Teenager goes blind after living off chips

Lunch break: A typical feast for workers at Stonehenge, according to English Heritage scientists.

Has modern society forgotten how to eat? We know that, despite hardships, many of our Stone Age ancestors enjoyed a great diet. Today, we live in luxury but lose touch with necessities.

Since leaving primary school, he had eaten only chips, Pringles and white bread with an occasional slice of ham or a sausage.

Today, aged 17, he is the average weight and size. But though born with normal sight, he is registered blind.

The boy, who cannot be named, was severely malnourished from his eating disorder, known medically as “avoidant restrictive food intake disorder”.

He is not the only one. In the UK, there has been a dramatic rise in hospital admissions for potentially life-threatening eating disorders in the last year. Numbers more than doubled from 7,260 in 2011 to 16,023 in the year to April 2018.

“We have created a society of people who are unable to eat. A society where only a very small number of people can actually listen to their bodies,” says Hope Virgo, author and global advocate for eating disorder sufferers.

What a stark contrast with our Stone Age ancestors. In 2017, scientists were able to work out that the people who built Stonehenge 4,500 years ago enjoyed feasts of roast, sweetened pork, fresh vegetables and a range of rich dairy products including cheese and butter.

Today, we modern humans can surf three digital devices at once and visit a different continent a day — but are we forgetting how to eat?

Primal instinct

Absolutely, say some. The history of civilisation is about moving from a life of necessity to a life of luxury. It is clear that many in the rich world are already forgetting the basics: how to play, sleep, walk, laugh, relax and love. No surprise that we are finally forgetting how to eat.

On the contrary, goes the counter-argument. What we are really forgetting (thank goodness!) is how to scrabble for a living with raw fingers all day, lie in freezing, smoke-filled huts all night, and die aged 35.

You Decide

  1. Do you have a healthy diet?

Activities

  1. Make a healthy eating poster for students of your year group. Use the Expert Links to research, and then design, a beautiful menu for a feast at Stonehenge.

Some People Say...

“Grub first, then ethics.”

Bertholt Brecht (1898-1956), German playwright.

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The total yearly costs for eating disorder treatment to the NHS are between £3.9bn and £4.6bn (plus a further £1.1bn of private treatment costs), with a consequent lost income to the economy of between £6.8bn and £8bn.
What do we not know?
The causes. There are many ideas about three possible main reasons. First, improved reporting of disorders that might have gone unnoticed in the past. Second, anxiety and psychological problems linked to body image. Third, availability of junk food and cheap alternatives to a healthy diet.

Word Watch

Malnourished
According to the NHS, malnutrition is a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet doesn’t contain the right amount of nutrients. It means “poor nutrition” and can refer both to undernutrition and overnutrition (getting more nutrients than you need).
Avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder
Although many children go through phases of picky eating, a person with ARFID does not consume enough calories to grow and develop properly.
Skara Brae
A stone-built settlement consisting of eight houses, it was occupied from roughly 3180 BC to about 2500 BC and is Europe’s most complete Neolithic village.

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