My food history # 11 – 2000s – health claims, social trends and slow-ticking time bombs



Life gets busy

Two years after my youngest child started school I began working full-time.  I became involved in community groups and projects. Life became very busy.

When my children entered their teens and ate their way each week through 21 loaves of bread, 14 boxes of breakfast cereal, 20 kg of potatoes and substantial rice, pasta, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, fruit and vegetables; due to the sheer volume of food shopping and cooking required to feed them, I gave up on trying to follow my own prudent Pritikin-style diet and joined the family fare. I was thus eating more red meat and oil in the evening meal. At lunch I was now having bread as sandwiches, rather than rice, pasta or potatoes as I had previously had, although I still had those in the evening.


There were guidelines on upping intake of dairy foods for calcium and bone health to four serves a day after age 50, so I cooked my porridge with milk (rather than water) and began having full-milk latte (decaf) coffees rather than black with a dash of milk. Yoghurts and other milk-based concoctions entered my weekly food list.

Despite increased meat intake I developed anaemia due to gynocological issues, and had to have iron supplements which played havoc with my gut. I fiddled about with grains and high-fibre foods in and out of my diet trying to improve symptoms, and went on a gluten-free diet for a while. The anaemia continued for a decade until post-menopause in 2009. During that time I had a low exercise tolerance and was constantly fatigued.

Health Claims

Research on the so-called ‘french-paradox’ of the french consuming a similar high-fat diet as US but having lower rates of heart disease, pointed to wine as perhaps the reason. Indeed US dietary guidelines (in 1995) implied moderate alcohol (all alcohol, not just wine) was not only fine, it was actually healthy (1). My doctor even mentioned this to me in one conversation. I had never been much of a drinker yet now felt approval had been granted that it was all right to do so, and may even be good for heart-health.

The Mediterranean diet became popular with an emphasis on oily fish, nuts, and lots of olive oil. The message began to seep into the diet-advice literature that consumption of ‘healthy’ fats was OK. Gradually the negative image of fats being fattening or detrimental to health began to break down for me. I included more nuts, oil and stir-fries in my diet.

In 2005, respected Harvard physician Walter Willett wrote Eat, Drink and Be Healthy (2); and in 2008 Harvard School of Public Health produced their alternative Healthy Eating Pyramid (3) which swapped potatoes to the top of the pyramid (eat sparingly), oil to the bottom (eat mostly), and included alcohol in moderation. Although I have never agreed with their take on potatoes, their royal seal of approval on oil and alcohol hit home.

Social Trends

With the children now older, I ate out more at restaurants, with dessert as a treat and alcohol consumed. Coffee shop dining (with those full-milk lattes) took hold, even in Tasmania. Reluctant at first, I eventually joined in. We entertained nearly every weekend with Bar-B-Ques on the balcony – complete with stacks of meat, pan-roasted potatoes and all the trimmings. In fact, there always now seemed to be some reason to celebrate: Easter, Christmas, birthdays, graduations, soccer wins, staff gatherings, holidays. At those times ‘just this once’ indulgence seemed a social imperative.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

So throughout the late 1990s and 2000s I was leading a very busy life. Rush, rush, rush.

On the surface I did not have any obvious terrible eating habits. On a daily basis I was still following a healthy diet mainly foods from the core food groups and avoiding fast-food, convenience food, snack-foods, ultra-processed foods, confectionery and sweetened beverages. However, I had increased my intake of red-meat, dairy foods, alcohol, oil, stir fries, pan-fried potatoes; and I enjoyed the occasional indulgences of cake or ice-cream at times of celebrations and when on holidays.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Slowly, ever so slowly over 16 years I gained about a quarter to half a kilogram per year.  I had moved into the overweight BMI category at age 47 … then kept on going.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.

My food history # 1 – My childhood diet – Late 1950s, early 1960s
My food history # 2 – Mid 1960s – First nutrition lessons
My food history # 3 – Late 1960s – Times are a-changing
My food history # 4 – Critical moments – my father
My food history # 5 – Fit 1970s – fibre – fruit – free of sugar
My food history # 6 – 1980s – Critical moments – a health scare – hypertension
My food history # 7 (part 1) – 1980s – Food Sensitivities – shattered ideals of healthy food
My food history # 7 (part 2) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – proving the culprit foods
My food history # 7 (part 3) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – hypertension & biogenic amines
My food history # 8 – The 1980s Healthy Eating Pyramid
My food history # 9 – The 1990s Nutrition studies – low GI – lipoproteins
My food history # 10 – 1990s combining ‘friendly’ with ‘healthy’ – a bland yet healthy diet
My food history # 11 – The 2000s – slow ticking time bombs
My food history # 12 – Critical events and life catastrophes
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.

(1) Marion Nestle. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition. 2002
(2) Walter Willett, Patrick Skerrett: Eat, Drink and Be Healthy. 2005
(3) The Healthy Eating Pyramid. Harvard School of Public Health. 2008. Retrieved 02 Oct 2018.



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