Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ride to Cure Diabetes

Here's a cause close to my heart since I look after all the kids with type 1 diabetes up here in Darwin

It saddens me when parents tell me that:

"no one asks my child over for a sleep over because they are afraid of the added responsibility and if they have to give my child an injection.."

"..other people think my child has diabetes because of what I ate when I was pregnant or what I gave my child to eat (like lots of lollies)"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Obesity may be contagious

With rates of obesity in Australia only marginally behind the United States and tracking at the same pace, mathematical and social modelling on the projection of obesity rates in America is sobering reading for Australians.

The most recent statistics on the weight and health of the Australian population paints the grim picture of one in four adults classified as obese (defined as a body mass index above 30 kg/m2). When overweight is added to this, 68% of adult Australians are likely carrying more weight than what is good for them. These rates have been consistently rising for the last three decades and do not appear to show any signs of slowing.

A research team from Harvard University has applied complex mathematical modelling, derived from long running diet and health studies, to determine how obesity rates could look like in the United States in the future. As Australia closely matches and tracks the United States for obesity rates, and has a similar standard of living, then forecasts from this modelling would have currency for Australians.

The bottom line is that obesity rates will likely reach a peak of 42% of the population within 40 years. This result on its own is probably not so surprising, but the interesting finding that came from the research was the factors most likely to predict if a person would become obese.

The more friends a person has who are obese, the greater their own chance of becoming obese is. To put some hard numbers to the finding, each adult was found to have a 2% chance of becoming obese in any given year. But for every obese friend a person had, their own risk of becoming obese increased by 0.5 percentage points. So someone with a social circle of six obese friends would have a risk of 5% of becoming obese themselves.

Although another recent study found that a single gene mutation heightened the risk of obesity by up to 67 percent, genetics cannot explain the skyrocketing obesity trend. Lifestyle choices or other features of modern life must be contributing as well. And some researchers have even proposed that infections of gut bacteria account for some cases of obesity.

Christakis and political scientist James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, analyzed 32 years' worth of recent records from 12,067 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, which has followed the health of residents of a small Massachusetts town and their offspring every four years since 1948.

Aside from listing their spouses and family members at each follow-up, participants gave names of close friends who would likely know their future whereabouts; more than 70 percent of these were also included in the study, creating a dense social network suitable for identifying epidemiclike effects.

When two people each listed the other as a friend and one of them packed on the pounds, the second person was 171 percent more likely to become obese. However, if only one member of the pair considered the other a friend, obesity was more likely to spread only to the person holding that view.

A person whose friends had obese friends carried an added 20 percent risk of obesity, which fell to 10 percent for friends of the third degree. In comparison, a chunky sibling increased the risk by 40 percent and a spouse by 37 percent.

Geographic location had no bearing on the results: A portly neighbor had no effect, but a friend who gained weight and lived far away still appeared to raise the risk of obesity. People of the same sex also had a stronger impact on one another.

So, arn't you lucky to have me as a friend ;)

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Its that time of the year again. Gravity 12 hour, a fun filled weekend be you a hardcore rider or weekend warrior. Guarantee you will feel pain where you have never felt before; never will you buy a lightweight saddle, Assos feels rather cheap, and you start to contemplate the idea of using butt cream to relieve the pain and minimise the chaffing (and never go there with a new bike).

It was a mud bath. And I only managed 4 laps compared to the 6 I did last year....*sigh*
How can I not mention Cat in this post. Unfortunately, I left my camera in Darwin and the phone doesent take good pictures. Have to thank Joel for picking up the bike and lugging the bike bag all the way from work home ;)
Cat's place always feels like home (away from home). Towels provided, luxurious shower gels, free access to the pantry and books/magazines I like to browse (cookbooks, home decor and the tech stuff from Joel).

Moving House

If you love your house that much, take it with you....
This is probably a walk in the park after watching Monster Moves.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Till next time..

Friends and classmate at Uni. Got me my first job in Darwin, while I was sending applications all over Australia and waiting to hear back. And with the connections I made, I could pretty much walk back into Darwin, when the rest of Aus would be hesitant of hiring someone from overseas. Been housemates ever since... but after close to 4 good years, things unfortunately have to come to an end.

Anthea's decided to move to Queensland.

And with that goes the furniture as well..ha. All that in the picture is due for the removalist soon. It's funny when friends come by and comment, "nice place you got here, nice furniture..." And my reply: other than the 4 walls, nothing in this house belongs to me, not even the plates and cutlery.

Time to get some new ones but thats another post.
While we chatted about works and things, we had our difference in opinion but we couldnt' have been so like minded. We are both fanatic about sports. She's into Circus arts (Tisu, one where you twirl yourself around in midair with a piece of cloth) and the Tri scene and me the road and mountain bikes. We shop at the same bike shop (online). We are both very particular about keeping the house clean (to a certain degree). She does not wear shoes in the house (try telling that to an Aussie). Alas, it'll take a while getting used to someone new.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Will you survive?

Obesity is currently worsening throughout the developed world and becoming the top public health concern.

In Australia, over 60% (aged 25 and over) of adults are overweight of which 20% are obese, making us almost as fat as the Americans.

So why is the world getting more and more obese? It was not that long ago that my clients could recall dipping bread into the dripping on the oven tray and drinking full cream milk straight from the cow, so where did we go wrong?

