Is your family making you fat?
Young parents aged under 40 are showing dangerously high levels of obesity compared to single or childless people the same age, new data from Bupa has found.
The Bupa Family Health Survey shows 61% of surveyed parents under 40 were overweight based on their Body Mass Index (BMI), compared to only 40% of couples without kids and 45% of young singles.
But obesity isn’t inevitable for families, says Bupa chief medical officer Dr Paul Bates.
‘Family life can be go, go, go and we know sometimes parents’ health can suffer due to a busy household,’ he says.
‘While this can have serious implications for the parent, it’s also easy to forget that kids are picking up on mum and dad’s behaviours along the way.
‘It’s concerning that many young parents have reached such an unhealthy outcome at such an early age. In order for kids to learn the behaviours they need to live a healthy lifestyle early – parents need to show them how it’s done.’
Results from a recent American study suggest that parents’ ability to lose weight is a significant contributor to their children’s ability to lose weight and battle childhood obesity.
Paul says the Bupa study’s findings about dads were of particular concern.
Fathers with kids at home had the most alarming figures, with three-quarters in the overweight or obese categories, and more than a third in denial about their actual weight classification.
‘It’s clear Australian dads in particular are not making the link between their weight and the chronic health problems they are likely to suffer, including Type 2 diabetes or heart disease,’ Paul says.
‘Nor are they considering the impact on the health of their kids.
‘When parents look after themselves it puts in place a crucial piece of the puzzle. For families with a long history of obesity, a young dad turning himself around can really help break the cycle for the whole family.’
The research also showed high levels of tiredness, fatigue and headaches among all Australians, but especially among those with kids at home.
Bupa Health and Wellness Advisor Guy Leech says balancing work, family and social lives with regular exercise and a nutritious diet isn’t always easy, but can be done.
‘It’s easier to fit it all in when you’re just looking after yourself or a partner, but that doesn’t mean that families should let their health take a back seat,’ Guy says.
‘We want to be around to see our kids grow up, and a key part of that involves making a few changes at a time to help you lose weight, sleep better and reduce stress levels.’
He recommends Australians sit down with their partner, then their family, to talk about ways to improve the family’s health, as well as visiting a GP periodically for a health check.
‘Dinner time is good family time to talk about food, nutrition and exercise, so try to eat dinner together at the table, rather than in front of the TV,’ Guy says.
‘Consider incorporating a family walk into your day after work and school, or agree to all take up a new sport or active hobby.’
Who’s too big?
The Bupa survey found that:
- 61% of adults in young families (aged under 40 and with children in the household, including single parent families) are overweight or obese based on reported BMI.
- 40% of people classified as young couples (aged under 40 and living with a partner only) and 45% of young singles are overweight or obese based on reported BMI.
- Men in families are more likely to be overweight or obese, with 72% of men in young families and 79% in older families (over 40 and with children at home) fitting into this category.
- In contrast, 57% of women in younger families and 60% of women in older families are overweight or obese.
- The gap between self-description of weight and actual BMI is largest among men in younger families: 72% are overweight or obese, but only 29% believe it.
- Meanwhile, 32% of young singles perceive themselves to be overweight or obese, but the actual figure is 47%.
- In the family setting, women in the young couples segment are more realistic, with 34% actually overweight or obese and 32% self-identifying this way.
- In younger families, 46% of women perceive themselves as overweight or obese, while 57% actually are.