Scattered throughout the food and diet literature is the suggestion that to ensure optimal health we should return to the eating patterns before the 1960s. This concept was popularised by Michael Pollan. In his book In Defence of Food2 one of his food rules is ‘don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would not recognise as food’. His implied take-away message is we should ‘eat real, proper, simple food’ – not the kind from a packet. Others have suggested going back two generations further ‘eat the way your great-great-great-grandparents ate, and you’ll live a long life’ 3, or even to ‘eat at the table of your ancestors’.4
I wondered whether this could be true and whether I could prove it. To begin with, my great-great-great-grandparents number 32. To find if that statement was true, I would have to trace my family history to those 32 ancestors, understand their backgrounds, deduce what they probably ate, then contemplate if foods they were eating in the manner they were eating them was still available to me and could improve my own longevity.
This was an intriguing concept and I decided to investigate.
The year 2019 was a defining year for me, a year of growth …
After some major set-backs earlier in the decade I reinvented myself from 2014 onwards including returning to University and completing a Masters in Human Nutrition through Deakin University in October of last year, 2019. The course included a research component of four units. My research topic was Ultra-processed food and health outcomes. I also researched the Health Star Ratings, a nutrient-profiling system introduced in Australia in 2014. I am currently writing some papers form my research which is taking all my time and focus. After all that is finished I am planning to focus more on this blog to provide educational content.
One thing that this course has taught me is that science is evolving and nothing is set in stone as factual without controversy. The more I have learned, the more I know there is yet to know. The more expert I become in an area, the more I realize how in-expert I really am.
I have come to understand that there are so many unanswered questions, of how things pan out for public health initiatives, and for an individual. Even presuming individuals are humming along happily and healthily in good personal, financial and social situations (and not suffering from a personal crisis or trauma); there are still unanswered questions in regards to the current food environment we have today. I aim to explore these questions on my blog. Like a gardener, I intend to grow my knowledge and impart that to others.
My fields of interest are prevention of non-communicable diseases especially heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers; food sensitivities; surviving the current food environment of excess food availability, and especially availability of ultra-processed foods; and constant social pressure to indulge with food. Moreover, I will explore the evidence of using diet and lifestyle to extend one’s health-span, not simply one’s lifespan.
That is my aim as I enter a decade of personal growth … it is never too late to be where you want to be.
A dichotomy is a division into two entirely different and often contrasting domains, interests or activities (1). Examples of true dichotomies are black or white. Tall or short.
A false dichotomy is an argument giving a false illusion of there being only two choices whereas in reality there can be at least one other or even many possibilities (2). The argument is set up in such a way as the first choice is eliminated due to it being seen as a terrible choice, and the only other alternative is the second choice.
Within two generations there has been a complete restructure of our food environments from mainly fresh foods prepared in the home, eaten with family or friends at the table with plates and utensils; to a high proportion of fast food, convenience food, snack-food, confectionery; from or at restaurants, cafes, take-away outlets and food-halls; out of bags, packets, bottles, cans, tubes, tubs … and eaten on the run. Continue reading “Living through history. Our changing food environments. 1980s – 2010s.”→
While I was growing up and in the years as a young adult, as my own family mainly consumed home-prepared foods, garden-grown vegetables and eggs from our back-yard hens; swirling all around me were economic improvements and major shifts in social norms, a prelude to the storm that was to become a complete restructure of our food environments within a generation.
Working and walking
In my parents youth, in the 1930s and 1940s, times were tough with the depression, World War 2, and food rationing. The 1950s through to the 1970s were decades of relative improved prosperity. My father worked full-time. Initially he rode a bicycle to work. In the 1950s only 10% of families had cars. (2) Gradually we became a one-car and in the 1960s a two-car family. My mother was a homemaker, as the majority of women were in the 1950s. There were no modern appliances. Housework took many hours with washing, ironing, sweeping, cleaning, and chopping wood. The evening meal was cooked over many hours. In the 1950s, women averaged 77 hours per week housework. (2) As children we walked to and from school, except on rainy days when we caught the bus. After school we rode bikes around the neighbourhood or played in the back yard. Continue reading “Living through history. Our changing food environments. 1950s – 1970s.”→