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Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was pretty rare to find anyone with a serious weight problem. Sure, other health issues were worse than they are today, but obesity just wasn't a problem for most people. How things have changed! Nowadays, the world - and doctors' waiting rooms - are full of people struggling with their weight.
A Growing Problem
The first signs of what would become an increasingly widespread obesity problem didn't really begin to surface until the 1980s. Initially, the situation wasn't too serious, but over time the prevalence of obesity has increased significantly. By 1989–90, the rate of obesity was around 9-10%; by 2001 it had risen to 16% in men and 17% in women. Today, almost 2 out of 3 adults in Australia are obese.
You Are What You Eat
This left researchers asking why. Lifestyle changes are partly responsible, with deskbound careers replacing manual labour and video games replacing sports. But the real problem might be our changing diets.
The days when people mostly ate fresh foods are gone. Nowadays, more and more of our foodstuffs are heavily processed, and are often loaded with obesity-causing ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup.
The solution is likely to be complex. It's pretty clear, though, that diet can make a difference. We can't turn the clock back 50 years, but changing our diets to include more fruit and vegetables needn't be too hard. Options such as fresh juice are a great way to improve your diet, for example.
It's not all bad news. Changes in the availability and variety of foods have brought improvements in nutrition. By substituting beneficial foods for high fat and sugar, you can enjoy a 21st century diet without the 21st century waistline.
There is an old wive's tale that you shouldn’t drink water with your meal. Like a lot of old wive's tales, there is sometimes some truth behind it. Its not something I have ever believed. I have always drunk lots of water with my food, as well as before and after meals. Staying hydrated is of particular importance before eating so you aren’t overeating, thinking you are responding to hunger cues which are in fact thirsty cues. But could there be any truth to it?
There seems to be competing schools of thought on whether it is actually bad for you or completely harmless. The bad for you school says that excessive liquids during meals can lead to bloating, indigestion and even nutrient malabsorption. This can happen due to the “dilution” of the enzymes and acids in the stomach to help break down the foods.
On the opposite side of the argument there are studies that have been completed in hospitals on patients prepping for surgery to test this theory of “diluted stomach acid and enzymes” and it appears that it isn’t true. Although these types of studies haven’t been conducted on a mass scale, the evidence is still convincing that water during meals may not be as harmful as others believe.
Drinking water before meals has been shown to help increase weight loss in obese people. Two groups of obese people were studied and the group that drank 2 glasses of water before each meal lost more weight than a group told to imagine they were full before each meal (this “imagine” group was even exercising more than the water drinkers).
The best advice is to drink up to 3 litres per day and listen to your body. If you tend to get bloated when drinking water with your meal, then try to only drink water to help you swallow. But otherwise if you are a fish like me and can’t help yourself, then drink away! And if weight loss is your objective then a pretty simple strategy of drinking 2 glasses before each meal looks like a pretty simple and easy way to get started.