There's enough doom and gloom in the news these day and so I was hesitant to write something about the obesity situation. But considering the threats, I feel as a dietitian I must! There are now 10 times more obese children than there was 40 years ago, a new study has found. Several UK charities have called for the government to do more to tackle the problem after a World Health Organisation (WHO) report found a tenfold increase in global childhood obesity. The two-year study into childhood BMI revealed the number of obese boys had increased from six million to 74 million between 1975 and 2016, with the number of girls increasing from five million to fifty million. What??? Yea, you read that correctly. This has got to stop - we are just killing ourselves painfully and slowly. The biggest rise has been witnessed in the developing world; in the US and Europe rates of obesity have remained steady, the report said.
The NHS still spends £5.1 billion a year on obesity-related conditions. According to the study, British girls have the sixth highest obesity rate in Europe, while boys were 18th in Europe.
So what to do?
Limit hight calorie products that attract children. Help consumers make educated choices in the supermarket by clearly labelling salt, sugar and fat content. Maybe tax junk foods like crisps and sodas. Create tougher restrictions on the marketing of junk food. Reduce screen time to 30-60 min a day, depending on the age of your child. Encourage movement- in any and all forms. Dance, yoga, biking, swimming jumping...you name it- just get those bodies moving!
All these are excellent options.
Parents / caregivers need to lead by example: better nutrition at home is the most important action that needs to be taken. School meal options need to be revised by reducing complex carbohydrates and fried foods and adding in more fiber rich foods such as fruits and veggies. Pizza, chips and chicken nuggets are top favoured options in schools (seriously-schools are encouraging these items. It's infuriating). More physical exercise will help to prevent a generation from becoming adults at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancers due to excessive weight.
The report compiled data from 31.5 million children around the globe (yea, decent sample size!) WHO member Fiona Bull, one of the authors of the report, said: ‘We are surrounded by environments which market unhealthy, high fat, high sugar, high calorie food. ‘That’s what’s on the TV, that’s what’s promoted at bus stops, and that’s what children are seeing all day, every day.’ This is the upside down world to me. Another thing in today's reality that makes no sense. Yes, I know, it comes down to money.
The charities said junk food brands are spending 27.5 times more on advertising their products than the amount available for the Government’s Change4Life healthy eating campaign, according to the Obesity Healthy Alliance analysis.
What it comes down to is people taking full responsibility for their lives and the lives of their children. It's about daily goal setting - taking small steps to make improved choices. There are lots of services available. Let the people in your life know that you are motivated to make changes and ask for support. It can often take a team-like approach for many individuals. If need be, contact a registered dietitian to help you! Im available!