In many parts of the developed western world food consumption high in saturated fats and sugars, is increasing. But what does a supersizing culture of consumption mean for the United Kingdom…. will it be that supersizing will lead to a downsizing of our health resources in an attempt to address the impact on the health of our nation? As the expanding waistline of the UK increases, is the consumer consuming too many calories when faced with a “supersize” choice?
The average adult male requires 2,500 calories per day, the average female needs 1,800 calories per day. Increased calorific intake should be matched by metabolic demand, age and other factors. In England, the proportion of adults that were overweight including obese, increased between 1993 and 2012 from 57.6% to 66.6% among men and from 48.6% to 57.2% among women.1 The impact of this on health is increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other health related problems resulting in increased mortality and morbidity. Encouragingly, 67% of men and 55% of women aged 16 and over met the new recommendations for aerobic activity, however, 26% of women and 19% of men were still classed as inactive.1
The impact of a sedentary lifestyle coupled with excess calories of the “unhealthy” variety seem to be present in our culture of convenience/fast foods of tall, large and supersize meal deals and portions. Many children also now have a sedentary lifestyle; driven to school and taking little exercise outside of school hours. It is recommended that five to 18 year olds should take 60 minutes moderate to vigorous exercise everyday.3 With some children now being classed as obese, the availability of junk food and non-traditional mealtimes, compounding a culture of unhealthy eating choices.2
Unless the trend turns from a supersizing culture, a supersize population will become commonplace, with the health reducing complications to match. “Eating for health, eating for life”, should be our mantra – from birth to death with a common sense approach to balanced meals. An educative approach that does not start or stop at the school gates for our children, but continues in the home and becomes our value base in early adulthood and for life. Understanding lifestyle choices deepens our understanding of the approaches to tackle the obesity trend.
Government initiatives such as Change4Life “Eat Well, Move More, Live Longer”, is utilising health behaviour models, urging people to look at their eating and health behaviours in relation to taking more exercise, swapping to healthy snacking to lose weight.2 Further actions to tackle increased sugar intake among children and young people; consuming three times the recommended amount of sugar on average, with adults consuming more than double the daily intake.3 Requires a more holistic approach to address public health concerns associated with obesity and the health, wellbeing and social care impact requires a “whole systems approach”.5
Supersize my full fat coke, latte or add extra cheese on a carb-on-carb laden meal should be questioned – not just by the individual but by the government, advertising watchdogs, parents, teachers and health professionals. Not in a judgemental manner but to provide a basic understanding of nutrition. The hidden calories in convenience foods coupled with the importance of exercise is required to reverse a concept that “supersizing drinks and portions of food” is not detrimental to health. It is, all the public health data concerning the health of children and adults and obesity data from the USA, where obesity is of a national concern, is undeniable. The psychology of food is an important consideration too, mealtimes, attitudes towards food having a complex interplay in our cultural and social history and upbringing. If “interconnectedness” of public health messages is the way forward, then the understanding that health choices do not happen in a vacuum needs to be part of that connection.
1. HSCIC. Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England, 2014. London: Health and Social Care Information Centre.
2. Change4Life. Eat Well, Move More, Live Longer, 2015. weightlossresources.co.uk/healthy_eating/healthy-lifestyle/change-for-life.htm (accessed 20 October 2015).
3. Public Health England. New evidence review of measures to reduce sugar consumption, 2015. Press Release, 22nd October 2015.
4. Public Health England. What works in schools and colleges to increase physical activity? A briefing for head teachers, college principals, staff working in education settings, directors of public health and wider partners. October 2015. London: PHE Publications.
5. Public Health England. Whole systems approach to obesity, 2015. gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/473860/Whole_system_obesity_local_authority_EOI_letter.pdf (accessed 18 November 2015).
Guy Tucker is the expert blogger for the Nursing in Practice Lifestyle resource centre. He has worked for many years in the community both as a district nurse and as a community matron specialising in the impact of long-term health conditions. He is now a senior lecturer/ programme leader in district nursing at Northumbria University. He holds a MSc in long term health conditions, graduating from Teesside University and is also a fellow of the Queen`s Nursing Institute and Queen`s Nurse.
You are currently leaving the Nursing in Practice site. Are you sure you want to proceed?