Slim pickings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2011, 12:00am


When I meet people for the first time and they find out that I'm a food and wine editor for the South China Morning Post, almost invariably, one of their first comments is, 'Wow, how do you stay so slim?' It seems an odd thing to say. If I were fat, would they comment on that?

But I think it's a fair observation. I make my living by eating food and writing about it, so people expect me to be heavier than I am.

I have my parents to thank for many things, including the fact that I'm not overweight, because they were fairly liberal when it came to the amount of food we ate.

Many of my friends have said that when they were young, they weren't allowed to leave the dinner table until their plates were totally clean. Although my parents insisted that my brothers and I taste everything at least once, they didn't force us to eat every last bite if we said we were full. (Mind you, we didn't get dessert if we didn't. After all, 'If you're too full for dinner, you're too full for dessert.')

Eating meals of (mostly) Chinese food helped with portion size. We took what we wanted from each dish, rather than being given a plateful of food and being expected to eat the entire amount.

So now I have no qualms about leaving food on my plate. I eat until I'm full and then stop. Yes, I occasionally overeat, but that's rare. It happens only when the food is amazingly delicious and I'll never get the chance to try it again.

I've never been on a diet, unless you count what my friends call the 'see-food diet' - you see food, then you eat it.

There are many dieting fads around that make extravagant promises, but as soon as people go back to their normal eating habits, they put all the weight back on.

This so-called 'yo-yo dieting' is very unhealthy. It strains the heart, and when the body gets less food than it's used to, the metabolism slows down, which makes losing weight even more difficult.

I also take nutritionists' advice with a large pinch of salt. It's happened again and again that nutritionists say something is bad for us, then a few years later change their minds. It's happened with coffee, salt, chocolate, carbohydrates, sugar and red meat.

What they should be saying is that too much of any food is bad. You can overdose on water, fibre, vegetables and fruit, all of which are now in favour, say nutritionists.

It's not that I don't indulge. I have a terrible weakness for salt and pepper potato chips and will eat a whole large bag if it's in front of me. But this doesn't happen often.

All types of food should be consumed in moderation. If you do occasionally overindulge, don't feel guilty. Enjoy it as you eat, then get back to normal life.