Losing weight is tricky

by on 18/01/2013

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To lose weight naturally is difficult for many people. In fact, to lose weight at all can be a challenge. Obesity continues to rise and is going to cause us bigger and bigger (literally) problems.

Some countries have got it worse than others.

The mediterranean diet

The traditional Mediterranean diet consists of olive oil, vegetables, fruit, little fatty meat, and moderate amounts of red wine. It is well known that this diet is beneficial for health, and that it reduces diseases of old age. Many mediterraneans don’t need to lose weight: but the situation there is worsening too.

A ‘benefit’ of poverty

The mediterranean diet wasn’t planned for good health – this was the food produced locally by the inhabitants. It has persisted for so long because of the low income level of the Southern Mediterranean area – they couldn’t afford less nutritious ‘fast’ food!

As the area has become more affluent, bad habits have started setting in.

Eurostat – the EU’s statisticians – have found that, on average, 1 in 4 European men, and 1 in 5 women are overweight or very overweight. Naturally, they need to lose weight now.

Bottom of  ‘health league’

In the past, the Southern Europeans tended to be worse in terms of obesity than those in the North. Greece used to be the worst. But now, in 2012, things have changed: now the UK is the most obese nation of Europe with 24.5% of it’s adult population being obese according to Der Spiegel, the German newspaper.

Nationmaster put the fattest country as the USA (30.6% obese), Mexico (24%), the UK (23%), Slovakia (22%), Greece (22%) and Australia (21.5%).

‘Fat’ is not the whole picture

However, although the Greeks were the most overweight people in Europe, and they are still not in a great position, they do have a long life – being placed 7th in a longevity league of 191 countries. Also, they have the lowest heart disease rate in Europe. So they are still doing something right.

This may be linked to their consumption of 20 litres (35 pints) of virgin olive oil per head per year. That is a lot of olive oil. This is more than even Spain – the largest producer of olive oil – whose inhabitants consume just 13 litres per head. To take that amount, maybe they have olive oil with their fast food!

Other countries

In Britain, obesity has rocketed in the past couple of decades. For example, obesity doubled between 1984 and 1994 and has continued growing since then to put us the 4th most obese country in 2012. Now, European figures show that over a third of UK men are overweight. Almost every year the UK authorities announce plans to encourage the population to lose weight naturally – but to no avail.

Many extra deaths are caused by the obesity as well as increased cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

Obesity is expensive for a country – in Britain it is calculated to cost £2.1bn ($3bn) every year. In 2009, this cost included 18m sick days, 30,000 deaths, and 40,000 lost years of life.

In America, in what the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) termed the ‘obesity epidemic’, the condition has just escalated year upon year. Americans fear a crippling of their health system with the knock-on illnesses over the coming years.

Diabetes – number one disease of obesity

The JAMA reported that 300,000 Americans die annually from obesity related illnesses. These are mainly diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart and artery disease.

A Japanese professor calls the trio of obesity, diabetes and heart disease the ‘McDiseases’, because fast food is seen as a cause of rising levels of disease.

Certainly, diabetes is increasing rapidly alongside obesity. The number of diabetics has risen by 11% worldwide in the past 5 years. India has 32 million diabetics, China 22 million, USA has 15 million and the UK 1.4 million.

Is advertising partly to blame?

Common sense would say advertising must be involved in getting kids into bad eating habits. Bad habits start young. Some manufacturers promote their weight-gaining products through so-called “nag and whine” campaigns, which influence young kids – bless ’em – to pester parents.

Greece have restricted the advertising of toys on TV between 7am and 10pm. Greece at the cutting edge of social reform? Well, not exactly. In fact, this was originally a protectionist measure to benefit Greek toy manufacturers. But the Greek government is considering extending this ban to all products aimed at children.

Lose weight naturally

In Sweden, TV advertising to the under 12’s has been illegal since 1991. Other European countries, including Italy, Poland, Belgium and Ireland, are actively debating the issue of advertising to kids. And Britain’s pressure groups regularly call for stricter controls on food advertising to the young so that they don’t gain extra weight.

How effective the Swedish ban has been is open to question. Companies have just found other ways to promote their products to kids.

And Britain’s ITV Television network says it spends nearly all the £45m ($62m) in revenue from children’s advertising on making kids’ programmes. They say reducing revenues would simply reduce the quality of TV shows for children.

Is advertising such a demon anyway? A review of 20 studies by the British ‘Social Affairs Unit’ said that it was ‘naive’ to suppose that children were easily manipulated by advertising.

By the age of six, most children can distinguish between advertising and entertainment. And a study of 5000 parents in Europe revealed that 86% did not place advertising among the top 5 influences on their children.

The answer for parents seems to be ‘watch and discuss’ with your children. If they ‘nag and whine’ while you’re shopping with them, you just have to say “no”!

Are food manufacturers to blame for weight gain?

Should we blame those nasty food manufacturers for producing poor quality food in the first place? How can we lose weight when we are exposed to that stuff?

‘Poor quality food’ naturally means high fat/high carbohydrate food. Or food high in sugar to enable a ‘low fat’ label to be used.

Or with the fat kept high and the sugar replaced with chemical sweeteners – to be called ‘low cal’, or ‘diet’. It’s still low quality food.

But don’t blame the manufacturers – they just put it on the shelves. It is up to you if you put it in your shopping basket.

You cannot blame fast food chains for producing or marketing their goods. You cannot blame the UK supermarkets, for example, for stocking their shelves with ‘value’ goods. These are low quality goods, in boring packaging. The consumer is buying it. The British, in particular, always have had a reputation for eating for price, not quality.

Similarly, you cannot blame the motor car for dragging people away from walking. It has to be seen as a personal matter – responsibility belongs with us as individuals.

Obesity begins with YOU!

Obesity is exploding in the developed world. And in much of the developing world. You can only lose weight naturally by dedicating some of your time and energy to good health. Focus directly on weight loss if you need to and hopefully your children will also copy your good example.

The kids may not listen to you now – especially if they are in that ‘interesting’ age range around 14-18 years old. But any kid will take notice if they see you thinking about the food you put into your body. They will respond to your message in their own good time. You can only hope they get the message of the importance of keeping healthy and a good weight, naturally.

Overcoming obesity, for the most part, comes down to increasing your desire to be well. You will then move heaven and earth to keep yourself at a healthy weight.

For most overweight people, a mature and relaxed acceptance of the problem is the most helpful approach. This is so much better than any kind of guilt or blame.

I know it’s not easy. But once you can accept that you are overweight and be happy with yourself you can plan your way out of it.

Don’t be part of the obesity epidemic: be part of the cure. Use the tips and ideas on this site and lose weight naturally.

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