• Fitness fanatic Blake Horton's physique is nourished it exclusively with McGriddles and banana splits. (Getty)
Choose movement and meals that you actually like, says Helen Razer.
Helen Razer

12 Jan 2018 - 2:36 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2018 - 8:24 AM

The twenty-year-old human body can be a marvel of endurance. It may take more neglect, fried food and deglazing than your trustiest cast iron pan. When Cheap Tart’s human body was twenty, it rose with egg-and-bacon roll then put itself to bed with beer. Its “workout” equipment involved a beanbag, and some chap named Sonic the Hedgehog.  Sometimes, others would tell this body, “You are in urgent need of green vegetables.” Ha!

Body paid no more heed to such advice than to that of exercise guidelines. In its early twenties, it felt just fine. By its later twenties, it began to corrupt. Buckets of Singapore noodles and hours of gaming could no longer be taken daily. Well, not if this body cared to work, sleep or dial a home delivery noodle without pain.

In time, the things people had been saying to this body proved true. A diet richer in plants and lower in boxed sweets did produce more energy; the body that expended more energy did begin to feel more as it had at twenty, when still immune to carbo-licious treats.

In its early twenties, it felt just fine. By its later twenties, it began to corrupt. Buckets of Singapore noodles and hours of gaming could no longer be taken daily.

So, Cheap Tart began to feed itself more wholesomely—more easily and cheaply done at your stove than your local takeaway—and move itself. It still does. And, no, this tale is not a moral instruction in which I urge you to join a gym (places with prison-like contracts) or force a green smoothie (drinks with the flavour of liquefied gym shorts) in your face. Such Empowered Paleo Cyclist rot gives veg and exercise an undeservedly bad name.

Anyhow, your body is no business of mine. You may paint it pink or nourish it exclusively with anchovies. Those who feel it their duty to dispense physical advice to others should shut it, or, become a doctor and/or hairstylist. Further, there is little good in commanding, “eat better and exercise”. We are of a stubborn species rarely inclined to listen. We learn best from experience—such as that of feeling as fresh and dynamic as an unwashed sock.

If you’ve had that experience, then allow me to offer only the barest advice: approach the exercise-and-eating thing in your own time, and maintain it on your own agreeable terms. Choose movement and meals that you actually like. Oh. And unless you’re an elite athlete or weekend decathlon superstar, don’t bother with “sports nutrition” in packets. You want a protein hit, then have an egg. You want a good brekky before a long run, whack some peanut butter on a bagel.

If you like the rigid structure of a plan, have one medically recommended. If you need to keep a weekly date with chocolate chip cookies as reward for all that veg and sweat, do it. I do.

Unless you’re an elite athlete, don’t bother with “sports nutrition” in packets. You want a good brekky before a long run, whack some peanut butter on a bagel.

I follow some food rules, especially when training for the longer races that encourage those who find distance running acceptable. This hobby tends to suit the short and the nervous, like me; the tall and the calm may find weight-training more to their liking.  (I can’t be trusted with dumbbells.)

The food-fitness relationship is a tricky one to figure. A doctor or dietitian can offer the eating advice that matches your movement. I shoulda seen one before running that marathon. My time was as, um, generous as my weight. The eating plan had been “everything in the fridge at all times, as I am STARVED”. It’s not that I minded being chubby. I did, however, resent the knee injury and failure to cross the line in under seventeen years.

I’m running a little faster now, and eating a little more cautiously. The twenty-year-old body may be a marvel of endurance, but the older one can achieve a miracle of balance. Try it, but only when you’re ready.


Helen Razer is your frugal food enthusiast, guiding you to the good eats, minus the pretension and price tag in her weekly Friday column, Cheap Tart. Don't miss her next instalment, follow her on Twitter @HelenRazer. 


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