The elephant in the room

It’s back – the monster topic that is obesity, has raised it’s ugly head yet again.     

According to a recent independent review by Henry Dimbleby “there have been 14 government strategies aimed at reducing obesity in the UK since 1992. None have succeeded. The UK is now the third fattest country in the G7, and poor diet is by far the biggest cause of avoidable disease. Even smoking doesn’t come close”. Ultimately, the unpalatable fact is that obesity shortens life expectancy, and ruins it’s quality. 

The sad truth is that as almost two thirds of our society are currently overweight, with 28% obese, it’s now become the acceptable norm. Mostly people don’t feel out of place carrying those extra pounds, as when they look around, they see the same sized people reflected back at them. Yet this isn’t a good enough reason to be apathetic and ignore the issue.  

It’s not enough to quote horrifying statistics with no practical solution accompanying them, when the problem is now being passed down from generation to generation. Rarely were our parents or grandparents overweight as food was more real and less processed then. Junk food was an unknown thing of the future. Unfortunately, it’s now here to stay and the food giants will do anything they can to keep you hooked.  

When the sugar tax was introduced back in 2017 on fizzy and soft drinks, the market adapted by reducing the quantities of sugar in these products, and it resulted in 28.8% less sugar in these beverages plus a reduction in other sugar laden items such as yogurts, sweet spreads, sauces and cereals. A step in the right direction at least.

But we cannot just bury our heads in the sand while we tuck into the next McDonalds and hope for the problem to go away. Because as you age the problem will only get worse, become even harder to tackle and will most definitely result in serious, unpleasant and/or potentially fatal health issues. These include type 2 diabetes – which can result in limb amputation, heart disease, high blood pressure, and several types of cancer. Who can honestly say that’s what they aspire to for their future? And to those that are overweight, with hand on heart, who can truly say they feel comfortable in their skin? I’m guessing not many.  

I’m no fan of fat-shaming and have been overweight myself. I was also hugely pregnant three times and know exactly how it feels to be too big, cumbersome, sweaty with thigh chafe, out of breath and not one tiny bit comfortable in your own skin. So 17 years ago, I made the decision that hard action was needed, and armed with a weight watchers’ book, a swimsuit and a will of steel, I lost almost 3 stone. I’ve been working hard to keep it off ever since. Luckily for me, I made this lifestyle change just in time, before I reached an age when it would have been even harder to do.  

I’m not an advocate of having no culinary pleasures in life, as that would obviously make it pretty dull and intolerable. But I do feel we must learn about balance, moderation, saying the word NO occasionally and having a modicum of will-power and self-restraint. If you can teach yourself to become aware of what you put into your mouth, not just fill your face mindlessly while you watch tv, or scroll through your phone, you will start to savour what you eat and be more likely to do it consciously and recognise what you are eating.  

Instead of greedily devouring a whole bag of doughnuts yourself, just have the one. Or maybe tell yourself “It’s Wednesday, I’ll save that sweet treat for the weekend”. Because we all (even though we know it’s bad for us) enjoy eating bad food and the crux – it’s plain delicious. The combination of sugar and fat hits the bliss point which we’ve all been conditioned to love since being fed baby milk as new-borns. We had no choice then, as it was what we needed to survive. But as adults, and responsible for what we put into our own mouths, we must face the consequences of our actions.  

Noone ever said it’s easy to lose weight, and I know from personal experience you simply won’t unless: 

 A – you’re serious  

B – you move more and eat less   

C – you stick to it. Forever. Full stop.  

I’m by no means a ‘twiglet’, but I do feel generally more at home in my own skin these days.  Once I’d heard the famous Kate Moss comment “nothing tastes as good as slim feels” I could never forget it, and there’s no denying it as it’s literally true. When you drop a dress size and fit into that pair of jeans or feel your hip bones for the first time when they’ve been submerged in blubber for years, it feels fantastic and is not only good for your physical health, but also a boost for your mind as it gives you more confidence too. Nobody really wants to wear huge baggy clothes, disguising their shape. Or even worse, wear figure-hugging things that display all your wobbly bits for the entire world to see.   

Nowadays, there are millions of families where the parents are overweight themselves as all they’ve ever been fed is highly processed, cheap junk food, so they’re unwittingly inflicting the same poor diet on their own children, and the poor nutrient deficient, high calorie diet is perpetuated. There’s only one thing more heartbreaking than seeing an obese child, and that’s seeing a severely malnourished starving child in Africa on the brink of death. The world’s gone mad – half are overweight, the other starving. Where is the sense in it? 

As we age, people generally refuse to acknowledge or understand the simple fact that our body need less calorific intake as our energy output and metabolism slows down (basically, you drive less miles in your car you need less petrol). And, yes, it’s not easy to reduce your portion sizes. In the words of a once famous song “nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be so hard”. Yet we all know, deep down, that anything worth having won’t ever come easily or without a monumental amount of effort. Ultimately though, it does make the hard-earned rewards so much sweeter. 

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