Are you sick of watching sensationalised news programs, featuring the clichéd collages of overweight Australians wandering around the city with chiko rolls in their hands, telling you how to live and what to eat?
We all are.
But that is not going to change the horrifying truth we must face as individuals, that as a nation, we’re fat. And because of our first-world capacity to sabotage our health in such a way, we have to get out of denial, and into our acceptance.
It is a new world, with climate-change and recession woes that leave us feeling completely overwhelmed and under-appreciated. Sometimes the journey feels too long and too hard, but though we face environmental problems and money issues, at least we can say "we still have our health".
So rather than talking at you, we are going to talk with you about weight-related issues like heart disease and diabetes. Feel free to leave comments, opinions or advice for your countrymen and women after you peruse this article that could very well alter your life for the better – and maybe save the futures for our kids.
So here is the anti-sensationalist version of exactly what is going on with our weight.
It’s not the food – it’s the fashion
To beat any beast, we must first understand it.
And the obesity beast is not about food, laziness or failure. It is about our lifestyle. The reason a quarter of children, over half of women and nearly three quarters of men are classified as overweight or obese is because our lifestyles are 21st century, but our bodies are not.
Physical activity is no longer essential for human survival. In fact, for some of us sitting in front of a screen all day, it is the opposite. We don’t need to hunt kangaroos and pick berries for food, but walk five steps to a vending machine for a coffee break.
So instead of blaming ourselves and making each other feel bad, let’s call this what it is – change. Humans are brilliantly adaptable creatures, so we can beat this, just like we beat hunting and gathering.
Don’t be scared to visit your GP and discuss your fears and goals, regarding either yourself or a loved one. If necessary your GP will consider medications or other options such as bariatric surgery, so please speak openly and honestly.
Your GP can also help you with eating and exercise plans, which may be much less arduous than our celebrity role models lead us to believe. Crazy diets and starving ourselves are not only ridiculous but counterproductive.
Taking the kids snorkelling at the beach or kicking a ball in the park, showing your spouse some "extra affection", and swapping the ice cream for yoghurt are small steps for man, and one giant leap for our slightly fatter mankind.
This is the initial step in an exciting direction.
So what happens if I don’t?
It may be a grim picture of the future if we stick our head in the sand.
Heart disease, some cancers, arthritis and diabetes are not things we wish on our children – so why put things in our mouths, or their mouths, that bait the beastly burden?
Not only health concerns bother us – feeling good about ourselves dictates the way we treat ourselves and others. Feeling energetic and sexy is an important part of mental health. That’s why this is a holistic and social issue, just as much as a physical one.
It has been shown that even a small amount of weight loss, from 5 to 10 percent, can dramatically alter your overall health. To do this we need our friends, family and co-workers to be in on the idea. There is absolutely no reason to be ashamed or frightened of admitting that we want to cut some sugar and fat out of our diets.
Even as adults we can feel peer-pressured into drinking and eating like our contemporaries, but they might be waiting for the chance to have a positive influence in their lives too!
Dress for success
Diet and exercise can definitely be controlled by behavioural measures. It’s a matter of strengthening our mind as well as our bodies. Be ready for change and success and be comfortable knowing that the most effective way to achieve long-term weight loss is taking it slowly.
Food, glorious food
Your metabolism is dictated by several factors, food being the main aspect of how well it works. Your metabolism is trying to help you, so help it back.
There are no crash diets or secret miracle cures, except for this: more calories burned than consumed will equal weight loss.
We can all do with a little help sometimes, so have a look at some medically proven diets developed by dedicated weight loss services such as Weight Watchers. These services will focus on methods that will work for you, whether it be smaller portion sizes or specific foods to benefit your metabolism.
We know now that less than 10% of patients maintain long-term weight loss. It’s not just an eating plan for a couple months that will change our lives, but a lifestyle revolution that will brighten our futures.
Virtual Medical Centre has some fabulous tools and accredited information that will help you learn how to read food labels carefully and consume foods low in saturated fat, sugars and, if appropriate, glycaemic index.
Have a look at these different approaches and think about which may suit you or the loved one you are concerned about:
Reduced energy diets encourage you to choose healthy meal options, aiming to reduce your energy intake by a small amount every day. They teach you healthy eating behaviours which you can maintain in the long term.
Low energy diets are more restrictive and limit your energy intake to a greater degree. Set meal programs need to be followed. This type of diet can lead to a weight loss of 7–13 kilograms, and may be used if you have significant health problems related to obesity.
Very low energy diets cut daily energy intake significantly. They are mainly reserved for people who have been unsuccessful with other treatments or who have significant comorbidities. These types of diets are generally followed for 8–16 weeks and often consist of liquid meal replacements from pharmacies. Unfortunately, much of the weight lost is regained after the diet is stopped, but behavioural or drug therapies following treatment can help maintain some of the weight loss.
Meal replacement programs replace some normal meals with prepared meal plans or meal supplements (such as vitamin-rich shakes, soups and bars). These supplements act as complete meals and contain all the required vitamins and minerals. Meal replacement programs operate on the principles of a low calorie diet and induce a mild state of ketosis. The diets limit your intake of carbohydrates so that your body starts to break down fat stores for energy. The meal replacement programs are specially formulated to contain adequate energy and do not cause malnutrition.
Let’s get physical, physical
None of us have to be super athletes to get into shape.
There are no excuses! If you have bad knees, try swimming. Bad ankles? A cross-trainer. Firey passion? Boxing. Sexy spouse? You know what to do.
And the best, hands down? Walking. We can all bust out the iPod and listen to our favourite songs for half an hour after work, losing not only weight but also stress and fatigue.
Because strenuous exercise can be risky for some people, such as those with cardiovascular problems, walking is a great way to start your regime without going over the top.
Walking for exercise also means you can maintain it in the long-term, and easily pick it up after a break from exercising.
Your friends can help you too. Hooking up for squash games or team sports is fun and satisfying. Swap the Friday beers for a match of tennis – this is guaranteed to have a huge impact in so many ways.
Wax on, wax off
A lot of the effort comes from our minds, so it may be useful to combine diet and exercise programs with behavioural techniques to improve long-term weight loss. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a classic example which encourages you to change your behaviours and take responsibility for your lifestyle changes.
You can also consider stress management, relapse prevention, counselling, and techniques such as hypnosis and psychotherapy. Just keep in mind that some of these behavioural techniques can be very time consuming and expensive.
Some easy steps you can try are:
- Self monitoring: Identify and record any adverse patterns of behaviour (e.g. snacking on unhealthy food).
- Stimulus control: Remove factors that encourage you to eat badly. Shop carefully and remove trouble foods (e.g. chocolates and chips) from the house so you can’t be tempted.
- Problem solving: Identify and address problems associated with eating and physical activity. Think about factors which have led to your excess weight and address them appropriately.
- Reward systems: Reward yourself for positive behaviours such as exercise (e.g. by treating yourself to new clothes).
- Social support: Strong social support from your friends and family can improve weight loss. Enrol in a commercial program which offers a social support network.
We’re in this together
The most important thing for a healthy lifestyle is to feel good about ourselves. Stress, depression, boredom and frustration only make things worse. Even though we are all hearing the news about Australia’s obesity epidemic, this doesn’t reflect how wonderful, kind-hearted and hard-working we can be as a nation. So let’s be kind to ourselves and not beat up on our bad points. Slight changes are easy to make and they can begin anytime.
So if you start, so will I.