Nourish on....research showing UK women are the most overweight in Europe

Recent research published in The Lancet medical journal has once again shown that British girls are the most overweight in Europe. Once again the media have jumped all over it just like they did in 2011 when the same publication published the same results from their on-going research.

The Full research can be found here: 

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60460-8/fulltext

The recent statistics show not just that British women are the most overweight in Europe but whatever measures have been put in place over the last three years have not worked at all. If anything the situation is getting worse.  More than a third of all women are now overweight or obese. It’s not much better for men either with more than a quarter being overweight or obese.

At Nourish we’re not really ones for sugar coating (we won’t even stevia coat) issues, mainly because we’re passionate about making a difference. Therefore we say it as it is and it’s bleak, very bleak. As a nation we are rapidly approaching breaking point in terms of lifestyle choice illnesses. Our NHS is crippled financially, a great institution buckling under budget cuts and overly abused. Individuals need to take accountability for their own health; the desire to change needs to be stronger than the desire to remain the same.

The real problem is now twofold; firstly we’ve lost sight of what’s really important. That’s not the number on the scales or what size dress you can fit in, it’s not even whether you can complete an obstacle based fun run in whatever time. It’s simply health; health is no longer seen as being important enough.

Secondly we as individuals have lost the ability to say ‘No’. The days of rations were only three generations ago, but rations of food could not be further from where we are right now when it comes to attitudes towards food. We think nothing of going large, having king size portions and snacking between meals on foods with enough calories to be classed in their own right as a meal. We’re a society that no longer has to go without when it comes to food and it’s evident to see in people of all ages from new born children with an average weight now higher than ever, through to the elderly now showing what the future holds: increased death from lifestyle choices.

It’s not just the individual though; it’s unfair to put all of the responsibility on the individual and leave them to it. The majority of us live in a very unhealthy environment these days. Our media is unhealthy because of its irresponsible approach to public health with the peddling of unhealthy foods and lifestyles. The places we shop for food are unhealthy because supermarkets make more profit on the foods in the middle aisles not the outer ones and the offers on foods which provide real value are never on fresh foods. Our commute to work is unhealthy due to pollution, overcrowded public transport and over-reliability on the car. Our workplace is often full of unhealthy people in an unhealthy environment (how many canteens serve healthy foods or have vending machines stocked with fruit and smoothies?). Sometimes even the gym we attend is unhealthy because they sign you up and leave you to just get on with it until you lose interest through not knowing what to do or - even worse - injure yourself. Even our homes can be incredibly unhealthy places because we stock up on easy convenience foods which allow us to spend more time in front of the TV each evening. Either that or we have a dedicated drawer for takeaway menus….

These are all consumer environments and as a nation we are one big consumer. Socially we’ve been conditioned to want, need and detach ourselves from self-denial in an environment built on consumerism, rather than deny ourselves.We prefer to excuse ourselves, telling our conscience “it’s only a….”. When this kind of environment is flooded with high calorie yet nutritionally poor foods which set our taste buds on fire, saying no doesn’t just get harder, it becomes almost impossible.

We at Nourish don’t believe the young women of Britain want to be overweight, obese or even unhealthy, especially when so many want to talk to us about it and ask for our advice. Sadly they are burdened with the bikini body ideal which is constantly rammed down their throats by an insensitive media. Oddly as a demographic group they are actually getting further away from that unrealistic ideal each year according to the research. It’s like a carrot on a stick situation with the string getting longer, with only the media benefitting as they grow richer from it each year. The health industry is still growing and is now valued at over £2bn in the UK alone so it is no laughing matter that such an industry is predominantly built on quick fixes and convenience. If we keep selling the ideal that you can look how you want without putting the effort in to make the necessary key lifestyle changes then we are just selling lie and we may as well go back to saying smoking cigarettes is cool and makes you live longer (they don’t by the way).Living a healthy life is not found in a pill, a shake or even a ‘diet’; it’s a mindset and a lifelong commitment where quick fixes don’t exist.  

The people who want to change, and importantly the people who need to change have to be accountable and realistic. Ignoring the media portrayal of ‘healthy’ is the first step and resetting what’s important is also of key importance. Not only the numbers on the scales but the quality of life which includes knowing what you need to do and having the capability to do it. Being healthy is an individual thing where for some a size 6 is healthy, while for others size 16 will be healthy. Finding out what’s healthy for the individual is down to the individual, that’s something that needs to be respected by the media. Why can’t they headline magazines with ‘[insert celeb name] went through hell to get back to a size 6, but here’s how she did it’ rather than simplifying or - even worse - glorifying unrealistic and unhealthy achievements? The individual needs to identify their problems, we often hear ‘my problem is [insert excuse]’ so we believe people know they overeat, don’t eat enough fruit or vegetables, don’t take time to cook their own meals, don’t plan ahead, miss the gym too much or miss out exercise altogether, prioritise everything else over health, etc. The list goes on but trust us we’ve heard every reason and excuse in the book as to why people have yet to make the changes they themselves have identified as being key to reaching their own set goals.

All of these excuses are why we opened Nourish. You don’t know what foods to eat? We do and we sell plenty of them. You don’t like healthy food? Try ours, if you don’t like anything on the menu we’ll close down and leave Sheffield the following day. You don’t have time to make your food for the day? At Nourish your food will be ready in less than 2 minutes. You don’t have time to cook in the evening? Pick up a Nourish meal on your way home. You don’t drink enough water? Pay an extra £1 for a Nourish meal deal which includes a bottle of water and piece of fruit. You don’t have time to pick something healthy up? Call us at Nourish, and we will deliver. You don’t know what to do at the gym? Ask us, we’ll write you a programme for FREE.

We opened Nourish for the masses, because we feel passionately that these are the people who need us the most. We never opened to make money, our primary aim is to make a difference and slowly but surely we think we’re achieving that. However, our first goal is to persuade the customer to choose us over the many unhealthy options out there. We know is a tough ask, but we’re not going to give up!

We at Nourish don’t have all of the answers to solve these problems but we do want to be part of the solution because we’re passionate about change, education and listening to what our customers really want. Our view is that there needs to be a critical analysis of public health projects which have come and gone leaving minimal results. This data needs to be made public so we can all pull together as one to make a difference. Examples which immediately spring to mind include Change4life which never took off and it’s questionable as to whether it ever really made a difference. The Five-a-day campaign also struggled and the recommendations now seem outdated. Many more smaller campaigns have come and gone leaving behind a nation getting bigger with millions spent and little to show for it. It’s not hard to see why some people just cannot get behind new schemes. We need an accountable, driven and realistic public health board which has the power to stop underhand marketing to kids and one which can educate at all levels. Most importantly we need to encourage those who care to come together and become a major force for real change. We need to channel this power towards making a stand against those who are constantly lobbying and chasing for our hard earned cash with blatant disregard for the health of our nation.

Health needs to be cool and fashionable again and that means moving away from celebrities sporting six packs and undernourished bikini bodies. This means investing heavily in something that won’t initially produce financial profit and that may cause an outcry among the ill health peddling multinationals, but in years to come we’ll reap the rewards with an NHS not overly burdened by lifestyle diseases. Most importantly it will lead to a healthier nation being able to do more and do it better!

We need to educate everyone on nutrition and health, regardless of age or demographics. Everyone has a right to lead a healthy lifestyle and everyone has a right to know what that means for them.

As well as all of this the overall responsibility is still with the individual; do you choose health or do you choose to suffer in years to come?….