Small Changes

If you were told that one small change to your life-style/diet could improve your health and possible even save your life would you make that change?

I ask the question because, though I may be wrong, I suspect that many people, once they know what that change is, would say ‘let me think about it’ and then do nothing! Certainly you would want to know before you commit. If it was say, simply to stop eating lettuce then possibly, no problem.

It is undeniable that there has been an increase over the last 50+ years in the incidence of obesity, high blood-pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stomach problems, cancer and many other complaints, yet it seems that one small change to diet might just, if not cure then at least relive many of these issues. So what is that change?

Wheat. Simply eliminate wheat from your diet. A book recently caught my eye in my local charity shop and attracted my interest so I bought it – I doubt I would have bought it at full price. The book is by William Davis, MD and is called ‘Wheat Belly’. I started reading it at once and found it considerably more interesting than I had expected. All his claims are backed up by references to scientific papers and research projects. Much of the information is now freely available but as yet it has not filtered through into the common consciousness.

The point that he makes is that although wheat has been the staple diet of western society for centuries, causing no problems, during the last 50+ years it has changed, due to hybridisation and GM into something that bears very little resemblance to the early types of wheat that mankind ate, and those changes are harmful to mankind. Coupled with this has been dietary advice to eat more whole grains (wheat) and it is during these recent years that the incidence of all the diseases of modern life have ballooned. People have got more obese, diabetes and all the other ailments are more prevalent and there is  also an increase in obesity in children on a scale never seen before.

Dr. Davis argues most convincingly for wheat being the culprit, and I reiterate, his assertions are backed up by science. I haven’t time to go into all the science here, for that you will have to read the book. However, giving up wheat is probably not quite as simple as it sounds. First to go are bread, cakes and biscuits, but far more of the foodstuffs found in our local supermarkets contain wheat – from tinned soups, gravy and sauce mixes, beverages, some yoghurts and much more besides, to chewing gum and lipstick – read the labels. (Modified food starch on the label? That’s wheat!)

Now I’m not obese, probably you wouldn’t even describe me as fat but I can pinch more than an inch of spare flesh around my middle – not healthy! Also I have been troubled with what would probably, if I went to the doctor, be diagnosed as ‘IBS’ for as long as I can remember, certainly since childhood. I haven’t let it interfere with my life, I just ignore it and suffer in silence. Apart from that I am physically fit and healthy, I do not suffer from high-blood pressure, as far as I am aware I do not have diabetes or any heart problems nor do I have arthritis, although as I am getting older I do have more aches and pains which no doubt will develop into arthritis if I am not careful. I am not on any prescribed medication.

However, I have been sufficiently impressed by what I have read to give it a go. It’s not a topic that normally fills me with enthusiasm (I eat to live not live to eat!) but I’m going to have to get rather more interested in food as I learn to cook and eat without wheat. The advice is to make a clean break and chuck out all the wheat-containing products is your kitchen. I can’t bring myself to waste stuff like that so I will phase it out gradually. Meanwhile I have been researching recipes for meals without wheat and there is plenty out there, including alternatives to cake and bread (note: ‘Gluten-Free’ from your supermarket is not advised as it contains all sorts of other undesirables, but can be used now and again. Also note ‘wheat-free’ and ‘gluten-free’ are not the same thing, although of course there are overlaps).

If you are interested I suggest you read the book and/or others on the same topic that are also available. There is also plenty of information on the internet. Take a look at http://www.wheat-free.org and www.elanaspantry.com for starters, both contain some delicious-looking recipes I am going to experiment with over the coming weeks, including wheat-free alternatives to popular favourites.  I will keep you informed of progress and will be more than pleased if I lose that spare flesh and improve my temperamental tummy.

Incidentally, I met a friend a couple of days ago whose weight has ballooned in recent months for no apparent reason (he has some other health issues too). His doctor had no advice to help and has since retired. What has his new younger doctor advised? – cut out wheat!

 

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ASBO

It is time to come clean! Many of you will have realised of course, but for those who did not, it is time to admit that my post  last Monday , “A Cause For Concern“, was an April Fool spoof (did you note the date? April 1st).

While much of the content was true; we are indeed encouraged to buy more and more different varieties of wild bird food and to feed them all the year round (and much of it is not their natural food source), there is in fact no evidence that this is causing obesity in the wild bird population.

Many of you, although possibly not those overseas, will also know that ASBO actually stands for Anti-Social Behaviour Order and these are handed out by the courts to  youths who cause a nuisance in their local neighbourhood, intended to encourage them to behave.  Unfortunately, instead of having the desired effect these tend to become a badge of honour as in:

Youth 1: ‘I’ve got an ASBO.’
Youth 2: ‘So what, I’ve got two.’
Youth 3: ‘Is that all I’ve got five….’

and so on, but that’s life! Still, I hope you enjoyed the fun.

A Cause For Concern

Today, instead of my usual ‘Small Stone’, I would like to draw your attention to something which is causing great concern amongst local twitchers (or bird watchers if you prefer). This is not just a local problem as there is evidence that it affects birds all over the UK. I refer of course to obesity in the wild bird population.

Let me explain. Bird habitats are in decline as weed killers and insecticides are sprayed on our fields and hedges are grubbed up, not only in the countryside but also in our  gardens, to be replaced by fences. Increasingly too our gardens are covered over with concrete or gravel for ‘ease of maintenance’. This has resulted in less natural food sources available to our wild birds and many garden bird species have suffered as a result.

One answer to this problem has been the increase in various wild bird food mixes available to purchase from garden centres, supermarkets and other outlets. We are cautioned that, as birds may become dependant on these supplies we should continue to feed the birds all the year round, not only in the winter when natural supplies may run low. Increasingly these pre-packaged mixes are becoming specialised to suit particular bird species such as Robins, Tits and so on and, unsurprisingly, it is in the suppliers interests to encourage us to buy these products in vast quantities.

As a result birds are encouraged to overeat, since the food is readily available and plentiful, and there is no need for them to fly about in search of natural supplies. Instead they can be seen gobbling up peanuts with gusto, a most un-natural food source for birds in this country as peanuts do not even grow here.

I have witnessed first hand the difficulties that some birds, most notably pigeons, now have in getting air-borne as they hop about on the lawn, flapping their wings and struggling to make it over the fence into the neighbour’s garden, where yet more food awaits them on yet another bird table.

This obesity problem in birds, and the subsequent difficulties they have in flying obviously makes them more vulnerable to being caught by cats and the ever-increasing numbers of birds of prey in our skies (themselves in decline until quite recently), thus adding more strain on their numbers, which is somewhat contrary to the purpose of feeding them in the first place.

To address this problem my local twitchers are setting up an action group called ‘Action to Stop Bird Obesity’, or ASBO for short and details of how to donate to this worthy cause will be notified in due course. In the meantime we are counting on your support to increase awareness of this latest threat to our wild bird population.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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