70. Are diet and exercise really personal choices?

  A human epi­demic of obe­sity / near-obe­sity has cor­re­lated world­wide with the spread of man­u­fac­tured food & bev­er­age, and motor­ized trans­port. Diet & exer­cise though seem to be intensely per­sonal choices. How can this dilemma be solved?

Diet&Exercise1 lasagne

Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. The author is a prin­ci­pal orga­nizer for a Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, dis­cus­sion group whose mem­bers come from diverse back­grounds, and which deals with an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of top­ics. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about.


1. This dis­cus­sion about diet and exer­cise is mostly grounded in Aus­tralia. The issues them­selves do impact on every coun­try and cul­ture, although in dif­fer­ent ways. For exam­ple 3rd World and devel­op­ing coun­tries tend to show quite dif­fer­ent pat­terns of con­scious phys­i­cal activ­ity from post-indus­trial soci­eties, although the mar­ket­ing of man­u­fac­tured food is impact­ing on them in increas­ingly sim­i­lar ways. Aus­tralia itself as a nation of immi­gra­tion with over 200 sources of eth­nic origin hosts a huge diver­sity of prac­tices and atti­tudes. Nev­er­the­less pat­terns are dis­cernible, and not all of them are encour­ag­ing.

2. Younger peo­ple are tra­di­tion­ally expected to be more active than older peo­ple, yet as a group they appear to be becom­ing much less active and less fit, as well as sub­sist­ing on often dubi­ous fast food diets. Exten­sive sta­tis­tics are avail­able from the United States of Amer­ica, which is a lead to many Aus­tralian trends. Amer­i­can stan­dards of mil­i­tary recruit­ment, for exam­ple, are in steep decline. From one report (Staff Metro 2014), 75% of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary appli­cants are too fat to be accepted, and 65% of the remain­der can­not pass a sim­ple fit­ness test. This is a halv­ing of ear­lier fit­ness lev­els. From all 17 to 24 year olds in the United States, 27% are too fat for mil­i­tary ser­vice and 75% over­all are inel­i­gi­ble for phys­i­cal, edu­ca­tional or crim­i­nal rea­sons (Jaslow 2012). Con­cor­dant with Amer­ica, I came across an account of pro­ba­tion­ary Aus­tralian police recruits rejected for fail­ing to man­age five push-ups (Dowl­ing 2013). China is fac­ing sim­i­lar trends, with 19% of mil­i­tary appli­cants amongst col­lege grad­u­ates obese or over­weight (Zheng Xin 2013).

3. The idea of delib­er­ate, sci­en­tif­i­cally researched, life­long body man­age­ment for a ben­e­fi­cial diet, fit­ness and health is becom­ing a cen­tral lifestyle choice for a par­tic­u­lar seg­ment of edu­cated pop­u­la­tions. I place myself within this demo­graphic, but remain mind­ful that it is a minor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion, and may always be a minor­ity. Shift­ing oth­ers to this ori­en­ta­tion some­times seems an insur­mount­able chal­lenge. Almost daily I encoun­ter peo­ple for whom my own rel­a­tive good fit­ness is read as an unspo­ken per­sonal insult to their own rel­a­tive lack of fit­ness. Appar­ently my expe­ri­ence is not an iso­lated one, as indi­cated by the recent report of a woman barred from a “Planet Fit­ness” gym after some­one com­plained that her obvi­ous fit­ness was intim­i­dat­ing to the other cus­tomers (The Telegraph, Lon­don, 2014). This hos­til­ity some­times extends to the med­ical pro­fes­sion. I am by no means Mr Uni­verse, yet one vis­i­bly unfit doc­tor brim­ming with aggres­sion pro­duced a med­ical report for me headed in bold type: “Fit­ness Fanatic”. Fanatic? Is effi­cient body man­age­ment so exotic?

4. In Aus­tralia, as in Amer­ica, obe­sity and it’s pre­cur­sor, “being over-weight”, is affect­ing a major part of the pop­u­la­tion. A com­pact and rather fright­en­ing sum­mary is avail­able from the Amer­i­can President’s Coun­cil on Fit­ness, Sport and Nutri­tion (see the read­ing list). By 2030 half of Amer­i­cans are on track to be obese, with major health con­se­quences. Health itself is a com­plex phe­nom­e­non. [Note: the Wikipedia entry, “Health” gives quite a good sum­mary of the pub­lic and pri­vate mean­ings of that con­cept. It is worth read­ing as prepa­ra­tion for any dis­cus­sion on the issues raised in these notes]. 

One of the depress­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of obe­sity is that fat moth­ers pro­duce fat chil­dren, partly because of epi­ge­netic set­tings which occur dur­ing preg­nancy, and partly from the envi­ron­men­tal influ­ence of fam­i­lies after birth. I have heard infor­mally that some researchers into obe­sity have even sug­gested that chil­dren like this should undergo gas­tric bypass surgery at a young age – a pro­posal obvi­ously not viable both because of the sur­gi­cal risks and the huge num­ber of chil­dren involved. 

5. The title of this paper asserts a dilemma: “Are diet and exer­cise really per­sonal choices?” At first blush the dilemma might not be obvi­ous to every­one. The implicit ques­tion is the extent to which gov­ern­ments or other agents should inter­fere in the lifestyle choices of indi­vid­ual cit­i­zens. There may be a vis­ceral response to this ques­tion, but hope­fully the fol­low­ing para­graphs will show that the prob­lem is quite nuanced.

