Obesity – One Big Hard Problem across Western Society
Today obesity has become the biggest killer in the modern western society. This is the first time in recorded history that the number of overweight people in the world now outnumber the hungry. It is estimated that close to 50% of Australian adults and 20% of our children are overweight from poor eating habits. Australia is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years. From a population of a mere 23 million, 14 million Australians are overweight. 5 million of these are obese, with a BMI (body mass index) of over 30 kilos per square metre. If this current trend continues, by 2025 nearly 80% of all Australian adults and 30% of all children will be overweight or obese. Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia and the single biggest threat to our Health System because of its proven link to type 2 diabetes.
Around 900,000 Australian suffer from diabetes. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) account for approximately quarter of the burden of disease in Australia, and just under two-thirds of all deaths. These three diseases often occur together and share risk factors, such as physical inactivity, overweight-obesity and high blood pressure. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 85-90% of all people with diabetes. While it usually affects older adults, more and more of our younger people, even children, are getting type 2 diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes have become inflicted with this disease mainly through poor lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although there is a strong genetic predisposition, the risk is greatly increased when associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and those with the classic ‘apple shape’ body (where extra weight is carried around the waist). Those people with type 2 diabetes have a damaged pancreas which makes some insulin but it is not producing the amount the body needs and it does not work effectively. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be managed with good nutrition and regular physical activity. An amazing 60% of diabetes cases could be prevented or delayed if Australian’s simply maintained a healthy weight.
Causes of Obesity
To say obesity is a form of addiction food is a gross over-simplification – it’s far more complicated than this. What makes obesity so different from the many other forms of self-addiction is that it’s associated with our very natural habit of eating to survive. Unlike most other forms of addiction, where a clear personal choice is involved, the natural requirement for us all to eat to survive is entrenched in our subconscious mind, which supports our survival. Eating and drinking is fundamental to our natural sense of experiencing taste. The distinction between when we have had enough food and drink to survive and when it becomes excessive can be quite blurred. Whereas other forms of addiction typically involves making a deliberate eating/drinking/injection choice (like the taking of an illegal drug, drinking alcohol, smoking nicotine), which when taken to excess leads to addiction because the substance itself in addictive. Food is not in itself addictive.
So how does over-eating non-addictive food evolve into becoming a serious health problem displaying all the symptoms of an addiction to eating? Early man ate in plenty when times were good and food was plentiful in order to get through more difficult time when food was less plentiful. So you could blame our ancestral past for the problem? Another school of thought suggests that over-eating becomes an entrenched habit at a very early age from the experience of our physical birth. By all accounts natural birth can be one of the most traumatic and fearful experiences of our life. Our first common fear-filled experience. Modern medical hypnotists have discovered that despite our inability to recall our birth experience in our conscious mind, our subconscious mind remembers it well. Under hypnosis many people are able to recall this harrowing experience and relate its associated fear with many problems arising in their life. Its primarily a problem of the mind! So rather than resorting to some kind of a diet, we may need to reshape or re-mould our mind when we have this problem? Immediately after birth, the second worldly experience is usually the self-pleasure of suckling upon the mother’s breast. Our first experience of “comfort food”? When food is given, caring is given, love is given. This automatic attachment to a “comfort” experiences after a painful event is designed to take our conscious mind off residual pain; setting the scene or excuse for many future big hard social problems in our life, including obesity.
This early experience can be further exacerbated when caring loving parents prepare large servings for their children to ensure their child is not under nourished and is fully satisfied. Similarly insisting that all food must be eaten before being excused “to leave the table” could be an underlying cuase, especially when a child is being encouraged to eat more than they actually need. Could in be that this strategy also becomes entrenched in our subconscious mind? If the well-intended food prepared by caring parents happens to be overly sweet, fatty, salty and/or presented in excessive servings (ie. what’s these days called being “unhealthy” food), could it again be that we become attacted to eat this type of unhealthy food in this way. Bad eating habits do become entrenched in our sub-conscious mind. It’s often these unhealthy food elements (such as sugar, fat’, flour, salt – the unhealthy “whites”) that when mixed/added with other healthy food can make for an addiction to these types of additives in unhealthy food because they are consumed in excessive quantities. Could this then be that which creates our an unhealthy mindset towards poor eating habits at a very early age? So you could blame your “poor” caring loving parents for your current entrenched mindset in over-eating unhealthy food. The reality is that being overweight or obese is far worse and more contrived than even this. Almost all adults in western society are now well aware of the obesity epidemic and its causes. So why do so many ordinary people persist in over-eating unhealthy food to such excess; doing little exercise to work off their excess weight, despite their obesity and overweight condition being known to be seriously detrimental to their standard of life.
