With one in four adults now considered obese, Nutritional Sciences student Emma Fletcher looks at how we can change our habits to lead a healthier lifestyle.
We’re probably all in the same boat this week having eaten excessive amounts of food over the Christmas period and now getting stuck into New Year’s resolutions in the hope they won’t fade out by early January. According to the Guardian, 35% of participants responding to a 2015 YouGov poll said losing weight was their aim, whilst 33% wanted to improve fitness and 31% wanted to eat more healthily. If your New Year’s resolution sounds like one of the above, National Obesity Awareness Week (8th to 14th January) aims to improve our country’s health.
Obesity, a significant contributor to ill health, is defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30 accompanied by excessive fat accumulation (World Health Organisation, 2017). With more than 6 out of 10 men and 5 out of 10 women overweight or obese in the UK, it is a highly prevalent disease. The level of obesity has almost tripled in the UK in the last 20 years and with estimations that 1 in 4 adults will be obese in 2020, it is evident we have a global epidemic; something needs to be done, fast.
Whilst it may be tempting to focus on the visible appearance of obesity initially and overlook the physical and mental effects as well as economic and healthcare pressures, there is more to obesity than meets the eye. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) major risk factors for certain diseases are heightened by obesity. Such include: cardiovascular disease (accounting for 31% of deaths globally), diabetes, musculoskeletal problems and even some cancers, most commonly breast, prostate, kidney and colon.
Although we indefinitely require food for biological processes, the choice of how and what individuals eat remains open. Obesity is a multifaceted problem with many potential causes, but ultimately, we as students make the decisions surrounding our diet and activity which affects overall calorific balance, the major factor that influences the stability of our weight. As a result of the typical student ‘lifestyle’, we are often fatally led into purchasing calorie-rich foods from cheap fast-food outlets, especially in campuses based in the city centre, such as MMU. Alcohol is also a factor of weight gain as it provides ‘empty calories’ (calories with no nutritional value). As reported by the NHS, a standard 330ml bottle of 5% alcopop contains 237 kcal in which time you could’ve consumed 3 Lees teacakes, whilst a pint of 5% beer is equivalent 215 kcal, so a packet of McCoy’s salted crisps. Just let that sink in.
Living life at a healthy weight is more important than you think. So how can you change? If you’re looking to alter your lifestyle or improve your diet, start by small steps. Try to increase your fruit and vegetable intake by one or two portions a day, try cooking your own meals more often or use breakfast as the biggest meal of the day as this is when you’ll burn the most calories. Diet and exercise go hand in hand when trying to lose weight so take part in some of the free sessions here at MMU through the active campus programme such as the jogging club where you can begin with the couch to 5k. Before you know it, you’ll be signed up to the Manchester 10k wave! If this blog has convinced you to change for the better, dust off your trainers and head down to one of the free active campus classes. It’s time to take control and change for the better.