- Understand that there is a stigma, and it is not a good or fair thing.
- Understand the health and personal perception benefits of maintaining a “normal” weight, and work steadily towards achieving and maintaining it for yourself and others
- Do not call yourself or others “obese”, because the word has lost its true meaning. It has become a word used to describe social outcasts. If you think of yourself as obese, you might start to behave as a social outcast, and be treated accordingly. If you think of someone you know as being obese, you will start to look down on them from a great height, to the detriment of your relationship.
- Do not wear clothes that make you feel fat. Do not eat foods that make you feel like a fat person. Do not avoid crowds and conversations. If anyone makes negative comments about your weight, find some aspect of their appearance to return the favour because no one is perfect. Go about your daily business as You, instead of being that Sad Fat Person.
- It means that the contents of our shopping baskets are determined by export markets. Why is it more and more common to find Gold Kiwifruit in the supermarket, where before there was only Green Kiwifruit? It is because Gold Kiwifruit is smoother and sweeter than Green, and much more favoured in China. The producers in New Zealand now grow much more Gold and comparatively less Green, so we end up with a different mix of choices. The new choice is not itself a bad thing, until producers stop growing Green Kiwifruit altogether and our grandchildren never get to experience their unique tang.
- Lack of diversity for commercial reasons. When international markets are targeted, producers and investors look for sure things rather than experimental products. It makes more commercial sense to grow massive amounts of Fuji apples in your orchard if you know that there is a steady and growing demand for it from a consolidated buyer, rather than growing a mix of Fuji, Green Dragon, Pink Pearl and Pink Lady, even if you know that you could sell a few hundred kilos of Pink Pearl at your local farmers’ market. When was the last time you saw Pink Pearl apples at your local supermarket?
- The push for ever greater productivity to meet high demand means that large producers are always looking for efficiencies. It now takes just over 40 days from the time a chicken is hatched to the time it ends up in the Meat Section of your local supermarket – quite a feat considering that chickens ‘in the wild’ have a lifespan of 10+ years and 30 years ago it used to take farmers almost 80 days to get chickens ready for market. Chicken produced in the new rapid way (let’s call it ‘fast’ chicken) is much cheaper than chicken grown in a slower-paced environment, but some consumers might still want the alternative ‘slow’ chicken. This is because some consumers might feel better about buying a meat product that has experienced some degree of dignity during its life. As industry consolidation continues and producers get bigger and more automated, it is possible that there will be so few ‘slow chicken’ producers left that it will be far too expensive for the average family to eat anything but the ‘fast’ chicken.
- Food mileage has become a real issue for some consumers. Some studies have shown that the average total distance travelled by the contents of the average Australian food basket is over 70,000km, which is almost twice the circumference of the earth! This is important because such long transport distances must be enabled by energy-hungry freight methods like refrigerated trucks, trains, ships, and planes. The food itself must often be treated with preservative chemicals and subjected to unusual temperatures and packaging so that it can survive the journey to arrive looking freshly picked. Ever wonder why some bananas come wrapped in airtight wraps with red paper covering the stalks? Have you ever tried to breathe the gas trapped in the wrapper just as you rip it?
- Profit sharing is a consideration for some consumers. According to local farmer advocates, only 18 cents out of every dollar spent at local Australian supermarkets go to the food grower. Some consumers would prefer to see more of the money they spend go directly to the farmer, rather than the supply chain which supports him or her.
- Grow some of your own food in your back yard. Get the kids involved with planting and maintaining a seasonal vegetable patch.
- Visit local farmers’ markets whenever you can. Unfortunately, some marketeers in these gatherings exploit the good intentions of their customers by overcharging, but you can often find high quality, reasonably priced produce.
- Shop at your local independent grocer if you notice that they stock slightly unorthodox products. Products sourced from major food distributors have a certain uniformity which is quite difficult to disguise. A sure sign that your local is using independent producers is when there are major price differences between their leafy vegetables (kale, lettuce, cabbage, bok-choy) compared to the major supermarkets.
- Buy some of your food from smaller distributors who purposefully avoid Big Producers. They make a point to source produce directly from small-scale producers and deliver it directly to consumers, thereby cutting out several links of the modern supply-chain.
- Eat one of your regular meals so that you are not hungry or thirsty.
- Write down a list of groceries you need for the next week.
- Visit an online store and order exactly what is on your list. Junk food is much less tempting when it is just a small picture arranged in a category with everything else.
- Vitamin D: Everyone learns about plant photosynthesis in school, but less is taught about human photosynthesis. Human photosynthesis is happens when UVB light from the sun gets into the skin and converts a chemical already in the skin layers (dehydrocholesterol) into a form which your body uses to make vitamin D. Vitamin D regulates at least 1,000 different genes in the human body which govern virtually every single type of body tissue. The active form of vitamin D is vitally important for the neuromuscular and immune systems, as well as calcium metabolism. This means that a shortage of vitamin D causes a wide range of problems in just about every part of the body, but it does not usually cause a complete failure of any single organ. A person deficient in vitamin D may have lots of niggling issues like a less-effective immune system, sore joints, low energy levels, and less-effective nerve and brain function. It may take much longer to bounce back from relatively minor infections like those which cause sore throats and winter coughs. These problems may develop into or cause significant health issues like osteoporosis or chronic infections. In fact, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to dementia, prostate and breast cancer – all of which cause far more deaths than skin cancer! In children, a deficiency in vitamin D causes Rickets, an irreversible condition where bones are not formed properly and limbs become bent and misshapen. It is estimated that over 30% of all adults in Australia are deficient in vitamin D, but it is hard to pin down the exact number down because their symptoms are not obvious.
- Circadian rhythm: Circadian rhythms are present in the majority of plants and animals, including humans. They are cycles of body function which repeat themselves every 24 hours or so. An obvious component of the human circadian rhythm is sleep, but there many other cycles which are less visible. Numerous studies have shown that disrupting normal circadian rhythms can cause severe health problems including metabolic issues like diabetes and obesity. Morning sunlight contains blue light which, when entering human eyes, promotes healthy circadian rhythms by causing the body to release melatonin (an important hormone), which triggers a robust circadian rhythm. Bright morning light exposure has been shown to treat seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual syndrome and insomnia.
- Skin infections: Sunlight kills bacteria and fungi that cause skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and tinea. You might have noticed that paving stones in the shade are much more likely to grow mould than paving stones which get lots of sunlight. The same principles work broadly with your skin!
- Use the Burn System: This is going to sound too simple to be worth mentioning but here it is: Go directly under the sun as often as possible, but get into the shade as soon as you feel the burn. The burn is a unique feeling, different from the warmth or heat that you might get from an air-conditioning unit or electric heater. When you feel the sun burning, that is the beginning of sunburn, which is the effect of UVB rays damaging the DNA of your skin. You feel it deep in your skin and something equally deep in your brain tells you to move to shade and water quickly. (That burn is why elephants wallow and birds bath. That burn is why people choose to sunbathe near the sea or some other big and inviting body of water. It feels luxurious to be able to get to water and shade whenever you feel the burn, even if you don’t really swim.) It is hardly a revolutionary concept, but humans and animals have used this simple system instinctively for millions of years. The length of time it takes to feel the burning sensation depends on several factors including your skin type, the time of day, or where you are in the world. In the middle of the Sahara Desert at midday it could take two minutes before you get that feeling, or it might take all day in Northern Greenland. Your body’s senses have been fine-tuned to recognise danger, based on millions of years of evolution, so listen and act in accordance with your instincts. Do not lie on the beach and tolerate the burning just because you have been led to believe that your expensive sunscreen is keeping you safe. By the same token, do not stress out if your skin turns brown after a couple of hours out on the lake if you do not feel the burn.
- Protect the more sensitive skin areas with clothing and sunglasses. Skin on the face and eyes is much thinner and more susceptible to damage, so they should be protected more than other skin areas. Even with protection, you must ultimately rely on the Burn System (see above).
- Use sunscreen very sparingly. This flies in the face of what we are usually told to do but there are real, good reasons to avoid sunscreen. Most sunscreens contain chemicals like xybenxybenzone which can disrupt normal hormone function and cause skin cancer, and retinyl palmitate which is also a carcinogen. Perhaps more importantly, sunscreen blocks the very same UV light which your body needs to make vitamin D. Sunscreen confuses your internal warning system (the burn) by delaying it in the areas where it is applied. Since it is difficult to get it spread everywhere unless you bath in it, you may jeopardise the health of some parts of your skin (because your “sunscreened” parts are not feeling the burn soon enough). And then there is the clincher: a 2015 study in the US showed that over 80% of sunscreens sold over the counter simply do not work!
- Build more muscle: Different types of body tissue uses different amounts of energy for basic functioning, maintenance and repair. Muscle needs about 5 times more energy to maintain than fat does, which is one reason why an active 100kg body-builder needs many more calories than a 100kg sedentary overweight person. Having more muscle is probably the surest way to increase the rate of calories burned during sleep. Women should remember that weight-training does not naturally lead them to gain large bulky muscles, because their bodies do not have enough testosterone to allow large muscle mass without hormone supplementation.
- Exercise to strain your body: When your body is strained through high intensity workouts it takes hours to recover, and the recovery process burns calories throughout. An example of a high intensity workout would be going all-out on a rowing machine for 2 minutes, as opposed to rowing sedately and steadily for 20 minutes. You will continue to burn calories in your sleep from the 2 minute row, whereas your calorie burn from the 20 minute row pretty much ends when your workout does.
- Do not starve yourself: Whilst it is okay to fast for about 24 hours, it is not a good idea to move onto a very low calorie diet for a sustained period of time. Other serious health reasons aside, starving yourself will cause the rate of energy used for basic bodily functions to drop significantly. This is because your body tries to conserve energy when it is shocked into “thinking” that you cannot get enough food to survive, so it slows down inside.
- Relax and breathe: Taking time out of your day to relax and focus on deep, even breathing will reduce stress levels. Stress causes the body’s internal functions to slow down because the same hormones which indicate the threat of starvation are active. A stress-free body will burn more calories over time than a stressed-out one.
- Weigh yourself in the privacy of your own bathroom at home, in the morning before breakfast. Do not wear outer clothes or towels which will affect the results. Privacy is important because you are most emotionally vulnerable in the first few seconds of reading the scale. Good or bad, you need a few minutes to absorb the information and come to terms with it on your own. One thoughtless look or off the cuff comment from somebody standing over your shoulder could damage your motivation to keep up with your weight management plan. By all means share the result with people who want you to win, but do it only after you have encouraged yourself internally and insulated your resolve from even the slightest negative vibe. Motivation and resolve comes from within.
- Weigh yourself on the same day, at the same time, once per week. You should not weigh yourself more than once per week because body weight fluctuates naturally throughout the day and from day to day because of variations in body water composition and material in the digestive tract. The roller-coaster of emotions you will go through as the scales report short-term gains and losses are harmful to your long-term sustained motivation. If you have managed to keep a calorie deficit going for seven days prior to your last weigh-in, you will see a reduction in your body weight.
- For women, do not weigh yourself during your menstruation period because your body temporarily retains more water than usual so you may get a less-useful result.
- Do not weigh yourself if it happens that you had an absolutely overindulgent feast (or series of feasts) one or two days before the weigh-in. You will not destroy your weight management plan if you overeat for one or two days in the week, but it will take about two days to get your body weight back to the baseline. If you weigh yourself before your weight has returned to the baseline, you might become needlessly frustrated with the whole plan.
- The average bathroom scale is not necessarily perfectly accurate, but as long as you use the same scale every week you will get meaningful results. Sometimes different scales are calibrated differently, so try to stick to one. The scale at your gym, doctor’s office or local shopping mall will probably not agree with the one in your bathroom so don’t stress out if you get a different reading from them if you happen to weigh yourself there.
- Record your results. This is probably the most important tip, because if you can measure it you can improve it. Even if you keep up the regular weigh-ins for just three or four weeks, the recorded results can be used for years into the future. There are few things as satisfying as looking at results from last year and realising that you have become much healthier. There are few things as motivating as looking at results from last year and realising that you have been and can be much healthier than you are today.
- Do not get out of bed in alarm. If your alarm or kids or cockatoo wakes you up each morning so that you leap out of bed, heart pounding, then you are getting up on the wrong side of the bed. Choose an alarm that wakes you gently, with the sound of gentle chimes or flute music. Move slowly and calmly as you get out of bed.
- Every morning before you do anything else, look at something natural for a few minutes. A tree, a waterfall, a lawn, a cloud. Nature is fractal, so let your mind dwell on how small things make big things and bigger things.
- Try not to multi-task. Eat breakfast before you watch TV or read emails. Don’t eat when you watch TV. Don’t watch TV when you read emails. Concentrate on one thing at a time. If something disturbs you whilst you are doing something else, do not ignore the interruption. Deal with it until it is done before returning to the thing you were doing. Concentration is the basis of meditation.
- Look at what is actually going on, when it is happening. Pretend that you are watching your home sports team in a crowded stadium and its a nail-biter. Nothing else matters except what is happening on the pitch right now. Two minutes ago when the other team scored to take the lead does not matter. Two days from now when your team parades the trophy down main street does not matter. What matters is what is happening right at that moment because the moment determines the past and the future. The past because it won’t matter that the other team scored if your team does well in this moment and wins the game. The future because the parade won’t matter if it does not happen because your team does not do well in this moment. You know this truth about the moment, so all of your attention is on the moment and nothing else. If you are driving to work and the traffic report comes on the radio to let you know about bad delays ahead, the enjoyment of your commute has been badly eroded. Bad traffic or not, your expectation has been negatively charged. You expect trouble, so you try to think of ways to avoid it. You ruminate on why you did not leave earlier, perhaps you start to blame somebody else for taking up your time earlier in the day. When some other frustrated driver cuts in front of you, stress levels increase and you stew all the way to the office. Meanwhile, you are still driving your car along the same road, taking the same amount of time as you would have done if you had not let the traffic report affect you. When you are driving, just drive. Take the time to feel the engine’s vibration through the steering wheel. Think about the small stones that make the road and how they came from deep within the earth when liquid magma became lava from a volcano then cooled to give you something smooth to ride on.
- Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Compassion for others makes one self-aware and self-secure. When you can see and understand the pressures of work deadlines and family trouble in the lines of your work colleague’s face, you will see and understand your own problems more clearly. When you sense the desperation and frustration in the tone of the CEO’s latest memo to all staff, and realise that she is fighting battles of her own even as you fight yours, you will realise that we are all in the same boat even if not all of us understand it. Help those around you if you can, without being condescending or pitying. Everyone needs help, and everyone needs to help.
Ever had that feeling? When you are hungry, or you think that you are hungry, or you know that you should eat something, but you just don’t feel like eating?
Sometimes there is a tinge of nausea or stomach-tightening when you think about whatever’s in the fridge or café cabinet. Sometimes your mind is preoccupied with something and it feels like there is no capacity for your brain to deal with anything else like preparing a meal or even chewing and swallowing. Sometimes you are ill with the flu or a niggling headache and you just don’t have an appetite. You take a bite out of a sandwich or banana and immediately lose interest in finishing it. What to do?
First up, don’t stress about it. Usually, when you are hungry you will have a good appetite because your body systems are all functioning in the way that nature intended. Sometimes, the “wires get crossed” and your urge to eat does not sync with everything else. Wait for up to a couple of hours and you may find that your appetite is back and you can enjoy the postponed meal.
Drink lots of water. This will keep you hydrated and get your digestive system moving. If water has no appeal for you, then try something with tang like lemonade or apple juice.
Whilst you are waiting, do something that gets your circulation going. A light walk, some housework or gardening, or even a trip to do some window-shopping will help. When you wait it out, it is helpful to be in a social environment where you can have a laugh and chat with other people. Humans are social beings, we get cues and sub-conscious motivators from people around us. Appetite is promoted when the environment around us is vibrant and engaging. Ever notice how good your appetite is when you are enjoying a holiday in a new place?
If that does not seem to do the trick, try eating whilst you do something else, so that your attention is directed away from whatever is causing your lack of appetite. Movies, books, video games, social media, the internet, TV and 101 other things can divert your attention as you steadily work your way through a meal.
Now on to what to eat. A general rule of thumb is: keep it simple and keep it small. A small meal every few hours is a much better idea than going for many hours between meals.
Here are some suggestions:
Soup or broth. Sometimes a warm bone broth or tasty tomato soup will unlock the system and get those digestive juices flowing. They are easy to make and easy to eat, especially if you serve them in a mug which can be sipped whilst you work or play.
Boiled eggs. Eggs a chock-full of nutrients and easy to digest. Make a couple of hard-boiled eggs, add a dash of salt and pepper and you could be ready for something more substantial in a couple of hours as they work their nutrient magic. If you have not eaten for a while, the eggs, which have a bit of everything you need, will give you a nice sustained energy boost.
Bananas. Choose a ripe one which peels easily to benefit from soothing low-acid sustenance which is packed with potassium and magnesium. Many people find that bananas help with nausea.
If you feel like getting creative and having some fun with flavour, try your own designer smoothie. You may find that thinking about your recipe as an experiment might stimulate your taste-buds. What does a simple banana smoothie taste like when you add a spoon of peanut butter to the mix? How about a scoop of mascarpone to strawberries and milk?
If none of this works then try the ultimate urban solution: visit the food-court of your local shopping mall. Walk around and take in the sights and smells. Decide on what you do not like, and what you do like (if anything). Even if you still don’t feel like eating immediately, you will benefit from having been immersed in the possibilities and might find the inspiration you need to get some food into your belly!