Are we normalising obesity?

Yesterday the National Transport Commission called for an increase in busload capacity throughout Australia from 16 tonnes to 18 tonnes. Why? Because quite simply, we’re too fat for our busses and this isn’t something we should be so accommodating for.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s adult obesity rate has increased by 20% and now 63% of adults are considered as medically overweight or obese. Over the last thirty years, the average weight of male adults has gone from 77.4kg to 86kg and the average weight of female adults has risen from 62.6kg to 71kg.

I completely understand that medical conditions lead to obesity. A dear friend has struggled to stay active after two knee replacements in both knees and has understandably piled on the weight. However, there are a lot of people out there who don’t have a medical condition and apart from a bad lifestyle and poor choices, have no one to blame for their weight than themselves.

We know obesity is unhealthy. Being overweight, or even simply having an increased waist size, dramatically increases your risk of so many illnesses including heart disease, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, stroke and some cancers. So why are we accommodating the people who are living like this? Why isn’t it in our society’s best interests to stop making room for people like this and to start motivating and helping them make the changes to live healthier?

Earlier on this year we ran an article about people labelling plus size mannequins as normalising obesity. But there are some fundamental arguments between this argument and that one. Firstly, clothing is something necessary and right now, people look like that whether it is healthy or not, so it isn’t about normalising obesity – it is about being realistic. Secondly, seeing plus size mannequins in store windows do not dramatically affect anyone’s business or daily life – but changing the manufacturing of a major infrastructure point will cost our governments (and ultimately us) a lot of money.

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Every year Australia’s obesity rate increases and the Australian Government reported that in 2008 the cost of obesity to Australian society and governments was $52.8 billion. This included $8.3 billion in direct costs. Obesity is a very serious and very expensive issue. It doesn’t do any good for our economy, our health or our general wellbeing as a country. So is it time to stop making changes for this condition?

According to the Daily Mail, Aloysa Hourigan from Nutrition Australia said that while we’re facing these problems now, there is hope for the future. “There are little glimmers of hope around such as in the U.S where the consumption of McDonald’s and Coca Cola has been decreasing and their sales are dropping, perhaps it will be a bit of a trend that might reflect back eventually on weight loss but it takes time to see those changes”.

One thing that Australia needs right now is a long term strategy to change our acceptance of weight problems from lifestyle choices because it is already stretching our healthcare infrastructure and now our transport infrastructure must adapt too. In the lead up to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, Moscow started using an unusual innovation to help public transport users get into the healthy spirit. To receive a free train ticket on the subway, they had to complete 30 proper squats that were measured by a machine. This meant they could enjoy a free ticket as long as they did the exercise. Is it time we started using quirky and innovative ways to get Australians healthier?

So tell us should we as a society be more active in stopping the normalisation of obesity? Share your thoughts in the comments below…