Q&A with Grant Schofield
You’re all about making the public a part of public health. Is that what made you want to get involved with this series?
Yeah, definitely. I think we’ve had all sorts of experts telling us what to eat and we’ve actually lost our way a bit. There’s now a lot of knowledge so I just think if we could get the public involved, we could make some positive change.
You advocate a low carb, high fat diet, which is the opposite of what we’ve been raised with. How do we go about reversing our thinking?
It’s funny because the memory of humans changes pretty quick, it goes in a generation. Up until the early 70s, 80s, the main thinking about controlling your weight and sorting out things like diabetes was to get rid of sugar and starch and that had been the scientific view for a couple of hundred years. Then all of a sudden that changed once we got scared of fat.
In Why Are We Fat? you talk about packaging and how confusing it can be, how do we cut through the misinformation?
Honestly, I think the whole packet and labelling thing and teaching kids to read food labels and then going with star ratings, I think it’s just fundamentally stupid because what’s likely to be healthy food almost certainly doesn’t come in a packet. So that’s why I just go for that human interference factor; if it was recently alive, running around in nature or growing on trees or plants or in the ground then a) it won’t be in a packet or have a label and b) it’s probably likely to be good for us and it’s likely to be actual food.
It’s not just diet that’s important, it’s movement too. What’s the easiest way for us to get more exercise into our lives?
I think going to the gym and that sort of thing is great but if you’re relying on just your willpower to do it, good luck with that.
I just ban myself from the car so I have to bike, I kind of make it the option I have to take. I think things need to be more naturally built in. For kids, the reality is that I think about three out of five primary school kids and two out of ten high school kids in a recent survey didn’t have any rules around screen time from their parent, so there’s a whole bunch of kids that have a free-for-all on screens and that just ends badly.
And when you think Steve Jobs wouldn’t let his kids have iPads, what does that tell you?
There are some staggering figures presented in Why Are We Fat?, how do people react to those kinds of statistics?
You go ‘obesity’ and ‘we’re the third fattest country’ and frankly people’s eyes glaze over.
They’re just not interested in the ‘O’ word, so I’ve actually stopped using it with them and just started talking about having a great life and being well, but the behaviours are exactly the same thing.
I think you’ve got to take it away from judging people and talking about weight, it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried it.
There’s even research on this; your doctor tells you you’re too fat and you need to do something about it, well the net result is nothing happens or you get slightly fatter. If your doctor asks you how you’re feeling and what things you want to change, people tend to lose a little bit of weight and feel a bit better. It’s a conversation about how we want our lives to be.
What’s your top tip for a healthy lifestyle?
I can give you three. Number one, forget the packets, forget everything you’ve been told about food. Your number one layer is ‘how long ago was this thing alive?’ And is it even recognisable as something that was once alive?
Number two, people underestimate the role of stress and it’s really, really hard to control your eating when you’re stressed, so find some way of managing that. The third thing is get a good night’s sleep. It requires a little bit of organisation. You’ve got to avoid screens before bed time, you’ve got to avoid having too much booze or too much coffee, you’ve got to have a dark bedroom and it’s got to be cool enough in the summer.
What do you hope viewers take away from following Simon’s health journey?
Here’s a guy who knows about food, he knows how to prepare food and do some outstanding stuff and has done it for other people but has still lost his way, so to me that’s the interesting stuff. Just follow him and see how he goes.