Blinded by Science
February 7, 2014
My mum and I speak daily on the telephone. We cover family matters; discuss our lives in general and then discuss television shows we've both watched or anything in the news that caught our eye. Something in the news caught my mum's attention and she had taken offence to it.
Apparently the county in which mum and dad live hit the headlines because one of the district councils had apparently been to be (statistically) the place with the most “technically obese” people per head of population. My mum was quick to point out that it isn't the Council where they live… but the fact that Cumbria had been collectively labelled had annoyed her no end.
She defended her own small town and local Council staunchly. She pointed out that there were relatively few people there who were obese and pointed out that because they are on the edge of the Lake District and by the coast and predominantly a farming community that the locals are actually probably more active than most; definitely spend more time outdoors than “average” and many of them regularly took outdoor exercise in the form of rugby; fell-walking or as part of their “hobby” of being in the local lifeboat crew and reserve fire-fighters… (It is a small town and everyone has more than one part to play in community life generally). I agreed with her and sympathised that general opinion would see the headline and the entire County would be included in the damning assessment of their physical size.
Don't get me wrong…. I'm not disputing the fact that increased weight is a serious fact of life - not just for Cumbria but for the UK as a whole and also for a sizeable (pun intended) proportion of the western world; I understand that the health implications of an expanding population are worthy of serious attention; and I'm not ignorant of the fact that ‘statistically' I am in the “bigger-than-it-should-be-for-good-health” category when it comes to my own current waistline measurement.
Being here on WLR is an indication that I am aware of the problem and that I am addressing the weighty issue of my weight.
Being the size and shape that I currently am concerns (and upsets) me. It was not my intention to end up overweight; I didn't deliberately set out to “eat all the pies”… I just didn't pay enough attention to my eating habits; to my reaction to stressful situations; to the fact that I really did need to start “moving more” if I wasn't going to “eat less”.
My weight gain took place over a gradual period (accelerated somewhat by medication) and it was only when the size label started reading a certain number (which in my head I associated with “being fat”) that I was shocked enough to acknowledge what had happened and to then take action to remedy it.
One of the reasons I love WLR is because it promotes the idea that if you burn up more calories than you take in then you will lose weight. The “eat less move more” system is simple. It doesn't prohibit any food; it doesn't dictate any physical regime. It just points out that to lose weight we have to take action – but that the action we choose to take is entirely our own decision.
It offers advice about nutrition and exercise and sensible strategies but no-where does it state “YOU MUST NOT…” It also doesn't have a “THIS IS YOUR FAULT”… attitude. It is a place where my expanding waistline is acknowledged, as is my willingness to try to change the situation and it provides me with possibilities. It does not damn me for being rounder than I would like to be, it does not dictate what I can and cannot do. I am not told that I can't have wine; or that I must have a low-fat or low-carb eating plan. It is sets out ideas and options without being judgmental. It is a place which offers opportunities.
If I think back over the past twenty years it seems that food and drink and size and shape have been endlessly debated and analysed. The science and statistics are everywhere… Every week it seems that there is some warning or other about too much red wine; then not enough red wine. A report condemning the “fat in our food” followed closely by advice and opinion about “why we need fat in our food”. We are bombarded by information about what food is good for us and what food is bad for us. One month “eating like the French” is to be applauded as a healthy lifestyle choice; the next we are told that the Italians have the right idea; the next moment we're reading about the perils of too much olive oil. It's no wonder we get baffled, confused, or downright bored. Sometimes it really seems that, when it comes to food and drink, the rules change on a daily basis.
Don't get me wrong…
I take full responsibility for my current size and shape. No one force fed me; no-one tipped bottles of Rioja down my throat; the only reason that I could consume a litre-tub of raspberry ripple ice-cream after a tough day is because I chose to…
But sometimes I wonder if (instead of the endless statistical analysis; the conflicting reports on the merits or perils of food and drink) we might all be more interested in what the experts said if we weren't so blinded by the science and if it wasn't quite so impersonal and patronising. I know that there are many others who are in the same situation as me… but being treated as a “herd” frankly makes me irritated and disinclined to pay any attention to the points being raised.
Sometimes it doesn't have to be complex and complicated. Sometimes keeping it simple is the most effective way forward.
Eat Less Move More.
With a Hug