Why have we become the biggest nation on earth?
Famous for our sun, sand and sea, it seems Australia can now add a new and unfortunate accolade to our opulent portfolio obesity. The image of the average Australian typically used to be all about a tanned and tight physique, but if we carry on down this slippery slope, tourists will be bounding to Bondi not for the beautiful beach but for a spot of whale watching.
Our new title of most obese nation is nothing to laugh about, however. A study released on June 19 revealed that a whopping 26 percent of Australian adults (four million people) is obese. Once at a more respectable mid-ranking spot on the world obesity scale, we have steadily heaved our way to the top spot.
So what are we doing so differently to have given us such expanding waistbands? Are our smoothies being spiked with liquid lard, our gyms installed with faulty calorie burners or our suntan lotion infused with suet? ninemsn Health sizes up some possible contenders for our growth as a nation.
Fast food chains have the money to snake their way up the busiest streets and swallow up healthier, less lardy food outlets. Speed and convenience on top of their ubiquity have made high-fat foods an easy option. And if their physical prominence weren't enough when you are out and about, a study carried out by the Health Strategies Division of the Cancer Council found that between 6pm and 9pm over 80 percent of food advertising on television was for unhealthy grub. And it's not just adults who are being targeted. If you rise early enough to catch weekend children's TV, you'll discover that the breaks are peppered with fatty food ads. Surely no child should crave a McDonald's breakfast before sunrise?
The time we spend sitting at our desks has increased over the years, which could be a big factor in our new heavyweight title. Between 1974 and 1997 there was no marked difference in the average time we spent at work; however, since then the amount of time spent working outside the hours of nine to five and over the weekend has increased (Bittman & Rice, 2002). That, on top of the tendency to eat at our desks and drive from door to door, provides a shortcut to piling on the kilos.
Increase in indoor activities
Do you find yourself adding more and more television programs to your must-see viewing list? With the surge of drama on the box, we are being drawn into a sitting square-eyed stationary state. According to a count by the Bureau of Transport and Communication Economics, the average Aussie spends around 22 hours a week in front of the television. TV fans may scoff that there is time for both exercise and viewing, but according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity, people watching between 2.5 and four hours of television a day were 183 percent more likely to be fat. Makes you rethink your post-work activities a little…
We all like to have a good time and let off steam but with binge drinking a huge problem in Australia, overdoing alcohol is having a huge negative impact on health. On the long list of alcohol's downsides, gaining weight is often overlooked. Adding a few glasses of wine or beer to your daily energy intake requires an effort to burn it off effort that isn't too easy after having a drink!
Reliance on quick fixes
Perhaps it's our growing reliance on quick fixes, faddy diets and cosmetics that has undermined our healthy approach to life. According to cosmetic physicians, Aussies spent over $300 million on procedures to enhance their appearance in 2007, which is more per capita than is spent in the US. As well as going under the knife, the plethora of cellulite creams and firming lotions that have flooded the market are a slothful alternative to the gym.
The problem of obesity is no longer just personal but national. A global reputation for being overweight and unhealthy is not how anyone wants to be known and so the issue becomes one for the whole Australian population to address.