In episode two of the Sustainable Food Stories podcast series, Patrick is joined by Tom Watson, former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Tom was a speaker at The Sustainable Food Trust’s 2019 Farming and Climate Change event at Fir Farm in Gloucestershire, during which he gave his perspective on nutrition and healthy eating.
Tom begins by sharing with Patrick his reasons for stepping down from his role in the Labour Party. He explains that he was conscious of running out of road and felt it was the right time to go, having been on a major health journey, during which he radically changed his diet resulting in the reversal of his type 2 diabetes.
Tom describes his health story as an “everyman story”. For a long time, he was in denial about his weight and basic health, before deciding that enough was enough. Tom chose to cut out ultra-processed foods, significantly reduce his carbohydrate intake and switch to a diet of good quality meat and vegetables “simply prepared in lovely oils and fats”. “Beautifully reared farm animals that are well looked after, taste better and are better for you” says Tom.
In order to improve his health, Tom says he needed to “reverse engineer” the psychological responses to the fats he’d previously thought of as “bad”. In his Sunday Times bestselling book ‘Downsizing’, Tom stresses that diet should not be considered as a one-size-fits-all approach, as Public Health England’s ‘Eat well Plate’ suggests.
This forms part of a wider conversation on the need to challenge orthodoxies around nutrition and agriculture. Like Patrick, Tom is enthusiastic about regenerative agriculture and sustainable farming practices such as crop rotation to re-build soil fertility and mixed farming. They then discuss the changes to agricultural policy needed to bring these ideas to life.
The conversation ends with a healthy discussion on the joys of making and eating cheese – something both Patrick and Tom enjoy: ‘Once you’ve learned to appreciate how proper cheese is made, you don’t want to go back to the old stuff’.