Back in the dark ages, most societies would have known obesity, it is not something new. However, it was seen only at the elite end. Walk into any art museum, open any history book and you will probably see paintings of kings and nobles who could afford to eat what they wanted, tons of meat and pastries washed down with ale and wines.

Unfortunately, what has been limited to the elite, noble class is now available to everyone.

After the World War, there was limited choice with food, in fact food was rationed. But came the 1950s and we saw the birth of some of our most famous fast food giants, companies were also doing their best to convince the "typical" 1950s homemaker to purchase time-saving appliances and serve the family with new convenience/packaged foods. This had little success as traditional homemakers preferred to cook "the old fashioned" way.

As a country gets more developed, foods (both fresh and processed/packaged) become more readily available. The 1970s saw an increased participation of women in the labour force; this coupled with longer working hours meant that time available for traditional meal preparation from raw ingredients shrank as a result of changing working and living conditions. As such, the time saving nature of fast food and convenience foods now grew in popularity as they were available virtually everywhere.

The introduction of the World Wide Web in the 1990s revolutionised the way we work (as we spend more time behind a screen) and even shop. Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that between 1998 to 2008-09, household access to the internet at home has more than quadrupled from 16% to 72%, while access to computers has increased from 44% to 78%.

These are all factors that, directly or indirectly, contribute to the lifestyle changes which have caused the obesity epidemic.

We certainly cannot go back to the days where there was no choice with food or when food was being rationed. But it’s my role to help people navigate through the supermarket aisles and hopefully make an informed choice about the food they buy.

However, the notion of informed choice relies on the premise that we make rational decisions but we humans are an irrational lot, aren’t we? We thrive on emotions and succumb to temptations and that, oh glorious chocolate cake/macaroon.

I have a dishwasher that came with my apartment that is still in its wrapper as I have never used it (waste too much power and I can do it in 10mins). I have no microwave at home as I feel it erodes people’s cooking skills. I try to cook from scratch and cycle to work whenever I can. These are all decision I made, they are not easy ones, but ones I live by.

Why do people wear seatbelts? Have a think next time you put one on, was it because you felt safe wearing one, or it is because the cops will pull you over and you risk losing points and have to pay a fine. Why do I not see ‘as much’ alcohol related violence and people smoking on the streets in Singapore. Is it for health reasons or is it because alcohol and cigarettes are the 2 most heavily taxed items on top of legislations that ban smoking in air-conditioned places.

On a higher level, governments need to think about how they are going to address this with radical policies that look at prevention rather than cure. Workplace need to place more emphasis on not just occupational health but also the general health and well being of its employees, perhaps incentives for staff who car pool, ride to work or enrol in a health class/program (i.e smoking cessation); only then will we be able to make some in-roads to the obesity problem, if not, we’re just pissing into the wind.

Darwin’s law of natural selection (while not in gene related evolution terms), states that when the environment changes, it’s the species that is able to best to adapt and develop those traits in adapting to the environment that will survive. Law of the jungle, survival of the fittest. Unfortunately in an environment where we are surrounded by cheap calories with high pressure advertising, I don’t think that people are able to make healthy choices – it’s just too difficult. The population as a whole is not going to survive. Its the sub-groups and individuals within who choose to make the hard choices based on those informed choices that will SURVIVE this obese-genic environment.

Who will you be?

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Here are some of the most common client conversations I have:

- Client with elevated cholesterol levels:
But my grandparents used to have bacon, butter and even dripping with bread but they still lived to a ripe old age.
(Well, they didnt have much food then did they?)

- Client with blood pressure:
We used to be given salt tablets cos we live in the tropics and sweat more.
(But the food supply was fairly unprocessed then)

- Obese/Diabetic client:
I only drink no-added sugar juice.

Clients are shocked when I tell them that there is the equivalent of 12-13 teaspoons of sugar in a 600ml bottle of coke. BUt really, their jaw drop when I tell them its the same with that bottle of juice. If you compared the calories and even carbohydrates of juice, most of the time it similar or even higher than coke. So a client trying to lose weight really hasnt achieved anything by switching from coke to juice as the caloric content is still the same.

Which brings me back to the same question: Choice

Back in our grandparents time, food was rationed, there could have been a famine, lots more physical activity but there was LESS FOOD CHOICE (in some cases no choice). You ate what was available and probably worked it off. If you wanted a 600ml bottle of juice, you probably had to cart a 3kg bag of oranges home and juiced it up. All which requires physical activity.

These days, we are spoiled for choices. We have to make decisions about food all the time. Which brand do I get? What to order for entree? Should I go with that low fat variety? Is the lite stuff better? But that says fat/sugar free. Lower GI is better, right?

We can't go back to days of NO CHOICE and thus my job is to hopefully help people make informed choices (whether they take that advice is another story).

But seriously, I dun think eating healthy is rocket science. Here are some of my favourite rules from Michael Pollen's book (and I left out some of the more controversial ones).

- It isnt food if it arrived through the window of your car.
- If its from a plant, eat it. If its made in a plant, reconsider.
- In relation to food additives; Did grandma have foods with all these numbers in it?
- Avoid foods advertised on the TV. (How often do you see an ad for a tomato or apple?)
- It’s not food if it’s called the same thing in every language. (Think Big Mac)
- Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."
- Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk. (eg.gCocopops, fruit loops vs Just Right, Sustain, weetbix, all bran).