• Eugene McGarrell

The "O" word - A fatal attraction




Let’s not mince our words, the “O” word is fatal. Obesity leads to chronic disease which leads to significant reduction in the quality of lives and longevity of Australians. Obesity is a killer and we must face it head on.


I’m 58 with a BMI of 27.7 which classes me as “overweight”. A BMI of more than 30 is obese, so I am flying dangerously close to the “O” zone. Time to get those running shoes out and cut down on my carbs.


Obesity is a killer and we must face it head on.

As an adult I have the information to change my habits and get back into a healthy weight range. Or I can choose to put my head in the sand. But it’s my choice.

Children can’t make that choice. They are given food within a context of a busy environment and sometimes at the expense of nutrition. Food provided may satisfy their appetite but not necessarily their nutritional needs.


As a kid I grew up with white bread, processed food and sugar filled cereals. The fight between the fat and sugar industries had been won by the sugar industry. Fat was reported as bad while low fat (read high sugar) was reported to be good for us. We now know different.


But the hangover from the 60’s and 70’s still affects my eating habits today. I have never been comfortable with my weight; I am drawn to the high sugar options and I struggle to maintain a root-based vegetable diet. It’s what I grew up with, it’s what I have always known.


But we have an opportunity to give our young people a new future. A future where nutrition is valued more than feeling full. And we can start that journey as early as pre-school.


We can help cooks prepare and provide nutritious meals every day. We can help make nutritious meal planning easy for cooks in pre-school and for parents at home.


Providing nutritious meals at an early age will help children embrace fruit, vegetables and lean meat. Taste buds adapt and mealtimes become more pleasant when they become teenagers. The habit of eating what the body needs becomes embedded and sugars become a treat and not a staple.


Obesity has become a dirty word, and some find the word abusive. But obesity among Australians is trending in the wrong direction. And obesity plus malnutrition is a recipe for chronic disease and death.


 The habit of eating what the body needs becomes embedded and sugars become a treat and not a staple.

No amount of information provided to the adult population is helping to turn the curve on that trend. We know what foods are nutritious and we know how much we need to exercise, but for many it’s not changing our behaviours. We have our heads in the sand until we are shaken by a health crisis, and even then, most people don’t sustain their new healthy behavioural change.


...obesity plus malnutrition is a recipe for chronic disease and death.

Healthy Australia is a small non-government agency that has worked in partnership with governments and a university to design, test and scale a smart program to support the delivery of nutrition to children aged 2-5.


Thanks to the Australian Government the program “feedAustralia” is free to pre-school services and has been a huge success, engaging 4,000 users to date. More information on feedAustralia can be found here.


Thanks to the Australian Government the program “feedAustralia” is free to pre-school services and has been a huge success, engaging 4,000 users to date.

The keys to the success of the program is the confidence it gives cooks and families to create a nutritious grocery list, prepare nutritious meals and create an attractive plate for kids. It's simple to use and it saves time.


As a parent I reflect on the quick meals I prepared for my young children. If feedAustralia had been available back then, I am sure I would have made better choices.


Teaching our very young children to eat well will create tomorrow's healthy adults, reduce the cost of health care and improve the quality of life for Australians. Information in isolation doesn't change behaviours. Often we need a tool to nudge and sustain our new behaviours.


Eat healthy for ourselves and provide healthy food for our children. We know this mantra to be true, but I for one struggle to embrace the change I need to make. But 2020 is the year I hit my healthy BMI (watch this space).


But 2020 is the year I hit my healthy BMI (watch this space)

For me I have decided not to feel guilty about my food choices. I grew up in an context that nudged my eating habits and my children's eating habits. It's time for me to look forward and act on what I do from today. We all love our kids and we want the best for them. A busy life made that difficult. But we can embrace nutrition today and make a difference for us and our kids tomorrow.


The World Health Organisation info graphic on the “double burden of malnutrition” provides compelling reasons for us to act. These figures speak for themselves.



Deceleration of interest: feedAustralia is a program developed by Healthy Australia

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