In Aus­tralian soci­ety the answer is likely to be “yes of course diet and exer­cise are per­sonal choices. This is a free coun­try.” Any threat of inter­ven­tion by “big brother” in inti­mate daily activ­i­ties will be fiercely resisted with good rea­son. Bureau­cra­cies have a poor record of suc­cess­ful inter­ven­tion in pri­vate lives. Yet there are more and more pub­lic inter­ven­tions in the man­age­ment pri­vate lives for a whole range of rea­sons.

Also, in prac­tice, pri­vate com­mer­cial inter­ests impact on sup­pos­edly free con­sumer choices much more than gov­ern­ments do, and often for quite amoral rea­sons (e.g. see Freuden­berg 2014). We need to iden­tify these inter­ven­tions by pub­lic and pri­vate inter­ests, decide whether they are jus­ti­fied, decide whether they are effec­tive, and whether they are ben­e­fi­cial. On a much wider scale, the health and sur­vival of whole human pop­u­la­tions drills down to per­sonal choices which are influ­enced by myr­iad exter­nal pres­sures. This is not an abstrac­tion. Again, we need to iden­tify what is going on and why. 

6. How well do Aus­tralians help them­selves to good health? 62.6% of Aus­tralian males and 72.5% of Aus­tralian females had been seden­tary or only engag­ing in low lev­els of activ­ity in the pre­vi­ous week of a sur­vey in 2011–2012 (Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics). In a 2007 ABS sur­vey, 17.6% of males and 22.3% of females reported symp­toms of men­tal dis­or­der in the pre­ced­ing 12 months (life­time rates: 48.1% males and 43% females). In 2011–2012 75.6% of males and 77.7% of females were liv­ing with one or more long term health con­di­tions. Inter­est­ingly, the sta­tis­tics for med­ical staff are no bet­ter than for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. In spite of these issues, Aus­tralians had longer life expectan­cies than the cit­i­zens of all but a hand­ful of other coun­tries (and much bet­ter than USA). On the upside, the word “lifestyle” has acquired over­tones of effec­tive phys­i­cal man­age­ment, and found a niche in pop­u­lar media. Are things chang­ing in a pos­i­tive way, and for whom? A fac­toid to chew on: in UK it is known that the least priv­i­leged part of the pop­u­la­tion lives 20 years less than the most priv­i­leged part of the pop­u­la­tion (Saul 2014). 

7. Two vignettes: If you walk along the river cycle track from South­bank to the Story Bridge in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia at 5pm, the num­ber of won­der­fully fit peo­ple you see is impres­sive (and the scene would have been unthink­able 40 years ago). If you walk around, say, Toom­bul Cen­tro shop­ping cen­tre in north Bris­bane on any week­day, the bloated human wreck­age sham­bling in and out looks like a national emer­gency, at least to my eye. 

It is usu­ally point­less or coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to stig­ma­tize peo­ple for their bod­ies, their health sta­tus or their lifestyles (Rebecca 2010). We don’t get to choose our bod­ies or our brains in a baby super­mar­ket before birth. How­ever, fatal­ism is also a dead end track. As one of the world’s uglier humans I adapted to that mis­for­tune long ago with good grace, but also decided to main­tain and develop what I did have to its opti­mum. It is a con­tin­u­ing learn­ing process. Yet it seems that huge num­bers of peo­ple, once past the breed­ing cycle, are resigned to dis­in­te­grat­ing phys­i­cally (and often men­tally) over sev­eral decades, usu­ally at a cost to all around them, and at a cost to the pub­lic health sys­tem. Why? Should, or can any­thing be done about that?

8.  Although we are proud of our indi­vid­ual lifestyle choices, those choices over­whelm­ingly con­form with cul­tural norms. This is as true of food choices as it is of cloth­ing choices, per­sonal groom­ing choices, edu­ca­tional choices, trans­port choices or exer­cise choices. Where laws are passed to influ­ence such choices, the laws will be also inter­preted within cul­tural norms. Even where health insti­tu­tions and doc­tors are encour­aged to advise patients to change diet or exer­cise pat­terns, the doc­tors, nurses etc will inevitably “trans­late” that advice accord­ing to their own cul­tural expec­ta­tions and habits (and if you doubt that, check out the awful food served up to patients in Brisbane’s hos­pi­tals, as well as the rather poor physical/mental con­di­tion of many med­ical staff). 

9. Cul­tural norms change via var­i­ous mech­a­nisms – by nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion, through gen­er­a­tional revolt, from the influ­ence of new com­mu­nity mem­bers (e.g. from immi­gra­tion), from media influ­ences (often inter­na­tional), from chang­ing edu­ca­tional cur­ricu­lums (slowly), from com­mer­cial manip­u­la­tion (mar­ket­ing), from insti­tu­tional pres­sures (e.g. from employ­ers, insur­ance com­pa­nies), from gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions or cam­paigns … and so on. These cur­rents of pres­sure on cul­tural norms flow unevenly through com­mu­ni­ties, are often in oppo­si­tion to each other, and yield out­comes which are essen­tially unpre­dictable except for nar­rowly tar­geted pur­poses on speci­fic sub-groups (e.g. a liquor indus­try adver­tis­ing cam­paign to hook young adults on ‘cool’ alcopops). 

