We're getting fatter

JUST like their waistlines, the number of residents on the Tweed who are obese has bulged.

A NSW Health Department survey has found the proportion of obese people on the North Coast has swelled from 15.3 per cent in 2007 to 20.6 per cent in 2008.

This is higher than the state's average of 18.6 per cent for the same period but lower than rural NSW (22.7 per cent).

Murwillumbah-based nutritionist and naturopath Olwen Anderson said she did not need a survey to notice this trend locally.

“You only have to walk up the main street any day to see that some people clearly aren't maintaining a healthy weight range,” Ms Anderson said.

“There are two major causes that immediately spring to mind; not enough exercise and too much highly processed low-fibre food.”

Obesity is classified as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. BMI is calculated as weight (in kilograms) divided by your squared height (in metres).

In order for people to regain their health, Ms Anderson said, they have to set an exercise program and stick to their resolve.

“Another lifestyle factor contributing to the increasing levels of obesity is our tendency to reach for fast food that is usually low in fibre and high in fat and sugar,” she said.

“This kind of food is highly concentrated, and yet won't give you a feeling of fullness as much as unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Ms Anderson said this results in people eating a huge amount of calories, fat and sugar, and still being hungry afterwards.

“Combat obesity by making the time to prepare and enjoy food at home most nights of the week; your wallet will thank you too.”

The new and damning figures come with fresh national data, released yesterday, that revealed 62 per cent of Australians are now overweight or obese.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' 2007-08 National Health Survey shows men and older people are the fattest of all and about a quarter of children are overweight or obese.

North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) nutrition and physical activity co-ordinator Jillian Adams is concerned about these rising levels.

“Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, some cancers, stroke, type 2 diabetes, gall bladder disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, osteoarthritis, back pain, gout, stress incontinence, erectile dysfunction and sleep apnoea,” Ms Adams said.

To help combat this dangerous trend NSW Health has launched The Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service, a free, confidential telephone service that will help people make lifestyle changes to get their weight back toward a healthy level.

“Don't wait until you are obese before you do something about it - keep an eye on your waist measurement,” Ms Adams said.

“For most women, a waist circumference over 80cm puts you at an increased risk and more than 94cm for men.

“The coaches are really friendly and will help with developing personal health goals, maintaining motivation and creating solutions for successful lifestyle change,” she said.

There are up to 10 coaching calls over six months, accessible by calling 1300 806 258 or visiting www.gethealthynsw.com.au

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