Weightloss- SIMPLE?

I have no wish to be a ‘holier than thou’ preachifier or anything (honestly I could do more myself with regards to exercise and I could profit from eliminating the occasional chocabinge) but I read this editorial in this morning’s online NZ Herald and I thought it made a lot of sense and makes some simple suggestions for people who might be confronting weight issues.
I have banged on about the US obesity epidemic but it seems we Kiwis aren’t far behind as a nation of gluttons. I am sure that if people who actually want to do something about their size took what is said here ‘on board’ they could achieve some significant improvements in their quality of life. I’m happy to say I teeter between half a stone and a stone over what I was when playing senior rugby in my twenties (although muscle has been redistributed as ‘not muscle’ in places I’d rather it hadn’t been!) but I know that it wouldn’t take much of a change to get much bigger, and equally if I implemented a few of these actions with a bit more zeal I could get back to around what I was at High School. (Maybe that’s a New Year’s Resolution but I’ve never been especially good at them!)
So, the editorial.

“Eating less and exercising is something we can all do. A good long brisk walk is not hard and it is good for the mind.

The week after New Year is a testing time for resolutions to correct a bad habit. But it is a good time to make one new one: we could resolve to take personal responsibility this year for that problem doctors are calling the obesity epidemic. This is a good moment to make that particular resolution because the festive feasting of the past fortnight has finished and the consequences are probably evident on the waistline – or the scales if we dare to find out.

It is also a good time to raise the subject because the Government is on holiday and so are the public health lobbyists and opposition political parties whose job it is to demand the Government do something about it. This is one problem that no adult should need the Government’s help to fix.

The solution does not cost any money, it is as easy for rich and poor alike. It requires no education. The solution is so simple it can be stated in four words: eat less, exercise more.

It is, of course, easier said than done. Eating is so pleasurable that it can be almost an addiction, and there is so much tasty food on sale these days. Everywhere we turn we see a cafeteria. Cities and suburban centres have so many lunch bars it is a wonder they all can survive. Shopping malls and even airport terminals have converted a great deal of their space to food halls for people who seem to have need meals at all hours of the day.

Likewise, exercise. It sounds easy enough, even pleasant, to take a daily walk. And it is for a day or two. Then it becomes a chore and a bore. But those who persist might find that exercise, too, can become so pleasant it is almost addictive. Once the limbs and lungs are conditioned to it, a good long brisk walk is not hard and it is good for the mind, too. There is no better time for thinking and talking. There is no easier time than mid-summer to begin.

The sedentary nature of modern life is probably a greater contributor to weight than anything we eat. Cooked food today is undoubtedly more healthy than it was generations ago. Fast-food chains are more prolific now, of course, and they present a satisfying target for those looking for a big business to blame. But their worst food is no more fatty and salty than home-cooked meals used to be. Older New Zealanders can attest that almost everything their grandparents cooked was fried in dripping, which they often left in a frying pan from one meal to the next.

Those generations did not exercise much either, but they did not need to. Their household had one car. They walked more. They had push-mowers and dug vegetable gardens. Their children played outside because there were no computer games or even daytime television. They watched rugby from sidelines or terraces, not armchairs.

More than 1.1 million New Zealand adults – one in three – are considered obese by the Ministry of Health. The number has risen to 31 per cent, up from 27 per cent six years ago.

Child obesity is not nearly as high, 11 per cent of those aged 2-14, but has also increased in that period. Scholars blame the type and quantity of food consumed more than a lack of exercise. The Health Research Council has funded a $5 million year-long study that will have children wear cameras to record how much fast food advertising they see.

Obesity will never be solved by excuses for over-eating. The solutions are adult willpower and parental control. The food courts and fast-food chains are not force-feeding anybody. With a conscious effort anybody can eat less and exercise more. It really is that simple.”


Doctor’s Advice

Hmmm- “doctor’s advice and how much I respect it” might possibly be a more appropriate title for this post.

I went to the doctor the other day because although I had no particular ailment at the time, I am a person of ‘advancing years’ and have, in the view of some, been a bit naughty by not attending the surgery religiously for my annual check-up. I’m the sort of person who takes note of how I feel and generally try to self-manage times of less than peak health. I think I eat properly and don’t have too many obviously unhealthy habits, and I do moderate exercise on a regular basis. In short I think I’m in reasonably good shape, but it’s shape that prompted this post.

As is the case in many surgeries around New Zealand and more particularly in areas away from the major cities we seldom have a full permanent staff and can expect to be scheduled to see a locum unless we specify the (or a) resident doctor, and I think this is a bit of an exercise in futility if I want an appointment when I want it! What I mean is that if we all request an appointment with the resident then he or she will be swamped and there’s little likelihood I’ll get in much before Christmas!!! If I’m not displaying worrying symptoms there’s not much chance I’ll get bumped up the list (and of course the locum will sit in his or her office and read a book!) SO- I agreed to see a locum.

Now it may be that whether the doctor I saw was a locum or not may be beside the point but it just adds a wee bit of grist to the moan-mill. To my point (“Ah! Finally!” you might say.)

