More than three times as many UK residents are obese now, than were 25 years ago. Around one in three children under 15 are overweight or obese. Weight-related conditions are responsible for more NHS expenditure than smoking for the first time in its 66 year history. And yet there are no emboldened newspaper headlines reading “STOP EATING BRITAIN!” Parliament is passing no legislature to curb this dilemma. We as a nation, simply do not care that we are fat.
It has been estimated that by 2050, more than half of the Great British public will be considered overweight. More immediately relevant than that; obesity currently costs the economy approximately £20bn a year. Never before has a person’s weight been labelled a disease, but now it seems that it is. Disease: A disorder of structure or function in the human body, not simply the result of direct physical injury. The stem of the problem is quite clear to see. Calorie-packed, highly fat-saturated food is too readily available for purchase. When three, 500kcal burgers can be bought from the high-street for the same price as a bag of apples from the supermarket, it’s no wonder the average brit opts for McDonalds rather than Morrisons’ salad bar.
A recent study in the USA (the only country in the world with a larger average waistline than the UK) found that even the most absurdly simple measures can influence consumers’ grocery-buying decisions. After clearly visible signs were erected near a high-sugar, drinks vending machine, 60% of vendees who would otherwise have downed a can of Coca Cola, chose to rehydrate themselves with water instead. The signs informed customers as to the energy content of drinks, but in an easy to understand format. For example “It takes a five-mile walk to burn of the 250 calories in this drink”. What this research shows, is that being aware of the consequences of consuming a calorific diet is a massive deterrent to consuming a calorific diet. If the masses could be educated in the art of calorie counting, evidence suggests that obesity rates would drop considerably.
Further to this, studies on the brain display that the centre related to addiction and reward lit up when study subjects were presented with unhealthy foods, whilst no light was seen when the testees were let loose on a salad. It’s no mystery why this happened. Due to our evolutionary heritage, our minds are hardwired to prefer a fattening menu to a slimming one, because the fatty food will provide us with greater energy reserves for leaner times.
What this neurostudy also proffers though, is that if calorific snacks are out of sight, they are out of mind. Translated to a real-world solution for our weighty problem, if supermarkets do not stock chocolate, you cannot buy it there, therefore you cannot eat it. This simple method of preventing the obesity crisis rather than curing it, is just one of many that could be implemented to subdue the worrying rate at which Britain’s waistline is rapidly swelling.
What’s your view? Do you have any tips on keeping healthy and dodging the unhealthy snacks?