Monday 5 December 2016

Shape up: Tackling the weight of the world

Damien Maher

Published 03/06/2010 | 11:03

THE Inaugural European Obesity Day was held recently in a bid to raise awareness and initiate action to tackle the condition.

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is currently responsible for more than one million deaths and 12 million life-years of ill health each year. It is a leading cause of preventable death and disease in Europe and, as we all know by now, it has reached epidemic proportions. Preventing people from becoming overweight is crucial for the future, but we also need to help those who are already overweight or obese to reach a healthy weight.

Being overweight increases your risk of developing several serious health problems such as heart disease, certain types of cancer and Type 2 diabetes, which is currently rising at a rate of 3.7pc annually.

Control Increasing awareness of obesity is a step in the right direction. The standards of what is considered a healthy height-to-weight ratio needs to improve and an emphasis has got to be put on people losing fat to improve health and not just weight.

Furthermore health professionals in obesity prevention should lead by example. Our government ministers and doctors should get themselves in better shape first and as Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see.”

On a recent visit to America I saw how bad things can get. 1800-Get-Thin encourages the use of gastric bypass operations but this is merely treating a symptom.

Gastric bands won’t help you take control of the habits and mindset that have put you in an overweight or obese situation in the first place. Most ‘exercise products’ aren’t much good either. TV stations run infomercials promoting ‘muscle confusion’, for example. Muscle confusion has its participants performing different activities every day but as we do different exercises every day the body will not be able to learn them.

When you learn a new language, you have to say the word 100 times for your mind to remember it, so why would exercise be any different? For long-lasting success, you will have to become a different person, as you will need to learn different nutritional and exercise habits.

Exercise and nutrition is a marriage that cannot be broken if you want longlasting change. Recom-mended guidelines promote 30 minutes of moderate-tointense exercise, five days a week. Those guidelines were merely meant to prevent disease and a tonne of research has shown that walking at a moderate pace five days a week for halfan- hour will do just that.

That kind of exercise will indeed lower your risk for dying and improve your heart health but as I've said many times – it won't make your body bikini-ready, and for many people it won't result in weight loss at all.

Balance In 2002, a report by the Institute of Medicine suggested 60 minutes seven days a week to prevent weight gain. There are very few people willing or able to commit to that level of time or exercise.

Each study that gets released confuses people more and more because each report leaves out the most important detail – diet. Researchers talk of a ‘normal balanced diet’ but everyone's perception of ‘normal’ or ‘balanced’ is different.

You can't out-train a bad diet and if you do not challenge your eating issues it's going to be really hard to lose or even maintain weight with exercise alone.

Not everyone can be like the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and eat 10,000 calories a day but he also has to train eight hours a day to counterbalance his diet.

You need to take control of your own health and if the awareness of obesity at European government level improves, support structures for people looking to lose weight will be improved.

But back at grassroots level, you will have to ensure you improve your education of nutrition, exercise consistently and take control of your health.

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