Give Up the Dieting: Choose a Healthy
Dieting is an obsession, a way of life for most of us. We feel that if we could just stick to a restricted plan for a given period of time, we will get to our goal weights and that will be the end of the story. We calculate how much we can
lose each week and how long it will take to get to that desired weight.
The reward at the end of the road is another special meal or dessert. Something sweet would be wonderful and we're already dreaming about how it will taste.
One of the primary problems with dieting
is that we're looking for a quick-fix, a one-time solution to a long-term problem. We
try every kind of diet imaginable, find it isn’t right for us and go on to the next one.
All the time we are feeling lousy about ourselves and our self-esteem is gone with the wind. Each time we start a new diet we're already in a failure mode. After all, we’ve gone off of every other diet we’ve been on.
Because we never think long-term, we're doomed to fail. This overwhelming desire for a simple “get it over with now” approach has cost us years. If
we had just stuck it out, we’d be where we should be, right? If we had
just gone ahead and stuck to the diet, any diet, we would be at our goal weight – and we’d be happy for life.
Well, even if we did manage to obtain that goal there’s still the problem of maintaining it – that’s another story.
The problem isn’t only what we eat
but our entire lifestyle. Addressing only one symptom won’t give us a cure
to what is ailing us. The only way to truly achieve our desired weight, to overcome our lifelong battle with food and finally be able to look at ourselves in the mirror is a change in lifestyle. It isn’t just the food that’s ruining our lives. It's our attitude and our way of thinking about the “cure” to this addiction of overeating in our lives.
We need to stop dieting. We’ve got to start thinking healthy lifestyle instead. One of the problems
with this is that we like our lifestyle of eating anything we choose. But if
we keep eating what we’ve always eaten, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten – heavier and
heavier. We need to once and for all make that difficult but magnificent decision to change our lives, not just the food that we eat.
Committing to a lifetime of healthy eating might seem a bit mind-boggling at first. We’re not
talking about never eating those wonderful foods that we love so much – the ones that got us into all this trouble in the first place. We’re
talking about a healthy lifestyle, a commitment to ourselves to be the best we can be.
Wouldn’t it be great to get up in
the morning without hating ourselves? Think of all the things we could do that our weight prevented us from doing before. Think of all the things we could try that we were too embarrassed to try before. And what about having a great feeling about ourselves instead of having self-esteem that’s been trampled into the ground.
Maybe it’s time we forego the diet. It’s time to let go of the past and move towards a great future. We’ve already given up enough years to this obsession. So let’s
pursue a healthy lifestyle instead.
Sharon B. Gilbert, Ph.D.
Source: click here
The Art of Active Listening - A Magic Bullet to Healthy Relationships.
By Rita Bigel-Casher, LCSW,
1. Abandon your own point of view for the moment.
2. Concentrate on what the other person is saying.
3. Clarify the speaker’s message.
4. Deal with the feelings the message is arousing.
In short, it demands that you actively listen.
Many years ago I discovered a program called Parent Effectiveness Training that
enabled me to speak with my children in a most effective manner.
One particular skill from this program has proven equally useful in conversations with adults.
More effective than passive listening (silence). Active Listening is an extraordinary way for two people to connect. Be they parent/child, employer/employee, friend/friend, husband/wife, adult child/parent, this skill will enhance the relationship.
Communication in a conversation occurs when:
A. One person speaks (sends a message) to another person.
C. Clarification is sought in order to help insure that the correct message was delivered.
Communication can break down when the message sent (as well as the underlying feeling that is implied in it) isn't comprehended by the receiver.
example, when after a day’s work, the wife greets the husband with the message, "I'm so exhausted, it's been
a rotten day."
She may be communicating her need to simply relate her current state of mind and body. Her spouse on the other hand, may decode her message as a demand for
him to cook tonight's dinner.
In reaction to his own misinterpretation, he then becomes angry because he doesn’t respond well to a demand and/or can't or doesn't want to meet it. Unfortunately, he has misunderstood his wife’s need to have him just listen and instead he barks,
“I’m sick and tired of your complaints, I’m tired too.”
Here is the problem. Neither partner knows what the other’s thoughts were – there are no crystal bowls handed out during the marriage ceremony. The only way to find out is to develop a
curiosity and interest in where the other person may be coming from.
Upon hearing what his wife said,
the husband could check on the accuracy of his understanding, by relating his understanding of her message. He can do this by actually guessing his wife’s thoughts – the result of his encoding process and expressing them to her.
"You want me to make dinner because you're so tired."
