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TIM PALMER: Could it be that Australians be getting too comfortable with being fat? A new report suggests over 60 per cent of the country is overweight or obese and that we’re starting to think that this is normal.

It seems timely then that Obesity Australia has at the same time launched a five-point plan to deal with the so-called obesity epidemic. It recommends, among other things, restrictions on the advertising of fast foods and sugary drinks.

But is tackling the problem only from a food and exercise perspective the way to go?

This report from Kumi Taguchi.

KUMI TAGUCHI: Doctor Amanda Sainsbury-Salis used to be obese. As a young adult and standing at 160 centimetres, her weight soared to 93 kilos.

AMANDA SAINSBURY-SALIS: I’d always feel shut off from the rest of the world. I would feel overly visible as if everybody could see me. So I constantly felt self conscious, and also the physical discomfort.

KUMI TAGUCHI: Amanda Sainsbury-Salis is also a molecular scientist, and is known for her research in weight-loss.

AMANDA SAINSBURY-SALIS: Obesity definitely needs to be tackled on a holistic level. So looking at the whole person, not just diet, exercise, lifestyle, screen time, but also, you know, how fulfilled you are.

KUMI TAGUCHI: Obesity Australia this week launched a five-point plan to deal with the obesity epidemic. It included giving parents of young children more information and restricting TV advertising of junk and sugary foods.

Professor Paul O’Brien is the director for the Centre of Obesity Research and Education at Monash University.

PAUL O’BRIEN: When we look at trying to solve a population problem, these techniques have failed. We haven’t yet established a clear technique which we can apply across a community and make a difference.

KUMI TAGUCHI: Professor O’Brien says that while we do have pathways to treat obesity, like diet, health, gastric banding and even surgery, he doesn’t know how we can become a thinner nation in the long-term.

PAUL O’BRIEN: We have a society which has now plenty of food. It’s low cost, it’s readily available and it’s marketed very effectively to all of us. And at the same time we have a life in which we can do very little, where you can get away with very little activity.

KUMI TAGUCHI: And there is evidence to suggest that focussing on diet and exercise only is only part of the jigsaw puzzle.

Vanessa Auditore is a counsellor and fitness trainer, and helps clients with the emotional side of obesity. She says childhood trauma, relationship issues, or stress, can make people use food as a crutch or filler.

VANESSA AUDITORE: If a person doesn’t address those interpersonal conflicts, they’re going to eventually start creeping back in because even though the person may have lost some weight or if they’re exercising they’re doing those physical bits that are required of them, the pain that they utilise food for, as an example, is still suppressed, is still covered up.

KUMI TAGUCHI: The irony is, once the weight comes off, the underlying trauma or abuse can emerge.

Vanessa Auditore says these can be physical, emotional, verbal or sexual and that’s when it’s important to build a wider support network.

VANESSA AUDITORE: Know in the back of your mind, in your professional mind, that you’re going to need to be getting some support for this person to deal with the emotional pain as well as the psychological, the mental patterning that they’ve created as a part of their life coping mechanism.

TIM PALMER: Vanessa Auditore ending that report from Kumi Taguchi.

Vanessa Auditore – Human Behaviour & Wellbeing specialist – Bach Science / Psychology (current study), Registered Counsellor, Life Coach, Personal Trainer, Natural Figure Athlete practices at Centre of Wellness 31 Atchison St, St Leonards.

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