What is an OBESOGENIC environment?

July 18, 2009 at 3:24 am 2 comments

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.


Entry filed under: Health and wellness, Make a difference. Tags: , , , , , .


2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jon Wade  |  March 10, 2011 at 12:31 am

    The whole of society has become an obesegenic environment now. It is crazy really.

    Stuff that makes me fail:

    1. my kids have treats, I eat them too
    2. walking past a bakery (ok, bakers have been around for a long time).
    3. chocolate everywhere!
    4. Beer, love a beer.

    Still trying to get in shape, been a long time. New report from Harvard (I think…) about Walmart and Obesogenic Environments – research has shown a clear link between more Walmarts and increase rates of obesity.

    • 2. suzimorris  |  March 10, 2011 at 3:28 am

      Thanks for your comments Jon – the report you mention is very interesting.


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