10. Attempts to change cul­tural norms of diet and exer­cise through offi­cial chan­nels suf­fer major hand­i­caps.

a) There is no ques­tion that world­wide pub­lic health has improved greatly over the last cen­tury, result­ing in an explo­sive increase in human pop­u­la­tions and some­times a dou­bling of life expectancy. A good deal of this has been due to infra­struc­ture invest­ment by gov­ern­ments in clean water and san­i­ta­tion, vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams to reduce epi­demics, and improved hygiene stan­dards. How­ever when it comes to gov­ern­ment agen­cies influ­enc­ing per­sonal behav­iours, the suc­cesses have come far more slowly and soon encoun­tered resis­tance. With­out any reli­able sci­en­tific or even cul­tural con­sen­sus on stan­dards of diet and health, arbi­trary reg­u­la­tion seems unwise, and pub­lic­ity cam­paigns invite scep­ti­cism. Past expe­ri­ence has given us all good rea­son to be cau­tious about polit­i­cal shape-chang­ing, even in the name of pub­lic health. 

b) When dif­fi­cult prob­lems of pub­lic behav­iour are posed in casual con­ver­sa­tion, it is com­mon to hear a com­ment such as “A law should be passed to XYZ”. For exam­ple, I have heard a pro­posal for a “fat tax” whereby over­weight indi­vid­u­als would be required to fund their future expected exces­sive use of pub­lic health resources. The law is an extremely blunt instru­ment, almost guar­an­teed to cause indi­vid­ual injus­tices in the hunt for a greater good, and absolutely guar­an­teed to come at great finan­cial cost. That is, the for­mal reg­u­la­tion of pri­vate behav­iour, while some­times nec­es­sary at the extreme, should always be a last resort. Where reg­u­la­tion seems desir­able, it is gen­er­ally most effec­tive to treat the sup­ply side of the equa­tion (e.g. the enforced reg­u­la­tion of food stan­dards). Pri­vate behav­iour is more effec­tively man­aged by peer influ­ence and some­times by pub­lic edu­ca­tion.

c) There is no such thing as unan­i­mous med­ical opin­ion about diet and exer­cise. Any sys­tem­atic search for a con­sen­sus will throw up end­less con­tra­dic­tions, vio­lently opposed opin­ions, and huge incon­sis­ten­cies over time; (I’m sure about this – I’ve been fol­low­ing the mess for years). In other words, your aver­age pas­sive cit­i­zen can be pushed in a dozen dif­fer­ent direc­tions, often per­ilously. Your friendly local gen­eral prac­ti­tioner (doc­tor) is often a poor guide in this thicket of opin­ions.

d) A large num­ber of the most cre­ative brains on the planet are ded­i­cated to under­min­ing pub­lic health in the name of profit (e.g. see Freuden­berg 2014, Mal­ho­tra 2014). The “food and drink indus­try” is huge, and embraces numer­ous pro­fes­sions from chem­i­cal research to man­u­fac­tur­ing to mar­ket­ing. This indus­try rivals the arms indus­try as a poten­tial threat to us all, yet presents as an essen­tial ser­vice. The polit­i­cal influ­ence of the food and drink indus­try is relent­less, and its adver­tis­ing pres­ence ubiq­ui­tous. How­ever, the evi­dence of effects from an indus­tri­al­ized food indus­try is unequiv­o­cal as poor dietary choices become embed­ded in the cul­ture.

The prin­ci­pal agents of the food & drink indus­try are typ­i­cally amoral, but of course spin a sooth­ing nar­ra­tive for pub­lic con­sump­tion. The resources of the cor­po­ra­tions these tal­ented and highly paid peo­ple work for are almost bot­tom­less, and effec­tively beyond the reach of national gov­ern­ments. (In less reg­u­lated juris­dic­tions like China the bla­tant con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of food & drink is extreme, and a major polit­i­cal issue). 

11.  Con­scious phys­i­cal exer­cise is a phe­nom­e­non that has mostly emerged in advanced indus­trial or post-indus­trial soci­eties. My par­ents were almost offended by the idea of adults “doing exer­cise”, com­plain­ing that the work­ing day left them exhausted enough, thank you very much. The atti­tude is still wide­spread, and sophis­ti­cated knowl­edge about keep­ing in good, resilient phys­i­cal con­di­tion through­out life remains rel­a­tively rare in the com­mu­nity (includ­ing amongst health work­ers). There is also a huge amount of mis­in­for­ma­tion out there. 

Peo­ple become angry if told they are lazy, yet will fight for a park­ing space in a shop­ping cen­tre instead of walk­ing a cou­ple of hun­dred metres. Half-hearted attempts at begin­ning to keep fit are very com­mon, but like learn­ing a for­eign lan­guage, they rarely last the dis­tance. Those addicted to social sup­port quit as soon as their friend gives up. “Going to the gym” is usu­ally less about life­long body man­age­ment than about hav­ing a social need exploited in a care­fully nur­tured mar­ket niche (e.g. see The Telegraph, Lon­don, March 23, 2014).  Above all, there is lit­tle patience or under­stand­ing about build­ing phys­i­cal capa­bil­ity grad­u­ally but per­sis­tently.

