Image with thanks to 'Uniformed Comment'
Image with thanks to ‘Uniformed Comment’

World Gone Pear-Shaped

‘Gather and Graze’ was created in many ways out of frustration. My moments of quiet time for reading and thinking are often spent agonising about how this world is spinning out of control in one way or another. Many things I physically can’t do anything about, but when it comes to finding a solution to the Obesity Epidemic, I’d really like to be a part of it. So ‘Gather and Graze’ was born.

I feel very strongly that each individual needs to take responsibility when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight (excepting of course the very small minority who actually do have medical conditions that make this difficult). It is YOU who consciously makes a decision to queue up in the drive-through lane for Fast Food. It is YOU who fills up the shopping trolley with soft drinks/soda and processed food ready to merely be microwaved and served up on a plate. It is YOU who passes this abhorrent way of eating on to your innocent children. Who are we kidding, if the majority of Western society could exercise restraint and learn how to cook again (even the basics), then the world would be in a far better place than what it is today.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to turn back the hands of time to a day and age when all of these products weren’t available and people had no choice but to eat REAL food, however we do have the ability to simply (and consistently) say “NO!” Only then might we see a decline in the production of these items and a shift in what is offered in the marketplace. We need to learn from the numerous cultures around the world who haven’t bought in to this awful Western-Style diet, who embrace a healthy diet and life-style, who continue to cook the food of generations past and who are rewarded with good health in both mind and body, plus a longevity of life that not surprisingly goes along with these choices.

My sincere hope is that people (particularly those who desperately need it) might come across my website and realise that it’s actually quite easy and economical to cook from scratch all of those lovely day-to-day meals and baked goods that are out there. It’s not a chore, it really doesn’t take that long and it’s such a wonderful investment in the future for not only the health of ourselves and our loved ones, but equally for the health of the environment and the world we are to pass on to future generations.

More often than not, much of the food in supermarkets contain a list of ingredients that we know not what half of them are. We need to nourish our bodies with REAL food, so that we can be 100% sure of what we’re putting in. Numerous chemicals and modified ingredients are added to both keep costs down for the company that produced it and to allow the product to sit on the shelf for many months/years longer than they should. These ingredients are obviously not being accepted by our bodies in the same way that more natural ingredients would. I can only suspect that it’s through the sheer volume that some people are consuming of this type of food that the unnatural substances are taking their toll and wreaking havoc with their bodies.

PORTION SIZE! PORTION SIZE PORTION SIZE! Our bodies require far, far less than what many would imagine. My personal thought is that it is initially through gluttony (for lack of a kinder word) that we indulge in more food and larger portions than our body needs. Then as the stomach increases in size, from the extra food being put in, it becomes harder to feel satiated by a normal size meal and with the added dimension of exercise no longer being balanced to create an input/output match, there’s little wonder the body becomes bigger and bigger. Importantly though… the stomach having shown it’s ability to increase in size, not surprisingly has the ability to shrink as well. We seem to think that we should be entitled to go through life without ever feeling the pangs of hunger, but we really do not need to be snacking and filling our bodies up with food at all hours of the day. Let your body feel a little hungry now and then – it really won’t hurt you.

There are those who choose not to snack on food, but to always have a drink on hand. Rarely will this drink be water. I lived in the USA for a couple of years and was appalled by how much soda was consumed by people on a daily basis – it’s almost like it’s on tap. I seriously question whether this is doing an equal or greater amount of harm to our bodies… Where we used to drink water, plain milk, fresh-squeezed fruit juice (all very natural substances) we are now taking on board empty calories, high levels of sugar-like substances and a concoction of various flavourings and colourings. The addition of artificial sweeteners to these drinks, to make us supposedly feel like we’re drinking ‘diet’ or ‘sugarless’ beverages is only perpetuating the problem and tricking us into believing that it’s somehow good for us and won’t have an effect our bodies. As always, in moderation and as an occasional drink to be had, I’m sure it would be fine, but too many don’t seem to grasp this simple principle. I find it uncanny that whenever I pass an obese person in the supermarket, they always seem to have a carton of diet soda in their trolley. Is it not obvious that this so-called diet foodstuff is not doing it’s job?

