Fast Food and Clean Eating are Both Dead Ends

By Min Zan


Two icons of the Great Brit­ish Nutrition Tragedy went head-to-head on the front of The Times on Thursday, as 16-year-old darts prodigy Luke Littler grabbed the main photo­graph while opposite and above, (Deliciously) Ella Mills eyeballed him from the masthead.


In the fat corner, head in hands due to narrow sporting defeat, was poor Luke: 15 stone if he’s a pound, thanks to a wide­ly celebrated diet of pizza and kebabs, a young man who only lost a sporting battle that day (to a player, Luke Humphries, who shed four stone prior to the tour­nament), but will lose everything, everything, in the not-too-distant future if he does not sort his diet out. At this rate, like two-thirds of his generation (by geography and education), he will be dead at 60. He is only 16, but diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are a few short years away.


Fat Poppy Syndrome

And do not call me cruel. Do not accuse me of raining on his parade with my Fat Poppy Syndrome. The guy is in no way to be blamed or mocked for his condition. His sporting dedica­tion shows him to be a man of tremendous willpower, drive, and ambition. Mentally, Littler is a Messi or Ronaldo, a Stokes, a Bolt or a Coe. Those rolls of blubber heaving at his hips as he leans at the oche are the fault and direct responsibility of timid and ignorant government, failed edu­cation (he got no GCSEs at all this summer from Padgate Academy in Warrington), the benighted ex­pectations of his community in the post-industrial northwest and the tyranny and lies of Big Food. But if Littler doesn’t get any little, he’s toast.


And in the thin corner: De­liciously Ella, once ubiquitous face and (barely there) body of the equally hideous clean eating movement — the bone-stupid nar­cissism and bogus science of the gluten-free/sugar-free/ no-dairy/ vegan/raw-food non-diet of the last decade. As much a symbol of the nutritional witlessness of the educated London upper-middle classes as Deliciously Luke is for that of the jobless, hopeless, clueless poor of the working-class north.


They are both as nutritionally whack as each other. Each is in the thrall of an exploitative and dangerous death cult. Each rep­resents a body choice and lifestyle that has nothing to do with the way humans were built to live. Each, in their own way, a triumph of big business over sanity.


And who can blame them? Nobody.


Nobody got morbidly obese on the food they cooked them­selves knows anything about nutrition in this country. Sand­wiched between their two photo­graphs was an apparently unre­lated news story by our science correspondent about how “the plant-based burgers, wraps and pizzas that have appeared on fast food menus in recent years are no healthier than the traditional meat alternatives, a study has found...”. I’m sorry, but who in the world thought that they were? Please don’t tell me you’ve been filling your fat face with McPlants and Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls six times a week instead of the usual mashed mammal options because you thought they would make you lean, muscular, and fit, slow the onset of type 2 diabetes and dementia, and get you a girl­friend? Oh, you silly fat fool. Is that what has got through to you from the brief pro-vegan movement of the past few years?


A three-times-a-day bonanza

Look, yes, eating too much meat is bad for you. And you probably are. Meat has gone from a once-a-week treat to a three-times-a-day bonanza, not because we’re all cooking more delicious daubes but because it has been industrialized, pro­cessed, and rendered functionally free at the point of consumption by a handful of bad corporations, using the same tactics to barrack weak governments into silence that Big Tobacco has been using since the 1950s.


But you’re fat because of the way the meat is sold to you (in buns or pastry, super cheap, covered in sugar and salt), not because of anything inherent­ly unhealthy in the meat itself. Swapping out the blended poultry patty (bones, bollocks, feathers, and all) for an equally processed “plant-based” patty full of hydro­genated vegetable fats and sug­ars (to compensate for the lost yumminess in animal fats) will do nobody any good at all, except the chicken they didn’t have to kill.


“On average,” according to the study at Poznan University of Medical Sciences, “the plant-based meals contained about as many calories as the meat alter­natives”. Aaarghhh! Why always “calories”? We need calories to live. Calories are good! The calo­rie-counting approach to weight loss was discredited decades ago! Making food vendors put arbitrary energy totals on food was the de­liberately impotent gesture of a government too lazy and bent to address the issue of obesity prop­erly. You didn’t seriously think a veggie burger had fewer calories in it than a burger, did you?


