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THE GREATEST lifestyle challenge

Think Local

Losing weight can seem a lot easier said than done for a lot of us. With fitting in that workout to curbing those Sugar cravings. You will be proud to know that the Northern Beaches and the North Shore have the lowest rate of obesity at 14 per cent in the 2011/12 reports according to the National Health Performance Authority. Though, we have a way to go, as half of that population is still considered overweight. Let's view this in a positive light, as it is something that can be reduced by each individual through a variety of lifestyle changes. By looking at what we can do as a community in order to diminish this issue we can come out fighting as the number one contenders for low rate obesity and reducing the remaining overweight sector in our area.

It is important to recognise the aspect of both health and fitness and that these two facets need to coincide to see a significant change. But where does it all start? The first step is education and most importantly educating our children from a young age. Danielle Minnebo, nutritionist from Health Conscious Brookvale believes, "Education is a tool we can use to teach children about the best food choices to make and to be able to navigate the often misleading and confusing food industry." Lack of nutrition education in Australia in the past has added to a significant increase in many health issues, including not only obesity but also heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Almost daily we see studies that show that the right nutrition and regular exercise will enable a person to obtain a healthy weight. "The more we can pass this information onto our children and the general population the better. Evidence and education is one thing, making it feasible and available is another," says director and exercise physiologist at the Cube Gym, Lewis McLean. The 2011/12 National Health Performance Authority reports show that an estimated 180,000 people are overweight or obese in the North Shore and Northern Beaches areas. These figures may seem alarming but with the combined population being estimated at roughly 692,441 from the 2011 census. We can see that this makes up less than half. It is interesting to see how many changes there are that can help lower the remaining numbers.

"At a community level the biggest change we can make is to restrict the sponsorship of children's sporting events by popular fast food outlets. This is something that needs to occur both locally within the North Shore and Northern Beaches but also at a national level within Australia", says Ms Minnebo. These sponsorships are also often associated with leading sports teams. This notion puts in place confusion and a number of mixed signals after trying to provide education on the benefits of nutrition. Boosting awareness will ensure an active lifestyle and encourage people to strive for a nutritious diet rather than the easier and cheaper alternative of fast food. "These could be; more fresh food markets, government provided fitness sessions for the public, increased education to children on different sports that may spike interest and long term involvement or reduced cost in fresh quality food. All or any of these initiatives could encourage and educate people to live a nutritious and active life, believes McLean.

From a nutritional point of view a basic element is taking small steps and not making too many drastic changes all at once. If we start to make major changes early on in our journey towards nutritional eating it is more than likely we will not be able to sustain this. Ms Minnebo says, "the most significant change you can make is to remove refined sugars from your diet, this includes sugars in obvious foods such as soft drinks, chocolate, cookies, muffins etc." Removing processed foods and replacing these for wholefoods that are in their natural state. These include meat, dairy, eggs, seeds, fruits and vegetables. Just making these two simple changes can get you on the right track and seeing some significant weight loss. Most of us tend to view obesity from a physical aspect but we need to ensure that people are also educated on the health risks.

There are a number of health risk factors that are caused by obesity and can often be detrimental to our health if not addressed. With many chronic conditions and diseases associated with obesity there are a number of them, which coincide with each other. Type 2 diabetes (the most common form of diabetes) is a prime example of a disease that occurs when we do not take the path of healthy choices. According to Diabetes Australia the chances are marginally increased due to a number of lifestyle factors including 'high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and the classic 'apple shape' body where extra weight is carried around the waist'. Estimates show that 60 per cent of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices.

Motivation is a key component for these changes especially when it comes to keeping up a routine. As a community we are lucky to be living in an area that offers many facets that allow us to be physically active within nature as well as things like going to the gym, doing fitness training and having a personal trainer. Mr McLean believes that “having a positive and uplifting training environment will not only bring the best out of you in each training session, it will also make you want to come back for more. Find a group or a personal trainer that brings the best out of you and find a way you can exercise without the monotony. If you haven't got that where you are now and you feel the drain of exercise, find something or someone that will excite and uplift you". Keeping things interesting in your exercise routine will increase your energy levels and kick start you into diminishing the bad cravings that tend to throw us off track.

The simplest changes can often be the most effective and although these concepts might be obvious the problem of obesity is even more so. With the detrimental effects to our health we need to be wary of weight issues that may feel like it has happened overnight if not kept under close vigil. By looking at the concern through positive eyes, we as a community can turn what may seem like a chore into something fun that we enjoy doing daily. It is about taking the right approach to health. Mr Minnebo says the best way is to, "figure out what works for you and for some people this means making a change with a support network in place. This may be an online wellness challenge or a friend or a family member that can keep you accountable. For others it may mean seeking the professional advice of a nutritionist to get them started and keep them on track’". It's time to throw on our trainers, give our pantry a well-needed revamp and get moving.

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