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'What I witnessed made me shudder with fear' - Nino Severino on the obesity crisis

Nino Severino says we have to address the obesity crisis in the UK. Picture: PA

Nino Severino says we have to address the obesity crisis in the UK. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

In his latest column, Nino Severino discusses his concerns about the rising issue of morbid obesity in the UK and beyond.

Poor eating choices and lack of exercise are creating a ticking health timebomb for thousands of people. Picture: PAPoor eating choices and lack of exercise are creating a ticking health timebomb for thousands of people. Picture: PA

As The Hub Centre of Excellence in Ipswich continues to grow in size, my role as director requires me to address many areas of sport, and health, including physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Currently we are developing our online Hub portal, which will provide athletes with a one stop shop opportunity to tap into all the main areas of support any junior or senior athlete would require to perform in sport generally.

There are two areas that I am constantly being asked about – nutrition and mental skills, both junior and senior athletes alike seem to struggle with applying good structure in these critical areas of performance, which reflect strongly on general wellbeing.

Presently as a group of professionals we have been focusing on nutrition, which in turn has brought my focus to the general public and how as a nation we are dealing with food, and the effect it is having on the lives of families.

The more I studied this area, the more concerned I am becoming regarding the relationship between food and the day to day lives of the UK population.

As a father, and now grandfather, I am very interested in how as a population we are coping – or more accurately, not coping – with the management of simply eating throughout the day, and if, incorrectly managed, the implications it can have on the quality of life.

This focus has motivated me not only to read and study this area in more detail, but also to watch some of the many programmes that actually seem to be making this a source of entertainment.

As I was scanning down the list of programmes on offer, I came across a programme called ‘My 600 Pound Life’, which I must admit created a bit of curiosity – I decided to watch it and, quite frankly, what I saw shocked me.

It followed the lives of individuals who simply have lost control in terms of their relationship and day to day habits with food. So much so, that they become immobile, and lose the ability to leave their beds, becoming completely bedridden and isolated from life.

The low cost and ease of availability of fast food is a major issue in creating an obesity crisis. Picture: PAThe low cost and ease of availability of fast food is a major issue in creating an obesity crisis. Picture: PA

This “super morbid obesity” problem is so widespread in America that professional doctors and professors are benefiting from a billion-pound industry from the poor souls who are suffering this torturous life.

To take advantage of the commercial opportunities in this area, they are developing medical units, known as obesity clinics. And I can tell you, the individuals who deal in this area of health are making a fortune through medical procedures such as gastric bypass operations.

For many, this is the last resort, when personal levels of self-control become almost non-existent, and individuals are systematically killing themselves through the incredible mountains of food they are consuming on a daily basis.

I find it utterly depressing to see so many young Americans lining up for this procedure, which shrinks the stomach to prevent large volumes of food being eaten, while the surgeon can also re-route, or bypass, part of the digest system so lesser amounts of food are absorbed into the system.

As I watched, I thought to myself how pleased I was that we do not have this issue here in the UK – but it’s made me more aware of the general body shape of the British public on my travels.

During one trip up north, I needed to stop off for a toilet break and some food and drink, so I parked up at one of the service stations along the motorway to see what was on offer.

As most of you will be aware, when you walk around these complexes, there is a huge amount of choice in terms of what you can buy to eat and drink, varying from healthy and tasty through to tasty and extremely unhealthy!

I purchased my food and drink, sat down, and just started to think about the nutritional programme and strategies we are developing at The Hub.

That made my mind drift, and I started to think about the TV show I’d watched, and this in turn made me just sit and people watch - what I witnessed made me shudder with fear.

I found myself watching individuals who literally could not walk without rocking from side to side, attempting to compensate with the extreme physical bulk they needed to cope with.

I witnessed too many morbidly obese individuals, in a very small amount of time, holding bags of fatty, high calorific, low nutritional fast food and drink, looking for a place to sit and eat.

If I am honest, I felt very low emotionally at this point and thought to myself, my goodness – we are rapidly going the same way as the USA.

There was one individual, who after eating a burger meal, which consisted of a shocking triple helping of burger and bun, simply could not get up off his seat without the help of his wife and children.

It became glaringly obvious to me that as a nation, we need to react now and decisively – otherwise, not too far in the distant future, there will be a UK version of ‘My 600 Pound Life’!

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