Viva! nutritionist Amanda Woodvine explains why in her Globesity report and outlines what you can do to lose weight perfectly, painlessly and permanently.
It’s a huge problem, it’s growing rapidly and one thing that won’t help is fad diets. What will reverse this dangerous trend towards obesity and being overweight is sound advice on what causes it and help for people in changing their eating habits. That’s the way to success and to saving millions of lives.
You can’t have missed the news, Britain has some of the worst figures in Europe with almost two-thirds of adults either overweight or obese. And it’s not just adults – children are getting heavier too, with more than a quarter of under 11s carrying more fat than they should.
Being overweight isn’t just about how you look. As waistlines get bigger so does the risk of heart disease, strokes and some cancers. It’s the same for children, with strong evidence that even their cholesterol levels are increasing. Sadly, overweight kids also risk getting picked on and the result can be low selfesteem that makes life hell and may continue into adulthood. They also run the risk of disability from blindness, chronic pain and limb amputation as they get older. Worse still, their lifespan might be shortened.
As obesity has gone up so has the number of diet products which claim to help. On average, women now spend a walloping £1,137 or thereabouts on slimming every year. But it doesn’t seem to have done much good as obesity has increased four-fold in the last 25 years. Amazingly, it’s about to overtake smoking as the leading cause of early death.
Ticking time bomb
It costs the economy about £7 billion a year with a further £7 billion to the NHS so it’s a good job that tackling obesity is top of the government’s agenda – at least it is according to Health Minister Caroline Flint. She’s been appointed to help improve the nation’s fitness and tackle obesity and for this she has a two-pronged plan.
Firstly, Flint is promoting the Department of Health’s Small Change, Big Difference campaign, which suggests it’s never too late to make simple changes for a healthier future and longer life. Just one extra piece of fruit or serving of vegetables a day and walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift could lengthen your life, the campaign suggests mildly. Flint’s other priority is encouraging us all to be more physically active.
And for kids? Flint boasts that measures such as the school fruit scheme, whereby four to sixyear-olds receive a free piece of fruit each school day, the 5-a-day message and investing more money in school food are changing children’s attitudes to health and nutrition.
The real solution
This watered down government initiative is not what’s needed to tackle an exploding national health crisis! There’s been little more than a whisper about the role of meat and dairy in the obesity epidemic yet the government knows from its own National Diet and Nutrition survey that meat and meat products are the main source of fat in our national diet – with milk, and dairy-laden cakes, pastries, biscuits and chocolate not far behind.
Despite this, the Department of Health’s new weight loss guide, Your Weight, Your Health, which GPs are being encouraged to give to their overweight patients, takes a decidedly softly softly approach. People are still being advised to opt for leaner cuts of meat and reduced-fat dairy.
But this is exactly what nutritionists have been suggesting for decades and butchers and processors have been trimming off fat in response to consumer demand for ages. It hasn’t had much effect, though, as people’s fat intake has dropped by a measly five per cent since 1983.
The American Cancer Society knows better – it studied 75,000 people for a decade to see which factors caused them to pile on the pounds. The one food most associated with weight gain was meat, not marrowfat peas!
People who ate more than one daily serving of meat were 50 per cent more likely to gain weight at the waist – the most harmful place to store fat – even after allowing for other factors such as exercise.
Study after study shows vegetarians and vegans are slimmer and healthier than meat eaters, with lower risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer and the expectation of living longer – this despite veggies eating the same amount of food as meat eaters at about 1,000 kg a year.
This means that to lose weight, people needn’t eat less food, simply different foods. Plant foods tend to be low in both fat and calories and are high in fibre – which is why they are naturally filling. And this reduces your appetite for highcalorie, fatty foods.
Amanda Woodvine is a former consultant nutritionist for Viva! Health. She specialises in areas such as nutrition for older adults, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
She authored a number of guides and reports for the Viva! Health, including White Meat Black Mark – a scientific report investigating the health consequences of consuming white meat. Amanda studied postgraduate public health with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.