Now, hearing her husband's feedback, the wife is able to tell her husband that he decoded incorrectly. She could then tell him that what she really meant by her initial statement
which had been,
"I'm so exhausted, it's been a rotten day," was to just let him know how she felt, but that she
nevertheless planned to make dinner since it was her turn to do so.
This feedback process is called Active Listening and is a relationship-rescuer. In this case the husband had initially misunderstood his wife. His investigation, however, elicited her feedback that illustrated his error and allowed her to send yet another
message that clarified her initial communication.
The husband was now enabled to respond to her original message lovingly and effectively by saying, "You had a rough day and want me to know about it." What a happy ending!
ONE: The message sent may not have been received in the way that it was intended. It's essential to clarify the message.
She: So you're nervous about next week.
Yeah! You know what a pain in the butt my brother can be.
You really have a hard time with him.
I guess I’ll just deal.
You’ll figure it out as it comes at you.
He: Wow! You’re so great to talk to. You really helped me. I feel better.
To practice Active Listening take your very next opportunity in a conversation with just about anyone you know to really listen to the speaker’s statement and then reiterate the content and feelings that you heard expressed in her message.
Here’s another example:
Speaker A: “Joe shouldn't have been a supervisor in my office.”
Speaker B: “You think Joe is a poor supervisor.”
Speaker A: “No, he’s a good supervisor. It’s just that he belongs in sales, not production.”
On another case in point:
Speaker A: “That’s the last straw! Can’t you leave me alone? Why do you always tell me what
to do and then repeat yourself 2 or 3 times? It’s like you think I’m an idiot or something.”
Speaker B: “You feel picked on because I’m neurotic and I tend to repeat myself.”
Speaker A: “Yes! Do you know this really makes me feel like I’m in boot camp again.”
Speaker B: “How about our taking another look at our household task assignments?”
In the first example, Speaker B actively listened to A & A was able to clarify the message for B.
3. It raises the speaker’s self-esteem by demonstrating an interest in what the speaker is saying.
4. It can help defuse the speaker’s anger or emotional state letting him or her know that you hear, accept (but not necessarily approve) and understand.
5. It helps the speaker clarify his or her own thinking by giving some feedback on what feelings and attitudes you're hearing.
DIRECTIONS: Now that you have identified the feelings being expressed, try to determine the content of the message as well. By putting the two together, you're Actively Listening.
Note below, in the left column is the message sent. Cover up the right column and say or write your own response.
Keep in mind both feeling and content (cause for feeling) in the right hand column as part of your response.
OTHERS’ STATEMENT YOUR
1. All I ever do around here is clean up after you. You’re really fed up with doing doing work that
you think belongs to me.
2. No matter what I do, nobody seems to
care. You’re disappointed that your opinion doesn’t seem to matter.
3. What do you mean I’ve been late the last 3
times we've met for dinner? You’re surprised that I’ve kept track of some of your bad habits.
4. I don’t believe it! You’re asking me to wash the dishes again? You’re angry because you think that I’m being unfair.
5. All they give a damn about in here is the almighty dollar - You’re
frustrated because they don’t understand your problem.
6. Sometimes, I don’t even know why I You’re ready
to give up. You bother trying. think that it’s useless to keep trying, that things never change.
7. I will not! You’re always picking on me. Get someone else! You’re
really mad because you think that I’m being unfair to
8. I can’t live under these prison-like
conditions - You’re discouraged, you want to do your best but you can’t without some cooperation from me.
5 lousy minutes! You’re carrying on. You’re upset because you think because I was ready to leave in 5 minutes/ I’m making an issue over 5 minutes early.
Now that you understand the Active Listening skill, think back to a conversation that was a problem in terms of relating to another person.
Describe it to your self – write it down or say it out loud. Write down or say the Active Listening formula that could rectify the condition.
Take your earliest opportunity to revive the conversation with that person and use your new skill
to heal the rift and lift the relationship to a higher level.
Tips for Living a Healthy Life
Deon Du Plessis
What is more important than the way you feel? Is there anything more important? Your physical health, the way your body "feels", is probably the most important determining factor in the way you feel. Any feeling, weather it be physical or emotional is experienced through our bodies
and by applying these simple tips for living a healthy life, the way you feel will vastly
Psychoneuroimmunology, the science of the mind-body relationship, has now
produced scientific evidence of the effect of your mind on your body and vice versa. Depressed people use their bodies in a certain way that causes them to feel depressed and by just changing simple things like their facial expressions, studies have shown, they can literally change the way they feel instantly.
