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Give Up the Dieting: Choose a Healthy Lifestyle Instead

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, PhD
Listening is hard work. Countless thoughts interrupt our focus, distracting us and blocking our understanding of one another. All too often, we're more interested in expressing our thoughts, than in hearing someone else’s. Obstacles to good communication magically melt away when we learn how to truly listen to another person.

Effective listening requires that you:
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.
B. The message sent is received by the second person and hopefully understood in the way it was intended.
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.

For 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!

To be an effective communicator and improve your relationships, you'll want to begin to practice this important skill of Active Listening. All you need do is understand two concepts that so many people confuse.

ONE: The message sent may not have been received in the way that it was intended. It's essential to clarify the message.
TWO: Good loving listening, which is at the heart of a successful relationship, requires true understanding and reflection. The person you're in relationship with will feel understood and nurtured and will want to return the favor.

Active Listening:
What: The ability to respond to what someone is saying by maintaining an emotional distance. This requires the listener to suspend judgment and subdue her resulting feelings or response. To use this tool successfully, it's particularly important to learn how to defer your own reactions.

Why: This way of communicating frees your partner to be honest with you and encourages him to reveal himself. Therefore, you can be completely available to be supportive of your partner’s true feelings and concerns.

How: Reflect, mirror, paraphrase, repeat, or summarize what you hear, as opposed to defend or fix.

For Example:

He: I’m feeling anxious about dinner with my family.
She: So you're nervous about next week.
He: Yeah! You know what a pain in the butt my brother can be.
She: You really have a hard time with him.
He: I guess I’ll just deal.
She: 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.

Here’s a tip.
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.
In the second case, B used Active Listening to show understanding and acceptance of A’s feelings, allowing A’s anger to fade once it was expressed.
The two could then go on to a problem-solving discussion unhampered by antagonism.

Active Listening can help communication in several significant ways.
1. It slows down the communication process, offering more time to think, feel and reflect.
2. It helps clarify the communication.
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.

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.

9. 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
By 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 improve.

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:
inhale(1) :
hold(2) :
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.

Applying these 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.

Once you 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.

Next 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 life around.

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.

source: selfgrowth.com


What Is Authentic Health & Wellness Consciousness?
By Nancy Hicks
No 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.
It 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.

Authentic 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.
One 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.

The deepest of all levels is one's own spiritual connection and commitment.
How much do you trust Creator/God/Great Spirit as your healer?
How much emphasis do you put on worldly Gods and treatments?
Do humans know more than God?
Do you remember God's power within you?

Another level of consciousness that affects authentic health and wellness is the Mental Level.
How much does your mind guide you? (rather than your heart?)
What are your thoughts and beliefs about Wellness (rather than sickness)
Do your beliefs allow you to trust your heart (God within)

Another level of inner well-being is the Emotional Level.
Do you even know what your emotions are? or do they silently eat away at you?
Are you addicted to your emotions?
Do you respond or react to your emotions?
Are you a stuffer and deny any 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)
Physical health and wellness can not be authentic unless one goes to the causes in deeper levels of well-being.
If you only come from a physical treatment, then you only relieve symptoms and do not find a cure.
Physicality is a messenger telling you something is going on or not going on in deeper levels.

When 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.

In 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………..
First 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 and/or unconscious.

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.

If one resists or blocks at any of the different levels, then cure is not ordinarily attained.

Firstly, if one does not believe and commit to remembering their spiritual atonement, they can not stand a chance of cure.

The 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 cures.

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.
This 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.

In 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?
Do 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.


Healthy Body Image
It's never too early to start building one.
Hearing 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 and boys.
This 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.

"Studies 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.

They're 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.
Uncover media myths.
TV, 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.
So don't 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.
Explain 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.)
Give alternatives.
You 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.
With 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.
Listen to yourself.
As 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.

The 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.
Acquiring 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.

Adolescents from 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
  • increased exposure to health-damaging behaviors such as smoking, substance misuse, unhealthy eating habits, unsafe sex & lack of physical activity, often in clusters
  • less social capital, lower levels of self-esteem & life expectations & decreased resilience
  • 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:

  • high blood pressure
  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • high cholesterol
  • overweight
  • low fruit & vegetable intake 
  • physical inactivity

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, November 2006).

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.

Erio Ziglio

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, Italy.

3. How has the problem of obesity in children and adolescents arisen?

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 trade practices.

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 cases:

  • cross-government action with very senior political leadership
  • 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 to child.

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 into schools
  • 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

1. Introduction

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:

  • identify & monitor overweight and obesity development among children & young people
  • identify the most vulnerable groups.

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.

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