How cooking can change your life

Back in May, I attended an RSA lecture by Michael Pollan, a renowned food activist with very sensible views.  During my work at the RSA I was lucky enough to attend lunch time lectures as a ‘live tweeter’.  When I saw the event title ‘How cooking can change your life’ on our Google Doc, I signed my name down pretty sharpish.

Do watch the lecture, or for time-hungry readers, here are a few snippets from the folk in attendance on twitter (the first point about McDonald’s is particularly harrowing):

Pollan 2

It so happens that at this time, I was reading Dr Robert Lustig’s ‘Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar’ (brilliant book).  Both the book and the  lecture has had quite a profound effect of the way I look at food and ‘healthy eating’.

For years I have been a keen and competent cook, eager to experiment and also taking much happiness in eating lovely (convenience) things, with barely a thought to what those lovely things were full of.  But for the last few months, I have done a bit of soul-searching and label reading, which has semi-enlightened me to the serious amount of bad ‘stuff’ we put in our bodies on a daily basis – my main gripe, for now, is with sugar…

There are many articles (see list at the bottom of the post), that have recently emerged which espouse the negative effects of sugar in the body, and touch upon the old cliches of the evil food industry fat cats.  If you’re really interested in this stuff, invest in Dr Lustig’s book, or you can watch one of his lectures:

And if you can’t be bothered to read/listen to any of that then here is a bottom line: sugar is an addictive poison-like substance, which is making the world fatter and sicker.   I 100% believe this and I expect you’ll notice more and more of these statements in the media, much like the attack on fat in the 1980s/90s.  I should make a disclaimer at this point; I don’t believe in diets (they depress me, a lot) and will never be able to completely cut out sugar from my diet; I wouldn’t want to!  BUT, here’s the key…

…how about we all cook more?

  • Know what you’re eating and stop with the processed food!
  • Get rid of the additives – good food should not last longer than a few days
  • Cut out the crap – if you eat low-fat ready meals, you are probably eating a very high amount of sugar = BAD
  • Get real about what your eating habits are doing to you – how much did you weigh 2 years ago? Has your weight slowly crept up? Mine has, and it will keep on increasing if you don’t make a change
  • Eat more fibre – this helps break down sugar so insulin is released more slowly
  • Do weight training – build muscle and burn more calories, ALL THE TIME.  In my opinion, weight training is better for weight loss than cardio.
  • Stop drinking soft drinks (fruit juice, squash) – these have no fibre which helps to break the sugar down = you might has well pour a few spoonfuls of sugar into water, it’s basically the same.

Just take a look at this example of a ‘healthy’ kids drink below:

Britvic sugar drink

I’m not a dietitian or specialist in this area, and you may not agree with my views, but every now and then I think it’s really important to reflect on what we’re eating and how our lifestyle choices (or lack of) affects our well-being.  I have only skimmed the surface of this debate – get reading and decide for yourself!

I firmly believe that if you cook from scratch and stop eating out of convenience, then you will be happier and healthier for it – physically and mentally. 

Further reading:

For more regular musings follow me on Twitter: @myherbkitchen



  1. Hey Jo,

    Really insightful post! I love cooking and seriously hear what you’re saying. In particular the tweet, “The one diet that would work? Eat anything you want but cook it yourself.” This comment is so valid! Sure somethings don’t need to be cooked (raw foods), but actually making the effort for food preparation can be rather awakening. It’s nice to know that the foods you’re eating are 100% real. It’s really nice to even eat at a restaurant and know you could make the same thing at home because you understand what you’ve ordered.

    Separately, I noticed you found me on LinkedIn–looks like we work in the same sector! So neat.

    Also, if you haven’t seen my art shop yet, I think you’ll enjoy it!


    1. Thanks Michelle – much appreciated 🙂 It’s so easy to grab whatever you find and eat on the move, or just eat for ease – it’s not only until you really think about how products have been made that you realise the transformation from their natural state. Just compare the ingredients used for home-made bread to the ones you find on the back of a supermarket bread packet! I totally agree that it makes such a difference to know what you’re eating…I have no problem with eating treats, as long as I’m making the decision to eat them, as opposed to thinking something is good for me when it’s not.

      Ah yes – I was having a good search for fellow Raiser’s Edge users 🙂

      Thanks for the link to your shop – such lovely pictures!


  2. […] adapted this recipe from BBC Good Food but reduced the sugar by a third (following the advice of Robert Lustig) – as I didn’t want the muffins to be too sweet.  These muffins would be lovely for […]

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