I remember the moment it all changed with some clarity, Natalie and I were in the car when she turned to me and said “I’m reading a book at the moment that you will hate”. I urged her on, “Imagine everything we have ever learnt about nutrition was wrong”. Natalie has an MSc in Obesity Intervention and Prevention and I have a BSc in Exercise Science, I have also spent a number of years teaching Nutrition, so relatively speaking we thought we knew our stuff.
Reading the Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz was a revelation that I relished but at the same time it made me cringe: could it be that all of my beliefs in what human beings should be eating were based on, at best, bad science and at worst, people pushing their own agendas for personal gain? Had I been part of this corruption through teaching my students about concepts such as the Eatwell Plate? I checked back and started digging deeper, my findings made Teicholz’s words even stronger.
I was a keen triathlete at the time, training 5-6 days per week 2 times a day, I fuelled myself in the same way most endurance ‘athletes’ do – on bread, pasta, rice, lean meat, energy drinks/gels and I avoided high fat foods. I was okay at Triathlon, not quite age group material but not too far off. I weighed 76kg and had no major health conditions apart from chronic sinus issues. However, I was constantly injured – mostly soft tissue problems, with a few muscle pulls and tendon issues here and there. I was the guy who had a meal before dinner "pre-dinner, dinner" it was known as, I was always hungry and ate every few hours, looking back it was actually very restrictive and it used up a lot of time.
Three and a bit years later, my diet now looks nothing like the Eatwell Plate and far from that of most of the amateur endurance athletes I compete against. I now get the majority of my nutrients (not calories – that’s a different blog) from nutrient dense foods such as high quality red and white meat, oily fish, eggs, full fat dairy, green leafy vegetables and of course amazing olive oils. I have been injury free for over 13 months (the first time since school), I weigh 71kg and my sinus condition has improved significantly. Oh and I have recently smashed my 10k running personal best.
Behind this brief (or not so) blog sits over 3 years of learning, experimenting and fighting cravings, although my journey has been made easier through living with Natalie – she is always on hand to give advice and of course I’m happy to be her guinea pig. My own reading has also been vitally important in broadening my understanding of nutrition, I recently read Genius Foods by Max Lugavere. Lugavere conveys his research in an evidence based but personal tone and the concepts he discusses are user friendly. I freely admit there is a lot more for me to learn and a lot more for humanity to re-learn about real food.
Natalie and I recently become Public Health Collaboration ambassadors (https://phcuk.org/) – a charity dedicated to helping inform and implement better food decisions for better public health. As somebody said to me not so long ago, if there is something wrong with the world you need to do something about it.