Of all the “whites”, by far the worst current contributor to obesity is the amount of sugar ordinary people consume. The average Australian consumes around 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. This is 4-5 times more sugar than we need to consume. Message: Don’t eat too much sugar, don’t demonise sugar, simply control how much sugar you consume.
The Food & Drink Lobby Groups
In more recent times of plenty, western society has “sold their soul” to the Food and Drink (F&D) multi-nationals (like Tasco, McDonalds, Cadbury, Coca Cola, etc.); suppliers of much of the unhealthy food and drink consumed today. These multi-nationals have preyed upon ordinary people’s natural attraction to comfort foods; in devising highly effective strategies for further shifting our already imbalanced eating mindset towards eating more and more food laced with those additive elements that cause food intake to become a form of addiction. This perfect (sales) balance is know as the “bliss point”. These strategies have not only made lots of money for these multi-nationals but in the process have become the main contributor to the current obesity epidemic. The massive profits made, at the expense of ordinary people’s health, have enabled these F&D lobby groups to invest heavily in eating experimentations, massive data gathering and complex analysis of eating behavioural responses. All geared to sustaining ordinary people’s over-eating. The Food Industry manufactures its food product to precision – yes, to its “bliss point”. They perfect the mix of sugar, fat and salt by fine tuning the product’s taste to that “bliss point” of perfection. And it works, the resultant food product takes off, with most people being totally unaware of the amount of sugar they are actually consuming. Disguising foods like “Rice Cyrup” as not being “sugar” is one of the common ploys. Through experiments, like trials on rats with similar eating habits to humans, the F&D industry has discovered that healthy humans (like their experimental rats) kept on eating when certain style of foods and drinks are made plentiful in supply, despite the fact that their actual bodily need for food and drink had been met. By progressively making food sweeter, saltier, fattier, etc. this taste manipulation is known to further increase a person’s insatiable desire to eat even more of this type of unhealthy food and drink, despite their becoming over fed, more overweight and unhealthier. The more overweight and obese they became, the greater their demand for more of this type of food.. Eating more of this type of readily available unhealthy food is seen by the F&D Industry to be the most profitable and convenient means of sustain ordinary people’s interest and ever growing demand for their products (of unhealthy food & drink) to feed the beast. This is when and why unhealthy food and drink becomes addictive.
The multi-national F&D industry continue to win over all the other many and varied forms of healthy alternatives, including exercise regimes that are available. Evryone wins except the overweight consumer. How? Because the F&D industry has successfully created a vicious cycle of need for increased calorie-dense intake of and attaction for such unhealthy food and drink. It changes ordinary people’s hormonal response for the increased demand of more and more unhealthy fast food products. And all at a great cost to people’s health and their wallet. By making food more readily available in well located F&D outlets, through faster more effective food delivery services, by increasing food calorie density, by manipulating food makeup through increased food addiction additives (sugar, salt, fatty-oils, etc) and promoting larger more cost effective servings – this strategy makes massive profits for the F&D industry. Such success bolsters their determination to maintain this strangle hold on their growing consumer base.
Along with all the media hype that accompanies these unhealthy eating products, comes the usual attractions making such product brands appear “cool & trendy”. Advertisements featuring film and sports stars and other role models is a further ploy that works. They are paid handsomely to be seen eating and enjoying such unhealthy food. Strangely, few (if any) of the actors or personalities involved ever appeared to be at all obese? Because this fast food is so calorie-dense, ordinary people naturally became fatter and fatter, more unhealthy; resulting in their excess weight slowing down both their desire and ability for exercise. It’s this vicious cycle continues to sustain the obesity epidemic today.
