I would normally like to start a blog post with some research or some statistics but you don’t need any for this topic. It’s National Obesity Awareness Week http://www.jan-u-ary.co.uk and you know as well as I do, whatever your profession, that obesity is a huge problem in the Western world.
No one wakes up one day suddenly obese. So how does it happen? How do we get so fat?
As a personal trainer, I work with hundreds of people who’s primary goal is to lose weight. So, not as an academic or a researcher or a scientist or a GP but just based on my ten years in the fitness industry, this is why I think obesity happens and what you need to do to avoid it happening to you.
Now, just to be clear, I’m not talking about any medical conditions that cause you to gain weight. I’m not a doctor and would never pretend to be. I’m talking about lifestyle-related obesity.
Here are the things I’ve noticed that I passionately want everyone to think about if they’re on the tipping point of becoming overweight and it affecting their health. Your weight may be starting to get you down or make things physically difficult, such as bad knees, immobility or breathlessness when moving.
We’ve all hopped on board the denial bus about something somewhere down the line. An ache or pain that we know is really more of a problem. How unfit we have become. That habit we need to change but we will do it ‘another day’. Continuous weight gain often comes from the denial bus. Some people genuinely don’t see a problem and some genuinely don’t notice. It might be a check up with the GP that stuns them. A threatening conversation about Type 2 diabetes or a partner politely (or not!!) suggesting joining the gym.
As a trainer I see this a lot in conversations about nutrition. It usually comes in the form of someone beginning the conversation with “I eat really well” or “I don’t eat a lot”. That sort of thing. The only way to make sure this is not you is to have a long hard conversation with yourself. No one else. It’s your body and you know deep down if you’re taking care of it or if you’re ignoring it. Please take care of your body. It’s the most amazing, technologically advanced and precious thing you will ever have the privilege of calling your own!
2. Having an inactive life
I feel very grateful not to work in an office environment, but I know for so many people this is the case. It might be an office or a car or wherever you work, you might be forced to be still. This cannot be helped. A big thing I see though is that this becomes part of a lifestyle. Even if you’re stuck in a sedentary job, can you make choices elsewhere in the day to be more active. I’m not talking about the gym here, I’m talking about general activity. We’re designed to move. And move a lot! So, ask yourself, can you park further away and walk, or cycle to work? Can you go for a walk at lunchtime? Can you take that phone call on the move hands-free and walk while you talk? Or how about a walk and talk meeting? Can you get up every hour and walk around? Part of the problem is being so still not only burns less calories but it feeds the desire to sit still later on too. Activity fuels activity. So try and just be more active through the day.
3. Eating becomes ‘mindless’
There is a reason we were all told to sit at the table when we were kids right? Why is that? Family time? So you don’t drop your dinner? Part of the benefit is being ‘present’ and ‘in the moment’. So many of us over-eat because we are not even thinking about what we’re doing. We’re on our phones, we’re scrolling social media (maybe reading a blog!) and just shovelling food in our mouths. Eating has become a social standard and I love that. I love food, eating with friends and enjoying meals out. But way too often we eat when we are distracted. Try to set some norms. Eat at normal meal times and focus on fuelling the body with good food. Enjoy it and eat it in a way where you know when you’re full – by eating slowly and by being present.
4. Emotional eating
We can all put our hands up to this (yes me too!) and say we’ve reached for food or booze when we’re happy, sad, angry or bored. Every now and again this is no problem. But when this becomes a crutch, it becomes a problem and mainly due to reason three above! My advice if you find your head in the fridge/cupboard, and you know it doesn’t need to be, is to ask yourself three questions:
1. Am I actually hungry?
2. Will I regret eating this?
3. Has my body has what it needs today? Not what you think it wants but what it actually needs.
If you are hungry, you won’t regret it and you have given your body what it needs then go for it. Whatever it is. And ENJOY it! If you’re not hungry, you will regret it and you haven’t treated your body well then just walk away. Get out the kitchen and preferably out the house. Go for a walk. Take a few deep breaths and then try again. You’ll both get out the emotional situation and you’ll be more active. It really does work!
5. Criticising others
Social media allows us to see fat people, fit people, thin people and everything in between all over our computers and phones. We think we can judge them all. When was the last time you celebrated someone else’s fitness achievement? Said well done for running their first 5km? Told someone how nice their healthier dinner looked? We’re all so quick to criticise and that means we won’t expect anyone to support us on our healthy journey. Instead we want to praise fast food ordering and slobbing around.
Why don’t we all try being a bit nicer to each other and celebrating success, health, fitness and achievements?
If you have noticed any of these triggers in you then it’s time to do something about it. It might just be one small change. But do something before it’s too late. Don’t wait for bad news. Get out there and see some of the amazing things your body is capable of. Go and encourage someone else to do the same or why not grab a friend and go for a walk? It’s National Obesity Awareness Week and I really hope this message makes you stop and think to act now, make a change now and be kind to yourself as well as others. We must take responsibility for our own bodies and start treating them with the respect they deserve! I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes which fits perfectly with this blog about how we are getting so fat. It’s from Albert Einstein and on the subject of what insanity he says…
“the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results”