Weighty issue

Published: 11 May 2015

As a general rule, we’re getting bigger, and yet we spend an increasing amount of time “watching what we eat” and searching for so-called “healthy” options. 

Many of us encounter the daily battle between what we’d like to and what we think we should eat – and end up feeling none the better for it. 

Imagine you could feel great, lose weight and still eat the things you like  –  cheese, steak, chocolate, bread and so on? It almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? 

As director at training and behaviour change specialists imorph, I get a huge buzz from seeing people learn and make positive changes that enable them to achieve their goals. 

Nowadays, we can access all the information we could ever dream of at the click of a button, but sometimes this can be overwhelming and even a hindrance. 

Now that sources are so vast, having the information we require collated and presented in a complete, cohesive and easily accessed manner, is sometimes all we need to motivate us to make a change for the better. 

This is fundamentally how my team and I build our training programmes – not least our most recent addition, sustainable healthy eating programme, Gloe.

It’s well-documented that our growing size places a strain upon our health service and has significant implications on both our personal and professional lives. It’s also safe to say we are a nation of voracious dieters. So where are we going wrong? Why are we still struggling with weight-associated health issues? 

The bottom line is that for most of us, simple calorie counting doesn’t work – as many of us will testify. The majority of the most popular “weight loss” diets out there are calorie restrictive. 

Although these can make you lose some weight, they are often unsustainable and do nothing to teach you about how to eat well in the long term, nor do they necessarily support wellness.

It’s not all about diets, calories and unsustainable menus, though. Take a wander around your local supermarket and you’ll soon see another huge factor adding to our obesity and health issues. 

How many products can you find that are just “real food” – i.e. no preservatives, no sugar substitutes, no synthetic flavourings? It’s pretty hard. Instead, we’re lured by the words “low-fat” or “sugar-free” without really knowing what we’re getting instead. 

Without even realising, we are buying foods that are high in sugar, sweeteners, preservatives and a whole lot of other ingredients formulated in labs. 

You would be shocked at how many of your favourite snacks and meals share the same ingredients as glue. Knowledge is most definitely power when it comes to eating well.

At imorph, we often collaborate with experts to combine our respective skills and knowledge. 

Our latest project has seen us join forces with nutrition consultant Dr Chris Fenn to develop Gloe.  I confess to my role as my works “Chief Dreamer” and our dream for this programme – to transform how and what we eat, tackling our increasing health and weight problems at the source  –  is certainly ambitious. 

However, Chris and I are confident this programme provides the information and advice that can help overcome the barriers that stop us from making what are relatively straightforward, healthy choices. 

Our ever-increasing size and consequent catalogue of health issues is a nationwide problem and not limited to any particular industry or age group. Regardless, the offshore sector has been the focus of recent headlines and reports, predominantly due to the associated safety concerns.

Chris and I have worked with the oil and gas industry for over 20 years and have seen various “healthy eating” initiatives introduced to the offshore community. 

Despite this, reports conclude that offshore workers, like the rest of us, are getting bigger and as well as the obvious health and safety implications, it is highly likely many of these workers feel rubbish too. 

Media coverage surrounding these recent reports indicate just how critical this issue is becoming for the industry, not least in these times of stress and uncertainty when both operational and cost efficiencies, as well as productivity, are under scrutiny.

For healthy eating to make an impact, it needs to remove the focus from weight loss and shift it towards an understanding of what we’re eating and how it affects our mental and physical health. 

Success comes when this is coupled with practical adjustments to existing routines. 

By Caroline Hughes, director of Aberdeen and Houston-based training and behaviour change specialists, imorph. 

In a society so driven by routine (not least for those working offshore), those changes are almost impossible to sustain without support, but when they work, they really work. And a consequence of these changes? Weight loss. Food for thought for the oil and gas industry.

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