I was called in to the consulting room by someone I believe shouldn’t be in the business of giving health advice. He was HUGE! I don’t mean he was seven feet tall and built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he was huge. His girth would have been more than twice mine despite the fact he was slightly shorter. He rather more waddled than walked. He was not just obese, he was grossly so.

Because I believe people should practice what they preach I think this man had little if any right to offer health advice. He might have knowledge but if I put my mind and time to it I could also get knowledge simply by browsing the World Wide Web!

He started by resuming his seat at his desk which was dominated by his big-monitor computer. I had attended for a general check-up but after tapping and reading the screen for a while the only investigation he did was to take my blood pressure. Having done this he gave me a bit of a treatise on ‘the silent killer’ and then got back to his computer. He didn’t take my pulse, which I expected would be part of the normal ‘check up’, neither did he put me on the scales, ask me about diet, exercise, or even symptoms of issues that might be about. He then took blood and tapped away on the template on the screen itemising the checks that the lab would do all the while telling me what he was tick-boxing and that when I returned next time he would “talk to me about the results”. That’s OK, but it sort of assumes that he had identified something in his ‘examination by proximity’ which I would have thought he might have discussed at the time.

So after less than 15 minutes of a scheduled 30 minute consultation he sent me on my way. I paid the $17 consultation fee and went on my way completely underwhelmed by what had taken place. It seems to be the case that examination by ‘sitting at a computer’ is the norm and it is probably not surprising that a person of this man’s physical state has a place as a doctor, but I will never feel comfortable with any advice I get from him. I’ll probably follow it but I will recognise it will be the standard medical advice and I’ll feel a snigger, a snort or a shrug of the shoulders not too deep below the surface when he delivers advice that it would appear he neglects to follow himself.

Scary Stats

This is pretty concerning stuff, and not only for the US. Trends in New Zealand indicate that we are heading the same way. Of course there are a lot of people who exercise regularly, there are a lot of people who diligently eat healthy food, and there are a lot of people who are conscious of the health issues associated with being overweight. Unfortunately there are apparently a growing number of people who DON’T do these things. Where are we headed?

Now, what’ll I have for breakfast?


Some time ago I wrote a post that took a crack at obesity and eating habits in The States. I think I may have made reference to questionable habits in New Zealand, but I doubt that I really played the blame game all that strongly with reference to Godzone. I AM SORRY!

Why? Because I am ashamed to say I saw something in my local pub last evening that blew me away! No, it disgusted me.

Friday nights I pop down to my local pub and have a few convivials with a few mates, and we talk a lot of crap and generally put the world to rights. It’s a pleasant interlude and more so because we have finished a week and feel we deserve this bit of ‘social intercourse’ and ‘imbibication’- don’t look it up, just accept it to mean ‘having a few beers’.

Of course it would be unusual for any session at your local to go without some sort of minor incident that ‘ruffles the waters’ and so it was on this night. But ‘ruffling the waters’ just didn’t cover it. It was nothing that 95% of the clientele even noticed but, as I said it disgusted me.

A group of 3 women were having drinks at a table across from me, and that was fine, and while I cast an eye their way very occasionally, there was nothing out of the ordinary about them- if anything they were a wee bit extraordinary in that they were all in good shape and clearly took care of themselves. After a while they were joined by a couple of males and 2 children. Obviously a spouse or two and childer of one of the women (I decided one of the women because of the interaction between the pair rather than any obvious physical similarities- although within a year or two of each other the 14? year old boy was a blob while his 13? year old sister was a stick.)

And so to the disgusting bit.

The Dad of the crew decided it was time for some sustenance so two ‘mixed platters’ were delivered to the table. Mixed platters? Deep fried- chips, fish pieces, sausages, crab-sticks, chicken bites and possibly one or two other ‘yummy things’.

Now!!! without a word of a lie the already overweight and out-of-shape youth spent the next 12-15 minutes it took for the group to finish the platters with one or another of the nibbles or chips in his mouth and/or in his hands. His jaws did NOT stop working for the whole time, and as he delivered whatever he was holding into his mouth he was reaching for the next item. THAT disgusted me. And not only was his eating non-stop, his reaching was wide-ranging, from the platter nearest him to the one waaay over there!

What amazed me was that all of the adults accepted this without the blink of an eye- it seemed that this was perfectly normal (and would go no short way to explaining why the boy was so over-weight.) What bemused me was that the youth dipped everything he ate into the tomato sauce that came with the platters!

I happened to be watching a sports telecast this morning that had ex-president Bill Clinton talking about new initiatives in the US aimed at encouraging ‘healthy eating’ and better food habits. While most of what was proposed in the various initiatives sounded great and they identified where things can best be done (schools, businesses, etc.,) not once did I hear the word ‘parents’ mentioned! I am a bit simple, probably, but I believe any and all solutions to youth problems generally have a very good chance of succeeding if they are either implemented or supported by parents. Children need the guidance of their parents as they need good modelling. I happen to believe putting a full plate of deep-fried food in front of a child and letting them scoff to their heart’s content (but to their heart’s detriment) is niether responsible guidance nor good modelling. Good luck, young man- I hope you live to see your twilight years.

