Overweight and obesity is a National Health Priority Area, currently affecting 63% of Australian adults and 25% of Australian children. The latest statistics show 35.5% of Australians aged 18 years and over are overweight, and almost 28% are obese.
The causes of overweight and obesity are not easy to define. Although diet and physical activity are central to maintaining a healthy weight, social, environmental, behavioural, genetic and physiological factors can play their part in contributing to weight gain. For many, weight gain is hard to avoid and very difficult to reverse.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation (build-up) that may impair health. We gain weight when we eat more energy (kilojoules) than we use up through exercise or activity. Energy is measured in kilojoules (kJ) and different foods provide different amounts of energy.
Gaining weight can increase your risk of health problems, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. People with most of their body fat around their waist, which surrounds our vital organs, are at an increased risk. Risk factors for weight gain include living in inner regional, outer regional and remote areas of Australia, and living in a lower socioeconomic area.
Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW) is an initiative of the Dietitians Association of Australia, and aims to encourage more Australians to cook at home as a way to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This year, AHWW runs from 13-19 February 2017, and is all about getting the right advice and support for those looking to be a healthy weight. This year’s AHWW will be the biggest yet with more events than ever being run by Accredited Practising Dietitians across the country. More information is available at: www.healthyweightweek.com.au.
Only one in 10 Australians who are trying to lose weight seeks advice from a dietitian. Other allied health professionals such as doctors and pharmacists can also provide advice and materials to help people who want to lose weight or manage their weight. Weight management is an important part of pharmacy practice, and measuring body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) is a way of identifying if a person is overweight or obese and may benefit from advice about weight management.
People also often have unrealistic expectations of how much weight loss is possible. Weight loss goals should be realistic, and even small amounts of weight loss improve health and wellbeing. Weight management must focus on health improvement and behavioural change rather than only on weight loss.
Weight management is a long-term strategy. It must be initiated by the individual and then maintained with the help of healthcare professionals, family, friends and carers. It involves setting realistic goals, self-monitoring behaviour and progress, understanding stimulus control (recognising and avoiding triggers that prompt unplanned eating), modifying thinking and problem solving.
Lifestyle interventions are the first approach in weight management, with an aim to reduce energy intake, increase physical activity and encourage behavioural change, and brings a range of health benefits. More intensive interventions such as very low-energy diets (e.g. meal replacement products), weight loss medicines and even surgery may be required in some situations – ask your health care professional for advice.
Weight loss medicines and products should be used with a healthy diet and increased physical activity for consumers who are overweight and obese in order to highlight the need for a healthy diet, regular physical activity and lifestyle change to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Berwick Pharmacy, your local pharmacy, is your health destination, with many offering weight management products and services. During Australia’s Healthy Weight Week visit your local pharmacy and talk to them about weight loss.