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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why do you think obesity is so prevalent in Australia when we're such an active nation?

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  • 8


    I am the Senior Dietitian and Director of Menuconcepts.  We  provide personalised, one on one consultations and develop individual weight loss and health programs.  We have clinics … View Profile

    People are working longer hours, in more sedentary jobs e.g. we are not hunting for our food anymore and tending to the farm, we are sitting down tapping away at our computer and asnwering the phone.   People are wanting for more convient food for dinner as they have less time, and these and relying more on quick take aways foods, which are low in fibre and high in fat and calories, meaning we tend to eat larger portions as there is less chewing and fibre to fill people up.  Families are eating in front of the TV, which also makes it easy to overconsume, and because of peoples stress levels they use food and alcohol for comfort foods. 

    Overall we are sitting more and eating higher calorie foods. Kids play video games instead of playing outside before dinner, and are snacking on high sugar and fat convience foods as snacks instead of fresh fruit and vegetables.

  • 4


    Jane O'Shea

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    I am an Accredited Nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietitian. I am also a licensee for the “Am I Hungry?” Mindful Eating Program, “Am I Hungry” … View Profile

    Whilst exercise is important for weight management, I believe diet has more to do with our society’s obesity problem. Much of our entertainment today is food focused.  Almost all social or work events have food provided. Whilst that is nice and is perceived to be generous, often a snack is unnecessary and just adds to the culture of relatively inexpensive free-flowing food being available 24 hours a day. 
    I think many people are unaware that they are overweight or obese, that they tend to underestimate the amount of food eaten, and overestimate the amount of energy used up with exercise.  I also think that the bioavailability of energy from a highly processed diet has a considerable bearing on body weight.
    Not everyone enjoys sport, going to the gym or exercise in general and would rather do something else rather than being active.  You don’t have to ‘be into’ exercise to enjoy physical activity and that is what we need to encourage.   Get out in the garden, go for a walk, join a dancing class, start a dog-walking business – there are many ways to increase daily energy expenditure without a structured exercise programme but it does need to be routine and enjoyed every day.

  • 2


    Joanna Sochan

    Naturopath, Nutritionist, Western Herbal Medicine Practitioner

    Joanna is a Natural Medicine Practitioner (Naturopath, Herbalist and Nutritionist) who offers an integrative and holistic approach to health and wellbeing. She applies a number … View Profile

    There are a number of factors linked to developing obesity and a damaged metabolic function is a less known but very important aspect of it. As a direct result of poor eating habits, the new research indicates that the majority of overweight and/or obese people do not have normal metabolic function, and many normal-weight people also suffer from metabolic dysfunction resulting in the inability to burn calories effectively. These individuals are therefore prone to excessive weight related conditions. Hence metabolic dysfunction should be considered as a major underlying cause of obesity - and excessive sugar consumption and eating highly processed foods are primary drivers of that.
    There are many reasons our metabolism is out of balance and therefore impedes our ability to lose weight. Studies strongly indicate that damage to the digestive tract is one of the top factors in dealing with obesity. This applies to almost everyone who is overweight and is not able to lose weight easily by cutting back on amount of food eaten (ensuring the basic nutrient needs are met) and exercising more, regardless if they think they have digestive issues or not. For a long time naturopathy has recognised the importance of gut health for the overall physical and mental health, and has developed very effective and safe treatments to repair and heal the whole digestive track. Taking actions to optimise your digestion is a very important (and achievable) first step towards successfully dealing with obesity and excess weight.
    Vitamin D is the nutrient that requires our particular attention when dealing with obesity. Low vitamin D levels have now been conclusively linked to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. One study titled Vitamin D Deficiency is the Cause of Common Obesity makes the case that the lack of this one nutrient may be at the root of our societal epidemic of obesity. It has been found that vitamin D helps slow down the increase in the number of fat cells that accompanies gaining weight. This is of crucial importance in preventing and treating obesity. Normalising vitamin D levels by supplementation and safe sun exposure is one strategy that can be easily done right now by educating patients as well as some doctors of its importance!

