Written by Coach Cathy Barry - CEO & Founder of Eclipse Track & Field Club
13% of the World is Obese :
According to the World Health Organization, since 1975 to 2016 worldwide obesity rates have tripled. 1.9 billion adults (yes, billion) are considered overweight, and of these, 650 million are obese. Also extremely shocking is that there are 39 million children under the age of 5 are overweight or obese as of 2020 and 340 million children aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. Children living now will have shorter life spans their parents as these trends continue. If these facts don’t alarm you, then I don’t know what will.
So why is it that with all the knowledge at our fingertips on eating healthy and exercising is this becoming a world wide epidemic of catastrophic consequences? Each year the obesity numbers exponentially increase, when “Obesity” is a preventable condition? What is causing this trend?
Causes of Obesity:
It’s no surprise that the number one reason for Obesity rates growing out of control is an increase in the intake of high energy foods high in sugars and fats, so high in simple sugars that we are becoming addicts who need their “crack cocaine” to live.
Adding to the overconsumption of food is the lack of movement, lack of physical activity and exercise and a much more sedentary lifestyle spent in front of screens. These factors are leading our society into a whirlwind of depression, anxiety and frankly speaking, sending us to an early grave. But while we already know all of these things, why is the trend not shifting downwards to a more healthier lifestyle which includes eating better and exercising?
Perhaps the number one reason is that people really don’t care. They don’t see the long term effects of eating a diet exceedingly high in calories. When it’s too late, they realize they are morbidly obese, give up on their health and the cycle perpetuates itself.
Maybe, just maybe, our population is not educated properly or enough on what constitutes healthy foods/diet and a healthy lifestyle. If you have been living in a cave or under a rock somewhere, I’m not sure this argument holds too much water. There is an abundance of information available these days, much more than 20 years ago, that can be accessed from any couch in the world. From consulting with your family doctor, the world wide web, gyms, health centres and professionals, social media and YouTube to name just a few it’s impossible that society these days finds health information inaccessible. So we will have to assume that education is not the issue. Perhaps the messages received are confusing.
We are bombarded by advertising and strategic marketing designed to make one think that certain foods are healthy. Take for example the “Heart Health Check” found on many products. This symbol has been found on things like juice which is extremely in sugar, or foods containing trans-fats and even some fast food items which are highly modified and processed and high in sodium. (Global News 2012 - Health Check Approvals misleading consumers). So now we’ve confused the population into believing that eating foods that contain this symbol will keep us “Heart Healthy”. So bring on the fast and convenient food because it’s actually “good” for us’! The only truth here is that we are becoming a society that is becoming increasing obese and the consequences to this are catastrophic.
We are becoming addicts to the highly processed and sugary foods around us and consuming them at an alarming rate. We are feeding our children from a very young age, these unhealthy nuggets and fries with a side of apple juice thinking we are doing a good thing for our kids. Let's not forget to mention that that side of sliced apples will make the fat and sugar just consumed seem a bit less of guilt trip…yeah right. Let's face it, there is another way. We need to go back to basics, and cook our own foods. I am always stunned and surprised on how easy and quickly it is to whip up a healthy meal in just under 15 minutes, less time than it takes for someone to order their processed food from a drive thru and take it home to consume. Not to mention the less costly than fast food.
I often hear people say how expensive it is to eat healthy and while I beg to differ, the issue is looking at a one time grocery bill that costs you $150 for a week or more of food vs. $15 per meal or more for fast food. If you do the math, the average home cooked meal is way less than $15 and 100 times better for you in the long run. But convenience trumps healthy. We tend to be lazy and think that we are doing ourselves a favour by grabbing that meal because we simply don’t have time. You just need to reprogram your lifestyle and your life.
