Food for Thought

Lose weight, lose weight fast, lose weight for your holidays, wedding, Christmas, little black dress, and drop a dress size in 10 days. The list goes on. Then add to that, slimming aids, supplements to speed up your metabolism, to burn fat fast, block absorption of fats and carbs, and so on. We are a weight obsessed society but getting more and more overweight and obese as we strive to get slimmer. Why?

Why is it that (1) the focus is so much on what you weigh and less about health? And (2) more and more people are carrying excess weight in the first place. These two points are crucial.


Statistics on Health: WHO statistics indicate that Ireland is set to become the most obese nation in Europe by 2025...that’s only 9 years away. Currently we are the 4th most obese nation in Europe with 62% of the adult population either overweight or obese. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are on the increase year on year. Our emergency departments are overflowing with sick people waiting to be assessed. Outpatient waiting times are horrendously long and elective surgeries are constantly being delayed because our health service cannot cope with the overall demand and consequently people are left waiting and suffering for longer. Treatments in our mental health services are predominantly medication focused despite all the research indicating that talk therapies are crucial. It appears to be a case of “wait until you get sick and then we’ll treat you”. What happened to health promotion and disease prevention? At present life expectancy for males and females averages about 82.5 years. However the healthy life expectancy is only 63 which means that people are living longer due to medical treatments but in a way that has them in GP surgeries, outpatient departments, A&E departments, waiting for surgeries and either waiting for or already in nursing homes. That’s a bleak picture. Young workers are constantly being encouraged to invest in a pension to ensure they have a good standard of living when they retire. What about investing in their health now to ensure that they will be healthy enough to enjoy their retirement or live long enough to actually retire.  To stress the importance of this let’s take a look at the actual statistics

25% of Irish adults are overweight

A further 37% are obese.

4 out of 5 over 50’s are either overweight or obese.

80,000 people in Ireland are morbidly obese.

170,000 people living with Type 2 diabetes with up to 15,000 new cases each year. 80% are obese.

312 children aged 18 months to 16 years were referred to Temple Street’s 12-month childhood obesity programme between 2008 and 2016

When referred, 40% of them had risk factors for heart disease, 30 per cent had physical comorbidities including knee pain and breathlessness when walking.

More than half, 60% reported psychological difficulties including poor self-esteem and depression and 11% reported severe bullying.

Obesity in childhood can cause respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and metabolic problems, as well as leading to poor self-image and poor quality of life.

  • In addition, children who are obese are more likely to have illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes in adulthood

  • 100,000 children are obese and 300,000 children are overweight in Ireland.

  • This ranks Ireland in 5th place among 27 EU countries in childhood obesity

Of these children

  • 70% will become obese adults.

  • 70% have musculoskeletal problems

  • 40% have high cholesterol levels

  • 50% have high blood sugar levels which means that they are well along the pathway to develop early Type 2 Diabetes

  • 30% have breathing problems

  • 60% reporting psychological difficulties such as poor self-esteem and depression with

  • 11% reporting severe bullying

  • If left untreated, these children will become adults who are obese in whom the complications of obesity such as stroke, heart disease, infertility and increased risk of multiple cancers are well recognised.

  • The average 9 year old child in Ireland weighs 34 kg (5 stone 5 pounds). The average 9 year old attending Temple street is 55 kg (8 stone 9).

From looking at these statistics it is evident that it is crucial for each individual to take responsibility for their health and that of their childrens health now to ensure a healthy future.

And yet despite the statistics the primary focus among many overweight people is shape, body image and appearance. They don’t equate an overweight or obese body with ill health and disease down the line. They just equate it with not looking good. The means that people employ to achieve weight loss is usually by deprivation, restriction, self-punishment when yet another diet doesn’t work and then they give up and tell themselves they can’t do it. Of course they can’t do it because food becomes an obsession, it’s all they can think about. What can I eat or what can’t I eat and eventually I will eat whatever I want because I can’t sustain this way of living.


Why is it that more and more people are becoming overweight and obese? Remember being overweight and/or obese is directly linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, joint problems etc. so this is not a fat shaming exercise rather an exercise in making people aware of the importance of accepting responsibility for their own health and the consequences of ignoring same. Listed below are some contributory factors


