The UK's Obesity plan - my view

The UK’s obesity plan – a view point

Covid has highlighted our country’s growing obesity problem. With c.60% of UK adults overweight or obese the evidence based link between Covid, obesity and poor outcomes has led our Government to produce an obesity strategy ‘designed to get the nation fit and healthy’ and ‘protect themselves against Covid-19’. So what’s in the strategy and will it work?

The strategy recommends is the end of promotional offers on ‘junk foods’, changes in advertising for junk food and an extension of access to free weight loss programs, referral via your GP. I think the first two are positive moves for all of us, to change our food environment by removing the commercial nudges for eating more junk food, whilst encouraging food companies to develop healthy food alternatives. We also know that formal and supported weight-loss programs have good results. However, it’s complex and there are so many different drivers that contribute to obesity – physiology, psychology, culture, education, socio-economic status, as well as the food environment. Providing generic public health strategies is challenging (and often confusing), as every individual’s case is different.

I would like to emphasise that any notion of blame or guilt around the topic of obesity is unhelpful and can lead to disorder eating. We are all unique in our physiology and for some weight management is much more of a challenge, so we need to be more compassionate and less judgmental. I also believe obesity should be defined by a person’s overall health not just their weight. Whatever your weight you will benefit from a more active lifestyle and a healthier balanced diet.

As most of us want to eat well and no one wants a nanny state telling us how to live our lives, these moves should improve the food environment for everyone by reducing the active encouragement of eating junk food and give everyone more information about the food we eat, helping us all live healthier and longer lives.

For more information see the Achieve Oxfordshire's website or our phone is 01865 338119 and individuals can self-refer.

Should I snack?

Should I snack?

Snacking has very much become part of our culture, the market for snack foods is huge, you only have to stand in the queue at a petrol station to eye up the hundreds of snacks on the market, but is snacking as beneficial as it is enjoyable? As with many topics in Nutrition the answer to this is all about context and the individual in question. What your activity levels are, age, medical conditions, nutritional goals etc. and of course the snack itself.

Snacks can be really useful for young children who need a consistent intake of nutrients and energy to support growth and development. Often the same is true for the older adult who may suffer from low appetite and conditions such as acid reflux and then small snack meals have real benefits, as well as providing the extra nutrients in manageable quantities. For athletes and anyone involved in regular sporting activity, particularly endurance sport, snacks are essential pre and post exercise for topping up glycogen levels in muscles, as well as repair and rehydration.

Snacks can also be useful if you simply haven’t had the chance to have a meal, but probably the most important thing is snack choice. Of course, the occasional bar of what you fancy is fine, enjoy it don’t infuse it with guilt but try and make it a treat and not a daily occurrence. If you are you are trying to have a healthier diet and know you are susceptible (known as more food responsive) to the eyelevel ‘snacks’ available in so many food outlets, planning is key. So, arm yourself with a piece of fruit and some nuts, or similar snack that you enjoy and will keep you satisfied and isn’t just a rather expensive bar of ‘empty calories’. Finally watch your portion control, those family size treats may seem good value but we know we eat far more than we think without realizing it!

I’ve put some tasty snack ideas on my website – enjoy!

Eat better in Lockdown

Eat better in lockdown – Tips on how to curb those cravings

Food and drink have been one of the few pleasures that we have still been able to enjoy during this lockdown and although the odd treat is fine, many of us are finding ourselves eating and drinking more, and have gained a few unwanted inches. Commercial weight loss programs simply don’t work long term, with most achieving limited and/or temporary weight loss. So here are a few practical tips on how to eat better in lockdown.

  • Build your own food environment. The evidence is that the rise in obesity is linked with our obesogenic environment. So be aware of the foods you surround yourself by, and what you put on your shopping list, if you buy those Doritos chances are they will get eaten!
  • Kitchen opening hours. If you easily succumb to snack cravings, try and stick to 3 meals a day and if you really need a snack make sure you have something nutritious on hand. Have a big fruit salad or veg sticks and nuts easily available . Meals can then be social focal points and it will mean less clearing up too!
  • Eating speed. It has been shown that slower eaters release less of the hunger hormone than faster eaters. So, eat mindfully with your senses and chew well.
  • Portion size. An obvious one, so try and only cook what you need, and try and fill at least a third of your plate at lunch and dinner with a variety of veg.
  • Distraction activity – are you really hungry, or possibly bored or thirsty? Try drinking some water first and wait before you grab that snack. Find another activity you enjoy doing to fill that craving, go for a walk, get lost in a good book, whatever you enjoy.
  • Be kind to yourself. There is nothing wrong in indulging occasionally and it is important to acknowledge that resisting what your appetite wants can be a challenge. Try applying the 80:20 rule – eating healthily 80% of the time, it can make you aware of how much better you feel when you eat well but allow yourself the food you enjoy.

For more information see my website and please do email any questions

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