‘The Men Who Made Us Fat’ and Mindful eating: What I’ve learned so far

As a BBC series investigates ‘The Men Who Made Us Fat’, and I continue to read ‘The Headspace Diet’ book, I consider just how powerful an understanding of the history of unhealthy food can be when it comes to my decision to eat it

Thinking as I have recently about eating and food (when do I ever not?!), but more importantly, about why people eat what they do even while knowing just how unhealthy it is, I jumped at the chance to see the first installment in new BBC series The Men Who Made Us Fat, which purports to investigate why the Western world’s collective waistline continues to increase to health-threatening proportions.

The first programme focussed on that all-encompassing ‘bad guy’, high-fructose corn syrup, which, it explains, was introduced to the Western foodstuff from America and is often indicted as one of the key reasons why people in developed countries are fat, and getting fatter.

Having myself just returned from a trip to the States – where even more people are fat and obese than in Britain, and where there seemed to be noticeably more outlets selling fast, convenient, varied and calorific food than in even the UK (it certainly looked that way to me, anyway) ‒ I was very interested to hear more about this ‘high-fructose corn syrup’. Especially since the last smoothie I drunk before leaving New York City (incidentally the ‘small’ size was almost the same size as my head) conspicuously and proudly bore the words ‘Absolutely no high-fructose corn syrup’ stamped onto its huge plastic cup.

Just what was this stuff, and could I blame it for my own demons with keeping my weight down – a problem I clearly share, albeit, my size attests, to a lesser degree than the rest of the Western world’s even more overweight citizens?

Continue reading

My TV: online and on-demand

Apparently, recent research has found that 1 in 4 British people (26%) now claim to spend more time watching TV through ‘on-demand’ services, such as BBC’s iPlayer, YouTube or Channel 4’s 4OD, than they do watching traditional ‘linear’ broadcast TV. Among young people ages 18 to 24, the figure jumps to a substantial 41%.

Frankly, though, as far as I can see, the only surprising thing here is that the figure isn’t higher.

I can safely say that I never, ever watch television when it’s actually on.

BBC iPlayer – ever-changing portal into all the latest TV

BBC iPlayer, and its (sadly inferior) cousins, are a permanent fixture on my computer, be it stored up in a list of tabs I’ve collected while browsing, saving them for later when I’ve got time to sit down and watch them properly, or actually playing – in the background as I potter around doing things, behind my Word document as I write, perched on my bed as I snuggle down for the evening, catching up on all the great programmes I’ve ‘missed’.

Except, I don’t actually consider myself to have ‘missed’ them – because that would suggest that I aimed to watch them live, when first broadcast, and failed.

I didn’t – on demand services have completely revolutionised the way that I – and people like me ‒ watch TV, to the point where I don’t even try to watch programmes live anymore.

Continue reading

TV review: BBC 1’s fabulous new talent show: The Voice UK

The Voice

The Voice UK

The fact that The Voice focuses on talent rather than the sheer batshit-mental, ‘eccentric’ types we’ve had the misfortune to see on other shows, makes it seem fresh, exciting, nurturing and fun – everything you’d want in a talent show, basically (…and having the lovely Danny O’Donoghue as one of the judges may also have something to do with it)

Again, I’m revealing the fact that I’ve been away, and when it comes to TV, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Happily, I’ve not been disappointed – the Easter bank holiday weekend plus the terrible weather has given me no shortage of time to check out all the shows I’ve been missing, and The Voice UK is one of the programmes that has really hit the spot.

I’ll admit I had been avoiding this programme, simply out of sheer fatigue at more bloody ‘talent’ shows. From being an avid X Factor fan a few years ago, in more recent years I have found myself getting too bored to watch; too jaded and too disappointed with the cynical, point-and-laugh formula that the Simon Cowell juggernaut kept pushing out with energy-sapping regularity. The over-the-top music, the focus on ‘sob-stories’ rather than talent, the emphasis on the judges rather than the acts, the hysteria over the US version, the less-than-inspiring competitors, the similarity to all-round freak show Britain’s Got Talent, and the frankly medieval penchant for laughing at hopefuls without a snowball’s chance in hell; it was all too much, and I could no longer be bothered (nor was I the only one – even Cowell didn’t turn up to the last series, and viewing figures plummeted as Gary Barlow and the forgettable other three took over the show’s listing reins).

Actually, as I pressed play, I didn’t expect The Voice to be that different. However, its unique selling point of not showing the judges the singers until they’d heard their voices, seemed a tantalising and worthy attempt at reversing some of the superficiality of the aforementioned show, and I wanted to see just how it worked.

Pretty much instantly, I was hooked.

Continue reading

TV review: BBC 2’s The Little Paris Kitchen, or why I love Rachel Khoo

Upon arriving home from a month away, I come across a fabulous new BBC 2 food programme that reminds me of my love of France ‒ and which, unbelievably, proves that there is most definitely still room on TV for yet another cooking show

Rachel Khoo

Rachel Khoo, my new TV food-crush (even if it is a month after everyone else)

I’ve been out of the country for the past month (briefly volunteering at small but interesting projects in Himachal Pradesh and Goa) and frankly, it makes me cringe to think that among some of the reasons I was apprehensive about going away for four weeks – including, for example, people realising they could do my job without me, what would happen to my waistline, whether I’d be able to carry everything I’d need for a month on my back ‒ was that I’d miss out on BBC iPlayer (I know, shoot me).

I hardly ever watch live TV, but I’ll regularly peruse the glorious iPlayer and open in endless tabs the frequently interesting, entertaining and fabulously on-demand programmes I find that I haven’t yet had a chance to watch.

Doing just that upon my return home, I discovered a new programme I hadn’t heard of before – BBC 2’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo’. As in love with cooking programmes as I am (my watching of Saturday Kitchen of a morning is akin to a religious ritual, and I will be hoofed out of bed only for the most paramount of familial or national occasions, sighing with a resigned acceptance that I’ll just have to catch James Martin’s yummy offerings later on) I was sceptical of this one, fronted as it was on the BBC site by a young girl laughing into food mid-frame, eerily reminiscent of those hilarious but depressing ‘Women Laughing Alone With Salad/Fruit’ stock photos that regularly do the Internet rounds. Sigh.

Also, another programme on luxurious, indulgent but oh-so-easy cooking presented by a young, pretty woman? If Nigella hadn’t already cornered that market a while back (albeit, slightly more saucily than entirely necessary), who could forget Sophie Dahl’s well-meaning and sweet but essentially lacklustre attempts at comfort food, or Lorraine Pascale’s enjoyable but nonetheless slightly sickening missives of trying to convince all us mortals that she does really eat loads of cake and cheese and bread, honest (hey, maybe she genuinely does, in which case, I’m still annoyed!)*? Could this new programme really be offering anything different?

Well, it turns out, yes.

Continue reading