As health professionals, we are always trying to treat the patient in front of us. With the input of lifestyle medicine, we are being encouraged to treat the ‘whole patient’ rather than just a constellation of symptoms. The hope is that this holistic approach, including a focus on lifestyle interventions, will be the most effective way of treating the whole patient. However, a number of these holistic interventions are hampered by the environment and society in which we live.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where anyone, young or old, can walk into a supermarket and be exposed to huge advertising and promotion of unhealthy, sugary, and fatty foods. In addition, these same people witness a fast food company sponsoring one of, if not the largest, sporting events in the world. As if those points weren’t enough, very recent research has suggested that the ‘upselling’ that is pushed on us in nearly every restaurant, café, and supermarket we enter, is fueling obesity. These factors all combine to generate an environment where the idea of food is something that is fast, easy, and tastes artificially good. The only end-point of this relationship with food is Obesity, and all of its related health complications.
In addition to having a dysfunctional relationship with food, recently published research says that around 6 million adults in the United Kingdom don’t walk for 10 continuous brisk minutes per month. This is a frightening statistic. The fact that these 40-60 year olds do not even reach a brisk walk for 10 minutes over a month, highlights the fact that we have become a generation of people obsessed with the instant satisfaction of our televisions, mobile phones, and the internet. Now, whilst these things are not bad things in their own right, when they begin to impact the active lifestyle we all should lead, there becomes a problem.
So currently, we are a society that is being duped when it comes to food purchasing and consumption, is hooked on Netflix and laying on the sofa, and believes that all Olympic athletes got their physique by scoffing McDonalds (okay, maybe not that one…). Thankfully, work by a number of high-profile medics and non-medics within public health and lifestyle medicine is hoping to change this course. Active 10 is a fantastic initiative helping people to become more active, whilst many people are fighting hard for a sugar-tax to be introduced. If we keep following the example of these individuals, we will change our societal view on food and lifestyle, and hopefully make the job of treating a patient holistically almost seamless.