WTF is happening to us?
Di Westaway | CEO Wild Women On Top | Fitpreneur | Author | Speaker | Adventurer
“The key to health is finding a physical activity that we enjoy,” Di Westaway
Here’s some stats to get you thinking … Last month’s National Health Survey, which slipped past most of us as we guzzled champagne at the office Xmas Party, found that a whopping 15,000,000, or 63 percent of Australians are overweight or obese, and mental health issues affect one in 6 of us.
We are in the midst of health crisis that’s like an avalanche. And it threatens to take more than one generation down the mountain with it. Doctors, health educators, government funding, the flurry of new yoga studios, paleo celebrity chefs and any amount of wishful thinking is not slowing this one down.
I spoke to one of Australia’s top public health experts, Dr Robert Grenfell, formerly the Medical Director of the National Heart Foundation, and this is what he said:
How can we help the 63% of adults and 27% of kids who are overweight or obese?
Essentially we are eating more than we need to survive and the excess is being stored as body fat. Yes, you should exercise to maintain a healthy body, but to lose weight you need to eat less and eat right. To break this down, the issue of excessive body weight is related to the food environment you live in and the way you behave within this environment.
The food environment, or food supply as it is often called, relates to what type of food is available to buy, the cost, marketing strategies and the food processing taking place. Individual factors such as education levels, employment, income and motivation levels play a considerable role in our behavioural choices within this environment – what we choose to buy. With many of these determined at a young age, food regulators alongside labelling and pricing are pivotal in guiding healthy eating habits and choices.
I understand you’re an expert in public health as well as an advocate of the “Green Scripts” concept which allows doctors to prescribe exercise as a method of improving health. What exercise is best?
Walking alongside strength and flexibility training is key. The Australian physical activity guidelines state; “For adults aged 18-64 years, physical activity guidelines recommend 150-300 minutes of moderate or 75-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both, per week.” A minimum of 2 days of muscle strengthening activities is also recommended for 18-64-year-olds. So, my advice is to figure out how you can fit a little more walking into your day – that’s key.
Do you think walking events like Coastrek help people prioritise their health by providing a compelling goal with friends and a charity focus to keep them motivate for sustained behavioural change?
Motivation, or lack of it, is one of the handbrakes that stop us from exercising. An effective way of building and sustaining motivation to exercise is to set a goal with a group. An event like Coastrek challenges a number of these barriers – you have a goal, you are doing it with a group of friends and it is for a great cause. Training is also required which is likely to form healthy walking habits that persist beyond the event day.
For all our Wild Women mums, how important are mums in influencing the family’s food and exercise habits?
The food we eat is all about learned experience. Parents influence what types of food we like, the way we cook and how we eat. Family meals should be fun and interactive. Involve your children in cooking and preparing meals and use the family meal time to sit at the table and talk with each other. It will set things up for a healthier future for your kids and you.
What do YOU do to keep yourself healthy?
I have a good grounding on how to look after myself – and for that, I thank my parents, education and the job that allows my healthy habits to persist. In terms of eating – I buy and grow a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, limit the amount of processed foods, added salt, and saturated fats. Importantly I avoid any food fads. For exercise, I walk as much as I can. Averaged over the year, I walk 7km a day. The most important activity I do for my mental wellbeing is camping and hiking in isolated spots.
It takes extraordinary discipline to do stuff that hurts, and for most of us exercise equals pain.
We need to think differently if we are to curb obesity and get healthy.
For exercise to be done regularly, we need exercise that’s not too painful or something that distracts us from the pain. The key to health is finding a physical activity that we enjoy.