Is it poverty or gluttony which causes obesity?

So … I was reading The Observer on Sunday, when I came across a commentary by Barbara Ellen entitled “Poverty not gluttony is the cause of obesity”.

I strongly disagree with the main thrust of the article, which is that poverty is the main cause of obesity. Lets just think about it for a moment. A hundred years ago, when people were poor and had hardly any income, they weren’t obese, they were very slim, and often starving. Nowadays, people on low or higher income are increasingly obese. This means our consumption of foods that are readily available for us in supermarkets or elsewhere has changed. The choices that individual people are making on a weekly or daily basis on what kind of foods they are eating has moved from plain healthy fresh produce to overproduced sugary and fatty ready made options. If there is someone to blame, than it is the food industry that allows us to have these unhealthy choices ready for consumption. I seriously believe, one way to tackle the whole problem would be if supermarkets would offer their clients more advice on how to shop for healthy food options on various budgets. e.g. have a personal shopping assistant who is freely available and specifically trained in nutrition.

I think that there is a slight change in people’s buying habits that can be noticed over the years. Certainly, bigger supermarkets are realising the trend that people are shopping less and less with them. There is a trend that more people are going to their local green grocers and butchers to shop for locally produced fresh vegetables, fruits and meats and also save money in doing so. Weekly or monthly markets in various cities and towns are more and more common and well visited by locals.

Regarding her comments offering the advice “eat less, move more” as being “numbskull”, I don’t know what to say other than this advice is very true. Someone usually becomes obese if over many years they constantly over-consume food and do not burn off that nutritional intake by being active. If somebody happens to weigh 25 stones, being active could simply mean starting to walk on a daily basis, which does not cost anything, and eating healthier, less fatty, less sugary ready made foods, again which would not spoil their bank account. In fact, the general advice from sports scientists is to be moderately active for 150 minutes per week. This could simply mean a brisk walk for at least 20 minutes per day, with the aim of feeling warm or slightly sweaty at the end of it. This kind of activity level can greatly reduce your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, bowel cancer or breast cancer in future.

As for hiring a personal trainer to motivate you, yes, maybe people with lower income can’t afford this option, probably not on a weekly basis. However, seeing a health expert once a month to receive adequate guidance and reassurance about a safe exercise and eating routine is affordable for anyone, given the fact that hourly rates of personal health experts have stagnated over the last 5 years. To top it off, to argue that people cannot afford to go to a local gym on a monthly basis is a bit far fetched. I am aware of local gyms in my area who offer monthly memberships of £15 per month. There are even daily gym passes on offer these days at less than £6, meaning you could use the gym if the weather is not good enough to go out for a brisk 30-60 mind walk. The truth of the matter is, as long as people are not making the right choices, obesity will become an even bigger problem for human kind than it already is. Education and information is the key, but ultimately it is down to each individual what choices they make on how to live their lives.

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