You will have no doubt seen the latest headlines revealing that obesity costs us as much as smoking, and even more than war and terrorism - some pretty scary facts, but, in all honesty, as a weight-loss surgeon dealing with this issue every day, I am not surprised! What does surprise me however, is that we are not doing more to prevent this from becoming worse - and potentially bankrupting the NHS!
People have said for years that it should be down to personal responsibility to manage our weight, but the fact is that obesity rates are rising, and we are all paying for the cost of this to the NHS. Our willpower alone simply isn't enough when we are bombarded everywhere we turn with high fat, high sugar, processed foods that do little for our health and add a good deal to our waistlines!
The price we pay for convenience
Anyone will know that when we're tired, stressed and in need of a quick energy fix, we instantly reach for high sugar, high fat foods that will give us that boost of energy we're after. And when the shops are closed, where do we find these so called 'convenience' foods - from the closest vending machine of course.
Now I'm not knocking the idea of the vending machine altogether. Vending machines provide us with essential food and drinks when we may not readily be able to access them - at work, schools, the gym, the train station - and of course in places such as hospitals. My issue with vending machines is that their position is such a useful one that could be utilised to provide us with nutritious foods and energy at moments when other options aren't available. But instead, what we are offered is an array of unhealthy choices that provide us with a quick energy fix and little, if any, nutrients. Now I'm not saying we should remove the choice entirely - goodness knows we all need a chocolate fix from time to time, but surely it makes sense to offer a good variety of tasty, healthier food-stuffs in these machines too, so that healthy eating is an easier choice.
We need to make healthy options EASIER
Let's face it, almost all of us are inherently lazy - it is human nature to pick the easiest option wherever possible. In fact, a recent report on teens suggested they would only walk up to 400 yards for fast food. This means that the vending industry is perfectly placed to make a real difference to the health of the nation by focusing on vending choices that combine 24/7 convenience with health.
Last week, I was invited onto BBC Breakfast to discuss our latest campaign to encourage healthy vending, and the importance of this in fighting our obesity crisis. Together with the Automatic Vending Association (AVA), we are working to set up a Healthy Vending Award as part of our Vavista Award Scheme, which supports brands that contribute to a healthier Britain. By working will ensure that when hunger strikes we have healthier choices to hand. The AVA have stepped up to the mark - if others do their bit too, we may start to see a difference.
If you want more advice on how you can help to create a healthier lifestyle for yourself, then take a look at my Vavista Programme.