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Written by Kim Leggett (Clean Health Online Master Coach)

According to the World Health Organisation, the global prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

Sadly, the trend is even worse for our children. Over the same four decades, childhood and adolescent obesity increased by TEN-fold. In Australia, almost two-thirds of adults are overweight, and one in four is obese. For Aussie kids, 1 in four is overweight. The good news is that we, as coaches, can help!

Obesity is defined as, “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health or an impaired quality of life” (WHO, 2020). 

As coaches we have a responsibility and duty of care to help educate our clients, especially those who are overweight and/or obese the importance of better food and lifestyle choices to ensure that they have a better quality of life. Nobody becomes overweight overnight, and similarly the process of educating your client and getting them to adopt a sustainable lifestyle change which includes eating better and exercising regularly will take time, effort and consistency.

For clients who have children, making their health and fitness a priority is of upmost importance, not only for themselves but for their children. By following a routine, making better food choices and exercising regularly – parents are inadvertently setting an example for their family and children. It is well documented that children who are overweight or obese will find it easier to achieve a healthy weight if the whole family makes healthy lifestyle changes – so let that guide how you advise your clients to make the changes they want to see in their children.

The key of this definition is ‘abnormal or excessive fat’. Most of our potential clients will most likely be coming to us seeking fat loss. Fat itself isn’t bad- stored fat helped our ancestors store food when it was in abundance and survive when it was not. This only becomes problematic when excess body fat begins to negatively impact our health and quality of life – hence why we need to tackle the issue of obesity head on.

How do we know what is ‘abnormal’ or excessive?

This is when understanding Body Mass Index or BMI is important. BMI is calculated by dividing a persons weight in kilograms by their height squared in metres. This is then compared against the scale. 

BMI Classifications:
<18.5 – underweight
18.5 – 25 – normal
25 – 30 – overweight
>30 – obese

BMI was designed as a system for the general population and isn’t the end all or be all to assess whether a person is overweight or obese. This is due to the fact that BMI does not take into consideration muscle mass, a person frame and/or gender. The vast majority of people are not strong, muscular or lean, and because they are the “vast majority of people”, chances are they are your future clients. BMI is a perfectly fine tool for this group of people but it may not be suitable for everyone. 

The second method for classifying obesity is by body fat percentage and broken down by sex across four categories:

Essential fat is the minimum amount of fat needed for the body to survive. For women, this is from 10 to 13%, and for men, it’s 2 to 5%.

An athletic woman is between 14 and 20% while an athletic man is between 6 and 13%.

A fit woman is between 21 and 24% while for a man, it’s 14-17%.

An average woman is 25 to 31% body fat, and an average man is 18-24%.

Women above 32% and men above 25% body fat are considered obese.

Source: https://www.foundmyphysique.com.au/body-fat-percentage-photos-for-men-women/

This method of classification is a little more palatable to us as fitness professionals as it answers the criticism of classifying a big, lean muscular person as “overweight” or “obese”, and it has another advantage of taking into more direct account the physiological differences between men and women. We’d expect women to carry more body fat naturally due to their higher estrogen, men to carry less due to their higher testosterone.

As a coach it is going to be more reliable to focus on body composition and health outcomes that the client desires than getting hung up on their body fat percentage. For example, if a client says they want to fit their clothes better and have more energy to play with their kids, it doesn’t matter what their body fat percentage says. All that matters is getting that extra bit of fat off so they can live the life they want to live.

Obesity is fundamentally a disease of excess. Since our transition away from hunter-gatherer subsistence to societies underpinned by steady agriculture, there has been obesity. The consistent availability of food coupled with the luxury to not work has made obesity a possibility for society’s elites for as long as there has been society.

As the world grew richer, it also developed technologies that dramatically increased food production and also made everything much cheaper and more readily available. Cell phones, the internet, TV, Uber Eats, all of these technologies make it possible for us to live our lives quite literally without moving. Today, it is so affordable to eat an excessive number of calories that more people die from obesity-related conditions than from malnutrition-related ones.

Not all hope is lost however! By having a better understanding of human nutrition, physiology and metabolism, we as coaches are better able to help our clients with weight management and stop the cycle. 

Do you want to turn your passion for fitness into a sustainable, long term-career whilst helping to positively change the lives of all those that you come into contact with? Get qualified through our Master Coach Program! Click here for more information.

References:
1. Better Health Channel, (2020). Dietary guidelines for children and adolescents in Australia, incorporating the Infant feeding guidelines, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government.
2. The Lancet. (2020). Tackling obesity in 2020 – with a great resolution comes shared responsibility. The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. 8(2), 89. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(20)30001-2
3. CHFI. (2020). Performance Nutrition Coach 1. Clean Health Fitness Institute. 
4. World Health Organisation. (2020). Obesity. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/topics/obesity/en/

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