Here we go again. Another day, another awful warning about the appalling effects of appalling diets. I in 6 deaths. Kills 89,9000 Britons a year. Type 2 diabetes on the increase. And cancer. And heart disease. Global problem. Wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The usual suspects – sugar, processed foods, fizzy drinks, too much meat, not enough fruit and veg.
The usual remedies – less meat, more fruit and veg and nuts, no processed food, the Mediterranean diet.
There is nothing new in any of this. We’ve been subjected to the same jeremiad before many times, and no doubt we will again.
This time there is a subtle change of emphasis. Study leader, Dr Ashkan Afshin says ‘Dietary polices focussing on promoting healthy eating can have a more beneficial effect than policies advocating against healthy eating’. In other words, less of the finger wagging and more of the yum-yum-yum.
I’ve always thought that finger wagging was and is a waste of time. It never worked with me, and so I couldn’t see why it would work with anyone else. I was always a chap for the carrot rather than the stick.
This view was bolstered when I came across some research years ago (by whom I can no longer remember). This investigated whether certain socio-economic groups understood the healthy eating message, and if they did understand it, why they didn’t abide by it.
The researchers concluded that adults did understand they message, and encouraged their children to eat their five a day and cut down on crisps and fizzy drinks as far as limited budgets and food skills allowed. When it came to their own food choices, however, they felt they had so little control over their own lives, the one thing they could control was what they eat. Consequently being constantly lectured on the error of their ways only increased their determination to carry on regardless. The well-meaning, but hectoring tone of dietary professionals and food writers was having the opposite effect it was supposed to. I can see no reason why this should have changed since.
I’ve said this before. I expect I’ll say it again, but any change in tone from criticism to encouragement is a step in the right direction, although the language needed to frame that advice also needs to be modified, to be empathetic to its audience. If Loyle Carner can make a hit out of his admiration for Yotam Ottolenghi, anything is possible.