The cause of our obesity epidemic is complex.
The cost of our obesity epidemic is mind-blowing.
Obesity costs us billions of dollars each year, health care, absence from work etc.
Our population is heading for a reduction of life expectancy a result of the food we’re eating, a by-product of our affluent culture, now that’s irony.
BUT, Australia is one of the wealthier countries in the world, comprising of mostly middle class, and almost 2/3s of us are overweight or obese. So it’s a middle class problem more than the just a lower socio economic, regional or immigrant problem. That's not something people like to hear.
Some people say that the reasons for obesity is that folks don’t have time to choose good food, can’t afford good food, have more important things to deal with, are lazy, are ignorant, are from poor communities with other more pressing social issues, don’t know what real food is, or simply don’t care.
We could spend a lot of energy arguing over the reasons, or we could strip away these reasons and focus on the root cause of obesity? FOOD.
Something significant has changed in our environment over the last 5-6 decades.
Something is out of balance.
We’re consuming energy rich food but not burning it up.
The food on offer has definitely changed.
It’s richer in sugars, fats and complex carbohydrates.
We have become slaves to what fuels us.
This food, the very food that's responsible for our populations obesity is still available at the supermarkets and take away venues, and as long as that food exists, the obesity crisis will exist and will continue to get worse. More pressure will be placed on our already burdened health care system. People will live more uncomfortable obese lives and will live shorter lives.
So what options do we have?
Imagine if our government made it illegal for the food that’s causing the problem to be sold. That should fix the problem, right?
Maybe the government doesn’t get involved, maybe collectively we just stop buying the processed food that's making us sick. What impacts would this have?
Most likely it would make a significant difference to the obesity problem, but think of all the jobs that would be lost, and how the economy would be effected.
Jobs lost would be the farmer growing the mono crop primary produce that was supplying the food processing plants. The workers at the food processing plants, the marketing companies that persuade the population to buy the processed food, the logistics transport systems moving the processed food around. Think of the reduced demand on pharmaceutical companies that had been supplying the obese community to treat the lifestyle related diseases. It would impact many jobs in that sector not to mention the health care system, which would require less specialists to deal with obesity related treatments. The supermarkets and take away franchises would lose significant profit with the reduction in sales of cheap processed foods.
So we ‘need’ the processed and take away food to keep the economy healthy.
We ‘need’ the obesity problem to prop up the pharmaceutical industry and keep employing more medical staff to look after the obese clients.
Feeling powerless yet? Trapped?
Is there a possible solution? If the population purchased less processed food, would the companies that produce it, make less of it and slowly transition to make better food? Am I being too idealist? Most definitely yes. This is an unlikely scenario.
A major hitch……how do you convince the people that are addicted to the food that’s making them sick, how do you convince them to stop consuming it? A very difficult challenge, especially when you’d be battling wealthy companies that are behind the processed food, constantly telling us that we should try this new food product because it will improve our lives.
We live in a very interesting age. Most people are completely asleep or just happily ignorant to what’s going on. I guess humans have been ignorant through out the ages, so this is nothing new.
How will our generations be remembered? Obese, wealthy, resource hungry, but unhappy and definitely not enlightened.
Is there anything we can do? Of course we can do something as individuals, we can chose to eat better food and exercise, that’s great, but it doesn’t fix the broader issue.
I’ve been told that my idea of setting up a food/nutrition/grow your own/demonstration farm is futile and will make very little impact in the wider community. And to some extent I’d agree. But it will make some impact. Maybe that impact may catch on, it may spread, it may make a difference to enough peoples lives. It’s better than sitting on my arse, feeling powerless and trapped by the situation.
Why even care about the issue Rohan? Well I’ve been overweight and obese most of my adult life. It’s only been the last five years that I’ve started to make changes in my life. It’s only the last two years that I’ve actually started to lose enough weight for my health to return. It’s only been in the last five years that I've learnt what makes real health, what real food is, and how it can positively impact on ones life.
It’s been a painful journey that has required a great deal of hard work and discipline. It’s been fucking annoying to say the least. I had to lose a significant amount of weight to return to a healthy weight range, and the older you get, the harder that task is. My entire world has changed. The food I used to love eating I no longer eat. I have found a love of real food, but the transition was like coming off a drug.
I can’t change my past, but if only I knew back then what I know now, then I wouldn’t have become obese. I wouldn’t have had to go through this painful process. If I can make that difference in peoples lives, that’s enough. That’s my vocation, as futile as it might seem.
We could waste time and energy looking for something to blame. Instead we need to look at the causes, address those causes, and focus on making positive change.
Oh and I’m aware obesity isn’t the only problem processed food causes. Even thin people can be unhealthy due to diet and poor nutrition choices. Obesity is an obvious issue, it's at alarmingly high rates, as too are diet related cancers, heart disease, diabetes and hyper tension, obesity often goes hand in hand with these medical issues.
The reason why I wrote these words is because I had this very conversation with my girlfriend in bed this morning. We both felt trapped and powerless. I thought I’d share it.
I dedicate this post to Karen, for her unending emotional support.