March 2008

“We are warriors in the battle against a sedentary lifestyle,” says Roy “Les” Mills in his instructors’ creed for the Les Mills gyms based in Auckland, New Zealand. Mills’ son, Phillip, has expanded the family business into a thriving company bringing popular workout programs to more than 11,000 facilities in 73 countries. Out of this business, he and his wife, Jackie, a general medical practitioner and obstetrician, gained unique insight into the obesity epidemic threatening the world. Their book, Fighting Globesity: A Practical Guide to Personal Health and Global Sustainability (Random House, 2007) describes current relationships between personal fitness, national health systems and global sustainability. The World Health Organization (WHO) first used the term globesity during a summit in 2004 to provide awareness of the obesity pandemic. Phillip and Jackie Mills encourage individuals to take a look at their own personal health as a first step in taking action on these issues.

The book is comprised of three parts. Part one, “Energy Out,” focuses on setting personal goals to “become someone,” like a professional tennis player. Even if you don’t reach this goal, you may be surprised by how far you actually go. Part one also discusses preparing yourself mentally for a new workout regimen; learning the importance of being part of a team; and choosing a personal trainer.

In a more concrete connection between the energy you personally expend and the environment you live in, the Mills suggest that riding a bike to work can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. These man-made toxic emissions are a key contributor to global warming, the book claims. Also listed in this section are 23 reasons why you should exercise, such as, reducing the chances of getting certain types of cancer, type II diabetes and heart disease. Thus, regular exercise may become a long-term solution to high healthcare costs for the infirm elderly, who account for 75 percent of healthcare costs and are typically less active, with obesity-related illnesses.

Part two, “Energy In,” is dedicated to making wiser choices about what we eat and drink. It emphasizes deflating the “supersize” mentality and concentrating on eating smaller portions, healthier snacks, and cutting out sugar-filled sodas and juice drinks. They stress proper vitamin intake from fish, fruits, vegetables and legumes, and cutting down on saturated and trans fats. It is also noted that since organic foods are not doused with chemicals and pesticides, in this way, what you choose to eat impacts the environment and your health.

Part two also encourages readers to eat less meat, citing that livestock are fed growth hormones and are raised in such overcrowded conditions that they are subject to illnesses that are often treated with antibiotics. Meat consumption, which has increased 500 percent since 1950, impacts the environment in many ways: sections of the rainforest have been replaced by farmland (to grow soyfeed) and cattle produce high methane emissions (a greenhouse gas).

Part 3 of Fighting Globesity, “Global Energy,” presents alternatives to the current types of energy consumption. The book tells a brief history of our energy choices, from the use of the first water wheels through nuclear energy, and it invites us to explore alternative ways of producing energy, such as wind and solar power that can save our future on Earth. In the meantime, conservation is encouraged: turn off equipment at the end of the workday, switch to a green energy supplier, use compact florescent light bulbs and insulate homes to lower heating costs.

Fighting Globesity may not have everyone’s vote. There are scientists who assert that global warming is a normal cycle on Earth and some won’t agree with the authors’ holistic way of treating ailments. But there is no denying that many of the points made in this groundbreaking book are authentic, and the obesity epidemic is undeniable.

Fighting Globesity is a mustread and a good educational reference to pass on to others. As the book states, “Sustainability starts with your own body. Fit body. Fit planet next!”