The significance of this fact is that it proves beyond
a shadow of a doubt that our physical bodies have a tremendous effect on the way we feel both physically and emotionally.
The one thing we are all pursuing in life is happiness and happiness is nothing but "feeling good." By following some basic tips for living a healthy life we
can make significant changes in the way we feel physically, emotionally and mentally.
We've all heard the cliché
"a healthy body houses a healthy mind" and thanks to scientific
research we now know this for a fact. Also, the opposite is equally true: a healthy mind
equals a healthy body. If we learn to be in control of our emotional association to food, we will automatically take care of our bodies. The instant satisfaction we get from junk food caused a lot of people to make pleasurable association (in their
subconscious minds) to these foods that lead to overeating and addiction.
Living a healthy life starts with your body.
If you take care of your body you will develop that sense of pride in yourself and the consequently the way you feel about yourself (or your self esteem).
With this in mind, let me offer you some very simple and basic
tips for living a healthy life.
Firstly, realize the importance of oxygen to your body and your health. Breathing is not just to get oxygen to our vital organs. Every cell in your body
requires oxygen for it's survival and health.
You are only as healthy as the cells in your body. In order to fully oxygenate our bodies we must learn to breathe deeply, fully
and effectively. Deep, diaphragmatic breaths will, apart from oxygenating your system, stimulate the movement of lymph fluid
through the body.
Lymph is the body's natural cleansing system, essential to keeping your cells free
from toxins and maintaining a healthy environment for the cells of your body to live in.
To breathe properly you must breathe in the following ratio:
For example inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 8 seconds and exhale for 16 seconds. Doing
this simple exercise with 10 deep breaths 5 times a day will vastly increase your health, your energy and help maintain a
healthy immune system.
Secondly, understand the
importance of water to your body and health. Our bodies consist mainly of fluids and water, along with oxygen is the basis of all life.
Taking sufficient amounts of water is essential for health and life, but also we need to avoid foods that drain our bodies
from vital fluids.
Foods that are high in sugar, salt, caffeine and preservatives will actually absorb
fluids from your body causing certain vital functions to shut down. Eating foods that are naturally rich in water is essential
and include all fruits, vegetables and sprouts.
Your body is your temple and what
you put in is what you get out. Stop abusing it and adhere to these simple tips for living a healthy life. The very least you must do
to life a healthy life is to stop depriving your body from the two most essential element, water and oxygen.
simple tips for living a healthy life will vastly improve your health and consequently the
way you feel. When we feel good life is a pleasure and we suck from it all the juice. Life is a gift and know that tomorrow
is not promised to you. Live everyday like it's your last and constantly seek out tips for living a
healthy life and improving yourself and the quality of your life.
It's all out there and the only thing that is required to have whatever you want
from life is for you to go and get it. Just do it and do it with passion and joy.
source: click here
Healthy Eating – Success with Positive Aging Begins
with Healthy Eating
By Celia Westberry
We all dream of changing in 30 days. We all expect instant rewards at the speed of thought. And, we also
expect success at first try. However we were not programmed that way. It takes many years to develop the ingrained pattern
for leading our unique lives. The path to winning with positive ageing begins with re- programming the mind.
have chosen the life enhancement of healthy eating, expect success. However your present eating habits and patterns have been
ingrained possibly from child hood. Here is a simple behavior that leads to success. Notice yourself. It helps you to identify
and learn how you operate with food and how to navigate the path to change to ensure success.
As you create an intention
to change, notice your emotions. Let’s say you have an intention to eat healthy. You might have to deal with fear of
failure, insecurities of choice of food and resistance to learning new life skills. Holding the intention is the way to success.
relish the mistakes. When you perceive a failure, don’t stop trying! Adopt the practice to immediately Start Over. This
might sound simple, but it is a powerful mind focusing and behavior altering technique for anyone serious about switching
to positive ageing using healthy eating techniques.
To maintain your focus, become mindful of your task. Notice if
your energy shifts when you fret about a failure. Notice how you feel if you skip the fretting and just Start Over. This helps
your new pattern to become truly ingrained in your consciousness as you replace the old pattern. It’s like a musician
practicing the same scale on a piano until he feels it is perfect. Musicians don’t say, I made a mistake and give up.
Musicians know “it takes a joyful sound to make the world go round” and this is the process it takes to turn your
For instance, at your favorite coffee shop you automatically order your usual 500 calorie sugary drink.
