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Everything you need to know about National Obesity Week 2021

 This week is National Obesity Awareness Week in the UK.  If you felt inclined to scroll through our previous blog posts, you would see a post from 2020 which provided information on obesity in the UK in the context of that year. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to just re- upload that original blog for National Obesity Awareness Week this year? Unfortunately, since then we have lived through a two- year global pandemic (how could we forget?!) which has greatly impacted life generally, but also our weight… 

You may have heard the term ‘obesity crisis’ being used on the news and in the papers- but what exactly does this mean? Why is the UK in an obesity crisis? And why is it so important to tackle obesity? 

Why is the UK in an ‘obesity crisis’?  

In the last 20 years, the number of clinically obese Brits has doubled. The latest figures show that, 28% of adults are obese, and a further 36% are overweight – meaning that 64% of the population are above an ideal healthy weight. In children, nearly a quarter of Year 1 children (aged 4-5) are overweight or obese. By the time they start secondary school, this number has grown to 1 in 3 (35.1%).   

Obesity rates in the UK continue to rise faster than in any other developed country, making us the most overweight country in Western Europe. Overall, obesity is the second biggest cause of early deaths in the UK (after smoking), and costs the NHS £5.1 billion every year.   

What exactly does it mean to be ‘obese’?  

The NHS define ‘obesity’  as being ‘very overweight with a lot of body fat’.   

BMI (Body Mass Index) is the most common way of diagnosing somebody as obese. BMI is a score worked out from your height and weight. Anybody with a BMI score of 30 or more is classified as being obese (a score of 25+ suggests you are overweight. To be a healthy weight you want your BMI to be somewhere in between 18.5 and 24.9). If you know your height and weight, you can find out your BMI using an online calculator 

Diagnosing obesity in children is slightly different, because the BMI score also takes into account their age and gender. An obese child would be in or above the 95th BMI centile, suggesting they are heavier than 95% of other children their age. This is something a school nurse or GP can calculate for you. 

Why is living with obesity bad for your health?

  • Obesity can reduce your life expectancy by 3 – 10 years.   
  • Obesity can lead to serious health conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.   
  • Being obese puts you at greater risk of stroke, some types of cancer, and heart, liver and kidney disease.   
  • Obesity can negatively affect your mental health, leading to depression and low self-esteem.   
  • Day-to-day problems caused by obesity include: difficulty doing physical activity, breathlessness, feeling tired and sluggish, aches and pains in your back and joints.   
  • Although children are less likely to experience some of the more life altering diseases associated with obesity until they are adults, the chances of being an obese adult are much higher for those who were overweight or obese as a child. What is more, children with obesity have been shown to feel more socially excluded at school, impacting their grades as well as their mental health.  

How is COVID- 19 related to obesity?

Two years after the first infection of COVID-19 was discovered, infection rates remain high across the world, and particularly so in the UK. Whilst COVID-19 has implications for anyone who becomes infected (at the very least, resulting in an isolation period of up to 10 days), the most severe health complications and the need for hospitalisation have been linked to medically vulnerable groups, including those classified as overweight or obese.  

How COVID has made it harder to maintain a healthy weight 

Unfortunately, many of the activities that contribute to a healthy lifestyle have been harder to achieve during the pandemic. We are moving less and doing less, meaning that we are more likely to consume more energy than we use. Food has become a comfort for many who have been unable to see family or friends, who may be experiencing poor mental health owing to isolation, or for people who are otherwise just bored! At the same time, social activities have been limited, meaning people are less likely to be keeping active when walking to work, going to the gym or seeing friends and instead, many have found themselves spending more time sitting in front of a screen. Combined with our culture of junk food advertising, cheap and convenient fast food– letting your weight creep up is easily done!  

…But it’s not all doom and gloom  

The government are running lots of schemes to try and tackle the obesity crisis, with a target to halve child obesity by 2030. Campaigns like Change4Life educates families on how to make healthier choices, and the sugar tax aims to discourage consumption of fizzy drinks.   

Plus there are plenty of ways you can start creating healthy habits right now, to pass on to your children, grandchildren, friends and family. 

Just a few small changes are all it takes to make a big difference to maintaining a healthy weight.   

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

Here are some quick wins for making healthier food choices:  

  • Eat five (or more!) portions of fruit and vegetables every day 
  • Be aware of your portion sizes – men, women and children will all require different sized meals. Download this guide to help you measure out suitable portion sizes using just your hands – handy!   
  • Plan your meals (and your shopping list!) in advance, so that you’re always prepared with nutritious, healthy food. 
  • Use the Eatwell Guide when planning your meals to ensure a healthy, balanced diet.   

Move more

Upping your activity levels will help to keep you and your family at a healthy weight. But don’t worry if you’re not particularly sporty or dread the gym, any type of movement counts as exercise! Here are some ideas to get you started:  

  • Playing family games together like ‘it’ or dodgeball  
  • Walking the dog (if you don’t have one – borrow one!)  
  • Gardening (if you don’t have a garden, why not volunteer at a community project?)
  • A new hobby like: horse riding, circus skills, hula hooping, fencing  
  • Walking instead of driving/getting the bus (even just getting off the bus a stop sooner and walking the rest of the way!)  

Use our Hh method to break old habits and replace them with healthy ones!

Our behaviour change experts use the ‘Habit before the habit’ (Hh) method to help people make healthy habits second nature. This method is very simple, but not easy! 

It involves identifying the things that cause you to make an unhealthy choice, and experiment with making small changes to your routine to try and change that behaviour. ‘Experiment, Fail, Learn, Repeat’ is a useful mantra to keep in mind when trying to change a behaviour. Find out more about how to use the Hh method here. 

Do it together!

You’ll be most successful in maintaining healthy habits if you have the support of the people around you. That’s why attending a weight management group can be so useful if you have a bit of weight to lose to reach a healthy BMI. BeeZee Bodies groups are tailored to different types of people, so you’ll be able to attend with likeminded people like you.

You’ll learn lots of useful nutrition information to enable you to make healthier food choices, be supported in getting more active and discover new activities, and understand how to make long lasting change for a healthier lifestyle. You’ll also make loads of new friends and be able to support each other.