Obesity in the UK is increasing and the current cost of this to society as reported on page 12 of the Sunday Times, 30th October 2016, is estimated at between "£27 and £46 Billion". That's more than the sum of all Council Tax paid in the UK.
And this increase is happening not only amongst the adult population. It's also across all primary age groups.
Obese children are more likely to have asthma, muscle and bone problems, depression and time off school for illness. They tend to become obese adults too, who are nearly seven times more likely to become type 2 diabetics, risking blindness and limb amputation as we found in another recent blog post.
They are also facing twice the chance of an early death and regrettably those from deprived backgrounds are particularly vulnerable.
A National Mission No Longer?
Unfortunately, a "National Mission" to create a generation of healthy children has now been shelved by UK Government ministers and along with this a target to halve childhood obesity in the next ten years.
That target might have saved as many as 800,000 children aged between 2 - 15 in 2026 from the effects of obesity.
So, what should we do?
A Zen proverb goes, "When walking walk, when eating eat".
It sounds rather elegant in its simplicity don't you think, and eminently sensible too? Surely though a problem of this scale and potential impact requires a society-wide shift in thinking and attitudes of equal magnitude.
Are You A Champion?
The "National Mission" as it was originally set out called for the recruitment of 1 Million Champions to help children lead healthier lives. It also included a challenge to retailers to promote healthier food options, together with calorie labelling in restaurants, takeaways and cafes.
On the one hand, maintaining a healthy weight is a matter of simple physics - Calories consumed must be less then calories burned...used...expended - But in the modern world fraught with distractions and in our daily lives with time at a premium, is it ever that simple?
Food should be a parable to Wellness, but in our 24/7 world many of us have moved a long way from a healthy and even less conscious relationship with what we eat. We consume whilst we are being consumed by myriad pressures and distractions. We rarely give anything our full attention, so it's not surprising that this also seems to apply to what we put in our mouths as well.
And anyway sometimes the healthy option just doesn't do it!
However, what if we were to start giving what we eat our full attention?
Game Changing Discoveries
Over the past twenty years or so, there have been game-changing discoveries about the nature of the Brain and how it really works. With the latest technology we can now look into our heads in the minutest detail and we now know that Mindfulness works.
The Brain in not immutable, unchanging after a certain point in childhood. It is in fact neuroplastic and regular Mindfulness practice has been shown to affect and change existing neural pathways, create new neural connections and strengthen those areas of the Brain where creativity, compassion and happiness abide.
And I talk all about this in much more detail in Chapter Three of my Book, 'Uncovering Mindfulness:In Search Of A Life More Meaningful'.
But what all this New Science also tells us about taking a Mindfulness approach to how we eat and how we live, is equally compelling. Simply slowing down when eating your food and savoring each forkful as it enters the mouth, will help you to feel more satisfied, fuller, sated!
The Science Bit
If we eat in a Mindful Way the hypothalamus has a chance to release the neurons to produce the pro-upiomelanocortin (POMC) peptides that signal fullness and can stop us overeating.
For many though this can be quite a challenge. How often do we eat on auto-pilot, &/or at the thrall of a screen, or mobile device, a book maybe, or a magazine or newspaper? And this doesn't just happen at home, does it?
Picture the scene. You're out to eat and how many of your fellow diners, and indeed yourself, are engaged in the restaurant experience? It doesn't matter whether it's Macdonald's on the one hand, or a white linen and silver ware joint on the other, where you might be paying a fair wedge for your slice of pie.
I've seen it. You've seen it. Is it so hateful to look up from that screen and take part in the present moment experience? To be mentally as well as physically present?
Commensality, Food & Other Stuff
No, but many of us have almost forgotten our manners and how we should be. Worse still we're passing this lack of observance and consciousness on to our children, whether we mean to or not!
Commensality, food and the act of eating are bound together with the connections we have with family, society and identity. We are at heart social animals who do better emotionally and intellectually in groups.
A Shared Meal provides connectivity and a meeting point for reaffirming existing bonds and familial ties, together with the opportunity to foster new social relations and experiences with like-minded individuals.
Don't Waste The Opportunity
We can't do that if we are not wholly present and if technology or some other medium is allowed to intercede. In this respect these can consume our Attention and paradoxically fragment this inter-connectedness.
Don't waste these opportunities, because wouldn't you really rather know what is happening, when it is happening. Wouldn't you like to be fully Present in your own life. To simply Be & to be in the moment?
And who knows, your weight and overall general health and wellbeing could all be net beneficiaries!
To find out more about what Mindfulness can do and how to do it, you can get a copy of my current book, 'Uncovering Mindfulness: In Search Of A Life More Meaningful'' by clicking on the link here or going to www.bookboon.com
As well as this I am also author of the 'Coffee & A Cup of Mindfulness' and the 'Mindful Hacks For Mindful Living & Mindful Working' series, &, presenter of the 'From Mindfulness With Love' series on iTunes.
I work with business leaders, organisations and individuals in support of change, leadership excellence and introducing Mindfulness and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org