The number of people with obesity in the UK has more than trebled in the last 25 years. Doctors now say that the condition is reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions.
What is obesity?
A person is considered obese if they are very overweight with a high degree of body fat.
According to the BBC, some experts believe obesity is responsible for more ill health than smoking. Being significantly overweight is linked to a wide range of health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Some cancers (eg, breast and prostate cancers)
- Snoring and sleep apnoea
- Stress, anxiety, and depression
The most common way to assess if a person is obese is to check their body mass index. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared.
If your BMI is above 25 you are overweight. A BMI of 30-40 is considered obese, while above 40 is very obese. A BMI of less than 18.5 is underweight.
Another useful method is to take a waist measurement because fat in the centre of the body (apple-shaped obesity) is much more strongly linked to health risks than fat more widely distributed on the arms and legs. Women with a waist of 80cm or greater and men with a waist of 94cm or greater are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.
A new way of calculating BMI has recently been proposed as the standard assessment is less accurate for extremes of height – the short and the tall. The new calculator hopes to correct this.
Why do people become obese?
Science tells us that on average a physically active man needs around 2,500 calories per day, while a woman needs 2,000. If we eat any more, the extra energy is stored for later use, mostly as fat.
This mechanism was life-saving during our hunter-gatherer days when food was often scarce. However, the boom in plentiful, cheap food, coupled with a general decrease in physical activity, means that those stores of fat are rarely called on. Instead they continue to grow.
So why don’t people just stop eating foods high in fat and sugar if they know they can cause physical problems? Scientists are still searching for the answers, but it appears that our brains have been wired to encourage the consumption of calorie-rich foods, even at the expense of good health. Quite simply, these foods bring us pleasure.
One recent study revealed that an area of the brain related to addiction and reward – the nucleus accumbens – lights up when a participant is shown calorie rich, fatty foods compared to healthy food.
Another area of the brain associated with pleasant tastes and reward, called the orbitofrontal cortex, is activated when we eat fatty foods.
At the same time, people are increasingly living more sedentary lifestyles and therefore burning fewer calories.
Studies have also shown that housewives in the 1950s were significantly slimmer than women today. This could be because their daily lives involved much more physical activity, including walking more and having fewer labour-saving devices.
Therefore, some scientists argue that the rise in obesity is a result of our bodies’ inability to adapt to the changing environment.
According to the NHS, another reason obesity is on the rise is because unhealthy eating habits are often passed down through families, due to a lack of good food education.
Unless obesity is tackled, the government predicts that 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in Britain will be obese by 2050.
2013 Miles in 2013
This year I am trying to complete 2013 miles self-powered miles. It is has been 10 years since my cousin’s son Adam lost his fight with Cystic Fibrosis. Adam was just 18 years old when when he lost his lifelong battle with CF, the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited disease. Despite spending large parts of his short life in hospital Adam never once complained, not even of a headache and was determined to make the most of everyday.
My 2013 miles in 2013 challenge is in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as I have been surprised since I started fundraising for the CF Trust just how many people are unaware of this disease and so I hope my efforts will not just raise money, but also awareness of the UK’s most most common life-threatening inherited disease.
The first person to commit to sponsoring my 2013 mile challenge has committed to 1p per mile (£20.13 in total) and this got me thinking. I am hoping that as many as possible of those reading this will commit to do the same and the best thing is, if each person does this on a “pay as you go” type approach all you will need to part with is approx £2 just after each pay day. In January I completed 205.9 miles, in February I completed a further 200.9 miles, in March I completed 185.7 miles, in April I completed 192.1 miles, in May I completed 168 miles and in June I completed 145 miles. If you can please spare £10.98 to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust it will be greatly appreciated.
The easiest way to give your sponsorship is to visit my Just Giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/2012-AYearWithoutBeer-CF.
2013 Miles in 2013 – The rules
The rules for my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge are quite simple:
- All miles must be completely self powered (no motors, sails, etc)
- I must be able to evidence all miles, either via GPS or with a picture of any static gym equipment
To complete my 2013 miles I will be running, cycling, rowing and who knows, I might even try a few other self powered methods along the way.