My thoughts on this subject may appear a little harsh and provocative to some, though it is said very much in concern for the individuals themselves and our society in general, that finds itself increasingly heavier year by year. We need to find solutions soon, to turn around this awful and debilitating condition. Without speaking about it and acting upon it, we will ultimately be paving the way to ruin for so many in our society.

Postscript – My husband, myself and my two children all have normal, healthy BMI’s. We eat simply prepared, tasty REAL food. Occasionally we’ll go out for a meal, but never to a fast-food joint or franchise-style restaurant… always to somewhere that cooks good quality REAL food. On these occasions our children might have a glass of soft drink, something seen as a special treat. At home with meals, they will either have water (mostly) or 100% juice. I can’t remember the last time I drank soft drink… We’ve never bought in to the low-fat products on offer – our milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, cream etc. is all as natural as possible and full-fat. Fresh fruit and vegetables feature large, with always a supply of seasonal offerings (preferably from the farmer’s market or local sources). My husband and children prefer raw vegetables to cooked, so often there are bowls of carrot sticks, green beans or snow peas on our table to go with our meals. Meat is enjoyed in quite small portions with most evening meals. We certainly do have treats in our house, but eaten in moderation and not for consuming mindlessly. It works for us…

Original Post (World Gone Pear-Shaped) – June 27th, 2013

Distortions of Care

Do you ever question what lies beneath? Do you dig tunnels, some slightly random, some purposeful in an attempt to unearth what’s hiding below? To find a way past the smoke and mirrors? I spent much of last weekend digging. Well, a combination of recurrent digging and frowning. Most weekends aren’t like that thankfully, but this one was…

I comprehend many of the varied answers to the following, but I’ll pose the questions to you, all the same, as I continue to remain perplexed and frustrated by what I uncover:

  • Why are the food companies who produce the food that is slowly killing us, not held to account in some way?
  • Where have their morals gone?
  • What will it take for the governments of the world to make a stand against them?
  • Obesity has been on the rise for decades, why has more not been done?
  • Why do we find aspartame and various other artificial sweeteners in so much of our food and beverages when there is so much research suggesting that they are not safe?
  • Would a ban on advertising by certain companies and of certain products be of benefit?
  • Would taxing certain products be of benefit?
  • Could the revenue created by taxing those products, be used to bring down the price of REAL food?
  • When will people learn to cook again?
  • Does there really have to be saccharin in toothpaste? Just thought I’d throw that one in there – something I discovered last night when pulling a new tube of toothpaste from it’s box!)

So much comes down to our personal choices in life – what we believe to be important, who we are prepared to support or not support in the food industry, what we can afford and what level of importance we place on our health.  However, I don’t believe that the responsibility should fall completely on the consumer’s shoulders.  Cigarettes were deemed harmful and certain measures (such as education campaigns, removal of advertising, taxes, plain packaging) have been put in place to reduce the number of smokers, thus reducing the number of cancer sufferers in the world.  I don’t see why certain ‘food’ products shouldn’t be considered in a similar way.  Surely it’s worth a try?

My worries also extend to organisations, like Obesity Australia, who should be a beacon of shining light for those seeking advice to turn their lives around. Though, amongst the information I found in their supposedly helpful fact sheets, they appear to be virtually sponsoring the Diet Soda companies of the world – Coke Zero even gets a personal mention/suggestion. Their choice of wording is seriously questionable on a number of topics. I found sections to be confusing, contradictory and not at all encouraging of getting people back into the kitchen cooking with good, simple ingredients. When they did suggest a little cooking, they made it sound so incredibly off-putting that I’m sure it served more to send people running to their nearest fast-food outlet, than to the kitchen to try out their idea.

I quote… “Stews made of gristly meat (neck, oxtail), slow cooked and the fat taken off after a day in the fridge, are a prime protein source.”

Mmm Mmmm, sounds delicious, doesn’t it!? Arghhh – who writes this stuff? and more importantly who edits it and gives it the all clear to be published for public reading? If you get a chance, have a read yourself (through the link above) – in my opinion almost every fact sheet includes eye-brow raising content.

I’m tempted to go back to university to gain qualifications and credibility, to truly help bring about change in the world of food and nutrition. This is despite my strong preference for hiding out in my own kitchen, cooking up a storm for my own family.


