Some things are hard to swallow. Like the fact that no matter how many sit-ups you attempt, you will never be mistaken for Chris Hemsworth. Or that despite your best efforts to put in topical jokes and zingy one-liners, your end of the year party speech will still be dreaded by your company and colleagues alike and met with the same warm but a slightly disappointing round of applause.

Or the fact that no matter how many times you watch The Last Dance on Netflix, you will not be able to master a slum-dunk like Michael Jordan. 

However, other things are difficult to swallow. No matter how well-intentioned you are when it comes to eating, you probably put some poisonous products into your body daily.

It is difficult, maybe even impossible, to imagine that the most dangerous and potentially damaging things to your health in your kitchen are not the sharp knives or that mega-seven-speed-blender-mix-4000 contraption you bought on a whim in the sale. Still, the things most damaging to your health are sitting in your fridge and your food cupboards.

In this week’s blog, we will tuck into the darker side of the food industry and how the food heroes they are selling you may be destroying you from the inside out. Are you sitting comfortably? You may not be by the time you finish reading my blog. 

My name is Andrew Sillitoe, and I’ll be providing 10% of the energy you need to make a positive difference in your life. The remaining 90% is going to have to come from you. 

Thanks for joining me. Bon Appetite. 

If you’re anything like me, there are times when you have been unhappy with your body. Studies suggest that I am not alone in this feeling. In fact, in a 2020 YouGov study, the results showed that nearly half of the UK population are unhappy with their body. A similar survey conducted in the United States a couple of years earlier found that 79% of people questioned were dissatisfied or had previously been unhappy with their bodies. And that number seems to be on the rise.

It is not surprising that we feel bad about our bodies in many ways. The rise of social media shows us a constant stream of airbrushed and sometimes down-right impossible images of the human body. Adverts from all angles tell us to buy, stop buying, eat and not eat in endless combinations. After the last few years, our incredible brains are less equipped to reject these things as ridiculous and instead plant seeds of doubt in our minds like a speedy but nasty farmer.

What makes these matters worse is that you are being lied to by the people we thought we could trust. Clever marketing images and choice language can convince even the most cautious of us that a food bar contains natural ingredients and is 100% not bad for you. 

But those of you who have spent your entire working lives scanning contracts for the small print, it is surprising that so many of us don’t read the label properly when it comes to putting things inside our bodies.

I have been guilty of this too. As a gout sufferer, I am telling you that if you let your body down, it will start letting you down, and as I said to you earlier, I have been unhappy with my body, but my body has often become unhappy with me.

My competitive spirit and gout are the two things I’ve inherited from my father, and I don’t say it enough, so thanks, Dad!

This next section will be about my gout, calling it the “Inflammation Information Station”. Thanks for coming aboard. 

I hope you are lucky enough not to know what gout is. It is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes sudden, severe joint pain. My gout comes out swinging whenever I have too much sugar or processed food. As I mentioned in my last blog, it visited me on Christmas day, just like the three wise men arrived to see the Baby Jesus, but my gift was immobility and pain instead of gold and pleasant smells. After Christmas pudding and an impressive number of my mother-in-law’s Czech Christmas biscuits, I was struck down because of the amount of sugar I consumed. In some ways, gout is a blessing because it reminds me of how these poisonous foods affect my body.

Let’s talk about the celebrated white stuff and its friends because it is a common but delicious enemy to the masses. It is insidious and in nearly all processed food in such terrifying amounts that you’d think we were in the middle of a global health crisis. Oh. Right. 

And don’t get me wrong, it is delicious and addictive. It’s normal to be tempted by it, but it is terrible for you, like someone telling you a joke before they mug you. You’re won over and then hurt.

If you go to your food cupboard now, or when you get home and pick up a jar or a tin of something processed, chances are the sweet stuff is high up on the list of ingredients. It sneaks into our diet with admirable persistence, but the costs are, at the risk of scare-mongering, deadly. Furthermore, there may be ingredients that you can not even pronounce on the label.

Now I know food is a complex subject for many of us, and I know that you can’t talk about the food crisis we face and not acknowledge the privilege and poverty that comes with being about to afford, or not afford, the foods your body needs to be at it’s best. We know that supermarkets and food companies are quick to reduce the price of high fat, high sugar, high salt, low nutrient products as if these foods are going out of fashion, which of course, they are not. Corporate greed means that a healthy, whole food diet is not as accessible as it should be, which truly needs to change. 

We want future generations to avoid the plague of chronic degenerative diseases, like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and many more. These were rare or virtually absent in our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who only had access to a wholefood diet. Although you only have to go back to 1950, before corporations marketed junk to us, and see that we were much healthier back then. But healthy people, it seems, is not good for business.

If you can afford to buy yourself and your family a healthy, wholefood diet, you owe it to yourself to do so. Start by cutting out processed foods and dramatically lowering your sugar intake. If you are concerned about your fat intake, focus on healthy fats, reduce the doughnuts, and increase almonds. I know that is not always going to bring you as much joy, but if you keep the treats to being treats, you’ll find that your happiness increases. 

It’s also important to note that diets are not built to last. You can’t replace a meal with a milkshake for your whole life. Of course, you can in the short term, and maybe it will work for you, but as soon as you stop, science shows that you’ll return to your previous weight like an over-enthusiastic boomerang. For lifelong health, you need a lifelong healthy diet, and that diet is a wholefoods diet. 

But why would you trust me? Because I am asking you to. But in case you are, rightly, more selective on whose advice you trust, trust yourself. Trust yourself to make the correct choices when you are making dinner. Opt for a meal from scratch with a base of healthy protein and vegetables. Trust yourself that the energy you will get from eating a banana over a Mars bar will be more beneficial for you, not just your body but also cognitively.

Naturally, our bodies hold on to calories. We are genetically engineered to hold onto them if we can’t find them again for days. Failure to complete a strict diet might feel like a personal failure, but it is not. Although it’s not your fault that strict low-fat diets are not sustainable, I hope you feel empowered to remove some of the toxic food groups from your diet and replace them with whole foods such as fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fats and animal protein. It’s as simple as that. 

But of course, the food industry doesn’t want you to know that because there’s no money in it for them.

I have tried many diets, including vegan, Paleo, Mediterranean, keto, carnivore (meat only). Diet is personal, and you need to do what works for you. But I have concluded that the processed junk that big food companies market is not suitable for anyone.

I don’t get gout, inflammation or brain fog, and I feel stronger and more energetic when eating a whole food diet that emphasises:

  • Animal protein, vegetables, fruits, legumes, sweet potato and nuts.
  • Zero refined foods, sugar, white flour, dairy and industrial seed oils.

Getting healthier is easier than you think. You wouldn’t sign a contract containing several bad things for your health, so don’t do that with your food. Always read the label, and reject it if it will not serve you. 

Thank you for reading my blog. I’m Andrew Sillitoe. Stick a fork in me. I’m done.