Forget about chastising yourself, or accepting your old behavior, just simply Start Over. Order a healthier drink now! Treat
the unhealthy drink as a sacrifice and do it with out judgment, without feeling unworthy or feeling that this new path is
impossible or that you are designed to be an unhealthy failure. Right then and there you began again. You Started Over. And
old wise saying – Now Is the Moment of Power – is working here. It helps you to stay present and not go back to
pass behavior or dread the future.
When making positive ageing changes it helps to scrutinize your old patterns. Become
aware of what automatic behavior brings you comfort and joy. Can you visualize you life without this pattern? These are the
times that you will constantly have to remind yourself that you can Start Over. You want to eat a healthy breakfast but you
never have time. A starting over pattern would be to reorganize your shopping and preparation time. Winners exceed their expectations
by Starting Over.
What Is Authentic Health & Wellness Consciousness?
By Nancy Hicks
one can expect a cure of a physical ailment without remembering their spiritual connection within. When one believes a cure comes from anything in the outer world, it is an illusion...not so.
is only a temporary band aid for any symptom or illness. If you wish to understand more about ‘a cure’, you must be ready to go inside yourself to your very core….Spirit/Soul (Part of the One Spirit/Soul). It is returning to one’s own Source of Being and remembering
that they are unlimited and powerful. It is remembering Perfect Health is one’s origin and who they truly are.
Health and Wellness includes all aspects of well-being and it is multi-leveled. When there is balance (free flowing energy/consciousness) in all levels, cures are able to manifest.
must be true to self by going to the cause of any illness and/or symptom. The origin of wellness is Spiritual Connection, returning to and remembering At-One-Ment (Atonement). Within in us is
our Source of Perfect Health and Wellness.
When one allows the true self to be in charge and they get in control of their mind, they then can practice perfect health and preventive health.
deepest of all levels is one's own spiritual connection and commitment.
do you trust Creator/God/Great Spirit as your healer?
emphasis do you put on worldly Gods and treatments?
know more than God?
you remember God's power within you?
Another level of consciousness that affects authentic health and wellness
is the Mental Level.
much does your mind guide you? (rather than your heart?)
your beliefs allow you to trust your heart (God within)
Another level of inner well-being is the Emotional
you even know what your emotions are? or do they silently eat away at you?
you respond or react to your emotions?
***Emotions are often the mediator/messenger between your spiritual and human understanding and healing.
Then comes the Physical Level of Authentic Health and Wellness (the result of inner health and wellness)
health and wellness can not be authentic unless one goes to the causes in deeper levels of well-being.
you only come from a physical treatment, then you only relieve symptoms and do not find a cure.
is a messenger telling you something is going on or not going on in deeper levels.
one realizes that they have been created in the image of God/Creator/Spirit, they become empowered and begin to own their true responsibilities that are their very own about returning and remembering their true nature of Perfect Health. The more one chooses to become
responsible for their own healing from Source, the better chance they have to be healed.
the Law of the Universe, there is a process of healing or being healed. A human must realize a few steps and practice it in
their life continuously………..
of all, a human thinks, then this thought is transmitted to the collective consciousness, and then the human receives what they thought. Therefore one must become in charge of and take control of their mind. They must realize that it is their mental patterns that the Universe answers to. These patterns can be conscious
Therefore if a person thinks and believes in Wellness, this is what the Universe provides for them. On the other hand if they think and speak about non health, this is what the Universe provides. Therefore humans must own the creatorship abilities that
God/Creator/Spirit has share with them. Creative Power answers and gives from the thoughts it is given.
Therefore the thoughts and knowingness of Perfect Health must return and be continuously believed, assured, and lived throughout all levels of authentic health and wellness consciousness.
one resists or blocks at any of the different levels, then cure is not ordinarily attained.
if one does not believe and commit to remembering their spiritual atonement, they can not stand a chance of cure.
mental and spiritual levels work hand in hand with thought, creativity, and manifestation. The emotional level is the communicator. The emotions communicate whether we believe and live from our Source. If not then non health can begin to manifest. Therefore the emotional level is the mediator between
Spirit and body. Most often people do not pay attention to the messages of the emotions. The emotions become stuck and blocked. There can no longer be connection with our Source of Healing, Spirit.
