How did NZ get so fat?

Last updated 06:00 29/05/2013
tdn fat stand
Don Scott
LARGE: The obesity rate in New Zealand is on the rise.

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Our high rise in the obesity rankings has been astounding. 

Last week it was reported New Zealand has the second most overweight population in the world. Only the United States is heavier than us.

We pride ourselves as being a clean and green land full of adventurous get-out-there type individuals. So what happened? How did we once go from being physically active to becoming an office-bound, gaming, TV-watching population?

In seeking to answer this question I took a long hard look at myself, my family and ultimately the wider community. I came to the came to the conclusion that we all equally share the burden of blame.

As individuals we want to lead comfortable lives. We seek out equipment, systems and processes that will streamline our day-to-day tasks so that we can have the time to enjoy the things that bring us comfort.

There is nothing wrong with this, much of our current innovation is driven by wanting to make life easier. 

We all understand that life is no game and we only get one shot at it, so it makes sense that we would want to have the most enjoyable one we possibly can. 

However here's the snag. Life, like so many other things, is a balance between being comfortable and doing the things to ensure we have the ability to actually enjoy it. 

Unfortunately, we as individuals want to seek out the easy road at all cost. We want to earn the high wages for minimal work, we want to enjoy delicious foods but don't want to cook them ourselves, we want to lead a lifestyle where we exert minimal physical effort. 

We have allowed our education and understanding of foods to slip. For most of us, we no longer understand the ingredients that go into making the packaged foods we purchase at the supermarket. We struggle to interpret the nutritional information provided to us on each item of food we buy. We make little to no effort to educate ourselves about cooking at home, cooking fresh food and growing our own food and vegetables.

As families we have failed each other. We no longer see it as important to teach our brothers, sisters and children about good nutrition. 

We don't take the time to prepare and cook a family meal then sit down at the table together and enjoy this meal as one. 

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Many children no longer understand that some foods should be considered treats and therefore only consumed sparingly. Some children are not even aware of the link between a diet high in sugar, fats, processed foods and weight gain. 

As a community we have let each other down. Our local and national governments have given into industry pressure and failed to legislate better food labelling to make it easier for mums and dads to identify food items considered unhealthy. 

Courses run in our schools to better educate our children are woefully inadequate (at no fault of the teachers). We allow big brand shopping chains to intensively market unhealthy food to the young. Every Easter I am always disappointed when I see a child eating Easter eggs more than a month before Easter's official date. Do these children even know what Easter symbolises?

But there is good news. I am not all doom, gloom and blame. 

Looking back now, I was one of the very people I described above. I can't remember the exact reason, but something triggered change in me. I started taking my life and my health seriously. The realisation that if I wanted to be around and in good health to see and play with my potential grandchildren hit me harder than a cold front in summer.

As information is becoming freely available on the internet, in libraries and from friends and family, our knowledge about healthy eating and sustainable living is getting better each and every day. We just need to back this up with a little hard work.

Let's get back to our DIY mentality and take some level of responsibility for our lives, our children and the well-being of our community. 

Small changes to our lives now can lead to massive gains in the long run.

The next time your child says he wants and ice cream, say yes, but how about we go for a walk and play in the park and maybe grab an ice-cream on the way home. Better yet, once home, lets make ice cream together so they can see just what ingredients and effort go into making it. 

New Zealand, there are many things in life that are important, but when you are sick what is the most prominent thing on your mind? Getting healthy again.

Much like oxygen, we only think of our good health when it's not there.

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