The second leading cause to Obesity is lack of exercise and movement. We live a sedentary lifestyle. We get up and drive to work and sit at a desk all day or we simply rise from our beds and head over into our home offices and sit in front of our laptops - slaves to our screens and work lives. Then when we are done sitting for around 8 hours a day, we engage in more screen time, either our phones, tablets or our TVs all the while consuming our highly processed, high in fat and sugar foods all day long. It does not take a genius or rocket scientist to know the results and effects of this lifestyle day in day out. Before long we are dazed and confused when we step on the scale to realize we’ve put on 5-10 pounds in a month, perhaps even more. So what happens next? We stress, we eat and we become depressed. We eat more as it satisfies our triggers and addictions to sugar and fat and the cycle perpetuates itself and before long we start having serious health issues. I’m not here to point fingers and make people feel bad about themselves but what I do know is that there is a ton of help out there for everyone willing to take that first step. I don’t think it’s good to normalize being overweight and obese, what is normal is providing help and guidance to help people. No one should be praising obesity. We should have compassion and understanding and provide as much support to get this epidemic under control. But the first step begins with taking a serious look in the mirror and deciding if your life is worth making a change.
Surgery for weight loss:
While surgery such as gastric bypass, the “mommy make over”, liposuction, etc.. are all quick fixes, they seldom hardly work in the long run. These superficial alternatives are just that, superficial. They don’t change the underlying damage you have already done to your body. They just make you fool yourself into thinking you are different. But until you make that actual decision to actually change your eating habits and exercise and lead a healthy lifestyle, nothing really changes.
Undoing the Damage of Obesity.
If you do manage to lose weight, it can not only prevent but reverse significant health problems. There is significant evidence to suggest that Obesity Related Health problems such as Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Gastrointestinal Issues, Reproductive Issues, Joint and Bone pain etc can all be significantly reduced and perhaps even eliminated with healthy weight loss.
So where do you start? As mentioned above, it takes a very brave first step of looking hard at yourself in the mirror. Perhaps it’s your doctor telling you that you are going to die if you don’t change or some life altering crisis but eventually it takes you making a decision to change and committing to that change. No one else can make that decision for you. Once you’ve decided and committed it takes a village to help you and support you. That means that you consult with your doctor, a nutritionist and probably a certified trainer who is not there just to take your money but is really invested in you and your journey. The other thing is you need to realize that this is not going to be easy and not a quick fix. It took a long time to get this way and it will take a long time to get it back but it’s never impossible. It just takes you wanting to make the change.
Types of Exercises for Weight Loss:
There’s a myth out there that Cardio, Cardio, Cardio is all you need….well I’m here to tell you that this is completely false. What is needed is a program designed specifically for you that takes into consideration many different exercises and variations on those exercises. Weight and Strength Training can help not only by undoing the damage caused by being overweight and obese but can be used as form of HITT training to get your heart rate up which is just if not more beneficial than walking on a treadmill. I’m not saying that walking at a fast pace or doing an elliptical machine is not beneficial but a program rich with alternatives can make the journey much more interesting and much more beneficial. To know what is right for you, you should consult a professional that can put together a plan and program designed with your goals in mind that will push you out of your comfort zone and help you realize your goals.
The Risks of Obesity:
Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancers, Reproductive Issues such as Infertility, Respiratory Issues, Cognitive function, Emotional and Mood Disorders, Strokes, Sleep Apnea, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Liver Disease, Weakened Muscles and Bones, Joint Pain.
Obesity - the effects on your bones and muscles:
The fact is that your body cannot handle more weight than it is meant to. An increase in weight places considerable stress on bones and joints can lead to arthritis, tendonitis and bursitis, pain, stiffness and swelling and accelerate the wear and tear on your joints and spine. The effect of obesity on muscles means less force production and power output. The quality of muscles also decreases, increased muscles fatigue and the likelihood of developing a functional disability increases greatly.
Reproductive Rates are dropping:
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in a report titled “Obesity and reproduction: a committee option” it was found that "Obesity has adverse effects on reproduction, including on ovulatory and menstrual function, natural fertility and fecundity rates, infertility treatment success rates, infertility treatment safety, and obstetric outcomes.” For males, “obesity may result in diminished semen quality and male factor infertility include endocrine alterations, sexual dysfunction, and other medical issues.
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