Australia: Fit or Fat? is a guest blog article from Caralyn Dea. You can read her bio below the article.
Australia: Land of kangaroos, koalas and crocodiles, beautiful beaches, tanned, fit, muscly men, and slim attractive women. When I speak to people this is the image that they have in their mind. But, is everything as it seems? How would you rate Australian health? Are the people of Australia: Fit or Fat?
The reality is so very different. Australia is racing America for the highest obesity population. The average Australian’s health is declining exponentially. Australia is a multicultural melting pot. Melbourne, for example, has the second largest Greek population in the world. Athens, Melbourne and then Thessonaliki in Greece is where the most Greeks live. Australia is just like America. We are diverse, we are interesting, and we are fat!
Australia is the 4th fattest nation in the developed world. Statistics that were released this week put 28.2% of Australian adults in the obesity category and 65% of Australian adults are overweight. Two thirds of my country has a weight issue. When I ponder this and wonder why; how could it be that a country so rich in sporting prowess, with such beautiful weather and amazing countryside, that 65% of Adults are overweight, I could come up with several answers but the one that is the most glaringly obvious to me is, comfort.
I live in a particularly harsh climate. I live in Darwin which is at the very top of Australia. It is the land of crocodiles and deadly snakes and that is no exaggeration. It’s also a particularly harsh climate. The thermometer rarely dips below 90 F during the day, we just have varying levels of humidity. At this time of year the humidity sits at about 85%. In the dry season (June-September) it sits at about 30%. There are 2 seasons here. The Dry season and the wet season. Walking down the stairs to the car breaks a sweat. This harsh climate exacerbates discomfort and excuses.
“It is too hot to exercise.”
“It is too hot to cook.”
“It is too hot to move off the couch and go for a swim.”
“It is too hot to walk the dog.”
These are just some of the excuses that I have heard from my students. I have a discussion with my 9th grade Food & Nutrition class each semester and ask them why they don’t exercise, or what prevents them from exercising more regularly. These are the kinds of excuses I hear. I agree with each and every one of them. Exercise does hurt. However, it is a good pain. There is a distinct difference between good pain and bad pain, I retort. Sweating is normal and natural and some people sweat more than others (I sweat just thinking about exercise, I’m that good at sweating). It is hot EVERY SINGLE DAY in Darwin. Just as I am sure there are uncomfortable weather patterns in the place that you live.
We are creatures of comfort. We have developed a society in which we don’t have to EVER be uncomfortable. We can, if we choose, go from an air conditioned house to an air conditioned car to an air conditioned office, have our food handed to us through a window so that we don’t even have to stand in a queue and be ‘inconvenienced’ by that! We are living in what I like to describe as a vanilla society. We just go about our business, careful not to upset anyone, earn our money surround ourselves in ‘things’ and seek out convenience. It is socially acceptable to be vanilla. Life, I believe is meant to be more like a chilli: Spicy, interesting, diverse and a little bit uncomfortable.
What is wrong with being uncomfortable? What is wrong with stepping out of your zone of comfort and doing something that challenges you? Do you have a life that is vanilla: Smooth, soft and comfortable or do you have a life that is like a chilli: spicy, interesting and just a little bit uncomfortable? In which life are you more fulfilled? Vanilla or Chilli? Which life gives you something to look forward to, something that makes you nervous, something that challenges you?
Australian health is a difficult issue as we want to be successful and prosperous. However, as has been seen in America, this is not usually a healthy lifestyle for good health. The time to change is now. Live your life is a fulfilling manner, but be respectful of what your body needs for health. Sitting in an air conditioned office all day is probably not going to satisfy either.
Guest Author’s Biography
Caralyn Dea was born and raised in Australia by an American father and an Australian mother. She has lived various places in Australia and America. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Western Sydney and a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning from Charles Darwin University. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.
She claims that her mother and father are both terrible cooks and food was something that she ate because she had to and the more tomato sauce (ketchup) she could get onto the meal to mask the taste, the better. When she was in the 7th grade she took Food Technology as a subject and discovered that food could not only taste great but was easy to make. From there her interest in food, health and nutrition developed and soon became her passion.
Caralyn has always played sports and has tried to be healthy but there have been times in her life went far, far, far off the healthy lifestyle track. From there she had to claw back her health and fitness. It is something that she now takes seriously. She cycles about 60 – 80 miles per week and plays netball to keep active.
She admits that she is not perfect. “I love a glass of wine at night and because I love cooking so much I eat my fair share of baked goods. However, it is all in moderation and I don’t feel guilty about it and I don’t consider it a treat. It is all wrapped up in my daily energy intake and if that exceeds my output then I have to work harder the next day to ensure my weight doesn’t start to creep up on me or that I lose control over my habits,” she says.
After graduating university, she worked for Nestle as a Home Economist and when then started a retail franchise chain of Juice Bars at age 25. When she sold the company, she had 30 stores around Australia. Caralyn currently teaches Food Technology (cooking, health, nutrition, food ethics, food safety, lifestyle choices etc.) to kids in the 8th through 12th grade at a school in Darwin, Australia.
She tries to pass on her passion and curiosity of food and to be a good role model of a healthy, active lifestyle. Caralyn was recently awarded Teacher of the Year for the Northern Territory. Congratulations, Caralyn.
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