Back to basics

Think back to your days at school. If you’re my age that would have been in the ’60 and ’70s. My Mum was an amazing cook and I don’t remember having dinner without sweets or dessert. My lunch box was packed every day with a sandwich, homemade cake or biscuit and piece of fruit, and I drank water from the bubbler at school.

When we got home from school my siblings and I would have milk and cookies, usually chocolate chip or anzacs. I didn’t see any low fat foods in our fridge, but rather butter, cream, full cream milk, lots of fruits and vegetables, red meat, nuts, fish and all the basic foods. There were no prepackaged meals.

At school we had one class a week for scheduled sports and the rest of the time we sat in the class room learning from our teachers. If I walked home from school with my friends we would stop at the local fish and chip store, buy fresh hot fried chips for five cents, throw salt and vinegar on them and eat them on our walk home.

I went to an all-girls school and I don’t remember anyone being fat. Certainly there was no one obese. I had never heard of diabetes, ADD, ADHD, hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and there seemed to be no allergies. We would all have to drink that warm milk at morning tea. I didn’t mind it but my sister would gag; she wanted it cold.

That was less than 40 years ago. What happened? I’ll tell you what I believe happened. Our mothers stopped being the decision maker of what we should eat. Instead, science, big food companies, marketing and advertising have assumed this role.

One by one foods that we had eaten for thousands of years were condemned as unhealthy. Butter was replaced with margarine, porridge with boxed breakfast cereals, sugar with artificial sweeteners, real colour with fake colour, spices and herbs with artificial flavours, salt with sodium-free salt, raw milk with 15 modified milks with more additives than a luxury car, meat with lean choices and so on.

Many of these new foods have outlandish health claims such as helping reduce your cholesterol, improving your immunity, preventing osteoporosis, fighting the fuzzies at school, turning you into an iron man or a top athlete. There is little regulation as to what can be put on a food label with regards to health claims. And with the heart tick of approval adorning many of these products it’s hard not to be fooled into believing the health benefits of new generation foods.

In the last 30 years our rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, obesity, depression, hyperactivity disorders, asthma and dementia have escalated. If this trend continues the Australian population is in deep trouble.

In the 27 years that I’ve been a nutritionist, I’ve always taught the same principles: when people change from new foods back to old foods the results are phenomenal. About 18 years ago I had a 30-year-old friend who was in such pain with her arthritis, that she was taking eight paracetamol a day. She was about to go to her doctor for stronger medication when I suggested she try changing her diet. Megan had tried every weight loss diet known to mankind so she wasn’t keen. However, the diet I proposed was not for weight loss but for health. I advised her to change only her breakfast; she was to stop eating the breakfast cereals, modified milks, toast and margarine and change to real food.

After two weeks she was feeling so good she asked me for her next food change and over a 12-month period we changed everything in Megan’s food choices. She began to exercise, feel great and was amazed that she no longer needed drugs for her arthritis, dermatitis or asthma as all had disappeared. She also went from a size 16 to a size 8. She had been overweight since she was 13. Megan is heading toward 50 this year, is still a size 8, has no need for medications and looks fabulous.

The key to health and permanent weight loss is to first of all change your goal to health, then you begin to choose foods for health and not for weight loss. Believe it or not they are entirely different. It’s not about deprivation it is about eating the foods that nature provided not the ones produced in a laboratory. The good thing is that you can make a chocolate cake that is healthy! If you want your health and energy back then eating the right foods is essential.

Cyndi’s book Changing Habits Changing Lives, written in the early ’90s has been revised as every new food and its health claim came on the market.
Cyndi O’Meara
P.O. Box 104
QLD 4557