No one can deny that obesity is now at epidemic proportions in the western world, with figures suggesting that in the UK alone 30% of women and 27% of men are deemed obese, and a further 31% of women and 40% of men are deemed overweight. In the 24 years between 1993 to 2017 obesity has increased from 15% to 29%, across both genders.
More worrying is the stats around obesity in children – with one in ten children at reception age, being determined as obese and this rises to one in five at year 6 age being determined as obese. And the evidence suggests that obese children are likely to grow up to be obese adults.
These are worrying statistics and we all have a responsibility to do something about it.
Why? Because whether we like it or not, obesity is now classed as a disease, and as with any disease it causes health complications and is a drain on our stretched NHS. We don’t share these statistics with the intention to shame people in the obese category, we do it to encourage some behaviour change, to give people a reason to change their lives and become healthier, to reduce the further disease risks, to live longer lives, in a healthier state, and be around for, and spend time with, their precious loved ones. Because every single person that we come into contact with is amazing, and their families and friends thinks the same, regardless of their BMI category, and we want these amazing people to live a long and healthful life and enjoy every extra day, month and year that losing some weight might gain them.
What are the risks of being obese?
Compared with a healthy weight man, an obese man is:
- five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- three times more likely to develop cancer of the colon
- more than two and a half times more likely to develop high blood pressure – a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease
An obese woman, compared with a healthy weight woman, is:
- almost 13 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- more than four times more likely to develop high blood pressure
- more than three times more likely to have a heart attack
A BMI of 30 to 35 has been found to reduce life expectancy by an average of three years, while a BMI of over 40 reduced longevity by eight to 10 years, which is equivalent to a lifetime of smoking.
Why is it getting worse?
The world in which we live has changed. Since the 80’s we have become slowly more sedentary, we rely heavily on technology, domestically and industrially. We have fewer and fewer physical jobs, and our home lives are ever dominated by technology. We don’t even have to get up to turn the TV channel over any more, we skip through the ad breaks where we might have previously thought to get up and put the kettle on. We have 24/7 entertainment in our homes, streaming movies, music, concerts, documentaries, all at the touch of a remote. Our kids play computer games or stare at device screens for as long as we will let them. We are the first generation ever to have to plan physical activity into our lives – because our lives are just so sedentary.
Moreover, the food industry has responded to our societal changes. The majority of women now work full time, or something close to it, or maybe even more, and because of that, have less time to shop for fresh foods, and prepare meals from fresh ingredients. We no longer walk down the high street for our weekly shop, carrying our heavy bags as we go, expending energy. We drive to our local supermarket where we get everything in a one stop shop, then we drive it home and put it in our cupboards. We eat out of the home more, whether that’s a proper meal out or buying a sandwich at lunch, and because of that we have less control of what we are putting in our bodies.
In times gone by, food wasn’t as abundantly available as it is now. We now use food, as a reward, as a treat, to console ourselves, to celebrate, to entertain ourselves when we are bored. We use it at every opportunity because there is a food for every occasion. The result, we simply end up eating too much.
Every aspect of our lives in the 21st century means we are encouraged to move less, yet eat more food and drink. The result – we gain weight!
How can we improve the situation?
We need to take back control. We need to stop the world controlling us and make some small, impactful changes. And this is no different. Whatever category your BMI is in, we all have a responsibility to our family, friends, and most of all ourselves to live long, healthful lives. Because we are amazing. So look for those little wins in your lifestyle. Think about how we used to live, take every opportunity to move more, whether that’s a walk to the shops, or making three trips upstairs for something over one, or simply using stairs instead of lifts. Start to think about how you feed yourself and your family. Would your grandma have done it that way? We can learn a lot from the past that can solve some of our lifestyle related problems that we are storing up for the future.
Take back control!
Look at the way you live your life. What are the changes that you can make to live more like our family members in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, moving more and consuming less? What are the small differences in lifestyle that will make a big difference to your health? Start to act on these thoughts, make some new plans, do things differently – because you are are amazing and you are most definitely worth it!