By Dr Ian Campbell
As a GP I was increasingly aware of what obesity was doing to my patients. I could see that it was causing a lot of unhappiness, but I could also see that it was causing a lot of ill health that could be prevented.
When I realized the health benefits of weight management for individuals and families and also important to our society I became increasingly motivated to do something about it so we could work together to reduce and prevent the amount of ill health in our communities.
It’s taken a long time for everyone to wake up to the fact that obesity is a silent killer. It increases your risk of heart disease, of type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
And yet it affects one in four of the adult population – two thirds of us are carrying excessive weight and one in four of us are carrying enough to sharply increase our risk of these diseases.
What is particularly worrying is that so many children are obese. Weight problems in childhood so often lead to obesity and obesity-related diseases later in life.
In Australia, one out of every four Australian children aged between five and 17 years is overweight or obese – 17 percent are overweight and 7.8 percent are obese.
The rate of obesity among boys has jumped from 4.5 percent in 1995 to 9.7 percent in 2008. The rate among girls is steady at 5.8 percent.
It’s very hard for families to address obesity. But good health starts at home. There’s so much we can do to help ourselves – and our children.
Any family that has sought help about weight control and healthy eating will have been made aware of the energy balance equation. The energy balance equation is what doctors refer to, to explain simply, that the energy that goes in through food has to be less than the energy that goes out through physical activity. So with any weight management program increased physical activity has to be an important part.
But controlling the amount of energy that we eat – even healthy foods – can be an equally difficult challenge. The key is to eat normal healthy food but in the right proportions.
In my clinic, one of the problems I’ve found time and again is that many families struggle to control the amount of food each family member consumes. Among all the messages about food and nutrition we’re bombarded with, it’s hard to determine what a normal plate of food should look like.
Through my work I’ve come across many different diets or programmes designed to help people control their weight. One is very helpful for families trying to prevent weight problems and educate children about healthy eating habits. It’s a simple portion control plate. It doesn’t mention the word diet anywhere on the kids’ version, called the Magic Plate), and it can make mum and dad’s job a lot easier.
The Magic Plate allows the balance of good nutritional health to be maintained and actually encourages increased vegetable consumption. It has produced great results in clinics across the UK.
One of the beauties of using The Magic Plate is that everyone in the family can eat the same food, the food that you enjoy, but in the right proportions.
Initially some families might find it slightly awkward having to adjust the portions of food on their plates, but it very quickly becomes normal. They very quickly realise that their expectations of what a normal plate of food should look like starts to change. The Magic Plate is not asking you to do anything unnatural, it’s actually asking you to do what’s very natural which is to get the correct proportion of carbohydrate, of protein and of fibre on your plate and in your diet. It becomes part of everyday healthy eating habits.
It is important for families to get help when they need it. But it’s also important to do what we can at home and help ourselves, and our kids.
For more information, visit www.thedietplate.com.au
About Dr Ian Campbell
Dr Campbell is a full time GP, obesity expert, and prominent campaigner for the prevention and treatment of obesity. He is an UK Government Obesity advisor and founder and first president of the UK National Obesity Forum. Dr Ian Campbell was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2009 for his services to healthcare.
Dr. Ian Campbell is a non-executive director and medical adviser to The Diet Plate® Ltd.