Saturday 18 November 2017

Shape Up: Up to you to make the first move

Damien Maher

The products are already starting to pile onto the shelves and there's no mistaking the fact -- Christmas is coming. Parents who've just gotten over the hurdle of paying for school books and uniforms now face this next financial challenge.

The image we associate with Christmas is one of indulgence and abundance, what with all the food and presents. Therefore it's no wonder that the poster boy for the brand is Santa Claus, Father Christmas.

With his enormous big belly and rosy-red cheeks he encapsulates the boozy, gluttonous nature of the season to perfection.

Try to imagine Santa as a young, bare-chested guy with a six pack instead. Doesn't really sit with the concept of Christmas as we know it, does it?


The importance of a brand's image can't be underestimated. Taoiseach Brian Cowen's recent activities at a Fianna Fail event were out of kilter with our perception of how a leader dealing with a challenging economy should behave. So much so, that his antics warranted worldwide criticism.

Other government ministers occupy positions of authority where the image does not match the brand either. Mary Harney is Minister for Health but her image doesn't fit the brand. Although, to give her some credit, she seems to have made some changes to her lifestyle.

Similarly, as a personal trainer who specialises in fat loss, I would have a hard job promoting fat loss to people if I was 22 stone myself.

As obesity levels in Ireland continue to rise along with the country's debts, both of these problems could leave us bankrupt in the not too distant future. We've gotten fatter in tandem with our acquirement of LSDs. Labour-saving devices such as the car, television, lawnmowers, escalators have reduced the number of calories we burn per day.

Professor C Bouchard published a study in the 'American College of Sports Medicine' in 1997 where they compared the daily energy expenditure of calories for people in the 1850s -- who spent over 3,000 calories -- to 1997 -- who spent less than 2,000 calories.


Another study in 1996 showed that a daily energy expenditure of 1,000 calories reduced the risk of cardiovascular heart disease by 35pc; burning over 2,500 calories a day reduced the risk of heart disease by 51pc.

Increasing people's awareness of the importance of movement and exercise is crucial if we want to genuinely tackle this weight issue.

Are you conscious of your labour-saving device use? We haven't replaced the activities that we used to do before the arrival of these items and less activity leads to larger waistlines.

Therefore our behaviour needs to change so that people become more active. Only then can we consume the calories that we used to burn before.

Start with a simple action like taking the stairs, for example. A study done for the 'British Medical Journal' in 1995 showed that when posters promoting the use of the stairs versus lifts were placed on walls, stair use increased by 14pc.

The first thing health professionals can do to increase activity in the population is to exercise and eat healthily themselves. The 'British Journal of Sports Medicine' published research in 1997 and 1998, which showed that GPs and practice nurses who are regularly active themselves are three to four times more effective at promoting physical activity to their patients.

Improving your physical activity is the first step to improving your health but it must coincide with a healthy nutrition plan, incorporating fresh meats, fish, vegetables and fruit. A study in 2007 by the US National Weight Control Registry said 90pc of slimmers were successful when they combined diet and exercise.

But this information is not new. In fact it's something that we knew thousands of years ago. In 400BC Hippocrates said: "Eating alone will not keep a man well -- he must also exercise. For food and exercise, while possessing opposite qualities, work together to produce health."

Whether it is Hippocrates, Mary Harney, personal trainers or your GP talking about health, those who practise what they preach are a better advertisement than those who don't.

The image must match the brand otherwise the public will be disbelieving. It happens in every area of life but a picture tells the story of a thousand words. The picture of a graph detailing our rising obesity levels tells a story; the picture of an overweight Brian Cowen with a bottle of champagne in his hand tells another story.

So start exercising and eating healthily. Try to eliminate some of those labour-saving devices and include some more manual activities in your life. It's a small step, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Irish Independent

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