Remember when I got a trans-Atlantic bodybuilder blogger-swap parcel? The lady who sent it to me was Joob of Hey Joob! She lives a long way away across a big ocean, but I feel like we’re very close, despite never having met. We’ve both competed in bodybuilding, and we often email each other to sound off about the finer points of training and prep. Joob is a good friend, even though we’ve never met each other. Joob – a scientist by trade – is very interested in nutrition, obesity and the politics of food marketing. Do check out her blog. Here she is with some thoughts from across the pond…
When Nic asked me to write this piece, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to ‘get involved’ but, at the same time, a little baffled about what I could say that would hold relevance across the pond since I know little to nothing about… oh… anywhere but here. (I know. I know. -10 for me.) The first thing that popped in my mind, of course, is the rising global obesity rates.
It’s not just an American or European ‘thing’. It is an issue that is creeping into the Middle East, Eastern Asia, Southern Asia, and even down to our friends in Australia & New Zealand.
To use my motherland as an example, currently 60% of women and over 70% of men in America are overweight. Over a third are obese. (No wonder the US marks down its women’s clothing sizes.) These rates are not all that far off in other places of the world, either. However, we all know these grim facts and the purpose of this post is not to get preachy/resort to scare tactics.
My concern is how we got to this point as I believe that answer will tell help us out of this mess. While I am by no means an expert, it is my opinion is that the elusive “Western Diet” (a term coined in the last decade or so) and a shift in behavioral patterns are to blame.
What do I mean?
We are all in such a hurry.
Whether it be for business, family, or pleasure, there is always something to do that seems more important than cooking a hot meal in the kitchen. I’m no exception. My Google calendar has separate sub-calendars for personal life, training, and work and I link it to my cell phone so I have access to it at all times. This way of living, however, takes a toll on our bodies.
Is it not easier to grab a conveniently packaged bar or snack pack? What about fast food? That’s a hot meal, right? Or business lunches out. Or a soda on the fly for “energy”. Or convenient 100 kCal packs because you are on a diet.
I don’t think it’s fair to blame the entire epidemic on processed foods alone, but they are certainly a huge factor. In the simplest of terms, processed foods shift your intake from nutrient dense to energy dense. Whole, unprocessed foods tend to be rich with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and, best of all, lower calorie.
Processed food-products, on the other hand, tend to be loaded with filler substances like corn starch, emulsifiers for texture, preservatives to enhance shelf life, petroleum based food dyes to make them pretty, and empty calories of no nutritional value from added sugars. Yes, those 100 kCal snack packs I mentioned before fall into this realm most easily.
The government isn’t helping, either.
While I cannot speak for the UK, lobbyists for the American food industry are absolutely brutal. They thwart any government action against the obesity epidemic time and again by watering down every proposal with the good old dollar. I largely suspect that the UK’s government is not far behind the US’s.
Marion Nestle posted a piece very recently about how the UK Government fired its advisory group on obesity.
What is a person to do?
My best advice (if you want it, that is) is to take care of yourself yourself. Continue to learn the values of whole foods and play with different recipes – there are some absolutely delicious ones out there! If you don’t have a lot of time, I recommend batch cooking once or twice a week. Moreover, investing in a quality protein powder to make your own meal replacement bars doesn’t hurt. (True, this isn’t technically a ‘whole food’ but it is a lot better than you will do with some of the bars on the market!)
At the end of the day, your health and the health of those around you matters. A lot.
Joob blogs at Hey Joob!
Thank you, Joob. Interesting stuff which I hope will get people thinking. I love your “food politics” posts and am glad to have one here on my blog.
“Guest post: Joob of Hey Joob! discusses global obesity rates” is a post from The Fit Writer blog.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.