Last night I caught up with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest offering, ‘Hugh’s Fat-Fight’. It’s the most recent in a line of campaigning series by the food writer, who previously took on wonky veg and persuaded many of us to buy less-than-perfect vegetables. I enjoy his style – it has neither the manipulativeness of a Louis Theroux or the self-righteousness of many a didactic voice-over: instead he makes friends of local people; acknowledges and thanks corporations when they do the right thing and holds them to account when they don’t. Some of his methods are highly imaginative, such as turning up to Kellogg’s and Nestle with a huge set of traffic lights to get them to use the ‘traffic light’ system properly. (It may come as a shock to realise that some breakfast cereals are nearly 50% sugar.)
The programme (I have to fess up here) did make me feel a tad smug since we eat very little processed food, never add salt or sugar, don’t have puddings and eat a fair proportion of fresh fruit and veg. Down sides: we don’t eat as much wholemeal stuff as we used to (pasta, rice or bread) nor as much raw food (coleslaw, salads etc.) However, I can report that I am not only able to bypass entire aisles of crisps and chocolate without feeling the slightest twinge of regret (in fact they annoy me mightily) to me, crisps are like bits of flint with salt on and I don’t like chocolate bars as much as biscuits. I do have one indulgence though, which is chocolate digestives.
My BMI is within healthy range, though I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds: but on the whole I’m happy with my weight. I could be more physically active: for exercise I do yoga every day but I don’t walk or cycle as much as I used to. So there’s room for improvement there. As for alcohol, I would drink a lot more if I could afford it, but I can’t. So my consumption is virtually zero at the moment.
None of which is any help at all except in developing my already entrenched sense of smugness about being healthy. On the other hand, for years I smoked, drank too much, had a rubbish diet and hardly exercised at all. So it’s a luxury for me to feel that for once I’m on the side of the gods.
As for the obesity crisis, of course individuals are responsible for their actions, but many areas have few outlets for fresh veg and fruit and takeaway food outlets are on the rise. But big companies have to shoulder a large part of the blame; and as well as the frightening quantity of sugar in cereals, one thing that shocked me about Hugh’s programme was his trip to WH Smith’s. It really pisses me off that even clothes shops nowadays have sugary snacks by the till: but Smiths’ (whom I never visit because they are so overpriced) have a positive maze of chocolate – walls of the stuff which you have to negotiate before you can get to the till. So Hugh is asking people to tweet WH Smith’s with the hashtag #WHSugar.
It’s dispiriting to see the once highly-principled Kellogg’s (it was started by Seventh-Day Adventists) descend to the same level of corporate nastiness as every other multinational:
but as for Nestle, they are pure evil. Nothing will persuade me to buy any of their products:
Anyway, here’s the programme:
Oh, and here’s a bit of Neil Young to keep you going: