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Somethings gotta give!

Unbelievably alarming: a 2014 study found that three out of four adults in Bermuda were overweight or obese (File photograph)

Whoops, last week I forgot to tell you when to add your cashews to your stir-fry! I presume you managed to throw them in at a good point (towards the end or as a garnish on top) as we have only had compliments so far. I love salty cashews in a stir-fry dish – they give a nice hit of protein and a great crunch as well as that delicious subtle nutty flavour. So good!

Having the skills to cook from scratch is simply one of the easiest ways to stay healthy in an otherwise very processed world. I listened with frustration to Mark Hyman’s Doctors Farmacy podcast last night while I was cooking – an episode on Ozempic (“weight loss miracle or metabolic menace?”) and began to fume as statistic after statistic blew me away.

I want to be careful here to state that Hyman had people from both sides of the argument present – this wasn’t an anti-medicine or anti-Ozempic podcast. And although I do find the fact he has products for sale problematic (because I always worry that undermines objective credibility), I recognise that would apply to me too.

How do you find a way around that? It’s almost impossible to approach opinion without bias. Recognising that bias is probably a good place to start. I digress …

According to Healthline, it’s estimated that just over 42 per cent of American adults have obesity, while 30.7 per cent are overweight.

Overall, more than two-thirds of the adult American population is overweight or obese, with children following fast in their footsteps.

In Bermuda, a 2014 study found that three out of four adults were overweight or obese. It’s so unbelievably alarming, especially when both locally and internationally we see these statistics being compounded by social and economic factors.

People on the lower end of the economic spectrum are more likely to have two jobs and less time for home-cooking, let alone the will or ability to prioritise it.

I am not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s less likely – and understandably so.

Humans began to cook meat over a fire approximately 400,000 years ago and agriculture began 10-15,000 years ago.

We can argue this counts as “processing” but there’s an insanely interesting article on the BBC website (I’ll share it on social) about the evolution of processed food that essentially kicks off the trend with sodas and “medicated waters” about 250 years ago.

There is no doubt however, that what began as “digestive aids” with functional goals has morphed into an industry that over the last half-century has become an entirely different beast.

In the last 50 years, processed food has grown from as little as 0 per cent of the American diet to as much as 70 per cent.

One of the participants in the podcast described this as “a moral stain on our country. We’re poisoning our kids with food. Food companies are one the largest employers of scientists who are weaponising our food against us.” Ouch.

As dramatic as it seems, that rings true. The food industry knows how to combine salt, sugar and saturated fat into a totally addictive combination that keeps us coming back for more. And there’s major science behind “mouthfeel” – the experience of that melt-in-the-mouth moment of bliss when you eat a bar of chocolate.

The better the “mouthfeel”, the more you will eat – and that’s all achieved by science.

So what’s the link to Ozempic here? Well unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll know that Ozempic is a weight loss drug, targeted mainly towards people with diabetes, now being used widely as a weight loss drug, including for children with obesity.

It’s effective certainly in the short term, but the risks of weight gain once you are off the drug are significant.

The side-effects are also worrying, Nausea and stomach pain aside, this drug comes with a boxed warning (the most serious warning from the FDA) about the risks of thyroid cancer.

I’m not anti-Ozempic and don’t pretend to be qualified enough to make that call anyway. I am sure there is a place for it, as there is for all drugs. But we spend over a trillion dollars a year on medication globally.

According to an admittedly quick internet search, in 2022, approximately 1.48 trillion USD was spent on medicines, up from 887 billion USD in 2010.

That spend is projected to rise to almost two trillion by 2027. It’s an insane amount of money.

To give some perspective – there are 8.1 billion people on planet earth and 1.48 trillion USD divided by those 8.1 billion, is $183 USD per person.

This number includes all the healthy people, the babies and children who aren’t sick “yet”, the millions of people without access to healthcare or drugs.

As one of the participants in the podcast asks, “what if the drugs weren’t available?”

What would or could we spend that $1.48 trillion on? Imagine if that money was pumped into education and supportive socio-economic strategies that promoted the growing and purchasing of healthy, whole foods?

The problem is, we find it inconceivable to imagine governments putting the necessary steps in place to make that happen.

Here’s the ultimate frustration. It’s estimated that three million people died globally from Covid, yet every year more than 4.7 million people will die from obesity-associated disorders.

We literally stopped life as we knew it to fix Covid-19. Why are we not stopping life as we know it to solve the weight crisis? I know the answers:

1) the moneymaking food and pharmaceutical industries are too giant and too politically influential to allow it to happen,

2) Taking a medication is easier than stopping eating chemically addictive processed food that appeals to our carb-loving, carb-storing Hunter-Gatherer biology,

3) Socially, we’re perceived as party-poopers when we worry about routinely rewarding, comforting or celebrating children with “treats”,

4) Processed food is more affordable, easier and more accessible – especially to the economically vulnerable.

The list goes on. It would take a fundamental and profound shaking of the westernised world to change it all. So what can we do?

If I said “teach your children to cook” that would certainly be oversimplifying the answer, but I really do think that this is where the quiet rebellion begins.

If we can show our children how to make simple, quick, easy meals on a budget – and create enjoyment and connection within that, we can make some progress.

As Chloe gets older and starts thinking about university, she’s working on her cooking skills. We’ve always said “if you can cook, you’ll always have friends.”

Humans love to gather around a table and share great food. It’s a massive feel-good factor to be at the centre of that!

So, over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more recipes that are easy for older kids and teens to try out, with the aim of keeping ingredients budget-friendly.

We’ll keep it simple and healthy, taking steps towards reducing reliance on processed food.

Remember, preventing overweight and obesity isn’t just about reducing the risk of chronic disease, it’s also about boosting energy, vitality, immunity, mental health and optimising sleep too.

The benefits are endless. I hope you’ll join me, because somethings got to give.

⁕ The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION, BNTA is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK She works at Waterfront Wellness in Bermuda. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda or instagram @naturalbda

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Published April 19, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 18, 2024 at 4:30 pm)

Somethings gotta give!

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