Saturday, January 19, 2013


How times change!    Years ago and yes, let's face it, decades ago, life was different.   When we were kids we raced around playing games - we run or skipped or jumped at any time, and anywhere.   We played outdoor games such as "rounders", baseball (albeit a gentler version than the boys), basketball, tried out tennis and even wanted to be included in the boys' cricket team.   We were busy being kids and raced around before school, during play times and at lunch time, and then again after we came home from school.  

As young adults, we walked to High School and then later when we found a job we walked to our place of work.   At lunch time we either walked around the city window shopping or sat in the park eating a packed lunch and if we had a drink it would be from the water fountain in the park, or else we took a thermos of tea.  Yes!   We drank tea - soft drinks were only there for special occasions such as a birthday party or a family celebration.   Not everyday.   If we were meeting with our friends to go to the "pictures" (cinema) or to go dancing on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon, we got there by walking.   Even in high heeled shoes and I do admit to wearing high-heels in my youth.   But the main thing is that we walked and even though we didn't necessarily attend exercise classes, we certainly got plenty of exercise from doing ordinary every-day things.  We even walked to the local telephone box to make important calls.  No one had a personal telephone in their homes - they were for companies, places like hospitals and hotels and such.

Becoming older adults, marrying and having children, we still walked everywhere.  Who could afford a car back then?  Who could afford to catch a taxi?  They were very few and far between.   Bending, stretching, constantly moving doing housework, spending time in the kitchen preparing meals for a hungry family, getting down on our knees to wash and polish the floors, weekly dusting, and doing the laundry - I even remember my first washing machine some 15 years into my marriage; couldn't afford one before then.  We were physically tired each day.   Three hours at a gym?   We'd never even heard the word gym  used to describe attending a social networking,  a gym to us had been a part of our school-day when we were younger.   

Fast forward a couple or three decades.   Public transport made travelling a breeze, even to places of work.  Some of us even commuted intrastate or interstate.   We could afford to have a personal telephone in every room of the house.  Supermarkets had arrived on the scene where you could buy almost anything - of course meat and vegetables were still only available from their respective shops in the beginning but that too, soon changed.   We were able to afford, having taken a hire purchase agreement to pay off in regular instalments, a refrigerator.  So "modern" after the ice chest that most of us had grown up with. Electrical appliances of all sorts came onto the market, making life easier.  Or should I perhaps say, a little lazier?

Women even had the opportunity of buying their own car.   What freedom.  We could go where we liked, when we liked and we didn't have to ask anyone's permission.   We could even seek out a tea shop where we could meet friends and spend time together.   But we still walked a lot, and worked a lot around the house, as well as when the opportunity arose, holding down a full time job.

Shopping centres came into being.  Big, huge, centres where lots of different shops tempted the pay packet.   Little coffee shops sprung up, and it soon became normal to by-pass the friendly local shopping strip and go to the Mall where you could buy everything you needed all at the one stop.   Chinese restaurants opened; and then many new and different tantalising exotic foods appeared;  we didn't need to travel overseas to enjoy the luxuries of "foreign" foods.  

And what does all this have to do with obesity?   Well, I'm no health expert, but I am an observer.   We became more and more dependent upon the convenience of getting into the car to go down the street to shop or even to visit someone in the back street, rather than walking.   If we were running late we caught a taxi - hang the cost.   Frozen meals appeared on the supermarket shelves and we took to them like ducks to water.  We could save time!    We didn't have to slave over the kitchen stove cooking and preparing meals.   Laundromats opened - so each week we could take the bedlinen and laundry there and for a couple of dollars get it all done without having to lug it out and hang it up on the clothes line at home.   We could pick up the phone and get a local man to come around and cut the grass and clean up the garden.    Some career women even had the luxury of having someone in to clean the house each week.  Life became easier and it definitely became lazier.

And how to fill in the time that we saved?   We could sit in front of the wonderful new "thing" that was taking everybody's interest - a television and then wow! a computer, and spend hours learning new things.   We could pick up a small mobile phone and use it not only as a means of keeping in touch with friends and family but also to carry on our business.   We turned our homes into our own small offices.

Our eating habits changed along with the change in our life-style (i.e. the energy used in doing everyday chores).  Because we were no longer doing physically demanding jobs around the house and workplace, we began to "eat out".   It was all very exciting and new.  It became "normal" to go to the Mall every day, sit and have a cup of coffee and more often then not a donut or cream cake.  No longer were we content with a packed lunch and a piece of fruit - there were too many other things to enjoy.  After morning tea we'd go to another restaurant and have lunch.   Oh well, after a bit of shopping, why not stop and have another cup of coffee and a small snack.   If we were thirsty we could pick and choose between countless soft drinks and if we were very thirsty we'd even have two.   We'd smile knowingly when older people spoke about the three meals a day routine - a good breakfast, a light lunch and a wholesome dinner at night - what did they know?  

If our clothes became a bit tight, we'd just go and buy a larger size.   We could then have our cake and eat it too!

Did we see what was happening to us?   In our eagerness to embrace all the many changes that occurred over the decades following the Second World War, we didn't realise that we were doing our bodies immeasurable harm.   In recent years we've had to re-learn what is "healthy" food, nutritious food, wholesome food.  We've had to learn to eat today's food in moderation and we've had to learn to read labels.   And that, my friends, is a debatable point.  The labels say a lot, and they don't say enough.  They don't say what is really important.   We read:  no added fat;  but that doesn't say mean what it says.  Because no we know there are various types of fat - some good and some very, very bad!    The word "added" means nothing;  "no added sugar"?, but it doesn't say that there are already sugars within that product.  Again the words "added sugars" means nothing, because we don't know exactly what is in that product.    Nothing seems to be grown naturally or manufactured naturally these days - there's something added, there's something taken away and then of course the "additives" - chemicals, vitamins (if they were grown correctly why should they need vitamins to be added?); minerals, colours, taste enhancers, emulsifiers and on it goes.

Are you aware that a Baskin & Robbins Yoghurt Smoothie contains between 29-31 teaspoons of sugar?   Boost Juice's Skinny Minny Melon has 549 kJ (131 calories).   I hate counting calories but it do realise the significance of one small glass of juice having 131 calories!   

What's the answer?   Common sense combined with wanting to do the best for our bodies (and our minds) as we possibly can.   We don't need to starve ourselves, or to constantly diet, or to spend hundreds of dollars going to the gym.   It comes down to mind over matter and accepting what is, and changing what can be changed to benefit our own personal health.

Me?   I admit I'm a plus-size woman.   Every woman in my family for at least four generations has been considered plus-size. We're also tall.   I enjoy good food; and I read recently that there is no such as "bad" food - it's all food.  It's the quantity and the balance that are important.   And I guess that says it all.

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