‘We dig our grave with our knife and fork’

English Proverb

‘We dig our grave with our knife and fork’ was also said by the wonderful Miriam Margolyes, actress and national treasure on one of the documentaries about retired celebs checking out various retirement homes across the world. The difference between some of the celebs was marked. Jan Leeming and Wayne Sleep almost defying their ages and looking much, much younger, Rosemary Schreager and Miriam Margolyes looking less than energetic and light on their feet. ‘You are what you eat’ seems especially noticeable in later life.

Having done a beachside survey in Benidorm a few years ago (don’t ask! But Benidorm is not without its own unique charm!) watching British women particularly (as I am one and feeling rather irritable about the ageing process) I was saddened to see so many older women who were on mobility scooters, had sticks or limps and were carrying rather a lot of excess weight. Most had a short back and sides ‘man-do’s’, elasticated trousers and ‘comfy’ shoes. (I intend to be wearing heels until they nail me in my box) and who in God’s name invented the tandem mobility scooter?!!! Hardly any had taken really good care of themselves. Now I’m not condoning the frozen, weirdly stretched and vacant look of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills either (I only watch these programmes for research purposes of course) but surely there is something in between?…….

As a nation, we are getting fatter, unhealthier but living longer  – living with conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, several forms of cancer, osteoporosis and dental disease. The NHS is literally buckling under the obesity epidemic and it’s not because people are unaware that junk food is bad for them – they know. We’ve had the likes of Jamie Oliver doing his bit to educate the nation on feeding kids, fresh, healthy food – yet at a recent school event, I was struck by the amount of overweight primary age girls there are – many with a big tummy – why? When they should be running around and burning off those calories? Combine crap food with a sedentary lifestyle and bingo! You have a ticking time bomb on your hands.

Now, before you throw your Dunkin doughnut at me! I am not one of ‘those’ women, who effortlessly maintain a tiny frame and think anyone who eats a bag of crisps is a disgusting slob who should be forced fed celery and have colonic irrigation – no, no no! I have struggled with my muffin top for years and endured years of raised eyebrows and quizzical looks when  I say I have been a vegetarian for over 25 years (that very quick look up and down with barely concealed surprise) vegetarian doesn’t equal skinny my friends. What I am on a mission to do though, is to make sure people understand what they are putting in their bodies and can make informed choices about their health.

Eating well and healthily is not only for those in higher income brackets – let’s get that straight. I know as many senior executives who are eating really poorly and looking way older than their years as I do families on social housing estates who are struggling to put any food on the table. What strikes me is that there is a whole generation who apparently didn’t get taught to cook or budget? I have spoken to so many people who not only are time poor but simply don’t know how to put a nourishing food dish together. There is a myth that it costs a lot more to eat healthily – well actually it doesn’t, but it does mean putting a bit of effort in and choosing what you eat a lot more carefully.

I have just finished reading a wonderful book ‘The Stepney Doorstep Society’ about the matriarchs of the East End of London before and after the war. Most of them lived well into their eighties even nineties – they had hard lives and definitely didn’t have much money BUT they went through rationing, walked everywhere, worked hard, cooked food from scratch, didn’t eat snacks or fizzy drinks and shared what they had with each other. Most had to walk up many flights of stairs to their flats and only had treats on rare occasions. Sugar rationing certainly didn’t do them any harm.  Smashed avocado on sourdough wasn’t on the menu back then but simple, home-cooked food was – and that plus resilience to get on with things and make the best of life.

We are treated like idiots by the marketing companies  – sold ‘healthy’ foods and snacks that in reality are full of sugar and additives – now that makes me mad, PMT type mad! Package any old tripe up as healthy and ‘convenient’ show long, leggy successful women skipping to work with a flat stomach and glowing skin and we rush out to buy the new miracle product. Trust me – that model isn’t eating it! Basically, if it’s got a list of ingredients that takes up half of the back of the packet its not healthy!! If you then sit at a desk for 8 hours without moving, you’re going to start spreading! It’s really time we took back control over what we put inside our bodies and go back to basics – spend a bit of time preparing food at home, doing a bit of chopping and shredding, planning and shopping, moving more and look forward to a longer and healthier life.

Yes, we are a time poor nation,  living busy lifestyles but we take such pride in our cars, for instance, putting the right diesel or petrol in knowing what will make the car run smoothly, yet sitting in the same car eating fast food or crisps, salt-loaded sandwiches and snacks. I know some really highly educated people who can get to the root of incredibly complex, strategic issue yet can’t seem to grasp that eating their high fat, high salt, refined sugar diet is killing them!

To be even more blunt about it Mike Adams put it so well ‘There are over five thousand species of mammals on planet Earth, but only one of them is insane. It also turns out there is only one species of mammal that intentionally poisons itself (and its children)  – you’ve guessed it – homo sapiens. Humans are poisoning themselves to death. Our food is intentionally laced with chemical poisons to make it look red (sodium nitrite), or taste savoury (MSG), or last longer on the shelves (chemical preservatives). If you don’t realise your food is stripped of nutrition, ask yourself why your sugar and bread are both white when the plants they come from are green and brown…)???!!!

Alzheimers and dementia are rampant in our society now – potentially because we are ‘brain damaged’ by all the chemicals and crap in our foods – but the taste and advertising have made fast and convenience food really hard to resist – go to any shopping mall and what are your health options? Erm……….zero! Just really look when you next go to a shopping centre  – look at what people are eating – what children are eating…….we have built eating into every activity we do – munch, munch, munch ……..all day long! A brownie here, a muffin there, a bag of crisps, ready meal, fizzy drink and the list goes on. And I’m not saying that everyone who eats like this will be overweight – there are plenty of TOFI’s (Thin on the outside, fat on the inside) who are also on a path to poor health and a shortened life span – the poor old fatties are always seen as the ones who will hit the skids first, not so.

So, I don’t believe in diets (finally – after about 40 years of it)- what a miserable exercise! I love food – I eat more than all my colleagues – male and female! BUT – it’s what I eat that is different. Home cooked, mostly plant-based food, lots of water, fruits and vegetables. I decided when I hit 50 – (I want to live long and healthy not thin and miserable 🙂 I want to enjoy old age – dance, move, cook, cycle and skip my way into the horizon! I bought a fold up bike (love it) and a cheap step counter and ditched the bus in favour of walking. I’m all about longevity now – I have young kids  – I want to be here for them as long as possible. If that means a bit of extra effort in the kitchen, a bit more movement and activity – then I am happy to do it……

Final note – the above pictures are not about looks  – these are two very different women equally magnificent and in their 70’s. Miriam admits to not being able to walk up the steps in her home anymore and using a wheelchair at airports and doesn’t care what anyone thinks! From what I understand she also can’t stand Jan Leeming! BUT Jan is fit and active and whatever Miriam thinks of her, she looks amazing…..

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