Can we tackle obesity and poverty at the same time?

Can we tackle obesity and poverty at the same time?

Can we tackle obesity and poverty at the same time?

by | Jun 27, 2019 | Physical Wellbeing | 0 comments

How does one conference veer from business solutions for world poverty and disadvantage to the best means of tackling obesity?

Earlier this week, I attended the two-day Workplace Wellness Summit held at the International Convention Centre here in Sydney. It was a sell-out event, with 400 delegates and a packed agenda, which really did cover these two opposing yet related topics.

So instead of our Wellbeing Insights this week, I thought I would cherry-pick the keynote addresses from Professor David Cooperidder and Dr Michael Mosley and share a summary of the key points. Perhaps it will spark your enthusiasm to find out more.

 

Business as an Agent of World Benefit

Headlining and opening Day One was Professor David Cooperrider, Professor of Social Entrepreneurship and best known as the founder of Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

His presentation echoed the positivity of AI with a focus on ‘Business as an Agent of World Benefit’. His big hope for the world is that business will impact our major challenges of poverty and disadvantage, and he stressed that much is already being done that we just don’t hear about.

He told us about the initiative AIM2Flourish, a university-led program for students to research and identify positive business innovations related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Audrey has written about these previously). Once identified, the students interview the business leaders and post their stories on the site aim2flourish.com as sources of inspiration for others. I’ve had a browse and there’s an amazing range (2000+) of articles about really inspiring initiatives from businesses all over the world who are trying to make a difference in some way.

From a wellbeing perspective, David was encouraging us to think about the interdependence between individual and enterprises – and how one sphere flourishing will positively influence the other.

So – we can work at building wellbeing for individuals within organisations, and this will lead to more sustainable practices (personally and environmentally), which will create flourishing organisations that can positively impact society.

Equally, however, when organisations focus on a clear sense of purpose to create a better world (as the examples on Aim2Flourish), it engages individuals and aligns them with this purpose, firing them up and contributing to their wellbeing. He called this ‘mirror flourishing’ and has written a chapter on this topic in a new book “The Flourishing Enterprise” edited by Lazslo & Brown (which sounds like a good read, but I haven’t got to that yet).

The last key point of interest for me was the assertion (backed by research) that in a world of constant change, it’s not change in itself that creates negative stress, it’s the way change happens and what exists (or doesn’t exist) to guide individuals and organisations through change.

Even in situations of constant change, having a higher purpose provides an anchor for flourishing and wellbeing.

What this presentation emphasised to me is that (as we are fond of saying), wellbeing has to be adopted as a strategic business issue to effect real change for individuals, organisations and communities.

If you have responsibility for developing your organisation’s approach to wellbeing, consider how ‘mirror flourishing’ could be optimised – can individual wellbeing drive the organisation towards meeting sustainable development goals AND can an organisation’s higher purpose be aligned to sustainable goals and inspire and foster the wellbeing of its employees?

 

Busting the Myths of the Diet and Exercise Industry

On Day Two, we heard from the ever-inspiring Dr Michael Mosley of BBC fame (‘Eat, Fast, Live Longer’ and ‘Trust Me, I’m A Doctor’ to name just two of his programs). Fresh from speaking at the ‘Happiness and Its Causes’ conference next door (where he shared his view on the three most important factors for finding happiness in life), Dr Michael treated the Workplace Wellbeing audience to his myth-busting presentation.

Here are a few of those myths:

 

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”

False!

This assertion was first uttered by one John Harvey Kellogg, who may have had a vested interest ☺️.

Even more curiously, he invented the ready-made cornflake breakfast meal as a healthy alternative to masturbation, which he considered to be ‘abominable’ (Truly!).

First off, there is no evidence that breakfast will impact ANY other morning habits (gulp!).

And, there is nothing wrong per se with eating breakfast as part of a regular healthy eating plan.

But, if you are seeking to lose weight, then you shouldn’t feel constrained by the notion that you must include this meal in your daily calorie intake.

A recently published study by a team from Monash University in Melbourne analysed the effect of regularly eating breakfast on weight change and daily energy intake by reviewing the evidence from research studies undertaken in the last 28 years. The researchers found that on average, people who consumed breakfast ate 260 more calories per day than those that skipped it. Those breakfast ‘skippers’ also tended to be on average, 0.44 kgs lighter than the breakfast eaters.

So, if you want to keep your weight down and don’t like eating too early in the day, you can throw off the shackles of feeling compelled to eat breakfast by one Mr Kellogg.

 

“Eating lots of small meals is better for you than sticking to 3 larger meals per day”

False again!

There appears to be a lot of evidence spanning many years and many studies on this. Dr M referenced just the one that compared a group eating two meals per day with a group eating six meals per day, both groups consuming the same amount of calories in total. You guessed it, the two-meal group lost more weight than the six-meal group.

He also stressed that the ‘snacking culture’ we have today is a major contributor to obesity and it seems the best thing we can do for our children (and ourselves) is to stop providing food every 2-3 hours.

Maybe organisations need to take away any and all snack options provided in workplaces?

