Forest, trees, big picture etc.

Can't see the forest for the trees
 

Rabbit holes, rabbit holes! The further I research this next book, the deeper I burrow into the convoluted mess that is human nutritional health. It's a stir-fry combination of brain numbingly boring data, hair pulling, non-sensical frustration and sometimes in agreement, air-punch worthy moments. As much as I'd like you to read the book, I'll give away the main plot right now, and, for free! The general picture of current public health is fairly grim (rather fucked) though I'm sure you are aware of the situation. If you aren't aware of the situation, you won't be able to escape it, as it will be a much larger issue in years to come (comedy gold right there). 

If you manage to wade your way through all the 'noise' around all the reasons for obesity you might just be able to get to the truth. The real cause of obesity is not a nice truth when you've believed in it for so long. But it's one we must acknowledge if we are to see any improvement. 

You see, it's 2016 and we have to be super polite and consider everyones feelings. There is always a 'reason' why people choose to eat one type of food over another, and we cannot say anything that will offend anyone. What ever you do, dare not say anything that resembles anything too real, anything too honest, and avoid saying anything too close to the truth. And I'm not talking about fat shaming here, I'm not talking about handing an obese person a fat shaming card on a metro train, abusing them for being unhealthy, because that is not a cool thing to do (discussing a massive social issue and developing ways to deal with is totally fine). I'm talking about the act of simply discussing the topic amongst friends, over dinner or on social media. People react the same predictable way, almost in defence of, and acceptance of obesity, creating excuses and 'reasons' other than the actual cause. 

Lots of money is spent trying to figure out the psychology behind peoples food choices, but it's not just our choices that are the problem, that's second level stuff. The problem is on special this week, and every other week. It sits on the shelves in the refrigerated aisles of supermarkets, you will see it on TV commercials for chain take away stores. You will hear it's hiss as a can is cracked open, the ruffle of packets of processed snacks. Processed food is so embedded in our culture that it seems impossible to imagine our society without it. In some countries it's so prevalent, there exists places referred to as 'food deserts', where it's not possible to access affordable fresh produce, only processed food is available. How can we expect good health and nutrition when this is the only reality?

The ridiculously obvious cause of the rise of obesity is food. Our food has changed. It's make up has changed, the amount we consume has changed and our physical behaviour has changed, all factors responsible for the change we've seen in public health. We now consume larger amounts of high energy rich foods and we're less physically active than we used to be, so instead of burning off the energy, our bodies are storing it. This (rise in obesity) is happening across large populations of humans, and has been increasing for decades, a trail of bread crumbs if you will, shadowing our increasing reliance on convenient, energy rich processed foods. This is the ugly truth. This is what I, and many other middle aged people have seen happen in our life time (yes it's been brewing for longer).

You can spend loads of energy researching, arguing and discussing the reasons why people chose to eat 'junk food' instead of 'healthy' food, but it's a distraction from the root cause of the problem, that 'junk' food is even in existence. It's food that has not always been part of our culture, but now dominates our food market and subsequently impacts broader public health. And when I refer to junk food, I'm not just talking about a cheeseburgers and chocolate, I'm referring to sugar filled yogurt, sugar rich sauces, high fat frozen food, snacks and ready made dinners, the list is endless. 

  "The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see." Ayn Rand

 

The severe obesity problem is generally isolated to industrialised (mostly western) countries, those of which that do not have a definitive, centuries established food culture (a food style cooked in home kitchens) and now rely on a majority processed food industry, consisting of products heavy in sugar and fat. Developing countries (with established food cultures) that rise in economic wealth to embrace the lure of the western culture, read from the same text, and the pattern of western culture and health is emulated, as high energy processed food becomes the norm, so does the rise in rates of obesity. See....it's the bloody food, let's stop kidding ourselves!

Nothing serious will change unless we address what is being produced by the food industry. The current approach of food companies placing the onus back on the consumer to moderate how much we consume is not working so well, is it? The statistics show that us silly greedy consumers have been 'failing' for a long time. 

I know, I failed myself for a long time. To personalise the situation, I admit that for years I knew the processed food I was eating was making me fatter and unhealthier. I knew I should have exercised. But I was completely lazy and unwilling to make the significant changes necessary to change my health situation. I used many excuses for my weight, along the lines of having an 'addictive personality' or explaining that my weight was 'a genetic problem' and for actually failing to get off my arse, and not changing my food and exercise habits, I'd lie and say 'I've tried everything', but clearly I had not. 

At some point I had to take responsibility for myself, to take responsibly for my actions and to stop making excuses. It was not always an enjoyable process, and getting healthier has involved a great challenge to my character, but the difference is profound on many levels notably physically and mentally. Even just hearing my daughter say "Dad's not as angry anymore" makes me feel accomplishment, and happy that I'm not only improving my life, but my families wellbeing. The reality for me is that I will never have the body of a super male model, and I'm ok with that. I'm still curvy and that's cool. I'm healthy, and that's what this is all about. Losing weight is not just about feeling good, or looking amazing in a little black number, but it's important to be healthy internally. 

And let's not forget that the shit processed food doesn't just make the population fat. Some people have amazing high metabolism (genetic luck of the draw) but that diet of processed foods (high in salt, sugar and fat) can still increase chances of heart disease, kidney problems and impacts gut health, depression and anxiety. Wouldn't you just want to eat mostly real food and be healthy? If only I could speak to the young version of me before I did all that damage. Youth fades kids, so will your health.  

And yes there is a section of the community that has health problems that make weight gain/loss a real challenge, but let's not kid ourselves, the obesity problem is widespread and the culprit is the food we're putting into our bodies. In an ideal world, I'd remove that food and replace it with real food and learn to cook and then do some exercise. Hang on a second! That's EXACTLY what I did and some how managed to lose my weight and manage all my obesity related health issues. Go figure.

All cynical jokes aside, there are millions of people out there that have literally had a gut full of obesity, they've got off their fat arses (direct quote) changed the food they ate, began exercising and some time later they've ended up no longer obese or overweight, they're fitter and they're happier and stronger mentally speaking. The common thread with all the weight loss stories is a change in food and exercise. But avoid the supplements and protein powders please. You can get EVERYTHING you need from real food (although I predict someone will argue a differing point).  

Don't consider these words as a judgement, accusation or direct personal insult to you and your story. Contextualise it within the broader population of the countries currently dealing with increases in obesity and subsequent impacts on our health care systems. We have some very big issues to deal with in the future. 

BIG.....BOOM! (mic drop)!