Original Post (Distortions of Care) – August 15th, 2013


16 thoughts on “OBESITY

  1. Beck @ Goldenpudding

    Again Margot, this all feels so familiar. I would probably express my food philosophy as that it’s ok to eat whatever sort of food you like as long as you make it from scratch from real ingredients…so that when the children (or I) feel like brownies or potato chips or doughnuts, that’s fine as long as they’re happy to slice the potatoes, or make the doughnut dough and wait for it to rise etc etc

    I’ve really never understood the sorts of things that people buy pre-made, I’m sure it’s partly habit, but also feel sad about the lack of confidence that must be behind making all your cakes from packet mix or casseroles of premade sauce poured over meat.

    I also have all of Michael Pollan’s books, as well as Fast Food Nation and a few others, and my Netflix watch list is almost all docos about food and health 🙂

    1. Gather and Graze Post author

      We do indeed seem to be on the same wavelength with all of this Beck. It’s incredibly sad that people are losing the skills to cook from scratch. Society has bought into these time saving, highly processed products to the detriment of our cooking/kitchen skills, our health and the agricultural industry.
      Love a good food doco! Just found out that SBS are releasing a new free-to-air food channel in November, which should be great.

    1. Margot @ Gather and Graze Post author

      Thanks Poli… I do realise that it’s a complex issue, but ever so frustrating when you watch what people are filling their trolleys up with at the supermarket and seeing them all queue up for the fast food drive-thru. There’s got to be SOME self-accountability, surely… Is it similar in Switzerland?

      1. polianthus

        BEWARE a long and RAMBLING RESPONSE: Similar in Switzerland? – yes and no – obesity is also on the rise yes – not sure what the stats are – not good but not as bad as some places, on the plus side there also isn’t the food fad fixation here that you see in some countries. Generally the cities are not large and driving is a real pain, it is easier to walk or bike than to drive so most people cycle or walk or take public transportation – for this reason I guess and because we have old style cities where the shopping malls are not out in the middle of nowhere (because we don’t really have an out in the middle of nowhere) we don’t really have drive throughs and unlike in countries that went through wars where the men went to fight and the women had to work and cook and this I think brought convenience food to the tables – and where at some point I heard the priceless sentence – ” I am emancipated, therefore I don’t cook” – I kid you not, in Swiss culture home cooked food is still quite highly valued and convenience food is looked down upon as the last resort of the lazy housewife -trad CH food is meat 1 veg and potatoes though – yes – I am not saying its prejudice free or good…but this kind of thing has an influence. On top of that there is a strong tendency to buy local food, herbicide and pesticide and gene tech free and free range, not all but many people prefer to buy less meat but when they do meat that has been farmed in a better way than factory farming. BAttery hens have been forbidden for years. As an example which I think really demonstrates it – young men in the military service in Switzerland recently protested against eating meat from non-free range animals farmed outside Switzerland as they didn’t want to support non animal adequate farming practices. We are talking 20 year olds here. In contrast I recently spoke to a US American in Grenada about the chickens she buys which are imported from the US to Grenada and cost less than the chickens farmed and killed in Grenada , we were in a slaughterhouse and she said ” I am really glad the FDA controls stuff in the US” – and I pointed out that animals slaughtered in Grenada have short transport pathways, as meat there is expensive they don’t kill many, and they probably eat the whole thing, on top of that I guessed it’s unlikely that the animals are fed antibiotics and growth hormones on a regular basis (this practice is also forbidden here, unless an animal is sick) – and discussing chickens with this woman I realized she had never even given a thought to how the animals are raised. This to me was really surprising. Have you read Michael Pollan – very interesting read.