The body cannot heal without the well-being
of the Spiritual, Mental, and Emotional layers of our consciousness. This is often advanced understanding as to how one can return to and remember Perfect Health. It is this return, relearning, and remembering that brings forth
Many times, humans are only interested in the physical consciousness. They
forget that there is much more to authentic health and wellness. Cure evades their lives and symptoms reoccur over and over.
is understandable when one realizes that they are not trusting and having faith in the Spirit-Body connection. If one does not pay attention to and become in control of mind, they are trusting the outer world as their God and/or healer. If they don’t pay attention to their emotions, they can not comprehend what their Spirit and Mind are trying to tell them.
summary Perfect Health can only be obtained and lived, if a person trusts their inner self who has curing abilities. One must take charge of their mind (that has forgotten who they
truly are and the capabilities that have been given in the image of God). One must connect with Spirit and transform any mental, emotional, physical patterns that limit and block their ability to heal and be cured. (This does not mean to hand over responsibilities to the outside world.)
The outside world can only assist. The questions
become: Is the person that is assisting connected consciously within………are they committed to their spiritual connection first? Are they in control of their mind that is being ruled by human race consciousness?
they listen to their emotions, their messengers for Spirit and Mind? Do they serve as a mentor for ‘Self Healing’, Perfect Health, and multi-leveled
consciousness regarding causes and cures?
One can not singly pay attention to physical
health… if they desire cures. Separation from Spirit, Mind, and Emotions can only cause sickness.
It's never too early to start building
By Lois B. Morris , Lois B. Morris is a freelance writer in New York.
a teenager complain about how fat she feels isn't unusual, but when the remark comes from a 7-year-old, it can be quite a
shock. Unfortunately, today's obsession with being super thin is taking root earlier and earlier in childhood. Even a first
grader is likely to believe that "thinner is better," reports a recent Australian study of more than 500 school-age girls
precocious desire for thinness can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors at a time when good nutrition is critical to healthy physical development: Nearly one in three 10 to 14 year-old girls restricts
her food intake, concludes a Canadian survey of 2,220.
Unrealistic expectations about what a body should look like not only lead to bad eating habits, but they're emotionally damaging, too, says Linda
Smolak, PhD, a Kenyon College psychologist who studies body image and eating disorder development in children and adolescents.
routinely find that about 40% of elementary school girls and 25% of elementary school boys are dissatisfied with their bodies," she says. And these unhappy and self-conscious kids, like adults with negative body images, report more frequent feelings of depression, insecurity, and anxiety.
also more prone to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, says Kathy Kater, a psychotherapist in North St. Paul, MN, who has treated these problems for more than 25 years.
The key to thwarting goals that are unhealthy, if not impossible to attain, is for parents and teachers to counter the images that bombard kids. And it's probably never
too early, say these experts, to monitor information kids are exposed to in the media, to become aware of your own biases, and to establish realistic and healthy expectations.
You can change the way your child thinks about her - or his - body before misconceptions and harmful behavior patterns become firmly entrenched. And keep it up. The
idealized images may change as your child matures, but from preschool through high school, parents need to stay one step ahead of impressionable minds.
movies, music videos, fashion magazines, video games, and the Internet inundate children with unfiltered, unreliable, and
unrealistic messages about what is beautiful and desirable. "Children don't know how to discriminate between entertainment and advertising, " says Kater.
wait for kids to ask about what they see on the screen or in photos the way you might wait for questions about how babies
are made. Instead, be alert to opportunities for explaining that the ultra thin young actress or the super-muscular athlete
has a body that is not realistic for most of us.
that commercials touting extreme weight loss success aren't meant for kids, and that such diets really aren't healthy for adults, either. Give
older children more facts. For instance, most fashion models are thinner than 98% of us. (Go
to National Eating Disorders Association for more surprising stats.)
might hear your daughter say, "Yuck. Look at that fat girl. She needs to be on a diet." Respond by explaining that, although being too heavy can be unhealthy, dieting usually isn't the solution - and being heavy doesn't make someone yucky or bad. Tell her that instead of dieting,
it's better to eat healthful foods and move your body every day.
the current health concerns about childhood obesity, some parents worry that showing acceptance toward all sizes might give kids the wrong idea about being able to eat with abandon. That won't happen if you're consistently providing messages - including your own behavior - about nutritious foods and exercise, says Kater.
you're talking to your kids about their body image, listen to those little comments you make about yourself like "I feel fat today" or "I have to lose 5 pounds before bathing-suit
season." Sound familiar? Remember, you're caught up in the same culture that's influencing your children, and what you say
about your own body will strongly influence how your child sees herself, especially if she is under age 12, says Smolak. Children
model their beliefs and behaviors on what you do, not on what you say they should do.
