Overweight & Obesity – Britain

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In 1980, less than 10% people in Britain were obese. Twenty years on, and it’s 20%. Ten years from now, and it could be over 25%. And that’s just those at the extreme end of being overweight – those who qualify as obese. Many more have less serious weight problems. Nearly two thirds of men and over half of women in England are now overweight or obese.

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Weight problems start young. In a recent study of Leeds schoolchildren, 20% of nine year olds and a third of 11 year old girls were overweight. One in ten of the primary schoolchildren in the study were obese. Easy access to food and lack of exercise at home, at school and at work are widely held to blame for the nation’s growing weight problem.

It’s been called a national epidemic, though Dr Andrew Hill, chairman of the Association for the Study of Obesity, dislikes the word.’It makes it sound like it’s catching – that you can go to someone’s house and waking up the next morning and find you’ve put on 10 stone. Obesity isn’t like that. It’s something that creeps up on you. It happens to people who put on half a stone a year for 10 years,’ he explains.

Obesity – A Health Risk

Obesity takes an average nine years off an individual’s life expectancy, and it is this increased health risk rather than the excess weight itself which specialists such as Dr Hill believe should be the focus of obesity management. The days of encouraging people who are very overweight to lose five or six stone are coming to an end. Instead, the way out of the obesity ‘epidemic’ lies with more realistic and achievable goals.

Obesity Treatment – Set Realistic Weight Loss Goals

‘We need to encourage overweight and obese people to lose 5-10% of their body weight over a year, and to maintain it. Research has shown that those who are most successful make several small adjustments to their weight and exercise pattern. We live in a “quick fix” society but losing and maintaining weight loss is a slow process,’ says Dr Hill.

Instead of trying to stick to harsh diets, he recommends that people who are overweight take small steps towards greater control of their food intake – substituting a piece of fruit for a chocolate biscuit as their mid-morning snack, changing their choice of food at mealtimes, reducing the amount of food they eat outside the home, developing a new social life around sports or exercise.

‘If all the people who are overweight or obese could just lose half a stone as part of such changes we would see important improvements in public health and, at a personal level, these people would feel much better about themselves, about being in control of their eating and improving their social activities,’ Dr Hill
points out.

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