The wide­spread lack of deter­mi­na­tion to actively main­tain phys­i­cal resilience through­out our lifes­pans is a great pity. As a dis­tance run­ner for 50 years, I am still learn­ing and adapt­ing. Exer­cise has also played a major part in main­tain­ing my men­tal and emo­tional sta­bil­ity. For those who seek to know, research into phys­i­ol­ogy and kine­si­ol­ogy is con­stantly advanc­ing. The aver­age per­son sets them­self a very low stan­dard when it comes to effec­tive body main­te­nance (invest­ing in hair dressers etc doesn’t cut it for the mean­ing of a well main­tained body!).

12. Enthu­si­asm for mass spec­ta­tor sport achieves easy pop­u­lar­ity, even in cul­tures where his­tor­i­cally it was rel­a­tively unknown. This pop­u­lar­ity occurs regard­less of the per­sonal phys­i­cal fit­ness of spec­ta­tors (or rather, lack of fit­ness). That is, peo­ple will talk the talk ever more loudly, but are reluc­tant to walk the walk. Even atten­dance at real sport­ing venues is sub­sti­tuted by vic­ar­i­ous elec­tronic par­tic­i­pa­tion. This kind of “men­tal mas­tur­ba­tion” is not con­fined to sports of course. To take an utterly digres­sive exam­ple, loud talk about reli­gious moral­ity is rarely matched by moral per­for­mance. Human ten­den­cies of this kind are never going to be elim­i­nated. It may be how­ever that clever pub­lic pol­icy can some­times lever­age the high repute and enthu­si­asm for vic­ar­i­ous sport­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion into some more con­crete com­mit­ments to per­sonal phys­i­cal main­te­nance and improve­ment.

13. Learn­ing on our feet seems to me to be one of the most promis­ing options for improv­ing the gen­eral phys­i­cal fit­ness of whole pop­u­la­tions. Even the uncon­scious phys­i­cal adjust­ments for bal­ance while stand­ing make sig­nif­i­cant active use of mus­cles. Each day I aver­age almost 15 kilo­me­tres on my feet, walk­ing and run­ning,  with­out becom­ing weary. This is not dead time. It is always mul­ti­tasked with MP3 record­ings for lan­guage learn­ing and pod­casts. Humans are evolved to func­tion on their feet, and think bet­ter while doing that. As a teacher and lec­turer I spent years on my feet while stu­dents fool­ishly sat. Finally in a low-stan­dard South Korean uni­ver­sity with stu­dents who were resigned to fail­ing at every­thing I rethought the par­a­digm and made them all stand in my lan­guage learn­ing classes. The trans­for­ma­tion was remark­able. The story of that exper­i­ment is recorded in the paper, “Stand­ing Room Only – Pos­ture, Space and the Learn­ing Process in ESL Classes” (Thor May, 2005). 

14. Per­sonal exper­i­ment, cau­tion about advice from agents of “author­ity”, inten­sive research,  con­stant learn­ing, and edu­cated eval­u­a­tion are prob­a­bly the best sur­vival strat­a­gems for capa­ble indi­vid­u­als try­ing to keep fit and in good health. At least, that has been my own hard won expe­ri­ence over 68 years. Almost by def­i­n­i­tion though, this is hardly a solu­tion for the mass of the pop­u­la­tion.

Even intel­li­gent peo­ple, when younger, will put aside pre­ven­ta­tive health care and wait for degen­er­a­tion and sig­nif­i­cant dis­ease to afflict them before seek­ing inter­ven­tion. That “under­priv­i­leged demo­graphic” which lives 20 years less than the “priv­i­leged demo­graphic” remains almost unreach­able, even when ben­e­fi­cial lifestyle changes become more or less fash­ion­able. These years-minus-20 peo­ple have their own diver­sity, but by broad gen­er­al­iza­tion are less edu­cated, poorly employed or unem­ployed, more likely to have drug & alco­hol prob­lems, more prone to seek instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion in daily life, likely to be low in self-esteem, are often attached to a dif­fer­ent set of val­ues, and above all are easy prey for food & drink mar­ket­ing vul­tures.

15. We know that dif­fer­ent cul­tures and dif­fer­ent coun­tries show great diver­sity in diet and exer­cise. Equally there is a diver­sity in healthy liv­ing out­comes and age expectancy. Knowl­edge of such diver­sity is use­ful because it shows us that what we prac­tice our­selves is not the only pos­si­bil­ity. Diet and exer­cise regimes within Aus­tralia have changed dra­mat­i­cally in my own life­time (I was born in 1945). The rea­sons are many, but the biggest influ­ence has cer­tainly been large scale immi­gra­tion from an ever increas­ing num­ber of coun­tries. Inter­est­ingly the immi­grants them­selves tend to show lit­tle cul­tural adven­tur­ism in the first gen­er­a­tion, but their chil­dren and those of us whose ances­tors have been here for gen­er­a­tions dab­ble hap­pily with expanded food choices and develop ‘fusion cuisi­nes’ which in the best cases are a great improve­ment on the orig­i­nal mono­cul­tural ori­gins. How­ever, the fierce com­pe­ti­tion work­ing against dietary exper­i­ment and diver­sity is a soul­less, indus­try dri­ven mono­cul­ture of fast food and pack­aged con­ve­nience food.

