Rowena Hoseason has studied the science of nutrition and obesity for over a decade. She’s successfully put into practice the positive behaviours which help to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke and many other long-term illnesses in older people. Rowena applies the scientific evidence she researched during her BSc in Health Sciences to everyday situations. So the advice below isn't just a collection of technical theories from a skinny someone who’s never looked a cream cake in the eye! Her suggestions come from hard-won real-world experience, from someone who’s lived through significant weight gain and health issues, and who knows just how it feels to turn down that slice of Victoria sponge…
With Christmas only a few weeks away, Rowena Hoseason offers some us some great tips about how to eat,drink and stay healthy.
Let’s start off with something straightforward. Let’s slow down, because that in itself will help us to eat an appropriate amount of food at mealtimes. It’s all too easy to get carried away. When I was much heavier (nearly 90kg), one of the many problems with my old lifestyle was the act of shovelling food down my neck as if I was in a pie-scoffing contest. Don’t know how it started, but polishing a plate in rapido time became the norm. That’s not such a great problem if you then run out the door to do a dozen other things, but it’s not helpful if second helpings are available, followed by dessert and after-dinner mints.
Gaining weight can be a real problem in older age, particularly for women after the menopause. One reason for that is because we continue eating the volume of food we needed when we were younger, maybe with a more vigorous lifestyle. Very often we eat much more at meals than we need to fulfil our hunger, and heaps more than we need to satisfy our body’s nutritional requirement. That’s because our evolutionary ancestors didn’t go to the Chinese buffet and load up on instant platefuls of yum-yum chicken. Instead they took ages about hunting and gathering their food, nibbling as they went – and when they did sit down to a big meal, it was a massive social occasion which took all night and most of the next day (due to there being nothing decent on Netflix in the stone age).
Along the same theme, there are even sense-receptors in our jaws which, after a certain amount of chewing and grinding and masticating, send off yet another ENOUGH ALREADY message to the brain to bring about a state of satiety (which just mean ‘fullness’). But our food is mainly cooked these days and comes in the form of bite-size delicacies which barely bump into our teeth enamel before they’re swallowed. All of which means that the set of signals designed to help us judge how much food is enough have been comprehensively circumvented. And hence we eat far beyond fullness – and not just now and then, but at almost every opportunity.
It is possible, however, to alter our behaviour and give the body’s natural mechanisms a chance to re-establish themselves. You can probably figure out ones which would work for you, but these have been helpful for me:
Eat more slowly! If you’re trying to lose weight, then savouring each mouthful makes more sense than snarfing it down in three minutes flat
Drink water throughout the meal. This is not because you need to drink a certain volume of water every day, but because water consumed with food will help your stomach fill and trigger those stretch receptors. (Drinking heaps of water on an empty stomach is less helpful; it tends to just woosh straight through).
Likewise, eat bulky vegetables, ideally raw ones if salad is on offer, and high-fibre pulses and grains which will help to fill your stomach (and which have heaps of other health benefits).
Chew your food really carefully. Give your jaws something to work with.
Don’t over-order in restaurants. Avoid having a starter: promise yourself a pudding if you’re still hungry at the end. Chances are, if you slow down and listen to what your body is saying, you may not need that pudding after all.
Talk more. Turns meals back into a social event when that’s possible and give your body time to process the food you’ve consumed before eating once again.
But don’t allow social meals to encourage you to eat more. People who dine alone typically eat less than when they eat in groups. So try reading a really gripping book while you eat alone. Or when you’re with friends, don’t eat an extra course just to prolong the pleasant experience of being together. Drink a herbal tea instead!
In short – take it easy!
Rowena’s always happy to chat about food and fitness via Facebook. Feel free to send her a friend request: www.facebook.com/Hooligween
If you’d like to learn more about the biology behind obesity, this free online course from the Open University is an excellent introduction:
If you have concerns about your own weight or fitness then have a chat with your GP’s practice nurse. Most local surgeries offer plenty of support and guidance to help you stay in shape. It’s sensible to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked every year.
Rowena Hoseason is a voracious reader; a professional writer, editor and publisher, a keen outdoor swimmer and a lifelong motorcycle rider. She sold her first story aged 17 and hasn’t stopped scribbling since. Together with her partner, Frank Westworth, she launched the vintage motorcycle magazine RealClassic in 2005, and the crime-thriller site Murder Mayhem and More in 2014.