Thursday, 26 May 2011

salad for lunch

Yesterday a friend came over for lunch.

I tucked into my standard lunch of tuna and toast and a cup of tea.
She said she wanted a salad.
“That’s not what you should be eating” she told me, pointing to my sandwich.
She sliced up tomatoes for her salad and said:  “This is what you should have.”
(Which I thought was interesting because I have noticed that people who habitually have salad for lunch generally struggle with body image)

My friend knows a lot about dieting.  She’s pretty much an expert.  Ask her about how many calories are in an egg, for example, and she’ll ask you fried or poached.

But I know something that she doesn’t know.
I know how to eat in a way that honours my body.

She has spent her life believing that salad is the answer and that dieting is the only way forward. And that her desire for food is the thing that she must conquer. And that she is a failure because she cannot conquer her desire.  And that if she tries harder, she will be successful.

She has another choice. She could let go.  She could stop trying and berating herself for failing.
She could stop believing in magazines that tell her how Jennifer Anniston achieves her bikini-body. 
She could tear down the eating-plan taped to the wall in her kitchen. 
She could stop trying the Dukan diet or the no carbs after 5 rule or the substantial protein for breakfast rule.
She could stop having salad for lunch and buying bags of sweets to eat in the car.
She could make life easy for herself.
She could live with ease in a world of alluring food.
She could eat only with dignity, and never with shame. 
She could accept that only she is responsible for what goes in her mouth.
She could have the pastry or not have the pastry, without a drama.

She could stop believing them, and start believing herself.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


On Thursday afternoon, while running down the aisles for a quick food shop, I asked my daughter to choose the breakfast cereals. She was taking ages so I doubled back to see what the problem was. She couldn’t decide between Cookie Crisp (40% sugar) or Frosted Flakes (41% sugar) or a new one from Kellogg’s called Krave (30% sugar)

The boxes told the whole story. They looked yummy, fun and sugary. I told her another story. I said no.

There was a stand-off in the cereal aisle at Waitrose. As I was paying, I felt I had the right to the final choice. I choose Rice Crispies (10% sugar), Shreddies (14%) and Weetabix(4%)

The new guidelines by the US government want to limit cereals to 8gm of added sugar. (Froot Loops contains 12 grams of sugar a serving. That translates to 48% sugar)

I sympathise with my daughter. Sweeter is yummier. There is something about sugar that calls its sweet siren song. Just hearing the word fudge or chocolate is enough to make me want it.

Offer me a piece of cake or a slice of bread, offer my daughter chocolate spread or unsweetened peanut butter, offer my son ice-cream or vegetable soup, and you know which way the cookie’s going to crumble.

We want sweet before we even see any advertising. But it’s not good for us.
And it’s not good for our children.

I’m not asking for Kellogg’s to stop making Krave. I just want them to stop advertising it to my children. (In the USA the food industry spent nearly $2.3 billion to advertise to children.)

The huge advertising budgets of the food industry normalises unhealthy eating.  

There are no messages out there that say anything else in a language me and my daughter understand.   

There’s no fun TV commercial that says water is a better choice.
There’s no exciting on-line game for toast and peanut-butter.
There’s no beautifully illustrated billboard for oatmeal porridge.

And without messages that tell the other side of the story, it feels like I'm fighting a losing battle for what my children eat for breakfast.

Is there anyone out there on my side?