Causes of the causes
28 January 2014

Recently I was at a conference in Plymouth on obesity and diabetes, where I’d been asked to speak on “Lessons From Failure”. Not initially inspiring I agree, and I wrestled with it for a bit, but on closer look it does allow me to think about one of the most important things in weight management. It’s true that more people are overweight now than ever before. The campaign I started in 2000, with many others, to slim down the nation’s waistline has until now, and I hate to say it, largely failed. And it’s also true that we, as individuals and as a nation, are doing far more about it. But the reason why we, as a nation, seem to be failing, despite our best efforts, is that we haven’t yet dealt with, not the causes of overweight, but the “causes of the causes”. 

Let me put it another way.  We know that eating more than we need, and exercising less than we should, leads to overweight. That’s the “cause” of the problem. But anyone who’s tried to lose weight will tell you that reversing that trend is really difficult. And the only way to really change those lifestyle habits is to take a step back and look not just at “what” we do, but more importantly, “why” we do it. The “causes of the causes”.

Sarah, a young mum is determined to lose weight. She needs to exercise more. She decides for her, going to the gym is one way to do that. So, lack of exercise is one of her “causes”. But after an early start to get the house ready, and she’s dropped the kids off at school, rushed through traffic to get to work, and then after a hard day in the factory rushes to pick them up again, then cleans the house, feeds the kids, makes dinner for herself and her partner, and puts the kids to bed, it might be gone 8 o’clock and she’s already exhausted. And is she really going to turn to her husband and say, “Ok love, I’m just nipping down to the gym for an hour or so”? Not likely.  For Sarah, one of the “causes of the causes” is that her life is too busy, and she has no time to look after herself. It’s a tough ask, but only by dealing with the underlying problem will Sarah ever be able to change her lifestyle and lose weight.

The challenge for me, and others, is to find ways to make our society more supportive to those that want to live a healthier lifestyle and press government for change. I believe we will soon start to see success on a national scale. We will learn from our mistakes.

The challenge for every one of us individually is to find ways to make our own micro-society more supportive. Talk with your personal coach. Think about your causes of the causes. Don’t just think about what you do.  Ask the question “why?”  and you can start making those changes now.

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