The counter argument from the F&D lobby is always to blame ordinary people for their own obesity problem and the associated obesity epidemic. For in a democratic society, ordinary people can choose to eat what they want, when they want and whether to exercise or not. The F&D lobby groups do not force people to make these choices. The truth is that both parties (multi-national F&D industry & ordinary people) are to blame for our current obesity epedemic. While the prime responsibility rests with the controlling F&D industry, the key opportunity expounded here is that obesity can be prevented by ordinary people regaining control of their own life, in particular their own mind. Later we will examine how ordinary people can be empowered to also put great pressure on the F&D lobby group to stop producing this unhealthy food and to replace it with more nutritious food. Food which will still make their businesses profitable, save our struggling Health Systems a fortune and enable ordinary people to live healthier lives, live longer and have a good life.
Having accumulated so much wealth, power and knowledge through food taste manipulation, it comes as little surprise that the F&D lobby groups are also experts in manipulating government, media and ordinary people; by making the most of our broken democratic processes (discussed at great length in other awareness reads). The lack of self-control and discipline in ordinary people’s eating habits coupled with the greed of the multi-national F&D Lobby Groups has giving rise to our Health Systems struggling to deal with our obesity and related type 2 diabetes health problems. Western society’s obesity problem also comes at a cost to our environment through excessive food production, wastage all adding to the strain on our arigable land. Being deep into the pockets of our democratic governments thriving on a flawed democratic processes, the F&D industry world-wide is loath to move away from its winning formulae. In fact they outwardly supports it’s continuance. This explains why the F&D lobby always lay all blame for obesity and type 2 diabetes on yourself, the ordinary people. All that is about to change!
Ordinarily any self-correction weight reduction process would turning around our current obesity epidemic trend by requiring the F&D industry to introduce greater transparency into its food labelling (ie. the deadly “whites”). Labelling, that better identified the agreed “healthiness” of food in a manner that enabled ordinary people to make better informed decisions regarding the makeup and volume of the food they eat, would appear to be a good move. A recent comprehensive UK report on obesity exposed this very problem. Not unexpectedly, it was met with heated denials and counter arguments from the F&D lobby groups. The F&D lobby groups threatening the withdrawal of election funding from political parties supporting such recommendations. They levied similar threats upon their media advertising outlets, threatening to shift their business to other channels and outlets prepared to continue supporting their strategies; those keen to earn more revenue from their media business. They ran fear campaigns targeting F&D industry employers in marginal electorates inciting them to raise the issue with their elected members of Parliament and with their associated workers and unions pointing out the potential threat to their employment and the prospect of increased unemployment. The F&D industry strategies for dealing with such regulatory suggestions are as equally effective as those applied to their over-eating consumers and customers.
The UK report’s main recommendation was to regulate food labelling to the simple “Red”, “Yellow” and “Green” stop-light approach. No surprise, this recommendastion did not get up. Even Michelle Obama’s attempt to introduce similar food labelling in the US during her husband’s final term, as popular as she is, encountered the wrath of the F&D lobby groups and it also failed to gain the necessary traction (despite her overwhelming support from ordinary people). The effectiveness of the F&D lobby groups’ fear & denial strategies is all conquering. The fact that the F&D industry groups are not prepared to change the way they represent and present their food (honestly on labels etc.) is testimony to where their priorities lie – with their shareholders and profitable growth. They obviously care more about their own bottom line than the health and well-being of their customers (ordinary people with an eating disorder). The big question is – do you care?
Let’s take another simpler example, a little closer to home, to illustrate just how direr the situation has become. Recently, Canberra Local Government attempted to introduce a ban on the sale of junk food (mainly sugar drinks) at children’s pre-school and secondary school canteens. The associated multi-national F&D lobby groups were immediately up in arms at the proposal. Why? Because of the potential fallout from such an initiative potential becoming the seminal “wedge in the door” to mandating healthier food, healthier eating habits, home cooking and the production of home grown vegetables, etc. they again waged a vicious counter campaign. The F&D lobby is so intimately familiar with the triggers from any campaign threatening their food strategy using addictive additives, calorie-dense products presented in cost-advantage large servings, they hold an information reserve of facts and figures to support and shape their counter cases accordingly. They even questioning the link between fast food and drinks and obesity and in turn its association with type 2 diabetes. Its strategy is to nip any initiatives of healthier food in the bud, no matter how small the initiative may first appear. These wealthy well informed F&D lobby groups well know that one success in this realm poses a serious threat to their international revenue flows. What if all schools around the world started to introduce such measures, imagine the flow on effect, especially if healthier food & smaller servings were found to reduce obesity and create a healthier society; freeing western society from its obesity epidemic. So this struggle continues.
