Obesity - The Big Fat Truth

Overweight, fat, obese, plump, large, stoutly, hefty, chubby & tubby. The list could go on. Calling someone a name from this list is considered offensive but is it a harsh truth? Even though these somewhat harsh adjectives could lead to a person feeling bullied or intimidated, the fact is that being overweight due to excess fat puts an individual at risk of having serious health issues. We, as personal trainers, want to help combat this growing epidemic by informing and educating people about the consequences of being obese and the changes that can be made in order to live a healthy and happy life.

Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. While some fat is essential for our body (2-5% for men and 10-13% for women), having too much over the average (15-25% for men & 25%-30% for women) increases the risk of many diseases including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and certain cancers. Excess fat located around the abdomen area increases the risk even further of development of the above conditions.

According to a study commissioned by consultancy firm McKinsey and Company, Britain is spending £47 billion a year dealing with the healthcare and social costs of an increasingly overweight population.

The UK spends less than £638m a year on obesity prevention programmes – about 1% of the social cost, but the country spends about £6bn a year on the medical costs of conditions related to being overweight or obese and a further £10 billion on diabetes.

As you can see from the world map of obesity below; the UK is just one of the many countries struggling with this "epidemic."

With the increase in processed and fast foods, it is easier and more convenient to grab a microwave meal, pizza or takeaway and not have to put any work or time into cooking our food, after all, why would we want to spend hours in the kitchen when our children are happy eating these foods and so are we. These food options give us more time to do more important things like watch our favorite TV programs or flick through facebook and instagram. Perfect!

The truth is that these processed and fast foods are slowly killing us. If we continue to fill our bodies (and our childrens) with ingredients we don’t even know how to pronounce then our bodies will start to show signs and we may develop diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease (again, the list could go on). This doesn’t have to happen! Having a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring or expensive and it also doesn’t have to take up hours of your day preparing a good nutritious meal for the family. I love to cook with fresh ingredients that give me the macro and micronutrients my body needs to work at its optimum. I believe we should try as many different fresh foods as we can and decide which we like and which we don’t, and then working with these ingredients to produce some tasty nutritious meals!

For me, I used to hate salads. I thought they tasted too leafy and had that taste of ‘nature’ which I wasn’t a fan of. Wanting to adopt a healthy eating regime, I decided that I would try as many different varieties of leaves & vegetables as possible and from there I would build a nutritionally balanced salad suited to my tastes. My salads now usually consist of a protein source such as chicken or tuna, fresh spinach, peppers, spring onion, feta, quinoa, tomato (chopped up really small as I hate big chunks), olives and finish it off with some balsamic vinegar. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare in all, it is really tasty and it keeps me full for a good few hours!   

I'm not saying healthy eating is all about eating salads, it's not. Eating healthily is all about balance. Even if you eat healthy foods, your portion sizes may be way bigger than they need to be and will thus have the same consequences in weight gain as unhealthy foods. We need to ensure our body is provided with a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats to ensure it works at its optimum level and depending on your exercise levels and daily living activities, the amount for each varies to suit you. (see the foundations guide to nutrition management and flexible dieting for more information).

I'm not going to lie, I still like a naughty burger or pizza at the weekend but when the weekend is over I go back to feeding my body with the right foods and train 4 times a week with a mix between cardio and resistance training to strengthen my muscles and bones and keep my heart healthy. When you realize what is going into your body and the job each of the nutrients performs, you will see food in a whole new light. We should eat to nourish our body, not to fill it up on E numbers and processed garbage just because it tastes good. This way, we will help protect ourselves from the many diseases associated with obesity.

Talking of exercise, this is another important factor to consider when adopting a healthy lifestyle. It is recommended that we take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. Broken down, this could be either 5, 30 minute sessions a week or 2 sessions lasting one hour plus 30 minutes. It's not really a lot of time per week to dedicate to exercise and if you think about it, 1 hour is 4% of your day. I'm sure we can all afford to spare 60 minutes a day for the sake of our health and wellbeing cant we?

Exercise doesn't have to be a chore. Find ways to make it fun. Get out in the elements and go for a nice brisk walk with your loved one or get the whole family involved and go on a fun bike ride! There are so many fun activities out there that don't involve endless hours on a treadmill so find a few you like and mix them up!

It’s time to love your body, it’s the only one you have!