The war on fat is over – and I won

The killjoys can eat humble pie. Dairy and red meat fats aren't bad for you – and now there are hard figures to back up the case I've been making for years

I finally know what it must have felt like to be Nelson Mandela. Only without the decades of incarceration. Or the human rights abuses. OK, I have no idea what it felt like to be Nelson Mandela. But I am certainly getting a sense of what it feels like to be a fighter in a rag-tag rebel force whose cause has finally been recognised as virtuous. I am a one-time pariah who has been accepted back into the mainstream as a speaker of truth. I am the Luke Skywalker of food. Here's what's happened: after decades of conflict, of name-calling and bitterness and Gillian-bloody-McKeith and "lean" bacon – I mean, really! – the war on dietary fat is over. Fat, on whose behalf I fought so valiantly, is no longer the enemy. It is our friend. At last I may step out of the rhetorical forest and lay down my less than rhetorical steak knife.

We know the war on fat is over because recently Time magazine made it their cover story. Johnny-come-bloody-latelys. Oh yeah. You're smearing yourself in the stuff now. But where were you when those of us in the vanguard were up to our nipples in lard, wrestling with the nutritional naysayers? Where were you when I was scarfing six bags of pork scratchings in one sitting just to make a point? In the low-fat aisle, smugly clutching tubs of low-fat "butter". That's where.

Exactly four years ago I wrote a column in this space extolling the virtues of fat. It's where the flavour is. I declared that, were my family forced to eat me due to the economic downturn I would at least make for a good dinner on account of the way my luscious arse is marbled. I dreamed about self-consumption. Sample below-the-line comments: "irresponsible article" and "I hope that Rayner enjoys his bypass operation" and "fat also lines your arteries so thanks, but no thanks".

Who's outraged now, eh? It turns out that much of what we had been told was wrong: that there are good and bad cholesterols, that they can cancel each other out, that the fats in dairy and red meat are almost as good for you as those in fish. And anyway, it's sugar that kills.

As fats came out of food, so the sugars went in. Between 1980 and 2011 diabetes levels in the US rose 157% as the population followed government advice and went face down in the carbs. Which not only gave us more calories, but also slowed down our metabolism and made us feel hungry. Last autumn Sweden became the first developed nation to issue health advice rejecting low-fat high-carb dogma. And as the Swedes are basically cooler than everyone at everything ever and always right, arguing is pointless.

In the end, of course, it all comes back to the same thing: the pathologising of our dinner time. You can only fight wars over what you eat if people are willing to take sides. I recognise that I am as guilty of this as anyone. But then I've had little choice. So much pseudo-medicine is spouted about nutrition, usually as a cover for picky eating, that not rolling up your sleeves and wading in requires a self-restraint I simply do not have. Then again, you probably know that self-restraint and I have never been the best of friends. Now leave me in peace. There's a fat-ballasted rib eye which needs my attention. I regard it as the spoils of war, valiantly won. It shall be mine.


Jay Rayner

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
What’s so bad about ‘processed food’?
Some food campaigners should mind their language just as much as they mind what they eat

Jay Rayner

15, Jul, 2015 @11:00 AM

Article image
Meet the chef who’s debunking detox, diets and wellness
Anthony Warner – alias blogger turned author the Angry Chef – is on a mission to confront the ‘alternative facts’ surrounding nutritional fads and myths

Tim Lewis

18, Jun, 2017 @10:00 AM

Article image
Is bacon dangerous? The science behind food trends
Is fat really bad for you? Should we consume less salt? And what’s wrong with gluten, anyway? A science writer and a consultant cardiologist separate fact from fiction

Dara Mohammadi and Dr Ali Khavandi

17, Jan, 2016 @9:00 AM

Article image
Stop stressing about the perfect diet, it's human to fail
Diet regimes are full of crass slogans, but one thing holds true: go easy on yourself

Jay Rayner

17, Jan, 2019 @12:00 PM

Article image
Why almost everything you've been told about unhealthy foods is wrong
Joanna Blythman: Eggs and red meat have both been on the nutritional hit list – but after a major study last week dismissed a link between fats and heart disease, is it time for a complete rethink?

Joanna Blythman

23, Mar, 2014 @12:05 AM

Article image
Sweetness and blight: the mounting case against sugar
My mantra was: all things in moderation. But as the evidence against sugar mounts, I’m growing anxious. Although I won’t give up fruit…

Rachel Cooke

16, Jan, 2017 @8:00 AM

Article image
Why 'weight diversity' activists are standing up for the right to be fat

As obesity becomes a greater social and political issue, campaigners say they have a human right to be fat – and that science backs them up

Louise Carpenter

17, Apr, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
Excess sugar in food and drink needs tackling by law | Letters
Letters: The rather bizarre idea suggested by David Cameron’s government that the food industry will act in our interests and not its own via some sort of responsibility deal is frankly ridiculous


10, Sep, 2015 @6:11 PM

Article image
Smoothies and fruit juices are a new risk to health, US scientists warn

Scientists say potential damage from naturally occurring fructose in apparently healthy drinks is being overlooked

Sarah Boseley

07, Sep, 2013 @5:59 AM

Article image
Messages about reducing sugar intake unclear, say campaigners
New WHO guidelines must be translated into something meaningful to consumers, says director of Action on Sugar

Sarah Boseley, health editor

06, Mar, 2014 @8:53 PM