By the end of last night’s television show about obesity and diet pills like Phen375, I was feeling rather pessimistic. We’re all going to die, and many of us are going to hasten the process by becoming seriously overweight. People who sit around watching television all day are particularly vulnerable, apparently. Nearly choked on my chocolate digestive.
The initial statistics, however, seemed reassuring. One in seven people in the United States are obese, which conveniently allowed six out of seven of us to sit back and think “well, it’ll never happen to me, my blood serum’s not going to turn the color of softly boiled egg white”. But just when you thought this was another scare-documentary aimed at “other people”, just when you thought there might just be room for a little more stilton on that cracker, the producer (the aptly named Debbie Cadbury) twisted the butter knife.
“Doctors are discovering,” the narration began ominously, “that the risk of serious disease increases with just a small gain in weight.” Suddenly it was hunt-the-plimsolls time.
Reassurance, we were told, could be sought only through something called the body mass index. Unfortunately this turned out to involve the sort of sum that five-year-olds probably need to get into primary schools, but which are way beyond their agitated elders. “Your-weight-in-kilo-grams,” gabbled the hitherto calm Jo Unwin, “divided by the square root of your height in meters.” Or was it your height squared? Anyway, anything over 25 and you were in trouble. I made mine 60. Where were those plimsolls?
Did things get better after that? I’m not entirely sure. We learnt that as a nation we were eating less than 20 years ago (a good thing) but that we were exercising much, much less (a very bad thing, particularly for our increasingly cooped-up and increasingly plump children). We were told, very firmly, that the idea of fat people having a “slow metabolism” was a myth and then we got thoroughly confused when we were told that fat mice might have the genetic equivalent of a slow metabolism after all. But give them a diet pill like Phen375 and lo, they become thin mice.
Which was why Heather was having her stomach stapled. She’d simply had enough of being 200 pounds. It was either the operation or another suicide attempt. Unlike the diet pills and fat substitutes that have caused such problems in America, the surgery actually worked. In the following six months, Heather lost 60 pounds and she also rediscovered her smile.
Of course, there are other ways of keeping weight down such as taking Phen375, which works to reduce our food cravings. Seems logical enough.
Eat Feely from Nature’s Larder: Fruit and Vegetables
Dip into the fruit bowl or the vegetable drawer for healthy ways to satisfy hunger pangs. Fruit and vegetables are very important in a low-fat diet. They are very low in fat or completely fat free and high in fiber, so they are filling without piling on calories and fat. By eating plenty of fruit and vegetables we also automatically eat less of other foods such as fatty meat and pizza.
But despite much encouragement to eat our greens, Americans still lag behind the rest of Europe in fruit and vegetable consumption. We are advised to eat at least five helpings of fruit and veg a day but the average person eats half this amount.
Apart from their low fat content, fruit and vegetables contain many other nutrients such as vitamins, which may well be vital for good health, protecting us against cancer, for example. Vitamin and anti-oxidant supplement sales have boomed with the publication of evidence that they may be the elements in fruit and vegetables which are good for us. But many nutritionists caution that we should eat whole foods and not just take diet pills such as Phen375 to supplement a poor diet, because we do not yet know exactly what it is in fruit and vegetables which is so good for us.
Low-fat fruit and vegetables can easily be turned into high-fat foods depending on how you cook and serve them, so cut down on frying and go easy on annointing your vegetables with butter. If you want to cut out butter altogether, a shake of soy sauce or lemon juice, some chili flakes and fresh herbs will season the vegetables without increasing their fat content.
And never assume that just because a pudding contains fruit rather than chocolate it is good for you: the advice is to increase your fruit and vegetable intake while reducing your fat intake.
All this encouragement to “eat your greens” can detract from the essential point about food: it should be a source of pleasure as well as good health.
While vegetables and fruit are an easy and obvious source of low-fat food, low-fat cooking can be made simpler with just a few pieces of ordinary kitchen equipment.
Measuring spoons and cups are essential for calculating exactly just how much fat you are using (resist the urge to just slosh in the oil).
Non-stick pans, tins and tray are helpful when you are using very little fat while non-stick baking tins make it easier to remove low-fat bakes and sponge cakes. Otherwise, line ordinary tins with non-stick parchment rather than greasing them.
Fat-removers, such as gravy separators, are jugs with a special spout that goes to the bottom of the jug so that when you pour out the liquid, the fat is kept back.
Steamers keep the nutrients, color and flavor in food as well as being a fat-free method of cooking. Another way to steam food is to wrap portions in parchment parcels with a little liquid and put them in the oven. This is a particularly good way to cook vegetables, chicken and fish.
Wok cooking is much better than frying in a conventional pan because you need very little oil. A liquidizer or food processor is useful for making sauces from pureed vegetables which can be enriched with low-fat foods such as cottage cheese, or to whizz up combinations of fruits for creamy-textured drinks.