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“Obesity is the dominant unmet global health issue, with
Western countries topping the list”

World Health Organisation

Let’s prepare for the next five years because children (and the rest of us) are going to get fatter. There is no question about it. The obesity epidemic will affect you and your family as it is predicted by 2020 more than half of children in the UK could be obese. The International Obesity Task Force has looked at data on childhood obesity from around the world and warns that the number of overweight children in the EU is set to rise by 1.3 million a year with more than 300,000 of those children likely to be obese.

Despite all the research the trends are going in the wrong direction and then can easily be interpreted in the form of the words lardy, porky, curvy, podgy, stocky, etc. Our vocabulary will change to cope with the large number of us who are indulging and bulging.

It’s sad but American backsides are now so vast that standard needles cannot reach the muscle through the fat. If your bottom looks as if you may encroach on your neighbour in the aeroplane – beware you may have to pay for two seats! Undertakers are having problems as normal coffins have to be redesigned with so many of us being overweight when we die.

“This is a public health time bomb as children move into adult life”
Professor Colin Waine, National Obesity Forum

The saga of the fizz can…it’s only a drink. What’s your problem?
Bill Clinton has linked up with the American Heart Association and the three biggest drinks manufacturers – Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury Schweppes to start taking action in schools. It’s called ‘The Soda Deal’ and we badly need a similar initiative here in the UK.

As young people pour sugar in a constant stream into their young bodies and pile on the pounds, this type of informed political action can make a valuable contribution. In the US the average 11-14 year old consumes twice as much soda drink as water; 15-19 year olds drink an average of two 355ml serving of soda each day which is the equivalent of 0.7kg of sugar each week! It is thought the average American drinks 56 gallons of Coke, Pepsi and other soda a year. Sugary drinks apparently account for one sixth of all the calories! This is unbelievable no wonder we have created an obesonogenic environment where our children are simply blowing up. If you drink a can of sugary drink a day a teenager is likely to be up to a stone (6.4 kg) heavier after a year.

A can of Coca-cola (330 ml) has a list of ingredients including water, sugar, colouring, phosphoric acid, flavourings including caffeine. It contains 42 kcal/100ml and 10.6g sugar/100ml. So in one can of drink alone, there are 11.7 level teaspoons of sugar! That is an awful lot of sugar.

In America it is hoped the Bill will benefit 35 million school-age children and make a huge impact amongst the growing number of children developing obesity related Type 2 diabetes which, in the past, was generally found in adults.

A healthy alternative drink is water! Low fat milk, milkshakes without added sugar and 100% fruit juice in moderation can act as alternatives to the fizz can. Looks like we need to place some stickers “Think Before You Drink” on the fridge door.

“More radical solutions (to obesity) should be considered: taxing soft drinks and fast foods; subsidizing nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables; labelling of the contents of fast food: and prohibiting marketing and advertising to children”
Lancet, 2002

Let’s watch TV and get fat…fatter…and fatter
How much TV do we watch? A Guardian survey found on average children aged between 4 -15 years watch 17 hours of TV a week. British adults spend 164 minutes per day on the internet which is 16 minutes more than the time they spend watching TV. We are as sedentary as stone…lets get moving because if we are moving we find it difficult to eat. It’s difficult to eat the love tub of popcorn while walking the dog but an icecream well that’s different…oh dear!

What should GP’s be doing?
When you go to the GP should they say "You are fat"? Particularly when you made the appointment to talk about something else totally unrelated medically. It’s difficult but that is exactly what GP’s are being asked to do to combat the obesity epidemic. There are now new leaflets to share weight loss ideas such as:

Avoid walking past a fish and chip shop
Don’t keep crisps and biscuits at home
Don’t offer food as a reward...

What should teachers be doing?
Fat classes? Children aged 4-10 years should be weighed as they start at primary school and again before they leave. Their parents will be warned if the child is too fat by letter, hopefully encouraging a sense of responsibility for their child’s size and asking them to “shape up”. School nurses will start the testing this summer and the results will be used to create a ‘fat map of the country. Psychiatrists are concerned it may cause an increase in eating disorders and parent-teacher associations indicate it is reflective of nanny-state mentality.

