Obesity is a multifactorial problem within society and society as a whole is suffering. Factors such as food availability, food costs, education levels, socioeconomic status, mental health, increased dependence on vehicles for transportation and advertising all negatively affect food choices. Many of the foods eaten today are high calorie, are low in nutritional content but high in fat, sugar and salt which cause us to crave these foods eating more than we otherwise would. Sugar has been linked to many health conditions, most notably T2DM which can have severe complications.
In the 2011-2012 Australian Health Survey 28.3% of the adult population was classified as being obese and 63.4% of all adults were overweight or obese. This not only has implications for health but financial hardship due to the cost of medications and therapies to treat these conditions and associated comorbidities. These conditions also lead to increased sick leave and decrease in income.
We now have children being diagnosed with T2DM which was previously only diagnosed in middle aged and older adults due to diet and obesity. One third of Australian children are now obese and this has implications for life long obesity and chronic health conditions occurring much earlier in life than has previously been seen.
Why is this important? Because, obesity and overweight have been linked with significant increases in chronic diseases and poor health and quality of life outcomes. Obesity has been linked to Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases including stroke and heart attacks, arthritis, chronic kidney disease and cancers such as breast, prostate and bowel.
What can be done? Exercise and diet are cornerstone treatments to reverse obesity. We need to be more mindful about what and how much we eat and include more nutritions foods into our diets. Foods that have become staples, such as fast foods, convenience foods (lollies, chocolates, chips, biscuits, ice cream, soft drinks and fruit juices) all need to become a rarely food. We need to move and move a lot more than we currently are. This can be by increasing our incidental activity and/or by participating in structured exercise programs with an accredited Exercise Physiologist (where disease has been diagnosed) or personal/group trainer for those who have not yet developed a diagnosable health condition.
Everyone should aim for 10,000 steps per day as a minimum and should be looking to do over 15,000 for weight loss. Changing body composition by increasing muscle mass through resistance training is also essential. Muscle cells burn energy, fat cells don’t so increasing the amount of muscle helps to burn energy. Other exercise modalities such as swimming can be a great way to start exercising if joint pain is an issue.