Archive for July, 2009

What is an OBESOGENIC environment?

I first saw this term yesterday in a report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, called Weighing it up: Obesity in Australia.  I had not heard it before and wasn’t sure what it meant.

So I searched for and found this definition:

“A strange-looking word, it comes from obese plus the ending -genic, something tending to generate or create. It refers to conditions that lead people to become excessively fat — a worrying trend in developed countries, especially among young people, who are eating too much of the wrong things and not taking enough exercise. The problem is variously put down to social causes (too many sedentary pursuits available; fear that the outdoors in cities is dangerous, leading to less cycling, walking and running about) or to the results of our consumer lifestyle (eating pre-prepared meals that contain excessive sugar and fats). The term seems to have appeared in the last decade and is not as yet mainstream, though it is increasingly turning up in newspapers and medical journals.” Source: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-obe1.htm

The Weighing it up: Obesity in Australia report says this about an obesogenic environment:

Societal changes have created an environment where we are time poor, rely on cars, walk less and have increased access to convenience foods. Maintaining healthy weight has ceased to be a by-product of everyday life, and instead has become a personal project requiring constant vigilance and resistance to widespread cultural and social patterns. (summarised from page 140)

That is true, isn’t it? Our whole way of life is geared towards making us unhealthy, and optimal health is something we have to consciously and actively pursue.

The Weighing it up: Obesity in Australia report also referred to a UK study, the Foresight Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Project report which can be found at http://www.foresight.gov.uk/Obesity/17.pdf

Here is a quote from Future Choices:

“The common perception is that if only people ate less and did more, the problem of obesity would be solved. The evidence …. shows that this deceptively simple analysis masks the real challenge of achieving that solution. There is an underlying complexity to obesity, which means that tackling it will be difficult and will require a multifaceted approach. Obesity is the consequence of interplay between a wide variety of variables and determinants related to individual biology, eating behaviours and physical activity, set within a social, cultural and environmental landscape.” (page 84)

The Future Choices project report contains a very interesting obesity system map, which attempts to show diagrammatically the complex relationships between the myriad of factors that lead to obesity and the implications for intervention. (Refer to pages 89 and 94 of the report) An examination of these factors shows that many of them are in fact beyond our control – we are immersed in an environment which is making it increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle – an obesogenic environment.

However, my take on it is that the situation is not hopeless. A wellness revolution is happening. People are taking responsibility for their own health, and I believe that the demands of many individuals with a common purpose will force changes to government policy, infrastructure, food growing, processing and sales methods, media and advertising, and medical interventions. The fact that we live in an obesogenic environment does not render us powerless to achieve optimal health for ourselves, but it does explain why it can sometimes be such a battle!!

Let me encourage you that YOU are the power in your world. I believe You CAN achieve your health and wellness goals.

It is part of my life’s purpose to help you achieve success 🙂

Please leave me your comments on what makes it difficult for you to achieve optimal health – whether they are internal or external influences.  I’d like to do a future article based on the input I receive.

July 18, 2009 at 3:24 am 2 comments

HAPPINESS

Have you heard this excellent quote:

Success is getting what you want.  Happiness is wanting what you get – Dale Carnegie

Do you want to be successful?  Do you want to be happy?  Will one necessarily lead to the other?

When parents are asked what they most want for their children, the response is often “I just want them to be happy”.  I certainly feel that way.  Whatever career my boys choose, if they are happy in what they are doing, then I’m happy with that.   Success is different things to different people.

Much has been written about what happiness is and how you attain it.

David Lykken of the University of Minnesota is the proponent of a set-point theory of happiness, which argues that one’s sense of well-being is part determined by genetics and part determined by circumstances. His research findings suggest that a person’s baseline levels of cheerfulness, contentment, and psychological satisfaction are largely a matter of heredity. Happiness is not tied to our external circumstances.

His studies showed that six months following the event, people who had either won the lottery or become a paraplegic returned to their former level of happiness.  I was stunned to hear that, as I thought those life changing events would change you, or at the very least that the effect would last longer than six months.

More evidence that happiness does not arise from our external circumstances is found in a study of happiness levels from around the world where Denmark was at the top of the list — but you might be surprised at how many countries with awful conditions were ahead of richer ones (the United States was number 23). It is difficult to draw conclusions from the data.  Whatever factors are noted in “happy” countries, there are examples of happiness among people who don’t share those factors. This suggests that not only are things not the key to happiness, but neither are conditions or circumstances.

Here’s a simple example: There is a poor man who is hungry and alone, yet he is happy. There is a rich man who has all the money, medical care, food, and friends he needs, and yet he is depressed. This is a true story repeated all over the world. Of course there are happy rich people and unhappy poor people too. But the fact that some people in “miserable” circumstances can have more peace of mind and contentment than some who have everything the world has to offer seems to affirm the notion that happiness is not to be found in our external circumstances.

So that leaves us with only one direction in which to search: inward.

Don’t listen to your mind when it suggests to you that “Once I have (fill in the blank) I’ll be happy.”  You may indeed be happy for a short while, but then a new desire will arise and so on, and happiness will be some elusive future thing that cannot be grapsed and enjoyed in the present.

Look inward.  You don’t need anything “out there” to be happy.  Everything you need is within you.  I encourage you to go within and find it.

To your success (in getting what you want and wanting what you get).

July 12, 2009 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment


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