Hail to The Colonel and Ronald McDonald!

…and all of those other American icons- The King, Wendy, Taco Bell, Domino and all!

How do the young say it? …OMG!!!

In 2010 Americans (citizens of the United States of America) ate 9 million more servings of French Friesand 6 million more hamburgers than they did in 2009. It is fair to assume the same sort of increases held true for other popular fast food items (aka, junk food) such as hot dogs and donuts. This puts the USA at the top of the list of countries where obesity is recognised as being a major health issue. The cost to the health services in trying deal with problems caused by obesity runs into many, many millions of dollars that could well be spent elsewhere and it would follow that deaths that could be attributed to obesity or the complications caused by obesity are arguably avoidable.Many Americans have stated that they were ‘never told they were fat’!!! Of course the matter is one of some delicacy, especially in early stages of becoming obese but surely parents must assume a major share of the blame for obese children who go on to become grossly obese adults.

Can it be true that just because one isn’t told they are fat, they can’t recognise the fact that they are?I KNOW that I would recognise something was amiss if I was unable to see my feet (or other lower extremities), if I was continually having to let out belts or buy new clothes, if everyday actions such as tying shoes or climbing steps required extra effort, or if it was difficult to get out of bed or chairs.

It’s probably slightly different for young people who are being brought up in an environment where none of these things seem untoward, where fast/junk foods are the norm, and where parents take the easy option to buy in meals and apparently can’t be bothered to give any guidance or impose any sort of control on what is eaten by the child.This being said I would imagine, though that many of these young people would bare the brunt of the verbal bullies who take perverse pleasure in making fun of the overweight children around them, and thereby are given the message that they are different, that they are fat. Of course when they carry the tale of bullying home it will be treated by parental comfort to calm the upset of the unfortunate and unhappy child. Does it lead to any modification of diet? Doubtful. Does the parent see the bullying as in any way a thing they can do something about (other than complaining to the school) to improve the life of their child? Doubtful.

Who is to break the circle? At what stage do people take responsibility for self management of their weight, or their over-weight? It seems apparent that far too many can’t be bothered and are happy to continue to consume tons of fatty foods and gallons of sugar drinks. And the Colonel, Ronald and all of the other fast-food providers rub their hands together (as they bank their enormous profits), make some outlandish claims about their latest, revolutionary ‘healthy eating’ strategies, and carry on feeding the willing public further and further into obesity.

I do NOT, however advocate this as an option, but I commend the guy for showing some (misguided) initiative!

(Note: sadly New Zealand is in the top ten of countries whose incidence of obesity is above 20% of the population.)

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DON’T CALL THEM OBESE? Don’t call them for LUNCH!!!

I suspect that, while terribly non-PC the Minster’s suggestion is a bloody good one! I don’t think I’m fat, I think I may be a bit obese (BMI of around 25-26, I believe) but I wouldn’t consider myself ‘fat’. If I were to be described as ‘fat’ I think I would want to do something about things. I also think that if I was FAT I would probably recognise the fact by certain levels of discomfort, by poorly fitting clothes (chosen from racks with fitting letters from the wrong end of the alphabet!), by disinclination to walk/climb stares/participate in sports, and of course with a raft of associated health problems that lessen my quality of life, and impact unfairly on my family. I would probably only feel really comfortable/happy/at peace with my world if I was eating- breakfasts, snacks/snacks/snacks, morning teas, snacks/snacks/snacks, lunches,  snacks/snacks/snacks, afternoon teas, snacks/snacks/snacks, dinners, snacks/snacks/snacks, suppers, and if I was peckish during the night, I’d happily lumber out to do a bit of fridge-raiding. If I chose to do nothing about it, then I would be much happier to be classified as ‘obese’ because that almost suggests an illness. Of course we can’t avoid illnesses, can we? I would also develop a mindset that had me believe that I am now owed free treatment by medical services for the obesity generated illnesses that I have, including the surgical procedures that have been urged to undergo before my problems get REALLY serious! (God forbid I should try cutting back on eating and ramping up the levels of exercise before trying stomach stapling or liposuction!)

Good on you, Minister. Coincidentally this comes shortly after an informal ‘greatest loser’ challenge in the New Zealand Parliament whereby a bunch of MPs from both sides of the House decided to bet $20 that they could lose more weight than their colleagues. It has to be said that (a) not ALL of the participants were fat, although they would all admit to being a kilo or two overweight, and (b) not ALL of the FAT MPs in The House participated (probably because they are perfectly happy to waddle through the Corridors of Power, forgoing the gym, pool, or offers of walking, jogging or cycling with colleagues at lunchtimes …gets in the way of lunch!!!). The sad end to this story was that the person most in need of weight-loss did not even declare his achieved weight-loss at the final weigh in. Of course the poundage that it looks like he has put back on since his stomach-stapling might indicate that his heart was perhaps not completely in it!