The report goes on to say: “Overall, the results confirm that switching to plant-based junk food will not decrease the risk of diabetes and obesity.” Well, no, obviously not! Quite the oppo­site, in fact. To be healthy, your body needs about 30 per cent of its food intake to be protein, and it will keep on giving you hunger messages until it has gotten it. By substituting chemical agents for lost proteins, some veggie fast food will make you eat more of it to get them. That is how snacks like crisps and Pringles work: by making (cheap) carbohydrates imitate (expensive) proteins so that your craving is triggered but never satiated. “Once you pop, you can’t stop” is no hollow ad­man’s claim. The problem is that eventually you pop too.


Out of respect for animals

The only reason to eschew meat in your fast food (and it is a good one) is out of respect for animals. It is the reason that I, when I have no option but Greggs or McDonald’s (which is much less often than for kids in Britain’s “food deserts”), choose the veggie version. Not for me, for the beasts. And to be honest, there’s so little pork in a Greggs conventional sausage roll that you’d never no­tice the difference anyway.


The saddest line in the report was the one that said: “Studies have shown that people who eat plenty of home-cooked vegetarian food tend to be relatively healthy.” Again, of bloody course they have! You can take the “vegetarian” out of that sentence, and it’s still true (and much more instructive). “Junk” is what makes you fat. Nobody ever got morbidly obese on food they cooked themselves.


It doesn’t matter what your junk food lunch is made from, whether it’s pigs, weeds, beans or weasels, nothing with 40 different source materials per mouthful that is available hot, in 45 seconds, on the high street, for £4, will ever be “good for you”.


Throughout history, the peo­ple who have got so fat they died of it have been the people who, rather than feed themselves, were fed by a third party without know­ing or caring how their food was made or how it got there. In the past, that was the very rich. Now, it’s people experiencing poverty. And that is the tragedy.


In the closing analysis, the stark juxtaposition of Luke Lit­tler and (Deliciously) Ella Mills on the front page of The Times highlights the dire state of nu­trition in contemporary Britain. Both symbols of their respective nutritional extremes, Littler and Mills, represent the disastrous consequences of societal and governmental negligence. Littler, despite his undeniable sporting prowess and personal discipline, faces a perilous future due to the systemic failures of education, community expectations, and the manipulative forces of the food industry. On the other side, Deli­ciously Ella personifies the mis­guided clean eating movement, an equally dangerous path driven by pseudoscience and affluent nutritional trends that detach individuals from the innate ways humans were meant to live.


Fast food alternatives

The article confronts the prevailing illusions around fast food alternatives, dispelling the notion that plant-based options are inherently healthier. The study from Poznan University of Medical Sciences debunks the misguided belief that simply swapping meat for plant-based al­ternatives is a panacea for health. The revelation that plant-based meals contain comparable calo­rie counts to their meat counter­parts underscores the misguided fixation on calorie content. This outdated metric fails to address the complexities of nutrition and health. The report reinforces the idea that a diet heavy in processed plant-based alternatives does not mitigate the risks of diabetes and obesity, exposing the fallacy of such dietary choices.


In the final contemplation, the article underscores the profound truth that it is not the source of the food itself but the nature of its processing and deliv­ery that determines its impact on health. The plea for respect for an­imals becomes a notable reason to opt for vegetarian alternatives in fast food. Yet, the overarching message is that self-prepared, home-cooked meals, irrespective of their composition, remain a cornerstone of healthier living. The historical context accentu­ates the tragic irony that those who succumb to obesity today, much like their affluent counter­parts in the past, are victims of a system that distances them from the origins and preparation of their sustenance. This pervasive tragedy unfolds in contemporary society, where the economically disadvantaged bear the burden of a nutritional crisis perpetuated by ignorance, deception, and the unchecked influence of powerful food corporations.


Reference: The Times 6.1.2024