Three lifestyle changes Aussies need to adopt now
Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.
A recent trip around Spain, France and Italy highlighted just how much we have overcomplicated things when it comes our health. While life within Europe is clearly varied, there are commonalities to the Mediterranean life that we can all learn from.
While food - the quality and quantity of it - is often cited as a leading factor in Europeans’ comparatively long life expectancy, other lifestyle factors are also important reasons.
1. There is no choice
Things are simple. There is no plethora of choice. In fact, they scowl - or laugh - at you if you order an almond milk latte or soy cappuccino. You get full cream milk and if you’re lucky low-fat milk. You certainly won’t find all of the nut-based milks that are the flavour of the week in Sydney.
There is also a great emphasis on grocery shopping at markets and the importance of sustainable farming and locally produced food cannot be overlooked. There is a lot to be said about walking around a local market, talking to each of the local producers, and learning about all the seasonal ingredients. Some of the simplest and best food is made with only a few fresh ingredients. Noone needs or wants to be pondering down a supermarket aisle looking for cleverly marketed and obscure ingredients when the real pleasure and joy comes from sourcing locally produced ingredients.
Food is simple and what we should be putting in our mouth is simple. Your grandmother can tell you that.
2. Social connections
Everywhere we visited had a strong focus on community. It was a common sight to see families and friends getting together to share food, conversation and each other’s company. And at minimum, this was a sunday ritual.
It was also a common site to witness people seeking enjoyment from the simplest things in life; whether it be sitting in the local square with friends, or on the park bench watching the world go by. What stood out was that people were in contact with one another and in touch with their surrounding environment; not attached to their phone everywhere they went.
Research has proven that people who have fulfilling relationships with family, friends and the community are happier, have better long-term health, and live longer.
3. Activity is part of everyday life
Activity is part of daily life in Europe. People don’t sit on their arse all day and then drive to the gym. In fact, you will seldom see a gym. Instead, they make movement a priority by walking to and from town, the shops, and to and from public transport.
Many still hand-wash their clothes, vacuum the floor, and carry home their grocery supplies. We, on the other hand, turn on the washing machine, put the robot vacuum cleaner to work, and wait in our living room for the food to be delivered. These technological innovations have solved the physical demands of manual labour but created new challenges for the human body. For example, cleaning a rug burns the equivalent of a cheeseburger whilst turning on the robot vacuum burns nothing.
Throughout Europe, adequate infrastructure also exists to support healthy habits. There is a good public transport system, outdoor equipment for strength training, and cycling paths link town to town. Movement gets the attention it deserves.
Sedentary lifestyles are killing us. It’s time to think beyond the gym and incorporate activity into our everyday lives.
This year take the steps to start prioritising your health before its all too late.