There is no sugar coating it. According to the latest health survey data 66% of Australian adults are overweight or obese. That's two out of every three people. New Zealand is the third 'fattest' country behind Mexico and the US. It's unfortunately becoming the new normal.
Of course, not everybody is going to look like a Victoria Secret model, and that's ok. There are many shapes and sizes that can be 'healthy'. But we also need to be realistic. Carrying too much weight (ie. being overweight or obese) can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and premature death.
There are many factors that contribute to these statistics, and we're not here to challenge the stats. The general consensus of the literature suggests that in otherwise healthy people, obesity is related to an energy imbalance. That basically means getting too much energy from food and drink compared to how much is burnt off during the day. This isn't carte blanch to eat whatever you want, because food is more than just energy, but it does mean, the occasional treat is unlikely to increase the chances of weight gain.
If we think about it, recent research is suggesting that our refined sugar intake has been declining, yet our waistlines (as a population) are still expanding. That supports the evidence that not one nutrient, like sugar, is linked to being overweight – it is more a reflection of our overall energy intake. Besides, it's not just sugar that gives us energy, it's also protein, fat and, yes, we said it, alcohol. The nifty graph below shows just how much energy each one of these components gives.
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, our guidelines recommend eating a variety of whole foods. That includes breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy. For most people, small changes – just 400 kJ a day can make a big difference, so the occasional treat is also ok.