Down with the 'quick fix' culture

Ringold's 'cheesey fries' post and the many contributions underneath it has had me thinking. It seems everytime I pick up a magazine in the hairdressers there's some article about someone (usually a woman) who followed some magic plan and lost half their body weight. Or someone (usually a man) who has abs to die for after using some piece of equipment for a month. Then I walk around a supermarket and see box after box of sugar and fat loaded rubbish, and start to wonder whether people have lost the ability to make sensible decisions about food and exercise, whether people are no longer able to cook, and why being thin is seen as a desirable objective in itself. Why 'fit' became a youth word for good looking, rather than healthy of heart and muscle.

I had dinner earlier in the week with my friend who is a NHS nutritionist and mused on some of the unrealistic dietary advice that she gives out (anyone fancy a handful of flax seeds as part of their lunch?). I look at the NHS BMI calculator and it tells me I am a bit overweight but then tells me I should lose the vast number of kilos that would put me in the middle of the 'healthy' range, rather than the handful that would take my BMI below 25.

So on the one hand we bombard people with quick fix this and quick fix that, and on the other we make unrealistic asks of people.

In my working life I have been involved in projects making small incremental changes, and ones trying to make bigger step changes. The former work, the latter usually don't. Similarly short term 'diets' almost always fail in the long run, as do many new fad exercise programmes.

This blog is a real success story of people who have made small, incremental changes and stuck with them, achieving big changes in their health over time. If I were a health professional I would be a huge advocate of C25k, even though it might take someone a couple of years to shift excess weight this way (even when combined with sensible diet). I look at myself. My BMI may still be stubbornly in the upper 20s but I have always eaten proper food, and by taking on regular exercise am pretty sure I have lowered my risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes etc.

Happy running, everyone.

17 Replies

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  • Great post. Very much agree with you.

  • Excellent post, well said.

  • That is all so true ! I am reminded of Dave Brailsford and the fantastic results he achieved with the GB cycling team with the following philosophy :

    "The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together" Dave Brailsford(2012)

  • True words. I am trying my best to evangelize about C25K in all my known circles, and had my first convert, my dad! Small incremental changes are the best :)

  • Good post. I am digesting lots of flax seed at the moment - on my cereal, in my smoothies, stirred into my yoghurt .... anything for a poo!!!

  • I give it to my kids to encourage a healthy flow! I really should start sprinkling it on my cereal too. That said, I was only thinking this morning that the running had encouraged a more regular & healthy pattern :)

  • TMI, LOL

  • Try grinding them and take them with water. (Grim!)

  • Great post, wholeheartedly agree.

  • Wonderful post and I wholeheartedly agree...especially about the small changes ......

  • Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I have never been overweight so there were virtually zero societal pressures to do anything about the fact that I hadn't exercised for 20 years.

    This programme is the only thing that got me hooked. I treasure the feeling of my lungs full of air and feeling so much stronger than I have for years. It also influences my food choices as I want to look after my running apparatus :)

    Bit by bit the whole family is getting involved too. Taking things small step by small step has made a massive difference for us.

    Great post. Thank you

  • Excellent resume of the situation. I sometimes get the feeling that by chasing after miracle solutions we knowingly set ourselves up for failure. Miracle remedies are very lucrative for those who peddle them but leave collateral damage for many.

    I've never felt better than I do now - a healthy diet, not depriving myself but avoiding processed rubbish and alcohol, taking exercise to get rid of stress and get some necessary fresh air, sleeping well. I don't worry about meeting other people's criteria, but my own - i.e. feeling happy and well.

  • Great post and great sentiment for those who need reminding that small steps constantly are far better than massive strides occasionally. As with running the smaller the cadence the better the pace. Just goes to show how much you can learn starting this running lark. So many benefits.

  • What's so unrealistic per se about suggesting flax seeds? The issue is about dishing out 'advice' rather than information and then helping people explore which suggestions they are going to try and supporting them whilst they do so which involves a lot of listening... which takes time and that's what NHS staff are usually short of. A lot of times in the health education work I do, if you let someone talk long enough they work through all the 'can'ts' and come round to some small very positive ideas, some of which you as the 'expert' might not have thought of or might have assumed were not for this person. But I have the 'luxury' of being a volunteer!

    I like flax seed best in bread and pizza dough... although I gather you need to grind them for benefits other than the 'mechanical' ones described so eloquently above.

    I must have another look at the NHS BMI calculator to see if it has changed recently as I didn't read it the same way as you at all. The moment I got below a BMI of 25 it was congratulating me and making no mention of further weight loss (I think I could usefully lose another 10kgs as I certainly have plenty extra round my middle still, even granted that I am sure I am meant to be quite solid)

    I definitely agree with the 'small changes' My 'journey' started with a very small improvement in my health which made it feasible to start parking at the opposite end of the supermarket car park, inspired by the notion of Random Acts of Fitness (many of which it is still impractical for me to implement, and I have tried)

  • My friend seemed to be suggesting flax seeds (and broccoli, and a few other things) should be eaten daily. I think most people would find it difficult to find a way of incorporating a daily intake of flax seeds. Sure, you can use them in bread, if you make it. You can add them to cereals, to salads. I might eat them sometimes, but not every day. I am also happy to eat broccoli a couple of times a week but not every day.

    Try seeing what the BMI calculator shows when you are over 25. Mine is 26.4, it's headline is about losing 12.5kg to be in the middle of the healthy range.

  • Interesting... I tried and tried with weights I knew to be over, in the healthy BMI range and underweight and what I saw was the range of healthy weights for my height, lowest to highest... so I was mystified by the 'headline' you refer to.

    It was only when I clicked on 'why this matters' that something came up saying losing Xkgs would put me in the middle of the healthy BMI range. I don't think this is the main information they are trying to get across as it doesn't come up on the first screen... but perhaps it would be an idea to alert NHS choices to how this is coming across?

  • Quite possibly. It doesn't drive my actions as I am very comfortable with myself, but I do think that sort of thing can feed the crash diet culture. Not everyone's ideal weight is in the middle of the range anyway.

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