 

“The best way to lose weight is slowly and steadily. If you lose weight fast, you will put it on even faster”

False!

There is increasing evidence that supports rapid weight loss as a very effective and sustainable means of getting control of obesity and diabetes.

Dr M has written on the ‘800 calories per day for eight weeks’ diet, citing much research on this approach. One impressive study published in 2018 compared two groups of participants diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, following up a full year after they had completed either the eight-week diet or received standard care and weren’t calorie restricted.

Those on the 800-calorie diet achieved weight loss averaging 10 kgs and 47% of them were able to come off all diabetes medication.

The UK government is shortly rolling this diet protocol out to 5,000 participants.

So if it suits you to go hard and fast on a weight loss campaign, don’t let anyone tell you it’s the wrong approach. Organisations could get behind this by enabling or encouraging ‘fast diet’ social groups/teams.

 

“Exercise is a good way to lose weight”

You guessed it… false again!

Not so much it would seem. Or at least, not on its own.

Much of the issue is just how much exercise is needed to burn off one’s food intake, for example, 40 minutes of walking to work off a banana! I didn’t note down the other examples Dr M quoted, because let’s face it, we can all work it out… Much more time than we might typically have for exercising in our day.

Exercise is good, but for weight loss, it has to be combined with reduced calorific intake (and we have to avoid the ‘compensatory eating’ and ‘compensatory relaxing’ that our wicked brains tell us is our due after an exercise session!).

 

“10,000 steps per day is the ideal exercise goal”

Nope!

This statistic was invented and promulgated by a Japanese pedometer company to boost sales.

Again, walking 10,000 steps per day is going to do us all the power of good, of course it is – but it’s a bit unrealistic for many to fit into their daily schedules. Luckily there is another way.

A study done by Dr M compared people walking 10,000 steps and those taking three brisk walks of 10 minutes per day. The latter group actually achieved more ‘moderate to vigorous physical activity’ i.e. getting their heart rate higher. This is where the health benefits come from – so vigour is better than duration when it comes to walking.

Dr M went further to suggest that brisk walking (three sessions per day) in the outdoors is the best option for our health. Building in 10 minutes of brisk walking to work, walking meetings, lunch walking sessions and walking on the way home sounds more do-able than getting 10,000 steps every day.

Again, there are possibilities for what organisations can do to encourage this approach to regular exercise before, during and after the work day.

 

Fast facts

Lastly, here are some other quick grabs from the conference that appealed to me:

  • The bacteria in your mouth can travel to your brain and increase your risk of dementia, so twice-daily brushing and flossing takes on a whole new importance! (Dr Helena Popovic)
  • Another ‘environmental’ aid to avoid sitting all day long in the office – ‘lean rails’ built into meeting rooms (a bit like on Melbourne trams), so people can alternate sitting with leaning. (Duncan Young, Lendlease)
  • When two people are having a conversation, their heart rates become co-regulated, as a kind of contagion effect. I’ll need to do some more research on this one to find out what is known about how the dominance of a rapid (stressed) heart rate versus a slower (calm) heart rate works (or vice versa), but it’s certainly intriguing to think that we could proactively use our own heart rate to take the heat out of challenging situations. (Professor Elissa Epel)
  • “The responsible service of workload” should be adopted by organisations as an enforceable policy for their leaders, just as the “responsible service of alcohol” is a given in venues and the “responsible management of concussion” has become standard on the sports field. (Sam Makhoul)
  • Investing in workplace wellbeing is akin to investing in superannuation – you have to recognise that the value will not be realised till much later and that there are a range of market options to choose from, with varying levels of soundness, risk and evidence associated. (Professor Peggy Kern)
  • The bacteria in your mouth can travel to your brain and increase your risk of dementia, so twice-daily brushing and flossing takes on a whole new importance! (Dr Helena Popovic)
  • Another ‘environmental’ aid to avoid sitting all day long in the office – ‘lean rails’ built into meeting rooms (a bit like on Melbourne trams), so people can alternate sitting with leaning. (Duncan Young, Lendlease)
  • When two people are having a conversation, their heart rates become co-regulated, as a kind of contagion effect. I’ll need to do some more research on this one to find out what is known about how the dominance of a rapid (stressed) heart rate versus a slower (calm) heart rate works (or vice versa), but it’s certainly intriguing to think that we could proactively use our own heart rate to take the heat out of challenging situations. (Professor Elissa Epel)
  • “The responsible service of workload” should be adopted by organisations as an enforceable policy for their leaders, just as the “responsible service of alcohol” is a given in venues and the “responsible management of concussion” has become standard on the sports field. (Sam Makhoul)
  • Investing in workplace wellbeing is akin to investing in superannuation – you have to recognise that the value will not be realised till much later and that there are a range of market options to choose from, with varying levels of soundness, risk and evidence associated. (Professor Peggy Kern)

There’s my take on the best take-outs from two days of conference presentations.

Hope that it’s been a valuable read for you and has sparked some thoughts on enhancing your personal and organisational wellbeing.

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