The Deeply Unsexy Crisis We Can No Longer Ignore

24/02/2016 5:25 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Australian girl coming out of the water at beach

bondi beach australia

We think we look like this... but we don't.

It's not really news to us that we're fat. I mean, we know when we have trouble doing up the pants that fitted comfortably six months ago. And we know when we're eating that bacon and egg roll that it's not the ideal breakfast and certainly not the ideal morning tea.

And we know when we look around us we're not the only ones. Those other people in the line at McDonald's could do with a few more salads and a few less thick shakes, couldn't they?

And we know the kids should get out more and run around. But they're safe there on the couch... where we can see them.

And we know 3,000 steps in one day is pathetic but there's just so much work to do, and so many Facebook posts to keep up with -- so the last lunch-time walk just gets further and further in the past.

And it's hard getting home in time to make dinner and a KFC bucket every now and again isn't going to kill anyone. Once a month, or maybe twice last week...

And really, our kids aren't the fattest ones in their class.

And we're Australian -- the rest of the world thinks we're a bunch of bronzed beach babes, don't they? So we must be doing something right.

And what's the government doing about it?

Pass me a Coke. There's a 24-pack in the pantry that was on special.

No, it's not news that we're fat (yes, we -- statistically speaking, more people reading this will be overweight or obese than not).

As topics go, it sure ain't sexy.

Here are some seriously unsexy numbers:

In 2014-2015, 63.4 percent of Australian adults were overweight or obese -- up from 56.3 percent in 1995.

One in four Australian children are overweight.

Heart disease is our biggest killer.

And we visit fast-food outlets 51.5 million times a month.

Yeah, we know! Don't get all judgy on us...

Well how about this:

The ABS says in 2008 the total cost of obesity to our economy was $58 billion.

It costs hospitals, straining under our collective weight, an extra $1.2 billion per year.

We're losing productivity. We're less innovative. We're a drain on the budget. We're a preventable drain on the health system.

Still don't care?

Overweight people are less educated and earn less. They are less productive and report a lower quality of life.

They get diabetes at a far higher rate. They have more joint pain. It affects their relationships, their fertility and their enjoyment of parenting.

You'll get all the details of these facts in coming days as we roll out our coverage of one of the biggest single challenges facing Australian society.

Today's post lays out the barest of the shocking facts. Tomorrow, we examine the economic costs and the next day the measurable, and immeasurable, costs to individuals.

It's a national crisis. There's no denying it -- our bottom line is suffering.

It's a problem for individuals, schools, cultural and sporting groups, employers and the government -- and not one of these groups or people can fix it alone.

While we have the perennial argument about banning junk-food advertising, no one is expecting the health department to mandate our portion sizes for us or boot us off Netflix to head out for a run.

While we demand employers bring in healthy workplace practices, businesses are also being saddled with a workforce in less-than-its-best shape.

And yes, individuals have to take responsibility for what we put in our own mouths and what we teach our children to put in theirs.

What's the answer? Well, I have to admit we don't know.

I often bore dinner party companions to sleep with my insistence that cooking should be compulsory for all school students for the full 13 years of school. That's just one idea.

But we're going to spend this year looking for as many answers as we can find. Small ideas. Big ideas. Ideas that are already making a difference.

We need to have an honest conversation about what's gone wrong and what we might do as a society, as families and as individuals, to turn it around.

Yes the government has a vested interest in whipping us into shape -- but it can't do it for us.

No it's not news, but we can no longer pretend it's someone else's problem.

If you have an idea (a big one, or a small one - even a nutty one) email me at

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