Life

Jane McClenaghan: What has changed in our society to make us all so fat and sick?

The amount of sugar and processed foods we are eating as a society all add up to a huge diabetes problem
Jane McClenaghan

THIS week's headlines were not great news for our health. Type 2 diabetes has increased by 62 per cent since 2007 and more than seven in 10 millenials will be overweight or obese by the time they reach middle age.

Is this a sign of our times? What has changed in our society to make us so fat and sick?

The millenial generation, born between the early 1980s and mid 1990s, have a reputation of following the latest health fad in a bid to be hip and trendy, but it seems that this same generation are putting their long-term health at real risk of obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease if we as a society don't change something drastic soon.

:: A whole society approach

It is time that we changed our attitude to health and wellbeing. Instead of dismissing healthy eating as brown, bland and boring, we need to find a way that celebrates the power of good that comes from eating nutritious food.

I think there is a simple solution; an essential life skill that this generation is forgetting. Let's get back into our kitchens and start cooking with our children and young people. Teach kids how to cook a curry from scratch, transform vegetables into soup and break eggs to make an omelette. The magic of making nourishing meals from simple, basic ingredients is an essential life skill that we have a responsibility to pass onto the next generation.

:: Diets don't work

The idea of a diet is something we follow for a few weeks before going back to our usual (often unhealthy) habits. Diet foods play on our addiction to junk foods. With confectionary giants producing low-calorie versions of chocolate bars and sugar-laden snacks, is this really a healthy choice?

No matter what way it is packaged, it is still sugar, and sugar makes us fat and puts us at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Low calorie does not mean it's a healthy option.

In Northern Ireland and Britain, we struggle to get our five portions of fruit and veg a day, but most of us eat something sweet and sugary every day.

We need to reign in our addiction to sugar and carbohydrate for real, effective and long term weight loss and start thinking more seriously about the food choices we make. Instead of ready meals and processed junk food we need to get real. There is a cause-and-effect link between the food we eat and our health and wellbeing and our long term health is in our hands.

:: We need to eat more

We need to eat more, not less. I am talking more vegetables, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, wholefoods and oily fish. We need to eat more of the foods we know are good for our health and our waistline, and cut the sugary, refined, processed junk out.

Look at what is happening to us – we are getting fatter and putting ourselves at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Not to mention the link with cancer and cardiovascular disease. We are literally eating our way into an early grave.

:: Eat real food

Take a positive step for the good of your health today. Look at what is in your shopping basket. Is it packed with colourful fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and good fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil and oily fish?

The only diet that really works long term is a lifelong healthy approach. Stop counting calories and get back to eating real food. Less processed junk food and more whole, unprocessed foods that provide our bodies with vital nutrition.

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