Obesity in the headlines again

Obesity issues “If there were no large size clothes, women would have to slim down.” “Make obese people pay for their healthcare.” “Just over 1/3 of all primary school children in Crawley are overweight.” The headlines just go on and on, don’t they? And yet nobody seems to look at the true underlying reasons why a greater majority of the population as a whole is much fatter now than 50 years ago. It must all to do with fat people being lazy, eating too much, not doing enough exercise, eating too much rubbish food …. and yes, there is some truth in that. A healthy diet and exercise do help – but there is more to it than that, in my humble opinion. THE ROOT CAUSES – ARE THEY EMOTIONAL … I work with people who are seriously obese and those who just can’t shift those stubborn stones. Of course I ask them about their lifestyle, but I am much more interested in what is going with them emotionally – and inevitably there is a bucketful of reasons why these individuals have built up layers of emotional protection, usually around their middles. It could be abuse in childhood or bullying at school. It might be a traumatic break-up of a relationship or loss of a loved one. Perhaps there is a feeling that adding a layer of fat will help protect the person against further hurt, rejection or pain. By peeling the emotional onion, finding the real root causes – and resolving them – we allow the individual to move forward with more confidence. The root cause may be traced back to a past life where that person has starved to death – this is more common than you may think. Once all of the suffering and trauma has been laid to rest back there, along with desperate final thoughts such as ;”I will never go hungry again,”  that obsession no longer exists in this lifetime – you can imagine what a difference that makes! … OR MIGHT IT EVEN BE WHEAT? There is another aspect of the overweight problem which I find very interesting – and that is wheat. Yes, wheat. I have recently read Dr William Davis’ Book “Wheat Belly” and it explains in very easy-to-understand language just what chaos modern wheat is causing in our bodies. I remember as a child growing up in rural Sussex seeing wheat growing in the fields – it stood tall and ripened naturally in the sunshine. That was “old” wheat, “real” wheat, descended from einkorn wheat which was later cultivated as Triticum aestivum, Dr Davis tells us. Demand for wheat, a staple grain in diets around the world, led scientists to start cross-breeding...

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FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT FIGHTING THE FAT, OFFICIAL-STYLE

There has been much noise in the media recently as the Government considers providing bariatric surgery (gastric by-pass and gastric band operations) to people with Type 2 Diabetes. Let’s look at some of the facts and figures, shall we? First, definitions. Body Mass Index is defined as weight divided by height squared, or kg / m2. Originally devised by a Belgian mathematician almost 200 years ago  as a social study into average body build, it has come to be adopted as the medical industry norm. The scale has changed over time, the current settings being as follows: Below 18.5             possibly underweight 18.5 – 24.9             healthy 25.0 – 29.9            overweight 30.0 – 34.9           obese 35.0 – 39.9           very obese 40.0 and over     morbidly obese While I feel there should be a better way of measuring obesity (see my separate post on BMI), there is no escaping the fact that far too many people today are seriously overweight and this is impacting their health in many ways. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence tells us that – 25% of adults in England are obese (ie have a BMI of 30 or more) – that’s 1 in every 4 adults. A BMI of 30 – 35 (obese) cuts life expectancy by up to four years. A BMI of 40 or more (morbidly obese) cuts life expectancy by up to ten years. Obesity costs the NHS some £5.1 billion every year. The people at NICE say that very low-calorie diets (less than 800 calories a day) can be used in the short term to prepare people for surgery or to meet criteria for fertility treatment, but admits that while diets are increasingly popular, they do not keep weight off in the long term.  NICE guidance states that “regaining weight is likely” but that this is not down to the failure of either the client or the clinician. We have reached the stage where around 8,000 people a year are currently receiving bariatric surgery on the NHS – let’s have a look at a few other facts & figures about that too. One person in 200 who has a gastric band fitted will die as a result of the operation. If you think that’s bad, the figure for death following gastric by-pass is just one person in 100. Such operations can result in dramatic weight reduction – often up to 1/3 or even 1/2 of body weight prior to surgery – and this can create another problem in the (not very attractive) shape of folds of excess flabby skin that often...

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BMI – WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEASURE?

Your Body Mass Index is the number that defines whether you are normal, fat, obese or morbidly obese. With the latest news that the Government is looking at bariatric surgery (gastric by-pass or gastric band operations) for those suffering from Type 2 diabetes, the BMI is being quoted as the measuring stick – almost a magic wand – to ascertain who qualifies for such surgery and who doesn’t. But let’s take a closer look at the BMI. Where did it originate from, and why? You may think it’s a modern development, by medical professionals keen to monitor the health of the general public. Think again. What is now called the BMI was actually invented in 1832 by a Belgian called Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. A mathematician by profession, he specialised in statistics and was among the first to try to apply statistics to social science. As part of his study into the concept of “the average man”, as defined by variables that follow a standard mathematical distribution curve, he came up with  a simple measure for classifying peoples’ weight relative to an ideal weight for their height. A person’s Body Mass Index – following Quetelet’s formula – is defined as their body weight divided by his / her height squared. Nowadays this has been translated to a measurement of Kilograms per metre squared (or, for the more technical among you, kg/m2). The formula devised by Adolphe Quetelet was never meant to be used in the way it is now by the medical profession for defining obesity: it was purely a method of defining standard proportions of the average human build. In fact, Quetelet himself specifically warned against using his Index for individual diagnoses because of the many variables. However, in the early 20th century, as the insurance industry came into its own, underwriters looked for a method of classifying people for health insurance and life assurance policies – and found the BMI, which is still also called the Quetelet Index. Et voilà – a social science formula became increasingly used as a medical industry measure. In 1972 a physiology professor and obesity researcher called Ancel Keys published “Indices of Relative Weight and Obesity”, the result of a study of some 7,400 men in five countries. Having compared various height-weight formulae, Keys decided that Quetelet’s kg/m2 to be the most accurate and so Quetelet’s Index became the Body Mass Index. Because it was a simple formula, it allowed researchers – especially those in the insurance and obesity industries – to go back through back data and define what they perceived to be past levels of obesity. There are many obvious reasons why the BMI as currently based on Quetelet’s formula should not be the magic measuring stick for defining obesity. For instance, it doesn’t...

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