If four Rubens beauties were alive today they would probably not have such happy looks as they contemplated each other. They would be worried about those comely curves.

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Never say diet!

 

If four Rubens beauties were alive today they would probably not have such happy looks as they contemplated each other. They would be worried about those comely curves. It’s likely they would have tried the grapefruit diet and a whole host of other slimming schemes.

 

Some of these would have made no difference at all, while some of the others would have eventually led to their putting on more weight. And they might have noticed that the struggle to get rid of the flab got harder with each new approach.

 

Something our beauties may have suspected for a long time is now official: diets don’t work.

 

Health professionals now say rapid weight loss is a no no. Some even recommend you throw away your bathroom scales. The deal is exercise, good food choices, gradual weight reduction and positive lifestyle changes.

 

It’s not a quick fix, and there’s nothing temporary about it.

 

Controlling your weight effectively is something you have to do for life. But if you think you can’t be bothered with that, read on.

 

A staggering problem

 

Fat gain is getting worse. In the 12 years to 2010, the proportion of overweight and obese men in Australia is estimated to have risen from 53 percent to 64 percent. It is a similar but less acute story among women:  up from 37 percent to 45 percent over the same period.

 

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Dr Boyd Swinburn says that in Australia middle-aged people are now, on average, three to four kilograms heavier than they were a decade ago. That represents an increase of around one gram of fat per day.

 

Those extra kilos can become a serious health problem. Extra fat puts you at risk of many diseases, most notably heart disease, diabetes, gallstones and many cancers. It will aggravate things like arthritis and leg and back injuries, and may make snoring a life-threatening problem.

 

Perhaps the worst aspect of all this, from a public health point of view, is that the wrong people are getting the message and doing the wrong things about it. Many young women struggle to maintain an unhealthy slimness; many middle-aged women who have put on just a few kilos are desperate to reduce their hip size.

 

But very few overweight men seem to care, despite the fact that they are most at risk from the trend. That risk comes from where they store fat on their bodies.

 

By and large, overweight men are apple-shaped: they store their fat around the middle. Premenopausal women, on the other hand, tend to become pear-shaped. They put on weight around the hips and thighs. Only after menopause are women more likely to put on abdominal fat like men.

 

Fat stored around the waist and the trunk is more mobile. That makes it easier to lose, but also means it can more easily get into the bloodstream. This can cause insulin resistance, leading to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.

 

People with pot bellies also tend to have high levels of fat surrounding their internal organs. This ‘visceral’ fat seems to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

 

Why are we so fat?

 

·         We have a greater variety of healthy foods available than ever before and we know more about healthy lifestyles. Why is it all going so wrong?

 

·         Partly it is because the population is divided. For every person in training for their first half-marathon at 50, there are many, many more who would struggle over 100 metres at 40.

 

·         Largely, however, it is because life has got too easy. Exercise used to be a natural part of living, but now it must be fitted into busy days as an extra. Cars, automatic washing machines, dishwashers, electric tools, computers, lifts and escalators, automatic garage-door openers, TVs and remote controls all have a lot to answer for.

 

·         Australian researchers say it is likely we expend around 3300 kJ less energy per day than we did as little as 20 years ago. That’s the equivalent of walking around eight kilometres.

 

·         Also to blame is our growing enjoyment of high-fat convenience foods.

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