Q&A with Mikki Williden
What made you want to be involved with Why Are We Fat?
There are so many people who really struggle with their weight and their health. They follow the conventional guidelines and they don’t understand what’s going wrong or why it’s not working for them, and that’s what I love about this show; it’s not just focusing on one particular part of the equation, like the food choices, it looks outside of that. I just recognise more and more that lifestyle contributes so much and our genetics contribute so much.
We’ve seen a huge shift in our eating habits and the price of food in the last few decades. Fast food used to be expensive, now it’s often the cheapest option. What’s changed?
So many of the foods available now really are those cheap, convenient, processed foods that are made up of three ingredients; sugar, starch and vegetable oils. These are by-products of the grain industry or just cheap wheat. Food industry technology has advanced so much that it can take these products, add a whole bunch of flavours and preservatives and then kind of mimic foods that you might find in nature, but without any of the nutrients. But in addition to that, it just drives the appetite for more and more of these foods.
What’s the best way to help fight those sugar and carb cravings?
Often the best place to start is at breakfast time. The food that people generally choose for breakfast is those processed, refined carbohydrates and they pump your blood sugars up and then leave them to drop and that’s where the cravings come from. So instead, if you focus on getting in good amounts of fat and protein at breakfast it’s going to affect what you eat and how much you eat later on in the day.
You recommend butter over margarine, are there other foods that we’ve been brought up to believe are bad that are actually good for us?
Anything related to fat I would say, because fat doesn’t make you fat, in the right context. A lot of people equate meat to cancer or heart disease and it’s just not true. A lot of that research has been conducted in an entirely different food industry environment, it’s from North America where they use hormones and they use grain feed.
Coconut oil, that’s another one, if you look at the Tokelauan population, they’ve been brought up on coconut and when they follow their traditional diet they’ve got very low rates of chronic disease.
You were part of Simon’s support team, how did he adapt to his new lifestyle? Did he follow all of your advice?
Absolutely. He was really interested in learning more about how these things impact on his health. I think when you get a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes it’s a real reality check, you probably feel your mortality, right? The thing is that it doesn’t change overnight for anyone and no one should be demotivated by that. It’s a long journey but it’s a worthwhile one and every step you make improves your health, no matter how small it might be.
What’s your number one tip for healthy eating?
If there were any superfood, I would say it would be eggs. The easiest thing for people to do is hard-boil a dozen of them and stick them in the fridge so they’re like this ready-made snack on-the-go. They’re so versatile; you can make an egg mug-muffin into a sweeter option or you can scramble a couple in literally 30 seconds and you’ve pretty much got a prepared breakfast, if you add greens or pumpkin seeds or a drizzle of olive oil.
What do you think viewers will take away from Simon’s health journey?
The more that people go into the supermarket and recognise that most of the products on the shelves, like the packaged stuff, is not actually food the healthier they will be. If they just begin to question the hype on the front of the packets and start looking more at the back of the packets, I think that would be a win.