objectively and helps them to judge themselves and their behaviours in the same way they judge others.

Maybe they also feel more guilty when they are being observed. There was some research which showed that people tucked away in dark corners of restaurants tended to eat more.

Researcher from the University of Texas found that telling people they were eating healthy food encouraged them to eat bigger portions because they found it less filling. This suggests that “low fat” and “low sugar” labels may encourage over-eating.

This research is to be published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. One of the editors, Professor Brian Wansink from Cornell University is also releasing the results of a survey on what makes slender people different from overweight ones.

Half of people who are not overweight try to eat vegetables for supper every day, 34% eat salads for lunch and 30% would choose vegetables as part of their last meal on earth (what – no ice-cream?). And a quarter avoid chocolate altogether.

That sounds pretty boring to me but don’t forget the stats mean that the other half of people who are not overweight don’t do those things.

And before you start making New Year resolutions about losing weight, it’s also a time to remind you that diets only work for 10% of people, juicing takes the fibre out of the fruit and veg so nutrients aren’t absorbed effectively, removing whole categories of food from your diet is just a fad and can be unhealthy,  and the only sure way to lose weight is eat less and exercise more.

And don’t forget that when you eat out you are being psychologically manipulated from the moment you walk in the door. Read here to find out how.

“Healthy” foods can be bad for you

whats_for_dinner_1600_wht_11336An Australian actor, Damon Gameau, conducted an experiment on himself. Over 60 days he ate only foods labelled as healthy.

So he wasn’t consuming cakes and sweets but nevertheless managed to ingest 40 teaspoons of sugar a day.

He didn’t reduce his calorie intake or his exercise regime.

After 18 days he was developing a fatty liver. After 60 days he had Type 2 diabetes.

On day one he decided to start with a healthy breakfast. Special cereals aimed at athletes, apple juice and low fat yoghurt. That was 20 spoonfuls of sugar. Then for lunch he upped that a to 40 spoonfuls by having dried fruit, a juice drink and sesame snaps.

Its well known that many foods sold as healthy are anything but. Low fat or slimmers’  versions usually contain sugar to make up for the reduction in fat which effects the taste.

Based on his experience Gameau made a film called “That sugar Film“(and there’s a book too).51LWS+8hj4L._AA160_

Here’s the trailer for the film:

Scary stuff.

Can we afford to eat healthily?

tape_measure_around_plate_1600_wht_15585No, according to Eleanor Mills in the Sunday Times yesterday.

She starts her column by pointing out that for the first time in history poor people are fatter than rich people.

At one time of course being generously proportioned meant you could afford to eat well. The we had the idea that pale and thin was good – “you can’t be too rich or too thin” – well yes you can actually and why I support the “No More Skinny” campaign.

But that’s a different story. She says expensive clothes tend to come in smaller sizes than supermarket own-brands, the average British woman is a size 16 (that’s 40-32-42 in inches) and the only part of retail doing well is Plus Size.

If you haven’t got much money it goes further in a fast-food outlet according to research at Cambridge University. They found that eating healthily costs three times as much as eating junk food.

Over the past decade healthy food had increased in price by over twice as much as junk food based on a study of almost 100 food items, taken from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) consumer price index basket, including salmon, yoghurt and tomatoes at the healthy end of the spectrum to pizzas beef burghers and dough its at the other end.

The author of the study said “The increase in price difference is a factor in increasing health inequalities and a deterioration in the health of the population”. An that’s no joke given the cost to the NHS of obesity and diet-related ill-health like type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

The experts seem to think that we can do nothing about it and teaching people to be able to cook well on a low budget won’t help. For example Dr Joun Middleton at e the UK of Public Health charity puts the blame for the poor being obese purely on high prices. I think sometimes charities take a simple point of view to make it easier to get there point across and raise money. How can teaching people to cook not help?

Mills doesn’t agree either pointing out that in many cultures people eat well on low incomes citing Indian cuisine as a good example or making home made soup from beans and pulses. But she acknowledges that having the time to do it is a factor, putting a pizza in the oven for ten minutes when you’re in a hurry to get to work is easier than cooking from scratch. But you can use a slow cooker overnight and it only takes 20 minutes to cook fish and boil potatoes.

