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Don’t Let The Biscuits Win

Written by: Louise Mercieca, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have invertedly eaten an entire pack of biscuits without truly realising?

Have you ever wondered into a supermarket for dinner and come out with something unhealthy because that was the product that leapt out at you, telling you subliminally that this option would be the tastiest, the quickest, the most affordable?

Well, if you find yourself in these or any number of food situations where you end up questioning how that happened or even worse find yourself feeling guilty over those food decisions than you are not alone. You are absolutely not alone.

We are living in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate our food landscape. Where it is easier to be obese than it is to be thin and any attempts at healthier food choices can simply be, financially unobtainable for so many.

We are experiencing such contradictory times where we have individuals making a career out of the way they look, yes this has always happened but now it is much more prevalent due to social media. Where the body image has become distorted via filters and photo editing so we cannot tell if we are looking at a real person or an edited person leading us to question our own body image which does not truly reflect any filtering or editing in real life, because, well we are real.

At the same time as this rise in body image alternation we are living in an obesogenic environment.

Every step we turn makes it easier to be obese than to be thin, we have access to more food, we move less and we are more stressed.

Let’s start, of course with our food landscape and how this has changed to reflect shelves full of science experiments instead of shelves full of real food. It’s been a gradual change, of course it has, we would have noticed and been up in arms if the change had happened over night. The gradual change meant we simply didn’t notice.

  • We didn’t see the portions got ever so slightly bigger, again and again and again.

  • We didn’t notice that to enhance flavour and prolong shelf life more artificial ingredients were added

  • We didn’t notice that all of the low-fat foods were loaded with sugar

  • We didn’t notice that to reduce the sugar they threw in a load of artificial sweetener

  • We didn’t notice that foods aimed at children were harmful to their health and palate development

We didn’t notice because we trusted our food. Perhaps you still do? I would like to try to encourage you not to. I would like to encourage you to challenge that trust and I would like you to not let the biscuits win.

Now I say biscuits, it could be anything, pizza, cake, chocolate insert any food addiction that controls you rather than you controlling it.

Junk food contributes to both obesity and malnutrition. There is no argument there it does. For some people they can consume these foods in moderation as part of an otherwise healthy diet. Good, great, that works if you are in control of the food.

It doesn’t work when the food controls you.

When you can’t say no

When you can’t stop until it’s all gone

When you feel guilty after eating it

When you feel sad about your food relationship

When all you can think about is food

When you are unhappy with how the food makes you look and feel

It is not easy to consume these foods in moderation because they are designed, yes designed to make you eat them to the point of excess. Let’s take a look at this:

There are lots of processed foods. Processed foods have been around for hundreds of years. Olive oil is an example of a processed food, as is a tin of chopped tomatoes. The problem isn’t processed foods. It is Ultra Processed Foods or UPF’s.

What are Ultra Processed Foods? Any foods (and there are a lot of them!) which contain very little in the form of real foods and a lot of artificial ingredients. The term comes from the NOVA food classification system, this is designed to classify foods based on how and why they are processed. The NOVA definition of Ultra Processed Foods (or group 4) is;

“UPF’s are industrial formulations made entirely or mostly from substances extracted from foods (oils, fats, sugar, starch, and proteins), derived from food constituents (hydrogenated fats and modified starch), or synthesized in laboratories from food substrates or other organic sources (flavour enhancers, colours, and several food additives used to make the product hyper-palatable). Manufacturing techniques include extrusion, moulding and pre-processing by frying. Beverages may be ultra-processed. Group 1 foods are a small proportion of, or are even absent from, ultra-processed products.”

Examples of Group 4 foods include:

  • Biscuits

  • Chocolates and sweets

  • Fizzy drinks

  • Pre-prepared/packaged meat

  • Pre-prepared/packaged pizza and pasta dishes

  • Pre-prepared/packaged burgers and hot dogs (some sausages, you can source good ones from a butcher)

  • Energy/sports drinks

  • Dairy drinks (milkshakes etc)

  • Margarine & spreads

  • Instant soups, noodles, desserts (packet mixes of foods)

  • Sweetened juices

  • Breakfast cereals (most but not all)

  • Pastries, cakes, cake mixes

  • Packaged breads

  • sweetened and flavoured yogurts, including fruit yogurts

  • other animal products made from remnants

  • baked products made with ingredients such as hydrogenated vegetable fat, sugar, yeast, whey, emulsifiers, and other additives

  • ice cream and frozen desserts

  • fatty, sweet, savoury or salty packaged snacks

  • Meal replacement shakes (many but not all)

It is always worth remembering that these foods have been designed to suit the food industry not human health and even they (The Food Industry) state that people should eat these foods ‘in moderation’. The problem is many are not eating them in moderation, in fact 1 in 5 people in the UK have a diet made up of 80% Ultra Processed Foods, more worryingly is that 64% of children get more than half their daily calories from this group, rising to 68% in teens. Here in the UK, we eat a huge amount of these foods, second only to the US.

There are many negative health associations, the most obvious being obesity, but obesity isn’t just what size your clothes are, it’s a whole load of issues going on internally and we have been seeing these health side-effects in children for some time.

Children are not exempt from adult diseases; they just didn’t used to get them! A diet high in UPF’s will certainly increase their chances of becoming obese but it will also increase their risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease, joint problems, infertility, sleep Apnea, stoke, Alzheimer’s, malnutrition, some cancers and depression. A frightening list that’s for sure!

What do these foods do to us?


There’s a reason why we are able to eat so many of these foods once we start. They are designed to be highly palatable, the term used is ‘Hyper Palatability’ the ‘perfect’ mix of sugar, salt and fat to ‘tickle your taste buds’ and activate your senses. These foods are even designed to have the ‘perfect’ texture so you don’t have to work as hard chewing, meaning you can eat more quickly, use less energy to eat the food and eat more and more food without getting full. In short, ultra-processed foods bypass your body’s natural ability to feel full, these foods do not enable your body to produce Leptin, the hormone that tells you to stop eating.

So, we have seen what these foods contain but what do they miss? Well, everything that the body actually needs is missing, I refer to UPF’s as ‘empty calories’ calories without nutrition. There’s a reason why obesity and malnutrition exist within the same populations.

So, we can see all of the above – these foods have been designed to have the perfect texture so you don’t have to chew. They are designed to be hyper-palatable so you can consume much more than you need. They are designed to bypass the bodies natural hormonal response to feeling full, thus making you stop. They are designed to activate the pleasure and reward centre of your brain leading to food addictions and emotional eating patterns.

The biology and nutritional science of the impact junk food has on a human body is not only known by these food manufacturers, the detrimental impact these foods have is encouraged to increase consumption and therefore lead to larger profits.

So, the next time you reach for a product in a supermarket please consider the above. Who is in control, You? The food? If it’s the food, the biggest winner is the profits of the food company. The biggest loser may sadly be your health. I am not here to say NO to biscuits, I just don’t want the biscuits to win.


Louise Mercieca

Nutritional Therapist


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Louise Mercieca, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Louise Mercieca is a Nutritional Therapist and Founder of The Health Kick, a business driven to provide understandable, practical nutritional advice, in a world driven by diet culture and convenience eating. Louise is influential in the early-years health sector, making an impact that can shape the next generation’s eating habits. She is the author of ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ and is hugely passionate about spreading the message that children can make healthy food choices that lay the foundations for their future health. We don't need to walk into the health predictions set for us, we have the ability to change them!

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