The statistics for obesity are alarming and the news just keeps getting worse. There are at least 300 million clinically obese adults worldwide and a further 22 million children worldwide under the age of 5 are overweight. The situation is now a global epidemic among western nations. Low fitness levels in children, health habits and behaviours learnt in childhood are having a major impact on long-term health. Many children have learnt poor health habits from their overweight parents, this trend will lead to increasingly grim statistics as overweight children will grow into obese adults in future years.
A person is obese when they have a large excess of body fat. Generally obesity is the result of consuming more energy than is being used during the day. Meaning that if a person is active doing regular exercise, walking regularly and burning the energy off, then the body will reach a happy state. However if the energy from food and drink is not burnt off through exercise then this will turn to fat, increasing body mass and significantly endangering health and ultimately survival.
The answer to obesity is simple – eat less calories and do more exercise – but this simple prescription is often the hardest to do. There are a variety of factors that prevent this simple solution and turn it into a far more complex health issue. Mental health, emotional eating, environmental factors, self-control issues, greed, parental upbringing, taste addictions, genetics, hormones, religion, metabolism, race, class, gluttony all have a part to play in the fine balance between eating enough and over eating. Every individual is different, bringing different motivating factors and fears pushing them into the physical body shape they are in.
However eating less calories doesn’t mean eating less food. Real food full of a variety of nutrients and prepared in more traditional ways generally has a lower calorie intake than prepared packaged foods, sodas, alcohol and fast food. These foods provide a large sugar kick to the body along with significant fat but they are often lacking in quality nutrients the body actually needs for health and survival. Eating a large quantity of these foods can result in obese people actually suffering from malnutrition, a term more commonly used when referring to third world nations. Eating and drinking more quality foods with higher nutritional intake is actually the answer to eating less calories but more food. Kimberly Taylor, Clinical Nutritionist says that choosing alternatives such as natural fruit juice instead of sodas, increasing fruit and vegetables and eating meals made at home from ingredients grown and picked from the garden or sourced from local producers will help to fulfill and sustain the body providing optimum nutrition for health and healing without leaving it depleted of nutrients and malnourished.
Exercise is another important factor in the equation of combating obesity. Nothing beats a regular, dedicated 30mins+ exercise session but there are some activities in daily life that will all help burn off extra calories, for example, taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to the shops instead of driving and walking around while talking on the phone. Whatever your exercise routine is, start slowly and build up gently as your body becomes used to the routine and change from inactivity to active and healthy lifestyle.
The prescription for correcting obesity and reducing the devastating worldwide statistics is as individual as obese people themselves. This is why one diet doesn’t work for everybody and one solution is not the answer. A multifaceted approach must be taken across lifestyle as well as diet, looking at environmental influences and foundation learning and education.