TV medic, Dr Michael Mosley has a clear message for Australia. He wants us to start using the ‘f-word’.
“Fat is one of those words that is now loaded with blame and stigma, and can be difficult to use,” says Dr Mosley in the new three-part series, Michael Mosley’s Reset at SBS On Demand. “But I think it’s important to use the ‘f-word’ because it really impacts our health.”
The topic of the ‘Better Bodies’ episode, Dr Mosley’s f-word refers to the subcutaneous fat lying directly under our skin and visceral fat sitting around our organs. “Too much fat, particularly around the gut, hugely increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and even some of the common cancers.”
Despite the known risks of excess body fat, almost two in every three adults living in Australia are overweight or obese.
In this panel-style show, the British doctor is joined by local medical experts and everyday Australians to examine why we gain body fat and what we can do to reduce it.
Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Newcastle, Clare Collins, explains that Australians have been getting heavier since the early 1980s.
But what’s interesting is that this trend in weight gain has directly paralleled a change in our food supply where our meals have become more energy dense over time. “You can have three meals a day that can be three times the total amount of kilojoules or energy compared to [a similar meal eaten] in the 1970s and 1980s,” says Professor Collins.
Bariatric doctor and GP, Dr Georgia Rigas adds to the show’s discussion with a strong statement that being overweight or obese is not the result of a lifestyle choice. She reasons that it’s a complex mix of contributing factors, like environment and stress, which affects each person differently.
“There’s also the concept of epigenetics, which explains why a family may have three or four children, and some have … obesity and some don’t,” says Dr Rigas on Michael Mosley’s Reset. “That stems from changes in the environment that have influenced genetics while that child was in-utero.”
So how do we shift unwanted body fat?
The good news is that although some of the causes of weight gain may be partially beyond our control, real-life success stories suggest that the solutions are within our reach. On the show, we meet Jerry, Shantelle and married couple Carly and Charles who all share their personal health experiences.
Jerry, who migrated to Australia from Samoa in his thirties, explains how he moved from 148 kilograms to 131 kilograms just by cutting out alcohol and fizzy drinks and introducing more vegetables into his diet. Jerry’s weight loss also improved his diabetes.
Shantelle, a 27-year-old from Victoria, lost over 30 kilograms in under two years by adopting a long-term eating plan that focused on health, exercise and meal preparation.
Meanwhile, Carly and Charles describe how they lost 10 kilograms with 5:2 intermittent fasting.
The common thread in all of these weight loss stories is clear: there’s no magical way to eradicate unwanted body fat. Everyone who appeared on the show who lost weight and kept it off in the long run worked hard to improve their nutritional intake and become less sedentary.
A Stanford University study released last year suggests a similar deduction. After researchers set out to discover which diet – low-fat or low-carb – fared best for sustainable weight loss in a group of 600 study participants, they concluded that the best diet to follow is one that you can maintain for life that focuses on calorie restriction and healthy eating.
“[Weight loss] is not about aesthetics or looking good in a bikini or anything like that. In the end, that’s not going to keep you going for the next 25 or 30 years,” says Dr Mosley, reminding viewers that the focus of dropping body fat should always be to improve your health.
Dr Rigas adds, “The emphasis isn’t just on weight loss per se but again, on health function and wellbeing because we need to look at the whole person.”
Dr Michael Mosley’s Reset is a new three-part series, created in partnership with Medibank and produced independently by SBS, exploring some of the latest research on the big health issues that affect so many Australians. It's exclusive to SBS On Demand from 4 March 2019.
If this article has raised any concerns or questions, consult your GP or an appropriate health care professional.