I’ve got a cereal bar tree in my garden

Ross from the TV sitcom Friends is a Paleontologist and as I’m sure you’re aware he manages to bore the backside off a donkey when talking about his work.  He studies and lectures on stone age times (apologies to all Historians out there for this probably inaccurate statement but it won’t change the message I need to get across).  From this we have adopted what is called the Paleo diet, i.e. the diet of man during these times; meals like Tyrannosaurus on toast, Pterodactyl a l’orange and Stegosaurus on a bed of wild rocket.  Maybe not.  Today’s version of the Paleo diet is based around only eating foods that were available at this time.  It has been slightly modernized as the foods available have changed a little and it consists of foods such as:

  •  Meat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Berries
  • Mushrooms
  • Water
  • Nuts
  • Seeds


We were hunter gatherers, we ate when we were hungry and stopped when we were full but most importantly we only ate the foods that nature provided us with.  So by being a bit active and only eating natural foods we tended to stay lean and mobile.  We were lacking a decent health service back then (and I’m sure some of you think we still do) so that did put a bit of a spanner in the works when it came to life expectancy – and the fairly high chance of being eaten by your own dinner if you didn’t kill it quickly enough.


About 10,000 years ago we discovered farming which today gives us our healthy grains, brown rice, whole wheat pastas, porridge, dairy etc.  Although opinions differ amongst professionals like me, these foods could also be included on the list of foods that we should eat regularly but we don’t actually need them.  I know some of my clients certainly feel fuller for longer after some rice, porridge or pasta though.


So, next time you are about to put some food in your mouth ask yourself one simple question:  would this food have been available to me 20,000 years ago? 


“How do I know?”


Well start by using some common sense.  Do you think for example that a microwave meal existed?  Ok so we’re making progress.


If the answer is “no” to this question (not the microwave meal question silly the one about the 20,000 years ago) then try to replace it with something that was available.


What do I mean by this?  Well, we didn’t have processed foods, colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers, e-numbers and artificial sweeteners. 


For millions of years our bodies have been processing, digesting and using natural foods really quite well thank you, illustrated by how the planet’s population has not only survived but expanded out of control.  We have only been taking on processed foods for a very short period of time so we’re obviously going to be rubbish at digesting them.


If people only ate these food types they would be amazed at the results; in losing bodyfat, feeling stronger, more energetic, in their complexion and their moods.  Instead we add a low fat sauce here and some sugar there and before you know it it’s everywhere.  Now, I’m no angel, I just believe that if you could make more good decisions more of the time then you’ll see the results that will lead you to want to make even more of those sensible decisions.  We are a product of what we do most of the time, not every so often.  I’ll say that again; we are a product of what we do most of the time, not every so often.  Phew this means I can still have a boozy night sometimes then 😉


When you are choosing your natural products over processed ones, try to have some protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals, water and essential fats with each meal and try to always be grazing on natural foods every couple of hours to keep your energy levels constant and your metabolism high.


When I suggest to people that they eat more natural foods they come back to me the next week with boasts such as “I’ve only had a banana and an apple today”.  Well done but it’s4pm!!  Your metabolism must have almost come to a standstill.  Oh and do you think you could add some protein as well please?!


If you only ate 100% natural foods then you would be doing what we have done for millions of years; eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, stay active, stay lean and healthy.  I don’t know about you but there’s only so much broccoli I could eat in one sitting!


So what is a natural food?  There are many misinterpretations:


  • We have apple trees but we don’t have cereal bar trees!
  • We can cut chicken breast from a chicken but it won’t give us pre-cooked chicken tikka pieces!
  • Half the raisins in the shops have been covered in glazing agents or vegetable oil so always read the ingredients carefully.  On the subject of ingredients, if there is only one single ingredient you are usually onto a winner (unless it’s lard).
  • Dried apricots are dark brown, the orange ones have been coloured to make them look tasty and so that they have a longer shelf life.
  • “Nuts are fattening” yes I agree that a bag of salted peanuts washed down with 5 pints isn’t great!
  • Bananas are very calorific.  Are you sure it’s the bananas?
  • “But it’s that seeded bread!”  Isn’t that just seeds and BREAD?!


Of course if you have certain dietary restrictions or requirements and/or medication that an expert has advised you to follow then please talk to that expert in conjunction with this.


I can’t think of anything worse, however, than going out to dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday or some other special occasion and ordering a salad with no dressing and drinking orange juice.  I would rather let my hair down when I go out.  I think that the longer you live a healthy lifestyle, the more likely you are to make better decisions automatically.  I might have a steak and chips in a restaurant but go out of my way to have a side salad or vegetables whereas in the past I’d just have the steak and chips.  I’ll try to eat the salad before the chips and then if I’m full it’s the chips I’ll end up leaving.  If I’m not full I’ll eat them.  I’ll eat a good quality steak that can be enjoyed more without a sauce but if I feel like a good peppercorn or béarnaise then I’ll have it.  I’ll have a starter if I fancy one and then there’s much less chance I’ll want a dessert.  I’ll drink what I like but one HUGE change I have made is the next morning I’ll get up and have a completely natural and healthy breakfast.  I’ll be straight back on track.  Admittedly, on occasions, with the mother of all hangovers I may well get up atmiddayand I may well have to use every last ounce of willpower but I get back on that right track.  That way, by the following day I’m back in the gym and feeling good about myself again and not sorry for myself.


It’s called having a balance.


Some people refer to the 80-20 rule; eighty percent of their diet is natural and twenty percent is tasty crap.  Apples were tasty once, we had to find food tasty to give make us want to eat it.  Strawberries are sugary enough as it is but over the years we’ve added cream and sugar (anyone for tennis) and now we’ve forgotten just how delicious they are on their own.  Our two basic instincts are survival and reproduction (not that I’m against chocolate and whipped cream in the bedroom) so we must have found all natural foods bloody gorgeous for a few million years.  I don’t know who made up the 80-20 split but what I do know is that the closer you can get split to 100-0 as often as possible the quicker you’ll get results.  Even though I still fancy the odd kebab or bacon sarnie, I also find them a lot harder to stomach than I used to, a sign my body is getting used to proper foods again. 


If I fancy indulging at home it may sound a little sad but I’ll have a cheese and pickle sandwich (or 3) but I won’t eat any bread the rest of the time.  Bread is a convenience food but I can’t think of anything more convenient than a banana; it comes in its own wrapper, doesn’t need to go in the toaster, tastes great and just one minor thing, having them as often as I want won’t turn me into Pavarotti.


So you see, it’s not about being square, it’s about making cleverer decisions more often.  Your mates don’t even need to know.


Go out, have fun, get up and get back on it.


Oh one last thing, for this to work you may have to stop going out drinking 7 nights a week – but hey you may want to live past your next birthday anyway.

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