  • 4


    Lynda is an accredited practising dietitian, with specialities in chronic disease management ( weight management / diabetes / high cholesterol / high blood pressure) View Profile

    There are many reasons why the obesity problem continues to grow. The first is linked to the ever changing society we live in ( large portion sizes, dining out more frequently, the rise of fast food and the demise of real cooking, busy and stressful lifestyles ). The second is more individual and reflects the quality of the diet , the amount of exercise and behavior surrounding food.

    Whilst unquestionably exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle it is the food choices that people make that most often  lead to obesity.

  • 3


    Amanda Clark

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Amanda Clark (Adv APD) is a senior dietitian at Great Ideas in Nutrition on the Gold Coast. She is the creator of Portion Perfection, a … View Profile

    Well I think we're actually a pretty tech savvy nation and that's probably interfering with our activity because we're having more sedentary time. Typically, two to three hours of children's days are spent in front of the TV or involved with some computer or computer game. Apart from that, our portion sizes have increased significantly over the past 20 to 30 years.

    You only need to look at take away coffee as a good example for adults. Twenty years ago if you bought a takeaway coffee it would have been water-based and it would have been in a poly Styrofoam cup of about 200 mils. Even if you added full cream milk and a couple of sugars to that, the most you ever had in there was about 85 calories.

    Let's scale up to today's lattes and cappuccinos and the larger cups that you can get in some of the coffee shops and you could be consuming up to 490 calories in a large coffee, depending on the type of coffee you've chosen. I think that translates to a whole lot of foods and if you think about some of your own food choices and how much they've grown you'll see it is affecting all of us.

  • 3


    Lisa Renn


    Lisa is an APD with 12 years experience, specialising in helping people identify and change habits that impact negatively on their health. Inspiring change, Lisa … View Profile

    I think the statistics might show that we're not such an active nation. We like to watch sport, but whether or not we like to participate in sport is another thing. Obesity is such a multifaceted problem. Physical activity is one thing, but really, one major factor of developing a weight issue is the food that they're eating.

    You can be as physically active as you like, but if you're eating a poor-quality diet which is high in calories, high in saturated fat, then you are not going to be able to outrun those calories. It takes about two minutes to eat a doughnut and about two hours to walk it off. So it's not an even contribution. The exercise is one incredibly important part of a healthy lifestyle, but food is really the thing that determines whether or not obesity is going to be a problem.

  • 2


    Anthony is an experienced Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian. Anthony practices out of Wakefield Sports Clinic and consults to a number of elite … View Profile

    This is a really interesting question and I think we almost need to rephrase the question. I think that it's a bit of a myth really that we're an active nation. I think we're very good at watching other people do exercise. I'm not quite sure that our participation rates are as high as many people would expect.

    At a clinical level, I see a lot of people who have quite a distorted view of how much physical activity and exercise they actually do. People like to think that they're quite active when the reality is we're really a very inactive society. I think that is a big player in this. Research supports the fact that we've got reasonably low activity levels.

    Sometimes research into weight loss has sometimes clouded the situation because they're usually quite controlled circumstances and they're not always easy to interpret on an individual level. I don't think there's any doubt at the moment that we over think or we overestimate how much activity we actually do.

  • Anonymous

    Its because people are eating too much white bread all day, especially before dinner it turns straight to fat. People were never meant to eat bread especially polynesian, maori, asian people this is a western food that has made these cultures obese. People need to stick to what humans ate before modern food which is red meat, eggs, nuts, fish, salads "Paleo diet"  and cutt out all processed food and soft drinks its as simple as that. But as we know the defining factor in the obesity epidemic is not the diet , "because most people know conciously what they should be eating" but its (cost / finances) people are always going to choose junk food as its cheaper. 

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