16. Most peo­ple are intensely social crea­tures. When they can afford it they will eat out fre­quently, espe­cially those who are unpart­nered  and/or with­out chil­dren. In Aus­tralia, as in many coun­tries, restau­rant cul­ture is wide­spread. The Aus­tralian scene is for­tu­nate for its wide diver­sity of cuisi­nes. Indeed, one of the per­pet­u­ally listed required skills on the Aus­tralian government’s favoured list for skilled immi­gra­tion is “cook/chef”  (I find this aston­ish­ing, given the unem­ploy­ment rate). While restau­rants may be socially attrac­tive, any con­tin­u­ing diet based on com­mer­cially pro­duced food is unlikely to be an improve­ment on even mediocre domes­tic prepa­ra­tion – and this is regard­less of rep­u­ta­tion or price. These places are in busi­ness for a profit, and staffed by usu­ally under­paid kitchen hands who are not knowl­edge­ably ded­i­cated to your con­tin­u­ing good health. The bot­tom of this food chain, so-called fast food, is not even fast. It never takes me longer than 15 min­utes each day to cook din­ner – 120 grams of meat, fish or egg, spiced with cumin, turmeric and pep­per, plus small help­ings of all of the fol­low­ing: beans, broc­coli, cab­bage, cap­sicum, car­rot, cel­ery, cucum­ber, gar­lic, gin­ger, mush­rooms, onion, peas, tomato. Half the veg­eta­bles are eaten raw, the oth­ers quickly steamed, and dashed over with a bit of mint sauce. The point is to give my body access to every fresh nutri­ent it needs for opti­mum main­te­nance. No restau­rant is ever going to do that. 

17. Broad cul­tural habits of diet and exer­cise will always encom­pass a per­cent­age of indi­vid­u­als given to excess, and some oth­ers enam­oured of mod­er­a­tion or even asceti­cism. That is, there is a con­tin­uum of atti­tude and prac­tice which is unlikely to alter at the extremes, whether we are talk­ing about body man­age­ment, or risk tak­ing, or any other human activ­ity. Nev­er­the­less there are cul­tures where mod­er­a­tion is held to be a worth­while goal, a pat­tern favoured by the major­ity. There are other cul­tures where extreme behav­iour, includ­ing dietary behav­iour is overtly and/or covertly glo­ri­fied. It is a basic tenet of con­sumer cap­i­tal­ism that max­i­mum con­sump­tion for max­i­mum mon­e­tary profit must be pro­moted in all things. Should we be sur­prised that an ideal of max­i­mum con­sump­tion is reflected in the nation’s waist­li­nes? 



Read­ing List


Agence France-Presse (Sep­tem­ber 11, 2013) “Guess how much food is wasted around the world?” Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/guess-how-much-food-is-wasted-around-the-world-20130911-2tkuv.html#ixzz2eie5TF3N

Agence France Presse (3 Jan­u­ary 2013) “A Few extra kilos may be healthy: experts”. Bris­bane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/few-extra-kilos-may-be-healthy-experts-20130103-2c61m.html#ixzz2Gr3JpFmr

Agence France-Presse (29 Jan­u­ary 2013) “Cig­a­rettes recy­cled, no ifs or butts”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/cigarettes-recycled-no-ifs-or-butts-20130128-2dgs1.html#ixzz2JJdLbocQ

Agence France-Presse (Novem­ber 17, 2011) “Cli­mate change lead­ing to food crunch”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au/breaking-news-world/climate-change-leading-to-food-crunch-20111117-1njls.html

Allen, Nick (Decem­ber 28, 2012) “Freeze your fat off, chill seek­ers”. Bris­bane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/freeze-your-fat-off-chill-seekers-20121227-2bxvm.html#ixzz2GIRrrWfS

Asso­ci­ated Press (Novem­ber 3, 2013) “Cli­mate body fears for food sup­ply”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/climate-body-fears-for-food-supply-20131102-2wtjx.html#ixzz2jX9mXJlf

Aus­tralian Asso­ci­ated Press (16 Octo­ber 2013) “Obe­sity grips Aus­tralia: research shows 40% of adults are dan­ger­ously fat”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/16/obesity-grips-australia-figures

Aus­tralian Asso­ci­ated Press(December 23, 2012) “Aus­tralians waste $8bn of food yearly”. Bris­bane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/australians-waste-8bn-of-food-yearly-20121223-2btby.html#ixzz2FrzhBIQL

Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “Lev­els of Exer­cise”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features3340Jan%202013  


Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “Life Expectancy”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features3110Jan%202013  


Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “Liv­ing with dis­abil­ity”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4125.0~Jan%202013~Main%20Features~Living%20with%20a%20disability~3130


Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “Men­tal Health”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4125.0~Jan%202013~Main%20Features~Mental%20health~3150  

Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “One or more long term health con­di­tions”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features3120Jan%202013


Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “Overweight/Obesity”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4125.0~Jan%202013~Main%20Features~Overweight%20and%20obesity~3330  

Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “Psy­cho­log­i­cal Dis­tress”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4125.0~Jan%202013~Main%20Features~Psychological%20distress~3140  

Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (2013) “Vol­un­teer­ing Rates”. Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics online @ http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features4410Jan%202013

Berry, Sarah (Jan­u­ary 17, 2014) “World’s health­i­est diet?”. Syd­ney Mornig Her­ald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/worlds-healthiest-diet-20140117-30yyx.html#ixzz2qcrdY7jf

Boyle, Leigh (2010) “Self Mas­sage Mus­cle Series (illus­trated)”. Pin­na­cle Phys­i­cal Ther­apy web­site, online @ http://pinnaclept.wordpress.com/

Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity, (8 August 2012) “Sci­en­tists iden­tify pro­tein that stim­u­lates brown fat to burn calo­ries”. Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge, UK, online @ http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/scientists-identify-protein-that-stimulates-brown-fat-to-burn-calories

Coates, Pip (April 30, 2013) “Run less to run faster”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/executive-style/fitness/blogs/the-long-run/run-less-to-run-faster-20130430-2iqng.html#ixzz2SvILaKHW

Coates, Pip (n.d.) The Long Run blog, [a series of arti­cles] Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/executive-style/fitness/blog/the-long-run

Cox, Lisa (Octo­ber 14, 2013) “Ter­ri­tory to get tough on obe­sity”. Can­berra Times online @ http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/territory-to-get-tough-on-obesity-20131013-2vh34.html#ixzz2hdkU6zeh

Davies, Anne (Feb­ru­ary 22, 2014) “Wool­worths tack­les the cost of obe­sity for employ­ees”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/woolworths-tackles-the-cost-of-obesity-for-employees-20140221-337ka.html#ixzz2u0BfS5fo

Dowl­ing, James (August 07, 2013) “Pro­ba­tion­ary Vic­to­ria Police recruits flunk basic tests”. Her­ald Sun online @ http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/probationary-victoria-police-recruits-flunk-basic-tests/story-fni0fee2-1226693042676

Food Babe (7 Feb­ru­ary 2014) “The One Thing Sub­way Is Still Hid­ing From All Of Us!” Food Babe blog, online @ http://foodbabe.com/2014/02/07/subway-update/

Fran­cis, Peter N. (Jan­u­ary 2012) “Is There a Pub­lic Health Role for Fit­ness Pro­fes­sion­als?” IDEA Health & Fit­ness Asso­ci­a­tion web­site, online @ http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/is-there-a-public-health-role-for-fitness-professionals

Freuden­berg, Nicholas (Tues­day 21 Jan­u­ary 2014}”Top lessons from 50 years of fight­ing the tobacco indus­try – In 1964, defeat­ing Big Tobacco seemed impos­si­ble. Today, firearms, alco­hol and processed food pose sim­i­lar chal­lenges”. The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/21/50-years-fighting-big-tobacco-lessons

Gal­lagher, James (3 April 2012 )”US obe­sity ‘higher than thought’”. BBC News online @ http://www.bbc.com/news/health-17585734

Gimenez, Eric Holt (20 Octo­ber 2013) “Got Food Secu­rity? Look to the World’s Grow­ing Social Move­ments”. Huff­in­g­ton Post, online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-holt-gimenez/food-security_b_4110993.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World

Git­tins, Ross (Decem­ber 26, 2012) “Stay active if you want to stay alive”. Syd­ney Mor­ing Her­ald, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/stay-active-if-you-want-to-stay-alive-20121225-2bv39.html#ixzz2G6yKFqJB

Global Age Watch (2014) “Healthy life expectancy (HALE) at birth”. Global Age Watch web­site, online @ http://www.helpage.org/global-agewatch/data/healthy-life-expectancy-at-birth/

Gur­man, Mark (March 17, 2014) “This is Health­book, Apple’s major first step into health & fit­ness track­ing”. 9To5­MAC Apple Intel­li­gence web­site, online @ http://9to5mac.com/2014/03/17/this-is-healthbook-apples-first-major-step-into-health-fitness-tracking/

Ham­blin, James (Oct 10 2013) “This Is the Aver­age Man’s Body – Graphic ren­der­ings of mod­ern males”. The Atlantic online @ http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/this-is-the-average-mans-body/280194/

Har­vard Uni­ver­sity (Jan­u­ary 2010) “Out in the cold” Har­vard Med­ical School Healt Let­ter, online @ http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2010/January/out-in-the-cold

Har­ris, Gar­diner (August 29, 2013) “India cleans up spice pro­cess­ing after sal­mo­nella rev­e­la­tions”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/india-cleans-up-spice-processing-after-salmonella-revelations-20130828-2sqmr.html#ixzz2dJCZ2LqV

Jaslow, Ryan (Sep­tem­ber 27, 2012) “Retired mil­i­tary lead­ers say this gen­er­a­tion is “too fat to fight””. CBS News online @ http://www.cbsnews.com/news/retired-military-leaders-say-this-generation-is-too-fat-to-fight/

Kolata, Gina (June 21, 2012) “Break­ing a sweat for the feel­ing rather than fit­ness”. New York Times, via Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/breaking-a-sweat-for-the-feeling-rather-than-fitness-20120620-20o8m.html#ixzz1yO3eDMV4

