What the world eats – what does your food look like?

What the world eats -- a week's worth of groceries - Imgur

The Bainton family’s week, Cllingbourne Ducis, UK


Sometimes, it helps to lay it all out in front of you.

Food’s a funny thing. We all eat, but there are some significant differences from person to person and from culture to culture.

In 2008 husband-and-wife photojournalists published a book with a week’s worth of food from 25 families in 21 countries. TIME published 45 of these photos in three sets, linked below.

There’s an interesting insight into individual culture’s demons; the US’s prepared food, the UK’s reliance on snacks and Mexico’s love affair with Coca-Cola are all visible.

Does your weekly shop look more like this or like this?


Quicktip: record your meals before eating them


If you use a diet planner or a food diary, enter your meals before you eat.

It’s too easy to spoon on another helping of mash potato, only to discover that you’ve gone over your calorie / carb limit for the day.

What a waste – and for such little extra enjoyment.

If you enter your planned meal into your food diary you can see the warnings before you exceed your targets – and take corrective action.

Disaster averted!

Moves – the pedometer meets the iPhone

Moves is a great app to help with tracking and enforcing your everyday physical activity.

If tracking your progress is important to improving (tip: it is) then Moves can help by showing you exactly what you’ve been doing and how that correlates to your aims.

Like a Nike FuelBand, Moves uses accelerometers to track your movement and give you a good understanding of how that relates to the real world, both in terms of number of steps and distance covered.

Where it by far exceeds the FuelBand is that as it uses your iPhone to track you, it also knows your speed and general motion. It transmits your data back to the developers’ servers which can (fairly accurately, in my experience) compare your data to others to decide whether you’ve been walking, running, cycling or even travelling by ‘transport’ – car, bus or train.

It’s also free! I have played with Moves for about a month now and it has shown itself to be far more accurate than my FuelBand for calculating my walking, for example.

It’s not perfect – at the moment, there’s no easy way to export your data, for example – but the biggest problem is that it is hungry.

Having your phone’s sat-nav system active all day drains the battery fast. I have an older phone and so its battery isn’t perfect, but I still found there were many days where the battery wouldn’t last until bedtime.

Ultimately, it was this that made me stop using the app – I found I spent longer worrying about needing to top-up my battery than I did about my activity level. However, I already own a FuelBand. If I didn’t have a personal tracker, I would almost certainly still be using Moves.

Rumour has it it that Apple may be building a smartwatch with personal tracking capabilities. Until then, Moves is the smartest personal tracker out.

Telly – exercises for the advert breaks

lazy%20cat%20watching%20tv[1]18% of people who watch less than two hours of TV a day are obese.

30% of those who watch more than 4 hours are obese.

Not enough? OK, how’s this:

Overweight participants who cut their daily TV time in half (from an average of 5 hours to 2.5 hours) burned an extra 119 calories a day. And a recent study of people who successfully lost weight found that 63 percent of them watched less than 10 hours of TV a week.


Listen, I love a little telly-time too. So what can you do to improve this? First, make sure you’re posture’s perfect – no slumping like kitty up there. (We’ll talk about this later in the week, too). Second, try some exercises during the advert breaks – yes, that means without fast-forwarding, those with Sky+. I’ve linked to some ideas in the sources, below. Don’t be an armchair athlete – someone who watches sport on the TV but never takes part. If you can ‘earn’ your programmes by paying for it during the breaks, everyone gains – and you still get to watch Sherlock, too.

Two ways to enjoy your day’s carb count


On the left, a pile of fruit, nuts and vegetables  that collectively contain 30g of carbohydrates. On the right, half a burger bun, which also contains 30 grams of carbs.

If you’re on a carb-controlled diet (and you probably should be), 30 grams could be roughly your whole day’s intake. Which would you prefer?

Keep track

One of the most important ways to keep motivated when you’re losing weight is to recognise your successes. That’s why it’s crucial that you monitor your progress.

However, this can be taken too far. Most dieticians recommend against weighing yourself daily. Just because you ate nothing but lettuce yesterday and worked out for 45 hours, you may still not see this reflected on the scale. The human body isn’t a “perfect engine” – it’s not quite as simple as ‘calories in < calories out’, no matter what some Personal Trainers say.

Unfortunately this can be quite demoralising if you rely on that number alone to track your progress. So here’s some other ideas you can add to your trackers.

  • Waist, neck, thigh and arm circumferences – measure with a tape measure – they even make ones that are easy to use for measuring yourself. you may find that you are still shrinking, even if the scale doesn’t show this.
  • Clothes – how are your clothes fitting? Looser than before? Have you had to buy new outfits? Keep one item of your old stuff – I kept an old suit – to reaffirm your progress when you’re struggling.
  • Activity – If you’re being more active, use this as a measuring stick. Can you swim for further, or in less time?  How many flights of stairs can you climb before you’re out of puff?
  • Non-scale victory – this is a term used by some online slimming communities to talk about anything other than the scale. Did your friend finally notice your progress? Was this the first time you were able to refuse dessert at your favourite restaurant? You managed to gracefully accept a biscuit from an open pack without scoffing the lot? Write it down! By noticing these little successes you’ll find more of them – and find more of a reason to create future victories, too.

Do you have any other ideas? Mention them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Your diet approach – are you an abstainer or a moderator?

Have you heard some of the more recent advice, that a diet that focuses on calorie counting alone won’t work?

Well, it will – if you stick to it. In fact, every diet tip you hear will work, as long as you stick to them.

I had to lose 100lbs when I started dieting. I cut out bread, potatoes, pasta – I went on a low-carb diet, in other words. This helped me because I’m an abstainer.

There are two types of diet. One is to abstain; identify certain foods that you just won’t eat any more. The other is to moderate. Limit the quantity of the foods you eat.

Every diet is one or the other of these things. Calorie counting is moderation. Atkins is abstention.

Which would work for you?

You need to decide that you want this. You want this more than anything else. Because if you want this more than anything else in your life, you’ll prioritise it over other issues.

Hang around here to get a feel for what might work for you. But start. This isn’t going to be a quick-fix, so that best thing you can do is to start anything and see how it works. If it works for you, great! If not, OK, try a different diet.

But don’t give up.

Good luck.

How sugary is your fruit?


Getting your5-a-day is important, right? So why am I advising you avoid fruit?

Because, just like any other absolute piece of advice, there are some that are better and some that are worse. It would have been better had the advice been 5 veg a day, but the authors knew people would struggle with that.

Fruit is a plant’s gift to you – it wants you to eat it. So it loads it up with lots of lovely sugars to make it sweet, appetising and calorific.

Here’s a helpful graph. The top-left offers the most sugar for your mouthful, down to the bottom-right where the sugar is also offset by the amount of fibre it gives. When planning a low-carb or a low-cal diet, the lower down the graph, the less sugar and therefore the less kcal/carbs you need to worry about.