Questionning the obesity "epidemic"

        Image by ccsdteacher on  Flickr

        Image by ccsdteacher on Flickr

I read a great piece of research recently. Entitled "The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic?"*, it looks at the figures on the obesity "epidemic" and concludes:

"the available scientific data neither support alarmist claims about obesity nor justify diverting scarce resources away from far more pressing public health issues."

Rather than an alarming growth in obesity, the researchers analyse the evidence and find a "relatively modest" increase in the weight of the population, but this small increase has been enough to shift more people into the overweight or obese category, even though they are only 3 - 5kg heavier than people of a generation ago. 

"In the US, to take a much-cited example, the so-called 'obesity epidemic' is almost wholly the product of tens of millions of people with BMIs formerly in the 23 - 35 range gaining a modest amount of weight and thus now being classified as 'overweight', and, similarly, tens of millions of people with BMIs formerly in the high 20s now having BMIs just >30. This movement of population cohorts from just below to just above the formal definitions of overweight and obesity is what public health officials are referring to when they point out that rates of obesity have exploded over the course of the last generation."

So what? People are still gaining weight, even if it's not as much as we thought, so shouldn't we be doing something about it? Well again, the researchers go against the prevailing view and say, maybe not. For starters, they claim the evidence for obesity being associated with health problems and increased risk of early death is weak at best, but they also question whether significant long-term weight loss is a practical or achievable goal for many people:

"Thus public health interventions designed to lessen rates of obesity and overweight are striving to achieve a presently unachievable goal of unknown medical efficacy."

Anyway the research is available for free. For anyone occupied by public health questions, it makes an interesting read.

* Campos P, Saguy A, Ernsberger Pe, Oliver E & Gaesser G, "The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic?", International Journal of Epidemiology, 2006;35:55–60.

Hello again

Hello, how are you? I've been missing in action for the last few months, taking time off for my health, but now I'm back.

It feels like the right time. Limes & Lycopene has been on hold, as have many aspects of my life, while I hoped, waited and worked on getting better. However my health has not improved as much as I'd wanted. 

Dizziness is still an ingredient in my everyday life and there's no foreseeable end to the problem. So, rather than waiting for things to get back to how they were, when my health was tip-top, it's time to strike a new path.

Things have changed for me considerably over the last 18 months, since the vestibular migraines started - I've been writing about my experiences here. I'm now living with a chronic illness which has forced me to resign from clinic, let go of many writing jobs, give up my driving license, slow right down. I have limited energy and limited mental resources, even on a good day.

Image by  juhkystar.

Image by juhkystar.

In all these changes, the way I cook and think about food has also changed. It's had to. I am no longer able to spend the day planning what I'm going to cook that night. I don't have the energy to spend an hour cooking dinner and shopping, of any kind, is a big trigger for my dizziness - so browsing through farmers' markets and beautiful food stores is something I now mostly avoid.

However, it strikes me the problem of how to eat healthily and cook for yourself, when energy, time and motivation are in short supply, is a topic relevant to many. Certainly relevant to more than just the people with vestibular migraine, or even those with a chronic illness. 

Like others, I often struggle to summon the motivation for cooking; I get bored with eating the same thing, but don't have the energy for a lot of experimentation; I want delicious flavours but can't be bothered to cook for hours. Plus a late afternoon trip to the shops, to top up on ingredients, is not a good use of my time or energy, so I generally cook with what I have. 

It's still a work in progress.

I've missed this space over the last few months, but I've been uncertain about my capabilities and hesitant to commit to blogging again when my energy and health are limited. However, with the help of this site, sent to me by the lovely Elaine, I think I've worked out a sustainable approach. 

So I look forward to talking to you all some more over the next few months.

Taking a break

I haven't been around much online recently.

For much of this year I've had some health problems. I've been experiencing daily bouts of dizziness, vertigo, nausea and fatigue.

It's taken a long time to work out what's going on, but now I do have a diagnosis and, most importantly, a plan. It's nothing super serious, or life threatening, but it is something which is going to take time and effort to fully recover from.

At first I was determined to carry on working, but I've come to realise that stubbornness is not always helpful. Soldiering on is not working for me and it's also not fair to my clients and readers.

So I've decided to take some time off work, to focus on my health.

I'm not sure when I'll be back here. However in the meantime, thanks for reading and hanging on during my very intermittent blogging. And I'd like to wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas.

Best wishes for 2014.