Lin, Christine (Decem­ber 4, 2011) “Lessons About Longevity From a 256-Year-Old”. Epoch Times, online @ http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/health/lessons-about-longevity-from-a-256-year-old-152740.html

Mal­ho­tra, Aseem (16 March 2014) “Big Food is in wil­ful denial about the harm sugar does to our chil­dren
Only by improv­ing processed foods can we tackle obe­sity among the young. Just beware hys­te­ria about fruit” [read the com­ments for con­flict­ing views on state inter­ven­tion in diets] The Guardian online @ http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/16/big-food-in-denial-about-harm-of-sugar

May, Thor (2011) “Choose When to Live and When to Die – Some Notes on Diet and Exer­cise” . Acad­e­mia, edu, online @ https://www.academia.edu/2200688/Choose_When_to_Live_and_When_to_Die_-_Some_Notes_on_Diet_and_Exercise . A Word­Press ver­sion is avail­able at http://thorsunwiseideas.byeways.net/2011/11/09/choose-when-to-live-and-when-to-die/ , and an html ver­sion at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/choosewhentolive.htm

May, Thor (2005) “Stand­ing Room Only – Pos­ture, Space and the Learn­ing Process in ESL Classes”. Academia.edu repos­i­tory online @ https://www.academia.edu/1554821/Standing_Room_Only_-_Posture_Space_and_the_Learning_Process_in_ESL_Classes

Mer­cola, Joseph (Decem­ber 16 2011). “80-Year Olds With 40-Year Old Mus­cle Mass – What’s Going On?” Dr Mercola’s web­site, online @ http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2011/12/16/you-dont-have-to-lose-muscle-as-you-age.aspx

Mer­cola, Joseph (Decem­ber 28, 2012) “7 Signs You’re Exer­cis­ing Too Much”. Dr Mer­cola online @ http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/12/28/7-hidden-signs-of-overtraining.aspx

Mer­cola, Joseph (Feb­ru­ary 04, 2011) “Nearly 250,000 Deaths From ONE Com­mon Mis­take: Here’s How to Pro­tect Your­self”. Dr Mer­cola online @ http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/04/death-by-medicine-an-update.aspx

Mur­phy, Kate (May 10, 2013) “Stand tall: the power of a pos­i­tive pose”. New York Times, via Bris­bane Times online @ Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/stand-tall-the-power-of-a-positive-pose-20130510-2jdj2.html#ixzz2Sw75GQzL

Michael Jarosky, Michael (Feb­ru­ary 5, 2014) “Dear Mr Abbott: lead us not into obe­sity”. Bris­bane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/executive-style/fitness/blogs/boot-camp/dear-mr-abbott-lead-us-not-into-obesity-20140204-31zpg.html#ixzz2sOzaOItH

Oram, Andy(June 12, 2012) “Data in use from pub­lic health to per­sonal fit­ness”. O’Reilly web­site online @ http://strata.oreilly.com/2012/06/data-in-use-from-public-health.html

Perry, Marc (3 May 2012) “Top 3 Rea­sons To Lose Fat First Before Build­ing Mus­cle”. BuiltLean blog, online @ http://www.builtlean.com/2012/05/03/lose-fat-first/

President’s Coun­cil (2014) “Facts and Sta­tis­tics – Fit­ness, Sport & Nutri­tion “. President’s Coun­cil on Fit­ness, Sports & Nutri­tion, online @ http://www.fitness.gov/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/

Rebecca M. and Chelsea A. Heuer (2010) “Obe­sity Stigma: Impor­tant Con­sid­er­a­tions for Pub­lic Health”. Am J Pub­lic Health. 2010;100:1019–1028. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.159491, online @ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866597/pdf/1019.pdf

Reynolds, Gretchen (Novem­ber 5, 2013) “What’s your fit­ness age?” Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/whats-your-fitness-age-20131104-2wwo0.html#ixzz2jiS0ycxo

Saul, Heather (15 March 2014) “Rich will live fuller lives for up to 20 years longer than the poor, offi­cial study shows”. The Inde­pen­dent, UK, online @ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/rich-will-live-fuller-lives-for-up-to-20-years-longer-than-the-poor-official-study-shows-9194348.html

Sci­ence Daily (Mar. 28, 2013) “You Are What You Eat — Even the Lit­tlest Bites: Dietary Influ­ences Tied to Changes in Gene Expres­sion”. Sci­ence Daily, online @ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130328125102.htm ; Orig­i­nal source: Les­ley T. Mac­Neil, Emma Wat­son, H. Efsun Arda, Lihua Julie Zhu, Albertha J.M. Wal­hout. Diet-Induced Devel­op­men­tal Accel­er­a­tion Inde­pen­dent of TOR and Insulin in C. ele­gans. Cell, 2013; 153 (1): 240 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.02.049

Sis­son, Mark (2013) “A Pri­mal Primer: Brown Adi­pose Tis­sue”. Mark’s Daily Apple blog, online @ http://www.marksdailyapple.com/a-primal-primer-brown-adipose-tissue/#ixzz22obuDJXy

Smart­watch News (Feb­ru­ary 2014) “Com­par­ison of Fit­ness Track­ers”. Smart­watch News blog online @ http://www.smartwatchnews.org/activity-trackers-fitness-bands/

