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Does Australia's Food Environment Encourage Obesity?

Your environment influences your health in many different ways.

If you live in a leafy suburb with low crime rates and expansive parks, it’s easier to get outside and go for a walk than if you live in a densely populated concrete jungle. If you work in the city and parking is a hassle, you’ll cycle in or use public transport, gaining more incidental exercise than if you drive door to door.

Your environment influences your weight too. The food environment influences what you buy, what you eat and how much you eat.

Life In An Obesogenic Environment

An obesogenic environment is one that promotes obesity – one that makes it much easier to eat an unhealthy diet than a healthy one.

An obesogenic environment shows itself in many different ways from the food options in the work cafeteria to the portion sizes in your favourite cafe. The overall effect is to encourage you to eat more and more of the wrong stuff.

So what’s Australia’s food environment like? Frankly, not very helpful. From childhood onwards, you’ve been bombarded with junk food ads online, on TV and on billboards.

Supermarkets provide some fascinating insights here. When you do your weekly shopping, you’re very likely to see special offers on packaged or processed foods and highly unlikely to see any discounts on fruit or vegetables. Data from 2019 shows that there are twice as many unhealthy foods as healthy foods on price promotion each week (28.8% compared to 15.1%).

When you reach the checkout and load your groceries onto the belt, you’re forced to stand for several minutes in front of a row of chocolate bars that seem to call your name. In fact 88% of price-promoted display space at checkouts is devoted to unhealthy food.

When you get home and feel too tired to cook, you might decide to order in. Unfortunately, Australia’s fast food chains score only 27/100 for their nutrition-related policies and commitments. The end result is that 60% of your entire food budget is spent on unhealthy food.

Is it any wonder that nearly two-thirds of Australians are overweight or obese?

(If you’d like to learn more about our food environment, visit https://foodenvironmentdashboard.com.au/.)

Making Conscious Decisions To Manage Your Weight

It’s easy to gain weight in an obesogenic environment. It’s like being pulled along in a strong current (with snacks provided!).

You’re swimming against the tide when you try to make healthier choices. It’s worth the effort though.

It starts with opening your eyes to the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) messages around you that encourage you to eat an unhealthy diet then arming yourself against the sales ploys.

You could do this by:

  • Taking healthy snacks with you when you go out so you can breeze past the chocolate bar at the checkout
  • Choosing an entree-sized portion at the restaurant because you’d rather enjoy your fill of a small plate than summon up the willpower to leave food on a large plate
  • Not walking down some aisles of the supermarket at all so that you’re not tempted to buy foods that will add empty calories
  • Preparing a shopping list full of healthy, nutritious choices and sticking to it
  • Mentally challenging the messages you receive from food advertising – it is perfectly possible to ‘have a break’ without having a chocolate bar!

Deliberate choices are the antidote to the mindless eating that’s so easy to do in an unhealthy food environment.

How Can We Help?

We’ve helped many people to address their eating habits and create a healthy lifestyle despite the unhealthiness of our wider environment. If you’d like some help, please contact us.

Disclaimer

All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion. Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.

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