Covid-19, the fallout for young people – eating

Hamburgers, sausages rolls and pizza may cause depression

Hamburgers, sausages rolls and pizza may cause depression - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This summer's 'Psychology Now' volume two has a special feature on the topic of eating, and when it becomes a matter for concern.

Torbay teacher Valerie Bailey, an expert on mental health issues especially among the youth

Torbay teacher Valerie Bailey, an expert on mental health issues especially among the youth - Credit: Archant

Five pages of this article take us through the disorders associated with eating.

Sarah Niven, a wellbeing journalist, skillfully draws our attention to the matters of volume, whether too little or too much, and the mental health origins to these ailments: 'When eating becomes an issue'.

My angle today is going to be the opposite to that notion. There is, of course, no denying the veracity and validity of eating disorders, neither the trail of misery and sorrow they leave behind, for sufferers, their family and friends.

Yet, there is a new hidden beast in the fog ahead of us, and that is the danger of what we eat, even if this vital need is within the spectrum of normality in proportion.

Hence, it is like an inverted equation of damage where the mind suffers from what we eat rather than a troubled mind produces a damaged eating pattern.

As far back as 2012, the NHS published an analysis of a research carried out with almost 9,000 subjects in Europe, the findings were so striking that we can but read intently and act immediately.

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This study proved a direct association between young people consuming high levels of fast food and baked food and the propensity for developing depression. It did demonstrate that eating lots of hamburgers, sausages rolls, and pizza causes depression, simply.

However, the inclination to consume fast food and the development of depression may both have originated from a common factor, rather than fast food directly causing it.

Hence, participants with the highest fast food consumption were generally also single, younger and less physically active, which could have influenced their diet choice and their risk of depression, without overlooking their social background, of course.

BUPA observes that in the UK, it is estimated that 79 million ready-made meals are eaten weekly. However convenient it may be, processed food is no substitute for cooking a meal at home, as they don't usually provide our bodies with the nutrients needed to remain healthy.

I say this because up to this point, you may have thought I was going to wrestle with the customary culprits: fast food chains.

There is so much more we should fear from an enemy within, yet the one we can keep at bay!

I mean, you can stop young people going for a large hamburger, nevertheless find yourself feeding them similarly processed sustenance at home, because you bought it and took it in.

As parents and educators, are we then to feel guilty for the way society evolves and what it exposes our children to? No! But we are co-responsible for their mental health (with them) at every level where we have an input, are we not?

In his book 'The Four Pillar Plan', Dr Rangan Chatterjee, whose work we are following at Torquay Boys' Grammar School on the principle of resilience, describes eating as one of the four pillars towards a longer, happier and healthier life.

The topic of food, eating as such, can be very complicated, Chatterjee notes that it can be a maze to try and follow this or that fad diet; the promise of becoming slim, muscled or more to Instagram's point: 'allegedly' attractive.

Simplicity is the real answer. Simple meals, wholesome carbs, lots of veg, and seasonal fruits, fish, dry roasted wedges. Involve them in cooking, aromas, spices, and remember that they are learning their eating habits for life from us.

The main argument for ready-made food is lack of time. Billions of these bought dishes are eaten every year in the UK. Bewildering, when you reflect upon the number of health warnings labeled on these mass-produced meals.

What is also puzzling is the number of young people demanding, requesting or ordering takeaways for dinner, as opposed to cooking at home.

A BBC Good Food survey in the last few years revealed 16 to 24 years olds were spending more on takeaways than any other tranche of population. The obvious correlation is, according to the survey, the average 16 to 24 year old only knew how to cook four dishes from scratch.

It is down to 'us' as parents be 'making food' with them and teaching them about what they need to ingest to stay happy and balanced. Here is something else we know that they don't.