        1. Margot @ Gather and Graze Post author

          Wow… thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts on this Poli. I do really appreciate it and am fascinated by the experiences of others around the world. I’m encouraged to hear that battery hens don’t exist in Switzerland. I wish it were the case here! I’ll only ever buy free-range for our family and I’m happy for the fact that it costs a little more and that I tend to make our portion sizes of meat quite a bit smaller because of it. Increasingly, much of the world seems to value quantity over quality these days… Also refreshing to hear that convenience food is looked down upon over in your country and that home cooking is the norm.
          Yes, I do have a couple of Michael Pollan books on the shelf, that I’ve read, enjoyed and agreed with most of what he suggests. I’ve also watched a number of his online lectures through UC Berkeley (on their Webcasts) – hopefully this link will work for you, if you’re keen to have a look…

          1. polianthus

            Hi Margot – thanks for your long reply, which I missed, I hate the new wordpress format of showing replies, I wish it just showed the ones you havent replied to and that they then go away when you have, as otherwise i seem to miss responses…which is why its taken me so long to answer. I fully agree – I prefer to buy higher quality food and pay more and eat meat rarely, although recently I discovered that I don’t feel the need to eat it anymore, unless I am in a restaurant and it’s cooked to perfection – here the restaurants need to tell you where they source their meat from and a good many serve free range which costs more but people are willing to pay for, at least some people. All that said though – when I lived in the US I’d shop at costcos sometimes and there they sold massive packages of chicken thighs, breasts etc. and I guess if you have a low income, potentially matched with a low education and were raised on fast food (I am not saying these things are always linked but sometimes they are) then I guess it’s hard to escape the trap of opening boxes and tins, unless you are really interested in something else. I was following a blog by a young Southern girl – all recipes used boxed materials, she was showing how to cook fast and healthy meals and that is what she was used to. Cooking blogs are interesting that way, they really show cultural differences etc. also while I might consider making Injera – which takes 3 days although not active time, others from very western cultures might find that too involved, whereas an Indian or Persian cook would likely not be fazed by spending hours in the kitchen to prepare a meal. I think we also forget how our grandmothers used to cook – the time that went into preparing stuff from scratch – we already have lots of convenience food merely by having flour available for example, or meat already cut, chickens eviscerated etc.

            1. Margot @ Gather and Graze Post author

              Thanks Poli, you’re right – the cultural differences that show through in the many food blogs out there are always fascinating… though I’m more than likely seeing a rather skewed selection, as I tend to avoid the blogs using packet mixes or making food that doesn’t particularly appeal. Perhaps I should though, to get a better understanding of the real stories of what lies beneath.
              I’m off to google ‘Injera’… intrigued! 🙂

              1. polianthus

                Hi Margot – I also avoid the packaged food blogs, I read the odd one out of interest and then I click away, often because there is so much “enthusiasm” about cooking on the site and I keep wanting to say ” hang on a second, THAT, isnt real food” – I am probably now annoying people by being elitist but I am convinced I am right…:) – that said it makes interesting reading – many of the packaged food blogs have funnily enough come from the deep south of the US – mostly mums, mostly 3+ kids – which I guess makes sense, if you are taking care of more than three kids you might need all the help you can get – the last blog I saw today on food and extruder food was written by a Texas mum of 7…..I must write about this some time I have an ethiopian cookbook – which starts a recipe by saying: first you must kill the chicken…

                1. Margot @ Gather and Graze Post author

                  Not elitist at all Poli! Hmmm, or perhaps are we both elitist!? 😉 I do hope you write that post sometime – must say I’ve never killed a chicken, though somehow I give it more thought and appreciate the life given when I find myself cutting up a whole raw/cooked chicken – when it actually still looks like the animal it once was.

                  1. polianthus

                    maybe maybe not 🙂 generally I think we are both right though, also I was reading an interesting cookbook yesterday by Claudia Roden, you probably have it, about customs in egypt when sitting down to eat, apparently there are 12 rules to be followed the first 4 must be followed, the first one to give thanks for the food before us, the second to be satisfied with the food that we have before us, the third I cannot remember and the fourth I think was to give thanks when we have eaten. Religious or no I think consciously being aware that we are lucky to have what we eat is something good. As regards the chicken, yes I remember plucking and eviscerating some one on a farm in France – also worked in slaughterhouse one while studying medicine – I think it’s not bad to acknowledge face that in order for us to eat an animal that animal died – not pleasant but more honest somehow

    1. Gather and Graze Post author

      Thanks very much Mary! So lovely that you unearthed this post… and so happy to know that it struck a chord with you. My thoughts (and frustrations) aired in these particular posts are the real reason I started Gather and Graze – hoping to make even a small difference in the world, to the way people cook and eat! Cheers, Margot 🙂


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