Suddenly, activities we wouldn’t normally think twice about – like walking to the shops – were banished from our lives. Today, less than 30% of us meet physical activity guidelines, and many spend most of the day sitting.
Of course, our food environment has also changed. Public health nutritionist Rosemary Stanton explains, “In the 1960s, we had 600 to 800 foods to choose from. Now there are well over 50,000, with the average supermarket stocking at least 30,000.”
Special occasion foods have become everyday foods and are now a major part of our diet (about 40% of the daily energy intake of Australian adults comes from ultra-processed foods).
Today, we must think hard and often pay for the privilege of physical activity, and we must actively fight against aggressive marketing and the availability of foods that make us sick.
“Our health is directly influenced by factors beyond our control,” says public health physician and VicHealth CEO Dr. Sandro Demaio. “This includes the environment around us when companies and businesses market and sell their products using predatory dark marketing tactics online.”
Financial stress and the pace of life amplify problems and make us more sensitive to tactics, as paying for fresh food or a gym membership are probably among the first “luxuries” to carry.
We must oppose the life that is served to us until government agencies step in to help everyone live as nature intended.
Although new studies demonstrate just how far the pendulum has swung from the way we were made to be, all is not sad and all is not lost.
We now know the cost of convenience.
Unfortunately, we must oppose the life that is served to us until government agencies step in to help everyone live as nature intended.
Although change is slow, some changes suggest we can swing the pendulum back. “The current federal government is committed to putting more effort into preventative health. It gives me some hope,” says Stanton. “There is also an inaugural meeting of Parliamentary Friends of Nutrition [this week].
“A really bright spot is in schools that have a vegetable garden program,” she adds. “Many studies show that the best way to encourage children to eat vegetables is for them to play a role in growing and picking them at home, at school or in the community garden.”
She also points to a recovery in bicycle sales and a greater interest in cycle paths: “It’s a good start, but it will take government intervention for cycle paths. Groups walking to school make noise and have the potential to make walking “normal”.
A walkable environment could also inspire us to shop differently, Ding adds: “Walking to local stores and buying fresh produce, rather than driving to the supermarket once a week, will hopefully allow us to to eat better. It will also open up opportunities for social interactions and potentially reduce social isolation.
Currently, planning laws do not take into account good health, adds Demaio, which translates into the proliferation of junk food outlets, especially in rural towns: “We need to reshape our neighborhoods so that they are are places that promote good health”.
And, he says: “Higher standards are needed for how companies market and sell harmful products, so we need to revolutionize the way we buy, grow and share food so that everyone has access to healthy food. and affordable to feed his family.
Websites like No Money, No Time by Newcastle University Registered Dietitian Clare Collins provide ideas and tips to help people buy and prepare food cost-effectively and quickly.
And while change is hard, we now also know, thanks to the same sad studies, that very small changes in our lifestyle can make a big difference to our overall health and well-being.
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