Eat Better Forever: 7 Simple Ways to Transform Your Diet is the new book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I interviewed him for Waitrose Weekend and, unlike other ‘quick fix’ diet books, he doesn’t promise the earth with one simple idea, say fasting, cabbage soup or no-carbs. Instead he suggests being more savvy about our food choices: eating more varied, whole veg; less processed food; less sugar; fewer sugary drinks; a wider variety of carbs, such as beans, grains and pulses. If you just took one or two of the ideas and ran with them your health would benefit over the long-term.
It resonated with me personally. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with endometriosis and still suffered with pain a year or so after having the operation that confirmed it. A wonderful gynaecologist I met through the NHS sat patiently, listened to my story and suggested I cut out wheat. As a working food journalist I felt utterly dismayed, but simply had to try it. With a heavy heart I turned to different sources for inspiration – Indian food being one of them thanks to its diversity and the fact it doesn’t rely on heavily processed wheat. The food team at Waitrose Food were also fantastic for new, exciting recipes and the Hemsley sisters were just getting going too (I still love their chicken coated in ground almonds rather than breadcrumbs.)
I found that modern wheat varieties have been altered and are often heavily sprayed with pesticides. There may also be some interaction between the wheat and your hormones – at least that was the theory posited by the authors of a book on endometriosis (recommended by my gynaecologist) called Endometriosis: A Key to Healing Through Nutrition by Dian Shepperson Mills and Michael Vernon. I found cutting out wheat (not gluten) made a massive difference to my wellbeing and gradually introduced spelt, which is an ancient form of wheat, back into my diet instead. The upshot was that I no longer snacked on a muffin for breakfast at the train station. I said no to biscuits proffered at people’s houses. I didn’t eat massive plates of spaghetti. I introduced more pulses to my diet, more rye bread, buckwheat noodles. I still ate toast for breakfast but it was made with 100% spelt either by me or I’d source it from a local bakery. If I wanted a slice of cake I’d have to make it.
The second piece of the puzzle for me in terms of health, rather than endometriosis, was a growing awareness of sugar and learning the importance of cutting back. Now I don’t claim to be some sort of health guru, but on average I’m half a stone lighter than I used to be and my weight has stayed precisely the same for 10 years now. I have two small boys and need lots of energy. The way I eat works for me. But reading Hugh’s book and the science he helpfully summarises, makes me think that a little more knowledge about what our body actually needs really could help us all.
My interview with Hugh is out in the 7th January issue of Waitrose Weekend. You can read the latest one here.