Woman in slippers on scale Pictures: THINKSTOCK
JUNK: South Africans tend to eat a lot of fast food.
People are not making their food at home and when they do make it, it’s not done correctly
More than 60% of the nation’s women and 30% of men are overweight or obese, according to the Discovery Vitality ObeCity Index.
This week, medical professionals gathered in Joburg to dissect the findings and look at possible solutions.
The study was conducted among 170000 Discovery Vitality members in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Joburg, Pretoria, Durban and Port Elizabeth.
Dr Zanele Mchiza of the Medical Research Council attributes the obesity epidemic to sociocultural factors.
“People attach the way they eat to their culture. These sociocultural factors are very difficult to understand in the context of South Africa because we are so diverse.”
She says people need to be educated about the diseases related to unhealthy eating because this makes it easier to change people’s beliefs.
“The food we eat and the way in which we prepare it is what is unhealthy. We need to go back to the basics of how our parents used to make food.”
Social gatherings also contribute a lot to weight gain and obesity. At a party or braai, it’s normal to see buffet tables heaving under unhealthy fooddisguised as salads.
With our hectic lifestyles, it’s easier to pick up ready-made meals or fast food than stand over the stove.
“People are not making their food at home and when they do make it, it’s not done correctly,” says Mchiza.
Exercise is essential and needs to form part of a daily routine. But we are not moving enough.
You need to clock at least 150minutes of exercise and movement a week to stay healthy and 250minutes of movement a week to lose weight .
Dr Elizabeth Dunford, the global database manager for the food policy group of the The George Institute for Global Health in Australia, says people need to make the healthy choice their default choice. “For example, make the stairs easier to find than the lift. The idea is to make the healthy option the easy one. This is how you change the mind sets of people,” she says.
Dr Craig Nossel of Discovery agrees that we are not moving enough and spend too much time at our desks. “Sitting is a big risk; it’s now the the new smoking. Try by all means to be active, even during work hours. Stand up often and move around.”
Professor Marjanne Senekal, head of human nutrition at the University of Cape Town, warns against popular diets because of the harm they do to the body over the long term.
“There needs to be education around popular diets because they lead to weight gain in the long run. These affect individuals and are not necessarily spoken about.
“Diets that protect health all include fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meat, dairy, etc. A diet that requires you to exclude such is not long term and you should stay away from it,” she says. “Diets come and go, but the nation is getting fatter.”
TIPS TO KEEP MOVING:
- Do household chores.
- Wash your car by hand.
- Use the stairs instead of the lift.
- Walk to your colleagues’ desks instead of phoning or emailing.
- Have standing or walking meetings.
ON THE MOVE
- Take public transport so you walk to and from the bus stop.
- Park your car further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way.