Don't overlook boys.
emphasis on male muscularity - witness the pumped-up rappers in music videos, beefy athletes, and super-muscular action hero
toys - has increased the number of boys with body image issues and may be leading them to another danger. Steroid use among adolescents, which can increase risk of heart attack, stroke, and liver damage, has increased 50% since 1991.
the drugs is all too easy, thanks to Internet access. Help your son understand that muscle development will naturally occur during puberty, and that what he sees on TV and in magazines is an exaggeration
of a normal male body. Encourage boys to work toward getting a strong body the best way possible: with healthful foods and plenty of exercise. You can find more information about steroid risks at National Institute on Drug Abuse or American Academy of Pediatrics.
Source site: click here
Prevention Magazine Online
Why address the socioeconomic determinants of young people’s health?
Health is largely determined
by the socioeconomic, cultural & environmental conditions in which we live.
According to the 2001/2002 survey of the Health Behavior in School-aged Children study
– which covered approximately 162 000 adolescents
aged 11, 13 & 15 years in 35 countries of Europe & North America – adolescents from less-affluent families report worse health & increased exposure to certain risk factors
than those from more affluent backgrounds.
poorer socioeconomic groups typically have fewer opportunities to maintain & promote their health.
They tend to experience:
home, school & neighborhood environments that
are less conducive to healthy growth & development
less access to quality education & fewer
opportunities for advanced studies, with lower levels of family member education
economic precariousness at household &
community levels, with fewer overall job opportunities & limited access to professional jobs that offer socioeconomic mobility
the trans-generational continuity of poor socioeconomic
circumstances & associated health problems
less access to quality health services
Tackling health inequities
demands that the wider determinants of health throughout the life-course be addressed. Adolescence (defined by WHO as the period between 10–19 years of age)
requires particular attention. Many life-lasting health behaviors & attitudes, including self-esteem & resilience, are formulated during this period.
In addition, ill
health acquired during adolescence can have lasting impacts
on health status into adulthood.
Forum 2006: addressing the socioeconomic determinants of healthy eating habits
& physical activity levels among adolescents
Without the engagement
of a wide range of sectors & stronger health systems for better prevention & control, large numbers of people will continue to die every year
from mostly preventable diseases.[...]
7 leading risk factors:
account for almost 60% of all ill health in the Region.
WHO Regional Office for Europe Press Release EURO/05/06
The first WHO/HBSC Forum was held on 10–11
March 2006 & was dedicated to the socioeconomic determinants of healthy eating habits & physical activity levels among adolescents.
The Forum 2006 agenda is shown in Annex 1. This publication presents the WHO/HBSC Forum 2006 outcomes statement, the
HBSC background paper & 10 case studies produced thru
the Forum 2006 process.
The selection of healthy eating habits & physical
activity as the theme for Forum 2006 corresponds to the marked rise in child & adolescent obesity in Europe.
Obesity represents one of the greatest
public health challenges for the 21st century, with particularly alarming
trends in several parts of the world, including the WHO European Region. In this regard, the WHO/HBSC Forum 2006 contributed to evidence gathered thru the consultations leading to the WHO European
Ministerial Conference on Counteracting Obesity (Istanbul,
Unhealthy diets & physical inactivity are major
contributors to overweight & obesity, which are among the leading risk factors for many non-communicable diseases. The most significant consequences for health of overweight & obesity
include hypertension & hyperlipidaemia (major risk factors),
coronary heart disease, ischaemic stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain
types of cancer, osteoporosis & psychosocial problems.
Opportunities for physical activity & healthy
eating habits are largely determined by social, economic & cultural factors & physical environments that influence access, availability & uptake. As a result, overweight &
obesity have the greatest impact on the poorest people within
communities & have significant long-term consequences for one of societies’ most vulnerable groups – children.
In order to be effective, policies & interventions
to tackle overweight & obesity must address the socioeconomic
determinants of unhealthy diets & physical inactivity.
Head, WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development
Why address the socioeconomic determinants of healthy eating habits &
physical activity levels among young people in the WHO European Region?
1. What is the problem?
Obesity among children
and adolescents – which is strongly determined by social, cultural and economic factors and the physical environment – is on the rise in many Member States of the WHO European Region.
Within many Member States,
young people from poor backgrounds are disproportionately affected.
2. How do we know about this problem?
The above statements
are supported by a number of national and international studies that allow comparisons to be made across countries and over time. Central to these is the WHO collaborative cross-national study Health
Behavior in School aged Children (HBSC).
