‘Cake Culture’ Warnings Add to the Worrisome Obesity Epidemic in Australia

A new year is rolling out and health experts are hoping we’ll set a resolution to slow down with the cake-eating and stick to it

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Following his initial statement release last year in London, Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, is now reinforcing his call for concern regarding the dangers of ‘cake culture’ in the workplace. He declared the excessive consumption of sugary snacks and treats at work are major contributing factors to tooth decay and dangerous weight gain, two significant concerns for the general population.

“Managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions, and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays. But for many people the workplace is now the primary site of their sugar intake and is contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health,” he said.

“We need a culture change in offices and other workplaces that encourages healthy eating and helps workers avoid craving in to sweet temptations such as cakes, sweets and biscuits.” said Hunt in an interview with BBC. “Ideally office workers should consider other alternatives altogether like fruit platters, nuts, or cheese. Responsible employers should take a lead and avoid such snacks in meetings.”

Though we’d like to deny it, Hunt tells it like it is. Diets are hard to stick to in social environments such as the workplace. Declining a piece of birthday cake or a Swiss chocolate isn’t easy. But if you consider the fact that some offices are located in areas that can only offer nothing more than the surrounding deserted landscape, and that healthy food is usually rather costly, avoiding processed foods is generally a challenge. Not to mention the lack of motivation and energy to cook something wholesome at home after a long day of work.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, two-thirds of the national population are classified as overweight or obese — an equivalent of 11.2 million Australians. The heaviest state? South Australia, with a whooping 73 per cent of its inhabitants.

Associate Professor Alison Hayes, from the University’s School of Public Health, says the resulting model from recent research is the first one to predict weight gain in the population and to yield a descriptive analysis of changes in weight proportions over time.

“Contrary to popular belief, it’s not in middle age that people suddenly pile on the pounds,” she said. “In fact, at a population level, young people gain more weight each year than older people. But for most of us weight gain tends to be cumulative and so we’re more likely to move into an overweight or obese category later in life”.

“An increase in childhood obesity means Australians are starting out adulthood with a higher BMI and higher levels of obesity than ever before”.

The statistics are worrisome. Especially if we consider the fact that even in the nation’s slimmest region, more than half the residents are overweight.

Obesity Policy Coalition executive, Jane Martin, says obesity is now a norm.

“We don’t go below 53 per cent (obesity among adults in any region), and that is a worry. This is the new normal, and we can’t just sit back and accept it, because the impact on society and the economic cost are very, very serious.”

So young people are piling up the pounds fast and ‘cake culture’ at work isn’t helping. Obesity is an epidemic and the consequences are nothing less than concerning. However, the number of factors involved in obesity go far beyond cakes and sodas. Considering stress is one of the main causes of weight gain, think of all the elements that can contribute to your daily increase cortisol levels (the stress hormone) — work overload, lack of time to socialise, money problems, bills, etc. The problem is anything but simple.