We have shared tips from Anthony Warner in the past, however we thought it would be great to interview him and learn a little more about him.
1.What inspired you to write ‘The Angry Chef’?
I was frustrated by a lot of the media coverage of nutrition, particularly the influence of a large number of poorly informed social media influencers spreading false, and often dangerous messages about food and health. It seemed to me that facts and expertise did not matter anymore, and people could say whatever they want in order sell whatever message they were pushing. I felt people were getting away with stuff, and thought it was time for someone to stand up and shout about it.
2. What are your thoughts on sugar and the negative label it has been given?
I don’t think there is much doubt that a diet with too much sugar is potentially harmful, and anyone getting a huge proportion of their calories from sugar alone, probably does not have a healthy relationship with food. But to class it as toxic, addictive and poisonous is really not helpful. It is an overly simplistic message that seems to driven by people with books and brands to sell.
There is quite simply no good evidence that sugar is metabolically harmful as part of a balanced diet, and although many of us could all do with cutting down, to demonise something that does you absolutely no harm in reasonable quantities is a recipe for a disordered relationship with food. In focusing on one ingredient, we are in danger of not looking at the bigger picture, and if history tells us anything it is that this sort of demonization never has a positive effect on people’s health.
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3. Why do you think that humans fall for fad diets?
Nutrition is a complex science, full of nuance and uncertainty. Our brains love certainty and clear messages, and so are naturally drawn to the simple messages given out by many dietary gurus.
Saying ‘sugar is poison’ is a far simpler, and more motivating message that ‘eat a balanced diet, increase your intake of fruit and vegetables, try to eat foods high in fibre, try to cut down on saturated fat, have some oily fish now and again etc etc’. Sadly we are drawn to the simple messages, especially the avoidance behaviours like cutting out food groups.
4. What are some of the food myths that you would like to dispel for people?
There are loads. I have literally written a whole book. Some examples – Coconut oil is a fat burning superfood (it is not – it is largely saturated fat – in laboratories it is fed to rats in order to induce cardiovascular disease – I’m not saying cut it out if you enjoy it, but perhaps try and get a range of different fats). That certain foods can alkalize or acidify your body.
The alkaline diet is complete hogwash, and ridiculous example of exploitative pseudoscience designed to create fear about food. That the Paleo diet is in anyway similar to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. Paleo dieters have not discovered a way of eating that is in tune with our genetics. They have discovered the Atkins diet and attached a caveman fantasy story to it.
5. Who do you think plays a huge hand in shaping people’s perception of food in today’s time?
The media mostly. There is obviously influence from new social media stars, and celebrities, but most are reported in the mass media. There is also a need for academic papers to get coverage in the mainstream media, which can lead to inflated headline grabbing claims. Academics have a responsibility to ensure their work is accurately represented in the media.
6. What are some of the misinformation which are floating out there about the reality of obesity?
That it is a simple problem with a simple solution. It is a system problem of vast complexity and no simple solution exists, or will ever exist. Helping people is hard work and will involve working from the bottom up, helping at community and individual level, not with grand top down interventions such as taxes and stigmatising health information campaigns.
7. Why do you think that there exit a higher population of obese people in North America compared to Europe?
There are lots of complex reasons, so to try and identify one is difficult. But there are lots of things that are extremely important that we do not talk about. Our relationship with food and our bodies have changed as the responsibility for health and wellbeing has been pushed onto the individual. People have been told for years now that they should restrict and control their food intake in order to be well, to be a good citizen.
People in the US seem uniquely obsessed with food, weight and how they are controlling their intake. Controlling and dieting behaviours are predictors of future weight gain, so perhaps in creating a population obsessed with weight loss, the US has actually ended up with population level weight gain. Certainly countries with better dietary health don’t have the same sort of obsessive relationship with diets and exclusion that exists in the US. But we also don’t talk about stress, isolation, lack of sleep, changing work patterns, mental health, trauma, , increased maternal age, hormonal changes, personality changes, weight stigma, genetics, the microbiome, changes in basal metabolic rate, and generally how food’s meaning in society has changed,.
Rather than accepting that it is hugely complex, we are obsessed with food intake and exercise as the only things that affect body weight and these are often the only things that are considered when public health interventions are designed.
8. What makes you optimistic about the future of food consumption and development?
In reality there are bigger problems that obesity. An ever growing population means that we will eventually reach a point where food will start running out for large numbers of people. Future hunger and the potential for mass starvation events is perhaps the biggest problem the world faces. We also need to consider the huge environmental demands of food production and try to alleviate the impact of population growth on our planet. But I am hopeful because we are a resourceful species and have coped with such problems before.
I strongly believe that the only way to slow down population growth is to bring prosperity and thriving economies to countries around the world, to secure the food supply of everyone and provide the same sort of privilege and opportunities that we have. Prosperity is the only humane way of slowing population growth, and I have faith that our huge desire to survive and prosper will find ways of bringing that to everyone without destroying the planet. It seems a long way off, but in the last 150 years, humanity has progressed in ways that would have seemed unimaginable to our ancestors.
9. Do you believe that if one is eating healthy and following an active lifestyle, they can live longer and healthier?
Yes, of course. There are many studies that show that good diet and exercise improve the length and quality of people’s lives. But they are not the only things, and it is important not to forget that. The importance of our mental health is often overlooked, the need to form positive social bonds and relationships, which often happens through food. Joy and pleasure in food is vital for us to live happy and healthy lives, and should not be underestimated.
10. What does ‘healthy food’ look like for you?
A varied and interesting diet where we eat loads of different things, all without the slightest guilt, shame or the need to justify our choices. It also involves using food to create social bonds, cementing friendships and family relationships.
11. If you would recommend, what is the one diet that you think is the closet to being good and that can be sustained in the long term?
The same as above. A diet of wide variety without restriction.
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12. What is it about food that always remains fascinating that so much research and money is being invested on it every year?
We all have to eat every day, and food should be one of life’s great pleasures. Everyone has an opinion on food and so everyone is interested in it to some extent. Nutrition is probably the point where public engagement in science is at its strongest, so there is a need to get things write in terms of communication.
It is also a hugely important area of scientific study, affecting people’s health, and with implications for the environment, and the future of our food supply. So it is hardly surprising that there is such a focus on it.
You can find more information about Anthony at his blog http://angry-chef.com/blog