I was lucky enough to head along to the Australian Mueseum last night for a book launch/debate about weightloss strategies. The book, 'The Weight Escape' by Joseph Ciarrochi, Ann Bailey and Russ Harris is about weightloss through use of mindfulness strategies, in particularly using ACT, also known as acceptance commitment therapy. Joseph, along with nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan, strength and conditioning coach Christian Marchegiani and public health researcher Dr Samantha Thomas discussed the various ways people become overweight, and what individuals, and the government/industry can do about this problem.
All four speakers raised great points, and highlighted one of the key things we already know; obesity is a serious health problem in Australia at present, and no one change will 'fix' it. Yes, eating healthily is important, and yes, being active is also important. But as Joanna stated, why put people through rigid diets when we know they don't work? Flexibility is key. I don't know how many times I have had clients come in expecting to be told they aren't allowed to eat a wide array of foods. Every time, my response is, 'do you think that that would be effective for you?'. Nearly every time, the response is 'no'. I think this is where the mindfulness strategies that Joseph discussed become so important. It is so much about why we want to change. If we don't really know, or believe in the reasons we want to change, how can be really be effective in actioning these changes?
An underlying theme was in relation to being kind to ourselves, and others, whilst at the same time being accountable. It is not about how we look (though this is often what people find the most important), but about our health, as individuals, and as a population. I think Christian put it very eloquently when he stated that whilst one may be overweight for many reasons that are not our fault, it is up to us to make a change, and be accountable.
Another interesting point about expenditure on food was also raised. Yes, in comparison to many other parts of the world, fresh, healthy food is more expensive. However, if you looked at the split of where the money is going, where would yours be going? It was stated that less than 1/7 of income is spent on food, where in the past, 1/3 of income was set aside for this necessity. Unfortunately, food is seen by many as an area where we can make cost savings, rather than as an essential.
Samantha's talk looked at things from a different side, in relation to how the government, and industry needs to be more accountable, and willing to make positive change. Using the analogy of cigarettes, she explained that without government intervention, we would not have seen the reduction in people smoking cigarettes as a result.
My key take home is that we all need to work together more effectively when it comes to improving our health, and this can be done in a variety of ways, from an individual, to population level. Everyone (individuals, policy makers and industry) must be more accountable, and willing to change.
I will leave it with a question posed by Joseph (which I think I may start using in my practice) - if you got to your ideal health condition, what could you do more of?
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health. This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you’d like our help in managing diet-related health issues