Obesity and Health, where are we?

Obesity and Health, where are we?

Thankyou to Naomi Leppitt for her help with this post.

You may have heard about links between having a higher weight and increased risk of worse outcomes from Covid-19, such as being more likely to be admitted to hospital or require ICU care. These recent findings have reminded us how important it is to improve our health. Whilst there may be an association here it is very hard to know what is the cause. We already are aware of associations between having a higher weight and conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, as well as mental health and wellbeing. However just because you are a higher weight does not mean that you automatically will have a higher risk of diseases. Someone in a smaller body can have a less healthy body than someone in a larger body, and vice versa. What we do know is that doing things to improve our health is always a good idea. This doesn’t have to be just weight focused, instead look at the wider picture. What can you work on in the context of your wider health? Maybe your sleep needs a focus, do you need to moving more (or less if you over-exercise), try meditation or mindfulness to help with stress, building in more relaxation time, eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking less alcohol, having more plant based meals.

If you are worried about your weight, you’re not alone. Lots of people in the UK have struggles with their weight, and may have tried to lose weight before, whilst many initially lose weight, the research shows us that most people will then put it back on, sometimes gaining even more weight. It’s hard, and the world we live in doesn’t make it any easier. Bus stop adverts with giant man-sized buttermilk chicken burgers, billboards with footlong subway sandwiches the size of a double decker bus, adverts every 15 minutes during your relaxing evening in front of the telly promoting food delivery services- because of course it’s so much harder to dine out these days! Celebrities like Snoop Dogg endorse fast food with catchy tunes and music is one of the best ways to trigger memories, so when we remember those songs, we remember the food. Looking at food is all it takes for your body to release the hunger hormone, ghrelin.

It’s all so unconscious too! When you’re sat in traffic, you may not even be thinking about food, or feeling hungry, but a billboard catches your eye, or an advert comes on the radio and suddenly you’re craving a burger and you don’t even notice it’s because of an advert you’ve clocked at the edge of your vision. Of course, it’s not just adverts. When we are doing our weekly shop, there’s offers at the end of the aisle, which tend to be on convenience foods that are often high-fat, high-sugar or high-salt foods like chocolate bars, crisps, biscuits etc. It can make it harder to make healthy choices.

Eating out offers a chance to socialise and try something you may not get to eat at home, but with the luxury of someone else making it, you don’t know what’s going in to that meal. And when having a drink, it’s easy to ignore the energy content, as it’s never been on the label- you have to some hunting online to find out how many calories are in your beverage of choice.

The government has been taking actions in recent months to make healthy choices easier to make. They’ve released an ‘obesity strategy’:

  • putting the calorie content of meals on menus 
  • putting calories on alcohol
  • reviewing the effectiveness of the ‘traffic light label’ (see this food label post for more info)
  • restricting end-of-the-aisle sale promotions like the ‘buy one get one free’ and
  • banning adverts of high fat/sugar/salt foods before 9pm

What do you think about these changes? Do you think they could help you to make healthier choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The government’s strategy is linked with Public Health England’s Better Health Campaign (pictured) aiming to offer apps and 12-week courses and services to make getting help for managing weight more accessible. Have you tried these? Is it a good idea to put the nation on a diet when we know that actually diets don’t tend to work? Or should we be making a move to long term health changes?

So many questions and so few answers. There is never a one-size fits all way of eating or answer, everyone is individual. So what works for one person may not be right for you or may not be long lasting. My thoughts would be to choose the changes you can make for life over the short term fixes.

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