The findings of
the HBSC study in the areas of obesity, eating habits, physical activity and mental health (including life satisfaction and body image) were central to the discussions at the WHO/HBSC Forum
on this subject held on 10–11 March 2006 in Florence,
3. How has the problem of obesity in children and
Young people are now surrounded by products which
are high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat, attractive, palatable and durable,
but in many cases are nutritionally poor. In many
countries, these products typically cost less and are more readily available than more healthy options, a reality that is largely determined by food and agricultural policies and
Manufacturers and marketers can expend significant
resources promoting products directly to children, using branding techniques that can feature cartoon characters or other images that are recognizable & appealing to children.
In some countries, expansion in the availability
of television channels and computer games targeting children, compounded by changes in culture and family composition, has contributed to an increase in the number of hours children spend
in sedentary activities.
Children’s energy expenditure has been further
decreased by reductions in levels of human-powered transportation
schemes (walking & cycling) and, in some cases, fewer school & community opportunities for engaging in sporting activities.
Studies show that many young people, particularly
young women, are very conscious of their bodies & feel inadequate when they compare themselves to heavily promoted, digitally enhanced media stereotypes of ultra-thin models.
The same may be true of some young males & their perception of sporting icons. Negative body image & lower
levels of self esteem can lead to psychosocial problems
& exacerbate health-damaging behaviors.
A poor child typically has increased exposure to
unhealthy home & community environments, decreased access to quality education & health services & a higher probability of a clustering of transgenerational health problems &
unhealthy behaviors. These negative health influences account
for a social gradient in obesity.
The gradient is reinforced by difficulty in accessing or affording the healthiest food choices & opportunities
for physical activity.
Our young people, particularly those from low-income
households, now grow up in an obesogenic environment. In other words, they grow up in an environment that makes it more likely that they'll become overweight.
4. Why does this matter?
Overweight children tend to become overweight adults.
Overweight adults live shorter lives & suffer a number of illnesses, particularly diabetes & ischaemic heart disease, to a greater degree during those shorter lives.
Obesity & overweight in children & adolescents
may interfere with normal psychosocial, emotional & physical development. Self-consciousness or lack of physical fitness may prevent children from taking part in sport & physical
activities, therefore denying them the physical, mental
& social benefits that they would otherwise obtain.
Poor nutrition, particularly the missing of breakfast or its substitution with high-sugar foods & drinks, may adversely
affect a child’s ability to learn during school hours.
Finally, a child’s sense of self-worth & confidence may be undermined further if he or she's teased because of weight.
When taken as a whole, it's clear that poor nutrition
& in particular, calorie over-consumption, especially if combined with a lack of physical exercise & low levels of self-esteem, predisposes children to obesity. Obesity predisposes children
& adolescents to ill health in adult life, while also
having immediate effects on the health of adolescents, as indicated by the earlier appearance of type 2 diabetes.
Children & adolescents aren''t adult consumers.
They can't be expected to assume full responsibility for their eating & physical activity patterns. They have a right to
be brought up in an environment that's health promoting & that enables them to make increasingly informed choices about their lifestyle.
It's becoming clear that social, cultural & economic
factors & the physical environment are major contributors to the obesity problems being recorded across Europe. If we're serious about stopping & reversing this trend, policies
need to move beyond the individual focus & take an inter-sectoral
approach to counteracting obesity.
5. Why act now?
There's no evidence that the trend in growing childhood
obesity is flattening off, let alone reversing. It's therefore imperative that Member State governments & international agencies, including WHO, agree a set of actions now.
Otherwise, growing obesity rates may lead to a financial crippling of health services as they seek to deal with the consequences
of this epidemic in decades to come.
6. What would help tackle this problem?
The following principles would be important in all
cross-government action with very senior political
an explicit recognition that the obesogenic environment
described above & its socioeconomic determinants need to be tackled
a commitment to taking a population-wide
approach to promoting healthy eating habits & physical activity levels, while targeting resources where the need is greatest to reduce health inequities
a determination not to blame the victims
The following proposals would be worth consideration.
That systematic engagement by the health sector of
other sectors – including city & regional planning, agriculture, education, transport, social protection & welfare, environment & sport & culture – is required to
address the wider determinants of eating habits & physical
activity among children & adolescents.
That healthy food, particularly fresh fruits &
vegetables, must be affordable & accessible to all population groups.
That legislation should ensure that the private sector
meets guidelines – including those regarding marketing to children – for corporate social responsibility. That,
in light of the influence of marketing & “pop” culture on young people’s health & health behaviors,
interventions should include education for youth on how
to become informed consumers.
