Life Healthy Eating

Monday 15 September 2014

Choices we make shape our bodies

Gerry Duffy

Published 04/08/2014 | 00:00

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Healthy breakfast options

Last week, along with my other half, I had a short holiday in hotel in the west of Ireland. Over the course of three breakfast sittings, I found myself observing the eating habits of other guests, where I noticed a consistent and somewhat concerning pattern.

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Before I continue, three caveats.

Firstly, I am not a nutritionist. I have read extensively on the subject but don't profess to be an expert. Secondly, I live by an 80/20 principle, where I endeavour to eat well 80pc of the time, whilst allowing for some indulgences too. Finally, I appreciate that people were on holidays, so my observations might not be reflective of normal food choices.

Every time we make a purchase in a supermarket or choose from a breakfast buffet, we have options. I now realise it is in our moments of decision with selecting food choices, that we shape and influence our body and its future.

Over the course of three days, two patterns emerged. The first was four or five tables who abided by the same 80/20 principle. Some were families, others couples on a short break. The people at these tables had fresh fruit, a healthy cereal followed by eggs, maybe a slice of bacon and some healthy breads. One of these tables was a group of eight septuagenarians, the majority of whom ate fruit, porridge and healthy bread with tea. A few also had a single slice of bacon or sausage and some eggs or mushrooms. All looked very healthy and were a normal weight.

The remainder - and I know I am generalising - decided to ignore the fruit buffet, the porridge and the healthy cereals/breads. Their plates instead, contained less healthy cereal options and sizeable Irish breakfasts. I saw one dad chose only croissants and processed fruit juice for his family of five. Another shared a large café mocha with his three-year-old. I also noticed most teenagers had only a fry or muffins and croissants. Many in this second cohort looked quite unfit and carried excess weight.

Once I would have been in the latter camp. That led me to putting on 3.5 stone in my 20s and the early symptoms of a more serious health problem. Thankfully, I made a decision to change what was a 20/80 principle at the time; 20pc being good food choices and 80pc not so good. I have simply reversed the percentages to a more positive 80/20 eating framework and as a result, feel full of energy almost all the time. One exception to this was two years ago, where I made poor food choices for four consecutive days while working in the UK. During that week, my energy levels plummeted. It really made me realise, I am what I eat.

Every time I put food into it my body, it is giving me a 'tick' for good food or an 'X' for bad. Of course, exercise can influence this but nonetheless, the quality of my decision making directly impacts me every day.

I do believe we can learn from the older people we sat close by each morning. They chose simple healthy options with the odd treat as well. They were full of energy and life.

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