I think a lot about obesity and about why so many people I see out and about are grossly, often morbidly, fat. And the other day, while eating a pre-show meal in a burger bar in Chichester – not my usual choice but it made a change – I had what felt like a flash of insight. Maybe not like the apple landing on Newton’s head or Archimedes jumping out of the bath but a sudden realisation nonetheless. So much so that, straying temporarily outside my usual field of writing, I feel an overwhelming urge to share it.
In Best Burgers, or whatever the place in Chichester is called, I carefully ordered a veggie burger without a bun and asked for a side salad as well. Naïve, I know, but I was astonished when it came with a large portion of chips. When I pointed out that I hadn’t ordered “fries” the waiter told me that they’re standard with any burger order. Then I looked round and noticed that everyone else in the room was tucking into a large bread bun AND chips – a double dose, in other words of carbohydrate. Come to think of it, I see it every time I walk past McDonalds to get to the loos in motorway service stations .
Now, cards on the table. I am not, obviously, a qualified nutritionist. My claim to know anything at all about the subject stems from a period in the early 1980s when my husband got the start-your-own-business-thing out of his system and set up a whole foods company which ran for seven years. When I wasn’t teaching (I had a full time post!) I energetically made things for him to sell, went out in the evenings giving talks about our products and teaching vegetarian cookery at weekends. It taught me quite a lot about food, eating and health.
I’ve also struggled all my adult life with my own weight which means I’ve probably spent more time than most trying to work out what not to do if you want to keep obesity at bay. I’m not bad at common sense, either.
And double carbohydrates must surely be something we should be campaigning hard against if, as a nation, we’re to avoid what the press delights in dubbing the impending “obesity crisis”?
Just to be clear, carbohydrate especially if it comes from wholegrain or skin-on sources should be part of every diet – in moderation and maybe not at every meal. If you try and cut it out altogether you’ll run short of vitamins and your digestive system will probably seize up without fibre which is uncomfortable, unpleasant and unhealthy.
But you certainly don’t need two lots at the same meal.
Here, as well as chips with burger buns, is a list of habits which I think we need to change – culturally acceptable (thanks a bunch, America) as many of them have insidiously become. And these are just examples. There are plenty more I could have included.
- Crisps with sandwiches
- Naan bread (or chapatti etc) with curry if you’re also having rice
- Bread roll while you wait for a meal which is going to include potatoes etc
- Dough balls as a starter when you’re about to eat a pizza or pasta meal
- Pizza and chips
- Pie made with pastry served with mash or chips.
- Pasta or rice “salad” with a meal which includes another form of carbohydrate
- Bread and butter with fish and chips
- Toast with a full English breakfast which includes fried potatoes or hash browns.
- Soup with croutons or bread before a meal including potatoes, rice etc.
- Garlic bread with pasta dishes
If we could only raise awareness and find ways of turning opinion so that fewer people eat in this way I suspect that we might at least dent the obesity problem a bit.