I think I have written about this a bit before, or at least touched upon different aspects that will be mentioned again today. Once again, this has been triggered from recent media coverage that has been floating around in my mind for a few days. The reason I have taken a few days to decide if I should write about it or not is because this is a delicate and emotive subject for many, myself included, and the last thing I want to do is upset or offend.
Weight. It’s everywhere. There is the traffic light system on foods warning you about fats, salt etc. Reports in the news that saturated fat will kill you, no actually, that’s not entirely correct and sugar is the baddie which it is. (Your brain and every cell wall is made up of fat, too much will not be good for you but we do need it in our diet. It’s trans-fats that will do the most damage not saturated fats. I wrote about it here https://harleystreetnaturopath.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/cholesterol/).
I was recently outraged and at the same times impressed by the marketing on a packet of marshmallows which are made of sugar, colouring and a few other not exactly healthy ingredients. Across the front in large letters the following statement was made. FAT FREE. Yes, that is entirely true. What was failed to be mentioned is the incredible damage that the sugar content does to the body. So no, it is not the healthy snack you were led to believe it was. When you eat sugar, and when I refer to sugar I mean cane/beet sugar not sugar in fruit and vegetables, although too much fruit and especially fruit juice is not good for you either. I mean the white stuff that is added to cakes, and chocolate and sweets and bread and a huge amount of processed foods because it makes it cheaper and because sugar is humans crack. We are addicted to it. And it does the body damage. The main damage that everyone probably thinks of is type 2 diabetes which thankfully is reversible with diet and lifestyle change. Sugar is inflammatory to the system, and if you have too much regularly is can cause damage to the cardiovascular system, joints, your eyes, your kidneys, it can cause strokes, nerve damage and weaken your immune system. Not good.
I have seen in the last week two articles about morbidly obese people, one male, one female, neither very old, both weighing 60 stone or more. They are bed bound, they can’t do anything for themselves, they are dependent on carers and the state. These people have also been subject to a recent phenomenon called trolling. It’s not nice. It’s where people feel they can say what they want about that person to that person. The internet and especially twitter has given the chance for people to be faceless and possibly behave in a way they never would if they knew the person. Some of what I have seen I agree with. These people need help, proper psychological, emotional and health support. They need therapy and education. To eat that much and to get that big, there is more going on than simply being lazy and eating too much. It is a disease. The carers also need education on food choices and what is in fact healthy and what isn’t. I am not perfect, I have accidently eaten an entire packet of chocolate biscuits whilst watching a film. I know how easy it is to do. But if the poor quality food is not there, they will not be able to eat it. Changing highly processed junk food with no nutritional benefit for healthier options – and I don’t mean removing meat or diary from the diet, just changing the quality of the meat and the quantity. More salads and vegetables. It is very difficult to overeat when you are eating vegetables and salad with protein plant or animal sourced, because they balance blood sugar levels, you don’t get a massive spike and then crash craving for more, there is a high fibre content which fills you up, you have to chew more! Combined with protein also makes you feel fuller for longer. If this education is in schools, colleges, universities, the community, then the individual can make better choices for themselves at a younger age and possibly more importantly, parents and carers will know too.
This leads me onto the second thing I wanted to mention, forgive me if this post is rather long. I saw, once again in the media, that a plus sized model has been used for a beach body campaign. This is really wonderful and promotes the fact that underweight, undernourished, skeletal women are not in fact the beautiful bodies the fashion industry would like us to believe. It also coincides with new legislation in France that a model must have a BMI of 18 (which is healthy, although the BMI is not an ideal calculator to work from as it doesn’t take into consideration the difference in weight between fat and muscle, however, it’s a start) and the models will be weighed regularly to ensure they don’t then lose loads of weight and if they are found to be underweight the model agency will be fined. This is amazing. It means that models will be a normal healthy weight.
This is what I care about, your health. If you are fit and healthy and your natural weight is higher than average then that’s fine. Height and body shape depending, be aware that being a size 14+ could in fact be causing you long term problems such as: cardiovascular damage, stroke, sleep apnoea, type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis.
According to the BMI chart, you don’t actually have to weigh that much in order to be deemed overweight and unhealthy. If you are 5ft 6 and weigh 11stone or 70kgs (which I think it about a size 14) you have moved up the BMI chart from healthy to unhealthy.
As a Naturopathic Physician there is so much I can offer to people to help avoid the obesity crisis and I truly know what it’s like to be overweight and miserable and to emotionally eat and get bigger. Therapy and exercise helped me and I know that the combination of the right therapy with the right therapist can work wonders. And one thing that has really excited me in the last couple of weeks is news that the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council which I am a member of has been given approval by the General Medical Council. Meaning GPs can now confidently refer their patients to practitioners like myself who are listed on Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council database.
Once again, this is not a rant about fat – I was a former BMI overweight person myself as a child and then again in my late teens/early 20s. My aim is to educate and make people aware of the impact of diet and lifestyle and most importantly, changes can be made to reverse damage done by being overweight. Our society needs not ridicule but to be kinder to those who are obese and to offer the help and support that is needed.