That all food provided in the context of formal education
must meet nutritional guidelines – forming part of a varied & balanced diet – & that snacks high in sugar & salt & carbonated sugary drinks should be eliminated
from all school & nursery facilities. That increased resources need to be directed towards intercepting the passing of obesity from mother
That school curricula should include the opportunity
for all children to participate in between 30 minutes to one hour of physical activity per day & that schemes to develop safe & active routes to schools for all young people should
be promoted with the collaboration of parents, education,
urban planning & environment departments.
That further research is required on mental health
aspects that result from obesity & those that make some young people more vulnerable to obesogenic environments.
7. What would we like policy-makers to consider?
To explicitly acknowledge:
that childhood obesity is a problem for all Member
States and that – in many countries – it disproportionately affects those of lower socioeconomic status, who also suffer a cluster of other disadvantages
that unless tackled, childhood obesity will increasingly
affect the physical & mental health of young people & the quality of their lives
that unless tackled, childhood obesity can give
rise to diabetes & ischaemic heart disease & other difficulties in adult life, which can measurably shorten life expectancy & greatly increase health care costs
that childhood obesity can't be blamed on either
children or their immediate families & it's largely the product of our modern physical environments & their social, cultural & economic determinants
that there's a need to tackle obesogenic environments
using levers such as agricultural policies, market restraints on advertising to children, health-promoting city planning, integration of health-promotion strategies into social protection/welfare policies & sustained integration of measures promoting healthy
eating habits, physical activity & mental wellbeing opportunities
that the above actions need to be supported thru
intersectoral governance mechanisms that enable stewardship by all relevant sectors.
To commit all Member States to building a culture
of healthy physical activity in our schools & in our communities. To commit all Member States to further monitoring & evaluating the impact of policy changes & interventions
on eating habits, physical activity & mental well-being
among children & adolescents & to support further research on child obesity & best practices for its prevention & treatment.
Overweight in school-aged children in 35 countries: associations with eating habits, physical activity, socioeconomic
status & perceived health
The dramatic increase in body weight affecting all
age groups has been defined by the World Health Organization as a global epidemic with immense consequences for public health (1,2).
The development is, to a large extent, a result of
reduced physical activity & changes in eating &
dieting habits as a consequence of environmental changes. These changes are related to urbanization, industrialization, economic development & increasing food market globalization.
It's been stated that without robust & decisive approaches to prevention & treatment of obesity, substantial &
long-lasting health & social consequences will result
for global societies.
Identifying children & adolescents as key target
groups for overweight prevention & intervention is of critical importance.
The prevalence of childhood overweight has increased
disturbingly since the 1980s. Published data suggest that overweight among children & young people has doubled & obesity has increased fourfold in some regions (3).
Close to 1 in 4 schoolchildren in the 25 European Union (EU) Member States is overweight, with the number increasing
by more than 400 000 new cases every year (4).
As overweight prevalence rises, the body of evidence
documenting health consequences of paediatric obesity grows. Obese young people are at greater risk of health problems such as poor glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, type 2 diabetes,
hypertension & asthma (5).
Overweight & obesity in young people persist
into adulthood to compromise long-term health through their
association with morbidity & increased risk of premature mortality from coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis & certain types of cancer (5).
The psychological effects of obesity may be perceived
by children & adolescents as more important than the physical. Evidence increasingly suggests that overweight & obesity in children & adolescents are associated with low
self-esteem, low psychological well-being, a high level
of psychosomatic complaints & low life satisfaction (5,6).
Children & adolescents with obesity report that they don't like their own body, feel sad & lonely, anxious &
unsure & don't have as many social contacts as children
with normal weight. Differences in psychological well-being within the group of obese children are connected to the severity of obesity: the greater the body mass index (BMI), the worse the
subjective ratings of psychological well-being.
Overweight-prevention strategies might have greater
effects when targeted at children & young people for several reasons (7):
children, based on their height-growth potential,
are more likely to return to a normal growth parameter if weight is controlled
lifestyle behaviors are formed in childhood & continue into adulthood
young people might be more flexible in their capability
to change living patterns.
In order to develop & implement the most effective
intervention strategies, there's a need to:
This background paper presents a “map”
depicting the overweight prevalence among nationally representative samples of school-aged children in 35 countries participating in the WHO cross-national Health Behavior in School-aged
Children study 2001/2002 (8).
The paper also describes physical activity patterns,
sedentary behaviors, eating habits & perceived health
for the study sample & presents documented associations between these factors & BMI.
Finally, the association between each of the variables & socioeconomic determinants is addressed.