What should parents be doing?
Are we killing our children with kindness? It is easier to say yes to a child wanting snack food when everybody is frazzled and as we all know too well that ‘little snacks lead to big slacks!’ Are parents concerned about obesity? Do they know the true fact about future diabetes? That it can lead to heart disease, blindness and kidney failure. A child born in the UK in 2000 has a one in three chance of contracting diabetes in their lifetime.

"Overweight children who develop Type 2 diabetes may have heart attacks and need coronary bypass surgery before they reach the age of thirty."
Kelly Brownell in Food Fight

Have you heard of the Ostfriesland Hotel in Germany?
It has a great idea…”don’t just check in – weigh in” . When you arrive at the hotel you pay according to how much weigh at a rate of 35p per kilogram per night. Double rooms are priced according to how much you both weigh. It has been a huge success and the hotel owner says many of his guests have returned. Apparently they are keen to share their weight loss experiences.

Lets all grow the same way… outwards!
A glance at what is happening around the world in regards to obesity makes interesting reading.

Obesity is becoming a bigger problem in Japan

The Japanese used to follow the wise adage “Hara hachi bunme”…which translates as ”stop eating when you are 80% full”. This healthy advice is now being disregarded by the younger generations of Japanese who have ever increasing waistlines. Although only 24% of Japanese aged 15 years and over are considered overweight (compared to 65% in the US), it is now being recognised as a growing problem. Tofu has been exchanged for burgers and a love of computer technology has resulted in greater numbers of flabby Japanese. Changing the traditional high protein diet for greater amounts of animal fat is considered by medics to be the main problem. Maybe the new adage should be “fat child becomes fat adult.”

Obesity is becoming a bigger problem in France

Annual increase of 17% in the number of obese children predicted it will reach the level of the US by 2020 at this rate.

Obesity is becoming a bigger problem in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has an affluent society which has generated its own public health challenge. In the population, 52% of men and 66%(!) of women are overweight or obese. It appears too much affluence means you don’t have to physically move and the pounds pile on.

Use your waist line measurement to stay slim...
grab the tape measure

The waistline is a quick way to test your wellbeing:

MEN
More then 37in (94cm) have an increased health risk
But if more than 40in (102cm) then the risk is substantial.

WOMEN
More then 32in (80cm) have an increased health risk but if greater than 35in (88cm) then the risk is substantial.

Obesity on the cinema screen
The film ‘Supersize Me’ (and the book) was a great success and a real boost for healthy eating. Now a British produced drama is attacking the food industry. ‘Fast Food Nation’ could possibly be more influential than ‘Supersize Me’ which is thought to have resulted in supersize options being taken off the MacDonald’s menu. In the film, a fast food executive goes to the local meat packing factory to investigate the contamination of the company’s meat with high levels of excrement. He discovers illegal Mexican immigrants being treated as badly as the food. The film is a series of character sketches based on the main themes running through the book ‘Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser. It makes a clear political statement and already has resulted in trade groups representing producers of beef, milk, potatoes beef and snacks developing their own website “Best Food Nation”. They hope this will counter the propaganda that they perceive the film is spreading.

Do we tell fibs about the food we eat?
It looks like female dieters tell a few porky pies about what is going on in their lives. In a survey of 1,142 women, 700 admitted to being on a diet and also the following:

22% women bought clothes that were too small as an incentive
27% women threw food away so they didn’t eat it
26% women lied about what they had eaten
18% women had hidden food or eaten it secretly
54% had eaten comfort food to make themselves feel better

Well it’s interesting to know what’s really going on in people lives but does it help with those the extra pounds? What do you think?

If you have an issue on obesity you would like to share then do email Friends in the Kitchen and let us know your thoughts.

© 2006 Friends In The Kitchen
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