Is the solution a top-down government approach, or individual responsibility?
For sometime now the media monitoring services ANH-Intl uses to keep abreast of relevant news, have been awash with stories on one key topic. The Obesity Crisis. Every second story is about how we, globally, are becoming not only a ‘fat nation’, but an ‘obese nation’. Just last week reports covered a story about an 835 pound (59 stone; 380 kg) Welsh teenager of 19, who had to be cut out of her house because she got to the point where she couldn’t actually stand up. Or fit down the stairs of the house!
Top-down government approach proving useless
More news reports on how governments are trying to tackle the problem in a completely ineffective manner. Especially when you see that it's Big Food sponsoring many of the nutrition and obesity conferences held by governments, regulators and policy makers. Given that junk food is at the heart of the problem being so quick, easily available and geared towards increasing addiction, is it any wonder that government programmes are largely useless? They've effectively been highjacked by corporate profits, with the end consumer being the loser once again.
Is it possible, perhaps, that the media flurry on obesity is a reflection, at least in part, of a joined up campaign between the pharmaceutical industry and the media to condition the masses to the obesity epidemic? Will the pharmaceutical industry, working to broaden its portfolio of anti-obesity drugs, then miraculously appear with its answer to the problem? Apparently the drug companies are set to make a cool $10.3 billion on them by 2017. Sorry to be so cynical.
Monitoring overweight: scientific measurements or a decent mirror?
Then there's the question about whether accepted measurements and benchmarks for obesity are reliable or valid. The most widely used method of determining whether a person is overweight or not is by determining their body mass index (BMI). The formula (individual's body mass divided by the square of his or her height) was initially used as a simple means of classifying sedentary (physically inactive) individuals, and the higher a person’s BMI the more likely it was that they were sedentary and therefore overweight. There are flaws to this method as becomes immediately obvious when you look at a muscular, fit rugby player whose BMI would be high. In short BMI is an incredibly crude measurement and should be used with caution. The best way to measure if you are overweight is to look at your hip/waist ratio or to do a pinch test. But let's face it, your ever-tightening waistband, your wardrobe filling with clothes you can't fit anymore and a decent mirror are generally the best first indicators!
In the end, no one can do anything to make someone else change – whether it be nutrition, lifestyle or personality traits. It's always a personal choice. Therefore any action taken by governments is likely to be futile unless it resonates with a personal choice. It is ultimately down to us as individuals to take control of our own lives and invest in our own health.
Are you a victim of your 'obesogenic' nature?
As the Institute of Medicine’s recent evaluation on the “obesogenic nature of our nation” states: “Obesity is not a one-solution problem.” Therefore as well as looking at diet and lifestyle, individuals should also look at their level of activity throughout the week and aim for daily activity. But activity that is fun, stimulating and for which you're enthusiastic and motivated! The more motivated you are, the easier it is to stick to. Take a look at initiatives such at the Huffington Post’s ‘Sweat into Summer’, or one of the many ‘Boot Camps’, running clubs, cycling clubs, dance groups – the list is endless.
Call to Action
Making diet and lifestyle change is usually best supported by working with a coach or within a group. Look for nutritional practitioners in your area and think about joining a fun exercise class like Zumba, to get you moving again. Some weight loss groups can be very supportive, but ensure that the nutritional programme is suitable before joining e.g. Metabolic Balance.
Make other small changes to increase your activity, like walking to the shops instead of driving and taking the stairs instead of the lift/elevator or walking up escalators.