Perspective on Obesity
When it comes to tackling obesity, nutrition should take center stage before anything else. Nutrition is a complex topic to tackle as there are many variables at play. Ultimately, obesity is a consequence of caloric imbalance where there is a greater calorie intake than we use up. When I do a consult on prospective clients, this is usually the topic where most people struggle.
Rossen (2012) states that people are eating out more than ever, with fast-food restaurants accounting for half of the food consumed outside of home. Food served in restaurants and fast food are generally higher in calories, total fat, and portion size (Rossen, 2012). Known as the supersize effect, the food service industry has seen an increase in average service plate sizes from 25cm to 35cm (Murphy, 2012). It is profitable for them to sell in bulks. An example of this is when you are upgrading the size of drink at a fast food. It will cost about 25 cents to upgrade to the next cup size where it may only cost pennies for the restaurant. In this supersized culture, children will grow up thinking this is the normal serving size. Regardless of how hungry they are, a child usually eats what is put in front of them. Packaging and marketing nowadays are also becoming creative in ways to appear as though they have fewer calories than they do. Children should be taught how to read nutritional labels in school properly. Early education and experiences can help shape a child’s future and their views. I do not remember a single class teaching me how to read nutrition label properly when I was young. So naturally, I followed my family and cultural norm of eating, which consisted of treating every meal as a feast! For in my culture, an obese child was viewed as a child of strength and vitality.
A study done by Hemalatha et al. (2017) looked at the effectiveness of behavioral change in student aged 10-15. Intervening by way of nutritional education and lifestyle modification, the group significantly reduced BMI in students within a period of a year. This was made possible by continuous supervision by parents and teachers.
With the rise of unemployment, the fall of income and increased cost, it was found that food and grocery shopping are usually the areas where people try to save on (Morris et al., 2014). Many researches have indicated that healthy diet is generally more expensive that nutrient poor diets (Morris et al., 2014). By supersizing portions, restaurants can make greater profit margins as it cost less for them to increase meal sizes (Rossen, 2012). From the consumer side, supersized options provide best economic value.
Another reason for the increase in outside home food consumption is due to the accessibility and convenience. There has been a significant decrease in home food preparation and cleanup from 1900s to 1970s from 44 hours to only 10 hours per week (Rossen, 2012). Advances in technology in food processing and transportation have allowed restaurants to provide food for less cost. Ultimately, restaurants are businesses and you cannot blame them for finding ways to boost sales.
With rapid globalization and technological innovation, stresses can come in many different forms. Work related stress has been reported to increase intake of fatty foods, leading to obesity (Nishitani & Sakakibara, 2005). In college student, the stresses of school studies have been found to interrupt the sleep quality. Deshira et al. (2017) states that one-third of young adults reported insufficient sleep. It was found that individuals who reported fewer hours of sleep are more likely to be overweight or obese (Deshira et al., 2017). Sleep quality has also been affected due to the excessive use of technology.
Social media and technology use have increased anxiety and depression rates to an all time high (Edwards, 2018). In a world of instant gratification, people are always looking for the fastest way to lose weight or that magic formula. This is the reason why “fad” diets are popular. Fad diets are simply not sustainable in the long run and some of them are downright unsafe. People have also turned to surgical means to have the fat removed to see immediate result. I had a client who went through liposuction only to gain all the weight back in one year. The problem with these strategies is that they are just papering over cracks and not targeting long term lifestyle changes.
Since obesity related diseases put a massive strain in the healthcare industry, governments around the world can tackle this epidemic by subsidizing healthier foods and taxing unhealthy products. This can be especially helpful with poorer populations. Fitness professionals should be at the forefront of educating the public and targeting long term lifestyle changes. Companies and schools should aid their employees and students in effective stress management techniques.
Deshira, D.W., Marcella, H.B., & Leslie, A.L. (2017). Multilevel analysis exploring the links between stress, depression, and sleep problems among two-year college students. Journal of American College Health, 65(3), 187-196.
Edwards, C. (2018). Social media and mental health: Handbook for teens. Newark, England. Trigger.
Hemalatha, Mangala, S., Mini, J., & Subrahmanyam, G. (2017). Effectiveness of behaviour change communication on reduction of overweight and obesity in urban school, Bangalore. Indian Journal of Public Health Research & Development, 8(3), 280-286.
Morris, M.A., Hulme, C., Clarke, G.P., Edwards, K.L., & Cade, J.E. (2014). What is the cost of a healthy diet? Using diet data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 68(11), 1043-1049.
Murphy, W.B. (2012). Obesity. Minneapolis, MN. Twenty-First Century Books.
Nishitani, N., & Sakakibara, H. (2005). Relationship of obesity to job stress and eating behaviour in male Japanese workers. International Journal of Obesity, 30(3), 528-533.
Rossen, L.M. (2012). Obesity 101. New York, NY. Springer Pub. Co.
Posted by Suraj Gurung, Founder/Strength and Conditioning Coach