Are we healthier than our Gran’s and Mum’s?


Housewife is a very old fashioned word these days, more men are taking up this position in the family so maybe it should be changed to House Person or Home Technician?

On average, women have grown by an inch in height, added 8 inches around our middles and two stone to our weight since the 1950’s, so why are we getting bigger?


In the 1950’s, the diet was high in vegetables, but low in fat, protein and fruit. Nearly all of the food was prepared at home using unprocessed food. A typical meal would have been lamb and two veg, potatoes and homemade rice pudding.

Women didn’t drink much alcohol and alcohol abuse was low. Smoking was seen as glamorous, look at all of those black and white films where the heroine looks demurely down the lens of the camera with smoke spiralling lazily up creating an air of mystique around her face, in actual fact, the fag in her hand is irritating her eyes making them water but we don’t want to spoil the illusion!

I was told by one of our cardiac rehab customers that when she visited her GP when she was younger, he very generously offered her a cigarette in the surgery!

It was very rare to be overweight or obese and the average vital statistics were 35-24-34.

Physical activity wasn’t as structured as it is today, many women kept fit and healthy by doing house work manually, they didn’t have the luxury of modern day appliances. Clothes were washed by hand and a mangle was used to squeeze access water out a very good work out for the arms! The floors were swept using a broom rather than a vacuum and a lot of elbow grease was used!

There were few cars on the road so people cycled and walked every day. Women carried shopping bags home or pushed big prams laden with kids and groceries.


Jump two decades later and the number of calories from fats and sugar was on the increase, a typical meal would have been; prawn cocktail, steak and chips and black forest gateau for dessert.

More women started to drink alcohol and 41% of women were smokers.

6-7% of females were overweight, the first report warning about the trend towards obesity was written. The average statistics were 35 24 36.

In the late 70’s House hold appliances were a flick of the switch, labour saving and convenient but taking away the physical exertion and calorie expenditure. But, women had more leisure time. Jane Fonda introduced a new phenomenon; aerobics. Suddenly 1000’s of women rushed out and bought leotards and leg warmers and worked out in their masses in exercise to music classes (fashionably called ETM today!) star jumps, press-ups and sit-ups performed  in time to Car Wash, Strut Your Funky Stuff and I Will Survive!


Jump forward again to today and the calories consumed by fats and sugar make up a high percentage. Fast food is everywhere and homemade food is far less than previous years. A typical meal for this decade is pizza, garlic bread and ice cream for dessert.

Many more women drink alcohol and ‘binge drinking’ is common.

Smoking is 29%, highest in women aged 20-24 years,

57% of women are overweight or obese and average statistics are 36, 32, 40.

Home appliances are all at a flick of a switch; steamers eliminate the need to scrub anything and we now have vacuums that will hoover the floor for us while we sit and drink coffee watching Jeremey Kyle!

Leisure Centres have a selection of activities on offer but only 4% of women meet the government guidelines of 30 minutes a day of physical activity, this includes walking!


So, over the years, it is clear that the introduction of electrical appliances have encouraged us to become less active but I for one could not survive without my dishwasher! Normal everyday activities kept our Gran’s and Mum’s weight and fat levels healthy and they were more likely to use their legs as a mean of transport, now we jump into the car just to go around the corner. Alcohol is far more common but smoking is seeing a downward decline. Fast food is quick and easy and is a staple part of everyday meals. Sugar is in everything and is causing more people to develop diabetes type 2.

Obviously this doesn’t apply to all of us but the figures, or expanding figures, speak for themselves.

The answer has to be to become more active and to eat a selection of unprocessed foods: veg, fruit, protein and complex carbohydrates. Keep fast food to a minimum; eat more omega 3 rich fats; salmon, mackerel, nuts, avocado’s and cut down on sugar.

The old saying ‘Mother knows best’ may be right after all!

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