Smith, Bri­die (August 3, 2012) “Sci­en­tists find secret of why women live longer”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/science/scientists-find-secret-of-why-women-live-longer-20120802-23id9.html#ixzz22QH6D66d

Staff Metro (Jan­u­ary 15, 2014} “Your coun­try needs you … to lose some weight”. Metro news­pa­per, Canada, online @ http://metronews.ca/health/910848/your-country-needs-you-to-lose-some-weight/

Stephens, Kim (March 11, 2014) “Mas­ters ath­lete Ruth Frith dies aged 104”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/sport/masters-athlete-ruth-frith-dies-aged-104–20140311-34jtu.html#ixzz2vhED0P3D

Stokes, Alan (Jan­u­ary 23, 2013) “All you fat bas­tards of the world … unite and take over”. Bris­bane Times, online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/all-you-fat-bastards-of-the-world-8230-unite-and-take-over-20130122-2d51u.html#ixzz2IkQiTPSD

Tan Hohua and Fenny Li (March 10, 2014) “Foods Every­one Should Avoid in China”. Epoch Times online @ http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/551994-beware-of-these-foods-in-china/

The Guardian (16 March 2014) “That’s us told… posters from when the nanny state knew best – in pic­tures”. The Guardian online @

The Inde­pen­dent (21 Novem­ber 1999) “Cold show­ers are good for you – offi­cial”. The Inde­pen­dent news­pa­per, UK, online @ http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/cold-showers-are-good-for-you–official-738026.html

The Telegraph, London(September 4, 2012) “Organic food: what you need to know”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/cuisine/organic-food-what-you-need-to-know-20120904-25c09.html

The Telegraph, Lon­don (March 23, 2014) “Planet Fit­ness: Woman too trim for gym”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/planet-fitness-woman-too-trim-for-gym-20140322-35a25.html

Thomas, Emily (03/25/2014) “Vladimir Putin Revives Soviet-Era Fit­ness Pro­gram”. Huff­in­g­ton Post online @ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/russian-fitness-ussr-program-stalin_n_5028289.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Wade, Matt (Feb­ru­ary 18, 2013) “New­borns ‘at risk’ from milk for­mula”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/health/newborns-at-risk-from-milk-formula-20130217-2ela0.html#ixzz2LCiqB03L

Wat­son, Ian (March 12, 2014) “Lower sugar lev­els in foods a sweet way to com­bat obe­sity “. Courier Mail online @ http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-lower-sugar-levels-in-foods-a-sweet-way-to-combat-obesity/story-fnihsr9v-1226851829616

Wikipedia (2014) “Cor­ti­sol”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortisol

Wikipedia (2014) “Health”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health

Wikipedia (2014) “Life Expectancy”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy Wikipedia (2014) “Over­pop­u­la­tion”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation

Wikipedia (2014) “Pop­u­la­tion”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population

Wu Chen (Sep­tem­ber 04, 2012) “Why com­plex food chains are to blame for China’s food safety scares” China Dia­logue web­site, online @ https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/5144

Xin­hua (5 March 2014) “50 mil­lion ton­nes of grain lost, wasted annu­ally”. China Daily online @ http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014–03/06/content_17325537.htm

Zheng Xin 2013-08-13) “Stu­dents fail army fit­ness stan­dards”, China Daily online @ http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013–08/13/content_16889014.htm   


 The source of this doc­u­ment:


mee­tup group: Gen­tle Thinkers http://www.meetup.com/Gentle-Thinkers/

dis­cus­sion top­ics blog (for the list of pro­posed top­ics): http://discussiontopics.thormay.net/

top­ics already dis­cussed: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm

 com­ments: Thor May – thormay@yahoo.com;

Thor’s own web­sites: 1. arti­cles at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay ;
2. main site:



Pro­fes­sional bio: Thor May has a core pro­fes­sional inter­est in cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics, at which he has rarely suc­ceeded in mak­ing a liv­ing. He has also, per­haps fatally in a career sense, cul­ti­vated an inter­est in how things work – peo­ple, brains, sys­tems, coun­tries, machi­nes, what­ever… In the world of daily employ­ment he has mostly taught Eng­lish as a for­eign lan­guage, a stim­u­lat­ing activ­ity though rarely regarded as a pro­fes­sion by the world at large. His PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, Lan­guage Tan­gle, dealt with lan­guage teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Thor has been teach­ing Eng­lish to non-native speak­ers, train­ing teach­ers and lec­tur­ing lin­guis­tics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven coun­tries in Ocea­nia and East Asia, mostly with ter­tiary stu­dents, but with a cou­ple of detours to teach sec­ondary stu­dents and young chil­dren. He has trained teach­ers in Aus­tralia, Fiji and South Korea. In an ear­lier life, prior to becom­ing a teacher, he had a decade of find­ing his way out of work­ing class ori­gins, through unskilled jobs in Aus­tralia, New Zealand and finally Eng­land (after back­pack­ing across Asia in 1972). 

con­tact: http://thormay.net    thormay@yahoo.com

aca­d­e­mic repos­i­tory: Academia.edu at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay
dis­cus­sion: Thor’s Unwise Ideas at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/unwisendx.html


Are Diet and Exer­cise Really Per­sonal Choices? © Thor May 2014

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