Low Fat Craze

Going back over 30 years we have been told to cut down on fat and the food industry has duly obliged by producing masses of low fat processed “foods” laces with sugar and sugar substitutes. The results are sugar overload and in some cases addiction. The body cannot cope with levels of sugar consumed and initially it does its job well by releasing insulin to mop up excess sugar and store it as fat, which it deposits around the middle. However as this process is repeated on an ongoing basis insulin resistance occurs which means the body becomes inflamed and toxic, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol etc. sets in and the cycle of ill health commences. Medication is prescribed to deal with this and patients may be advised to lose weight. However, how you lose weight is crucial here. If you go on a low fat, low calorie diet most of the weight you lose will be muscle and water, the diet is unsustainable, you fall off the wagon and weight goes back on but as fat so you actually end up after your diet with more body fat than when you started. This vicious cycle of dieting has started which brings me to the second point. Why focus on weight and not on health?A sick body is an unhealthy body that needs nourishment. Your body needs nourishing with foods that nourish and if it gets this it will reward you with more energy, better concentration, less stress and weight loss will occur naturally. If you focus directly on losing weight you automatically think deprivation, you feel hard done by because you can’t have all those lovely sugar and fat laden processed foods that taste so nice and makes you want more. So again you can’t sustain it as your mind-set is not focused on what foods make you healthy and what foods make you ill.

Emotional Factor:

From an early age we have been programmed to associate comfort and reward with food that tastes of more. Child goes to the doctor, gets a lollipop, child falls and hurts herself, gets sweets or sugar in some form or other. So the cure for all our physical and emotional discomfort is to make it better by eating sugary foods that cause a temporary release of dopamine, the feel good hormone. Except you need more and more of it as time goes on to get the same effect in just the same way as any other addictive substance.  It is vital for anybody trying to lose weight to identify what they are using food for. Is it to nourish their bodies which is what it is meant for or is it to get a very temporary feel good factor when they are sad, happy, angry, disappointed, bored etc? Of course this temporary feel good factor is quickly followed by disgust and shame and anger and a whole range of emotions.  You have to identify and address the emotional triggers behind unhealthy eating patterns. If you don’t tackle the underlying reasons behind overeating, sooner or later life will throw you a curve ball and you’ll find yourself going right back to your tried and tested comfort eating cycle.

Repeated Dieting over Many Years.

 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it in 1-5 years. As dieting ,to a large extent, is a temporary food plan to get you to a target goal, it won't work in the long term. Additionally the deprivation of restrictive diets may lead to a diet-overeat or diet-binge cycle. And since your body doesn't want you to starve, it responds to overly-restrictive diets by slowing your metabolism which of course makes it harder to lose weight. Overly restrictive diets take all the pleasure out of eating which can leave you feeling miserable. This is not sustainable, you abandon the diet and end up after this is repeated several times, believing that you are weak and will never succeed in getting to your desired weight.


Lack of Exercise

Exercise has also taken a back seat with computer games and other electronic devices designed to amuse and distract youngsters and keep them indoors. In some schools children are not allowed run in schoolyards because of health and safety. Almost every household has a car or is on a bus route so walking to and from destinations is rare.

The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. And the benefits of exercise are there for you, regardless of your age, sex or physical ability.

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. You don't need large amounts of time for exercise to reap weight-loss benefits. If you can't do an actual workout, get more active throughout the day in simple ways — by taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to the shops etc. Strength training is really important as it protects bone health and muscle mass.

Exercise combats health conditions and diseases

Regardless of your current weight, being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. Exercise keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, arthritis and falls.

Exercise improves mood

If you need an emotional lift a workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.

Exercise boosts energy

Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores.

Exercise can be fun

Exercise and physical activity can be a fun way to spend time. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy being outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a fun social setting. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just do it. If you get bored, try something new.

Exercise promotes better sleep

Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster. Just don't exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energised to fall asleep.

So What Needs to Change? 

Mindset : Trust yourself, Stop Dieting.  What does a diet promise? A different body? A different life? How can deprivation, punishment and shame lead to change? It doesn’t. The shape of your body obeys the shape of your beliefs. If you are waiting to be at a weight you think you need to be to start really living then you never will because what you are really telling yourself is that you are not good enough at your current weight. In order to change the shape of your body you must understand what is currently shaping it. Stop fighting with how things are and stop treating your body as the enemy.

Tips to become healthier

  1.  Start right now. There will never be a better time than the present.

  2. Look at any limiting beliefs and barriers that are holding you back

  3. Find a healthy style of eating that’s pleasurable and sustainable for the long term

  4. Identify the psychological and emotional factors behind your eating habits

  5. Identify and challenge any negative thinking or negative self-talk that makes you feel bad about yourself

  6. Identify and deal with the causes of stress both physical and psychological.

  7. Give children rewards that are not food or drink related

  8. Make a commitment to yourself not to become a statistic of overweight or obesity or disease

  9. Have a plan that involves eating healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates and cutting out sugar laden processed foods. With the right eating plan this is easier than you think

If you need help in order to achieve a healthy and lean body contact us today. We can help.