I may start as though I have forgotten the title of this article, but bear with me. All will become clear.

Some years ago I watched a program on the life of the first pioneers in America; the folk who arrived from Europe and then packed up their families and essential belongings and set off across the continent to make a new life on the frontier. The program was based on taking fit people and putting them in the pioneer life for a year. None of the participants was particularly weighty, and most would have considered pretty trim by modern standards.

By the end of the experiment everyone was leaner, trimmer and fitter, having lost something like 20 pounds each. No one was on a kindly calorie controlled diet, and in fact most of them were eating the highest energy food they could get.

The difference between then and now was that the people could only eat the food they had prepared themselves, in a day with no refrigeration, and no convenience or processed foods. They bought staple foods with them, such as oatmeal, flour and sometimes a ham, and they had cows and chickens for milk and eggs. They also had seeds to start their own farm and vegetable plot, and could gather food from the environment. With food being limited to what they had available, they had to reduce meal sizes to ration the stores so they rented. No coming back for seconds.

There were no snacks between meals – no cookies or cakes in the cupboard, no ice cream in the fridge. Not much in the way of sugar either. Just that occurring in fruits, and some honey too.

And everyone was busy – physically busy – all day long. Whether they were putting up buildings, building barns, moving timber, plowing and digging the soil or making bread, washing laundry by hand, carrying water from the river, or just walking, they were busy from dawn to dusk.

Hunger was the common condition. Although everyone had enough to keep healthy there was only once enough to feel full, and that was the huge fever they enjoyed when they celebrated the harvest. Otherwise people generally went to bed hungry.

This is all so different from today's common experience that we tend to overlook the obvious. The simplest and healthiest way for most people in the West to lose weight is to eat less and to do more. If we can reduce our portion sizes, and avoid snacking between meals, we'll be going a long way to developing a healthier life style. Although for many it is not practical to cook meals at home rather than buying ready made meals, the more home cooking we do the better. We can be aware of how much salt, sugar and fat is included in our food, and make small reductions of these 'danger' foods in many recipes.

Keeping sugary foods, snacks and drinks for trips and reducing our alcohol intake manages many invisible, overlooked and completely unnecessary calories.

Finally, if we eat and drink less we will be spending less of our hard earned money on food that is just making us fat.

ELEM – Eat Less, Exercise More. It's worth thinking about.