  • A 2014 Nuffield Health study found that 1/3 of people in the UK said they could;t afford to eat a healthy diet and 1/7 said they didn’t have time to prepare balanced meals.
  • DEFRA found that the pest 10% of households by income bought the least fruit and vegetables – almost 3 portions a day down 14% since 2007.
  • In 2013 price was rated as the most important factor influencing food choices but if you haven’t got a car getting to a cheap supermarket with kids in tow can be a problem.

Cooking is apparently back on the school curriculum. This has got to be a good thing. When I was at school, a long time ago I admit, boys did joinery or woodwork at boys’ schools and girls did cookery or domestic science. Both were useful skill sets that more recent generations seem to lack.



How do you stop the ageing process?

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871Forget the magic potions and snake oil. Start walking, stop eating puddings, stop eating full stop, that will work!

Fancy a nap? Then have one. Men don’t dye your grey hair it looks worse than having grey hair. Compare the new-look Tom Jones and Macca if you don’t agree.

Buy decent clothes. Nothing worse than an old geezer in rubbish clothes (and I include trainers in that category from bitter personal experience).

These are just a few of the ideas in the Times2 section today written by Matthew Parris with my own thoughts added.

The full article gives a great long list of things to do suggested by the Times team of experts and here are most of them with my own comments added here and there:

  • Get out of your comfort zone and do something different
  • Stop worrying about your status in society and comparing yourself with other people. Status anxiety just makes us unhappy
  • Learn something new every day. Apparently the Queen does this and a fat lot of good that has done Prince Charles
  • Get a pet. It reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels and is particularly useful if you have had a heart attack
  • Be an optimist and look forward to things. I’m looking forward to having a holiday again one day
  • Stop making lists and JUST DO IT
  • Eat less but eat better
  • Pay off debts
  • Get married and you’ll live longer. Certainly good for men
  • Wear comfortable shoes as soon in life as you can. I love my Clarke’s shoes and Geox trainers. Uncomfortable shoes lead to inflammation which impacts on everything from heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s
  • Walk if you can, use the stairs, lift weights . This improves your memory as well as your stamina NB you lose 1lb of muscle weight a year from age 50
  • T-shirts not a good idea if you have a paunch, better a tailored shirt
  • Get enough vitamin D i.e. get some sun on your back and avoid dementia
  • Have more sex. Only way to age-proof your sex-life is to keep having one.
  • Listen to boy bands. I know it’s hard to believe but apparently listening to Westlife’s “Safe”, One Direction’s “Midnight Memories“, Blue’s “All Rise” and Take That’s “When we were Young” is recommended for their invigorating bounciness and the way the lyrics speak to the older generation.  I suppose they’re a bit more positive than the lyrics to “My Generation” by The Who!

Who are the better slimmers, men or women?

carrying_text_12640Well it turns out that men are better at slimming according to research carried out by Slimming World.

A large study of 1.2 million dieters found that men had fewer emotional issues when it came to dieting (women might say that applies to everything men do – apart from supporting their favourite sport team).

Over  a 13-week period men lost an average of 6.1% of their body weight whereas women lost only 4.6%. For men that was 1st 2lbs compared to 11lb for women.

Men, it appears, are less likely to be knocked off track by events at work or in the family and don’t use food as a comfort or a reward.

Dr Jacquie Lavin who carried out the research for Slimming World said ” the research suggests that men’s brains are more solutions-focused and they often tell us that they have fewer commitments at home so once they find out how our eating plan works they tend to just get on and do it. They are more focused, get off to a better start and are less likely to be distracted or taken off track by life events.”

“Women more typically want a deeper level of emotional support to uncover their issues around food and to help them to take back control over their choices in what can be a difficult and persuasive food environment, and they’re more likely to tell us that stressful or emotional events in their lives sabotage their slimming”.

She does admit that other factors also play a part such as men having more muscle and a metabolism that burns energy faster. They are also less likely to have tried diets before so it’s easier for them to follow a new routine and not carry over habits from previous attempts. But she admits it’s a combination of emotions, genetics, culture and our environment. “Allowing yourself some time to focus on yourself and your weight loss is definitely central to success”

Dieting is big business and of course I’m suspicious of research sponsored by slimming companies but Dr Lavin, perhaps unwittingly, admits that women are more likely to have tried dieting before, unsuccessfully. And it’s a fact that diets don’t work except for maybe 10% of people and yet a large percentage of people are on diets permanently and move from one fad to another.

Save your money buying diet food and dietary supplements: just exercise more and eat less and more healthily.