Turning the tables

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am


My best friends when I was 10 were Michael and Moazzam. One ended up a chartered surveyor, the other ended up in Guantanamo Bay.

I don't think either result could have been predicted 30-something years ago. But I think there's little about our adult selves that can be predicted from our childhoods.

One set of choices can lead to suburban respectability, another to the orange jumpsuit.

These thoughts have been prompted by the case of 17-year-old Stacey Irvine, from Birmingham, who has eaten nothing but chicken nuggets bar the occasional chip since the age of two.

Irvine has anaemia and breathing problems, and has to be injected with vitamins and minerals. Is this a cautionary tale about how the eating habits our children develop become ingrained and persist into adulthood? It is - but it shouldn't be.

What's so unusual about Irvine's case is that she does stick to her childhood diet, opening herself up not only to all sorts of health problems but also the intervention of well-meaning health professionals, who seem to be relishing the opportunity to tell us how to live.

No one would deny Irvine's mother the chance to intervene. She's understandably desperate for her child to eat a varied, balanced diet. Sadly, the situation has become one in which health professionals feel they can lecture us on how to eat, pretty much in the way my child's primary school teacher sticks her nose in my daughter's lunch box and tells her what to eat.

My child can be pretty adventurous, but that's no indication she will remain so. Another of my childhood friends ate only crisp sandwiches or macaroni with tomato ketchup as a seven-year-old. Now he's a private chef. Parents who had an 'eat everything on your plate' policy made for a tubby childhood for me, but I was, until relatively recently, a thinnish adult. It's my choice to take a job that involves lots of eating and have no one to blame but myself if I'm chunkier than a hippo.