Given you cannot change what you cannot control, it would appear to make sense in examining the possibility for change in the eating habits of ordinary people to focus initial on that which you can control – what we eat, how we eat and our exercise problems. So the question arises – is it possible to regain control over our your own eating habits? Are we truly at the mercy of the F&D multi-nationals and associated Lobby Group? Accepting that we ordinary people do have a free choice in the food we eat then if we elect to eat more nutritious food and exercise more then the obesity epidemic is not only self-preventable, self-correctable but also self-controllable. If this is so, then why have ordinary people not taken this decision a long time ago, being a well-informed community?
Losing Weight and Keeping it Off
Based upon much research into this vexing and complicated problem, most ordinary people find it easier to lose weight initially but much harder to keep it off long term. It’s not just falling back into old habits with diet and exercise, there are more complex biological factors at work. When you first lose weight there are changes occurring that control your appetite, energy and fat storage that encourage you to put on weight. You get hungrier, actually store fat more efficiently and burn-off less energy. These hormonal changes can affect you for a year or more after you first lose weight. This makes it far harder to keep weight off than it was to lose it in the first place. Without going into these complexities here, there are around 20 different hormones at play (insulin, leptin, gherilin, etc.). Some hormones ensure you get the nutritional intake you need. Others are more related to the emotional pleasure you get from eating and drinking. Both work together to either stimulate or suppress appetite. It is a mental issue.
Unchecked, your food pleasure hormones tend to over-ride the ones related to those associated with nutritional intake, increasing your desire for energy-dense food, even if you don’t need it. Unless you stick by a proven program devised by experts in this field for permanent weight lose, it is highly likely that you will inevitably and assuredly return to your yoyo diet strategy and simply make matters even harder next time around. Do not despair, those who have sustained weight loss of say 15 kilograms+ for at least a year typically follow a long term strategy along the following lines:-
- Monitor your food intake and consistently eat a low fat/sugar portion controlled diet with little variation (make what you eat a regular routine once proven to take weight off and keep it off)
- Exercise consistently for at least 1 hour per day (ie. walking 45 kilometres a week) without taking time off for weekends and holidays (again sticking to the routine)
- Limit time spent watching TV, playing computer games and using Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to around 10 hours per week
- Monitor your weight regularly (again once per week) and celebrate sustaining your ideal weight, with a glass of water.
Remember, that often you will feel hungrier because of the hormonal changes that are occurring in your body, so gaining control of your own life in terms of the mental choices you make is essential. Also remember we live in a society that promotes a sedentary lifestyle, where an abundance of (nutrient dense) food await in massive servings. Behind it all are powerful lobby groups intent on making great profits at your expense and those dependent upon their success continuing “as is”.
Fear Factors driving current Mindsets
Ordinary people have a perception that the amount of pain incurred in shifting to a healthier life-style (eating more nutritious food, exercising more) is greater than the amount of pain involved in being overweight, obese and/or contracting Type 2 diabetes! As always, where there is a choice between the tactical and strategic, tactical always wins. Why, because it’s a mindset issue that is all pervasive in today’s society that will take some time and sustained commitment for ordinary people and society generally to reach a greater level of maturity in their thinking than exists today. Possibly ordinary people need to be taking control of their eating habits through their minds. For what’s going on inside your mind may be more important than what’s on your plate?
Another fear factor, already touched upon, that is also contributing to our unhealthy life style is discussed in our read on Information Technology (IT Gimmickry and Gadgets) and the need for our best IT minds to turn their attention to innovative IT solutions to these types of problems. This especially applies to those ordinary people that are bored, depressed or suffer from anxiety – all recognisable mental problems. As you read on, you discover most of the big hard problems we face today are very much inter-related, following a common self-infliction process arising from an erroneous tactical (subconscious) mindsets that dominates over our conscious thinking in the “now”.
