Myths and misconceptions about obesity

January is typically the month of diets, health and fitness, resolutions to quit smoking, take part in Dry January or try Veganuary, as well as National Obesity Awareness Week, which is now named JanUary, a campaign to encourage people to eat right, lose weight and work on their fitness.

As the JanUary campaign begins today, we share five obesity myths, and Dr James Brown of Aston University sets the record straight when it comes to these five common misconceptions about obesity and healthy living.

Obesity in the UK

By 2050 obesity is predicted to affect 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and 25% of children.

From 1993 to 2015, obesity has increased 13.7% in men, 10.4% in women and 10.5% in children.

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What weight is obesity?

In adults, obesity is commonly defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. For children in the UK, the British 1990 growth reference charts are used to define weight status.

Health Problems Caused By Obesity

Health problems caused by obesity

Obesity is associated with a range of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Not only that but NHS costs due to overweight and obese people are projected to £9.7 billion by 2050, with wider costs to society estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year.

Fighting obesity

Dr James Brown, Lecturer in Biology and Biomedical Science in the School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston University, says:

“With increased awareness among the general public regarding obesity, many people are looking to adopt healthier lifestyles. But, despite our best intentions, it’s all too easy to set about this in the wrong way. Initiatives like JanUary help to ensure our self-improvement drive doesn’t go to waste, bringing much-needed attention to reassessing our eating and exercising habits. First off, people should learn what works and what doesn’t.”

Fighting Obesity

Obesity facts and myths

To mark the start of JanUary, Dr James Brown busts five common myths surrounding our health:

Myth: In order to lose weight, I simply need to increase the amount of exercise that I do.

Exercise on its own is unlikely to have a significant impact on weight loss. The most successful regime for losing weight should combine exercise and dieting. Dieting alone is the next best approach, followed by a focus on exercise to sustain weight loss.

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Myth: Carbohydrates are bad and, in order to become healthier, I need to cut them out of my diet completely.

Taken as part of a healthy diet, carbohydrates are not at all bad. In fact, many of the healthiest foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are rich in carbs. It is the processed and added sugars in some types of carbs – white bread, for example – that are most damaging and should be avoided.

Myth: Low-fat foods are my best option for a healthy diet.

This often isn’t the case because, many processed low-fat foods, such as yoghurt, are actually high in sugar to ensure they are palatable. If people opt for low-fat foods, they should ensure they come without additives.

Low Fat Foods Aren't The Answer In The Fight Against Obesity

Myth: My child may be overweight now, but this is likely to be puppy fat and I am sure he or she will lose this extra weight in later life.

Being overweight as a child is closely associated with obesity in later life. Parents should monitor their children’s weight, and ensure they have the right diet and exercise routine to prevent them from becoming obese.

Myth: The only way I can truly lose weight and avoid obesity is to invest in a gym membership and make sure I work out twice a week.

There are alternative, potentially more effective ways to do this, such as ‘exercise snacking’. This involves multiple bouts of exercise for short periods during the day, such as 10 minutes after breakfast, lunch and dinner – a method that has be shown to control blood sugar better than a single, continuous workout.

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