Everything we do reveals something about our human nature that is common to us all. Us humans tend to be more concerned about our hip-pocket and instant gratification than what is actually good for us longer term, the bigger social problem or the environment as a whole. Even though we humans have the unique power to work against entropy (employing our powerful and unique conscious mind), our apathy towards change and making well-informed decisions causes us to surcome to our subconscious (animal-like) mind. Keeping our head in the sand by pre-occupying ourselves with more trivial matters, like watching TV, over-eating comfort food, etc. The good news is that all such problems can be readily self-corrected, if only we are prepared to embark upon a journey of self-transformation through increased awareness and being open to any resultant awakenings. Becoming more mindfulness of what is happening to us in our “now” life and being open to the need for a mindset shift in perceptions towards self-correction. Taking time out to meditate and self-reflect is a simple example of the resultant shift in behaviour required. Remembers preparation is always 90% of success.
Regular Healthy Exercise
The final connection cycle associated with obesity is its tendency to also cause ordinary people to choose to do less healthy exercise. Possibly because of the perception that their excess weight will only add to the pain when exercise is undertaken; at a time when they are already experiencing other pain from being overweight. A drop off in exercise merely exacerbates people’s obesity, by not enabling their excess calorie intake to be burnt-off. We are carbon beings and the only way to reduce our weight is to burn-off carbon – most effectively through our breath (Carbon Dioxide). Recent studies show that 80% of Australian children aged between 5-17 years old are seriously lacking in healthy physical activities. These children are not getting their required 1 hour of exercise a day, one of the worst records in the world. They are spending too much time in-doors. After our children have compete their mandatory school activities they prefer to be pre-occupied with in-door activities such as playing computer games, watching TV, eating sweet food, etc. rather than playing outside performing what were once normal healthy activities, like riding bikes, playing out-door games, running around in the playground, climbing tress and enjoying one another’s company.
In a similar vein, there might be an entrenched mindset created in the minds of our children through possibly poor parental guidance, unsavoury F&D industry behaviour and their own IT pre-occupations which are all contributing to their growing propensity towards obesity. Into adolescence, we become free from the direct control of our parents and begin to make our own decision about how we choose to live our life, including how much we eat, what we eat and when we eat? For many with an entrenched childhood eating disorder, to adjust their entrenched mindset towards healthier eating and exercise, requires a significant mindset shift to a more balanced and healthier life style. Such a shift often needs to be triggered somehow, as its unlikely to arise from continue with life as usual.
They say on average a person is at their fittest at the time they leave school. So what the latest analysis shows is that as we move away from the direct control of our parents and teachers making our own choices in life, we are becoming even more obese. Why then do adolescence with greater freedom in choice choose to follow a pathway to obesity? Most adults and adolescence are well aware of their eating problem (observing their over-weight condition) and what is typically causing it. Yet they persist. There has yet to be an awakening to a better more mature form of behaviour based upon what they are already aware of. Most do not have a good appreciation for the strategic relationship between their own eating problem and their increased risk of having type 2 diabetes. Nor are they interested in the strategic issues being faced by the world at large, like the growing financial pressures being placed upon our Health Systems, drop-off in worker productivity, growing rates of personal depression, food wastage, etc. More recent studies has shown that ordinary people contacting type 2 diabetes is now facing a 75% greater risk of developing all forms of dementias when compared to their peers who don’t have this disorder. There are so many ways this disorder can effect the brain that many are calling the resultant dementia “diabetes type 3”. No wonder obesity has becoming the biggest health problem we have today in western society. Yet the rest of the world starves! Here again we have yet another interconnect with other big hard problem, inequality – financial inequality.
Cost of the Obesity Epidemic
In the US alone, obesity related diseases are costing the US over $150billion a year. This cost doesn’t take into account the cost to an individual’s quality of life nor to their state of mind nor the impact of that their obesity on others (like family and friends). Morbidly obese individual’s typically are not content nor happy with their current self. Most are generally aware of its cause and what it takes to solve their over-weight problem. Yet they continue this way; to the detriment of their quality of life, their health and risk to their own life. In our awakening step we ask questions confirming your authentic BWI (Body Weight Index) and based upon your status as being ideal, over-weight, obese or morbidly-obese we first ask questions on why you can’t they solve your problem yourself at no cost. Or if you feel the need for some volunteered help at no cost to support you through your revised health action plan then this can be considered after determining why self-help has failed to deliver to reasonable expectations.
In the next second step in our process (Obesity – Awakening), the potential answer to our own obesity problem becomes clearer as we are asked to reflect upon the various facets of this problem; considering the 4 tiers of our Framework for Life (F4L) in our journey of self-transformation:-
- The Physical Body-centred Self. Almost all of the above material tediously explains the relationship between unhealthy food and drink causing an unhealthy physical body and our obesity/type 2 diabetes epidemic. Explanations on how the powerful F&D industry has manipulated their products to take advantage of ordinary people’s preference for the taste of unhealthy food which when takes in excess becomes addictive.. We have also identified ourselves as members of a community and western society that has lost the war against this F&D oppressor.
- The Physical Mind-centred Self. If anything has been learnt, it’s that obesity is more a problem of the mind rather than just a physical eating disorder. Mention has been made of an imbalance in the current social mindset across western society favouring our need for instant gratification, our preference for the tactical need for comfort food over the strategic need for good health and finally favouring activities specifically designed that take our mind off our problems over those dealing with such strategic problems. Here-in lies the first significant opportunity for a change in the individual and social mindset which has been shown to be achievable in Australia, re. the shift social mindset brought about to combat our addiction to smoking. Regaining control of your mind is key.
- The Soul-centred Self. The heartfelt truth about knowing that your poor eating habits, lack of physical exercise and your lack of will-power and self-control are at the heart of your obesity problem; recognisable in your “Shadow-Self”. It brings this realisation into your conscious mind, so that you might become more mindful in your every-day life of your situation in regard to eating, drinking and exercise. You become far more mindful of what you take into your body and mind and you contribute outwardly; like increased physical exercise and helping others, the need to contribute to a broader shift in the social mindset towards obesity for the common good of all Australians.
- The Spirit-centred Self. Finally and optionally turning to your spiritual beliefs, that dynamic driving force that makes you yearn to transcend even your own life experiences, in considering “Who am I?” and even more importantly “Who are we?”. Am I and my society ready to accept responsibility for not only our own lives but also accept some moral responsibility for the wellbeing of others? This is more about you recording your own conversation with God on this obesity problem in the privacy of your own thoughts and mind.
It is suggested that your reflections be journalised to enable you to recall and track your progress in your self-transformation journey of life. Over time as you continue to journalise your progress you will be able to readily determine where self-help is sufficient, where obtaining help from someone else is working or whether keeping the weight lost is the real problem. As you begin to master your weight problems you can begin to reflect upon the success of your own journey and turn your attention to the bigger social problem of obesity and type 2 diabetes and whether you might be able to share your experiences with others with a similar problem to what you have just solved.
In the third “Activation” step the solution to your over weight/obesity problem is brought to a commitment to an Action Plan. Considerations like your now state of empowerment in directing your food spending only to those suppliers intent on producing healthy products (eg. authentic food and drink labelling, including meals prepared by restaurants, etc.) and similarly not shopping with those who don’t. And also a regular program to spend say 45-60 minutes per day on a healthy exercise program.
In taking the next “Awakening” step, you begin to consider your unique health situation in regard to your weight and exercise. You will initially be invited to answer some common questions and issues raised on the obesity problem and be encouraged to identify with your specific situation. Finally the questioning turns to the more important question of yourself as a social creature living in a fuzzy world of relationships with others, inextricably linking us to others – in our family, in our community, in our society and to even our spiritual connections or love of nature. Obesity is all pervasive and ubiquitous – it discriminates against no one.
Simply “click” on the “Obesity – Awakening” button to take the next step in your self-transformation journey. Even if you already know that you do not have any overweight or obesity issue, then you are a much sought after candidate as a possible volunteer for helping and caring for others that do. Better still, if you are an expert in this field you may be interested in updating or even owning the above layman and non-professional version of this obesity “Awareness” material and all that follows.
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