New obesity statistics reveal Penrith’s got a big problem, with 32.8 per cent of adults in the region being classified as obese.
The numbers are significantly higher than surrounding cities, with Blacktown currently sitting at 30.6 per cent, the Blue Mountains at 26.2 per cent and Parramatta at 25.5 per cent.
The statistics, released by the Mitchell Institute, show how the rate of obesity varies dramatically across the country, highlighting the impact of where people live and their income has on their health.
Areas like North Sydney sit at a low 14.7 per cent.
Health expert Rosemary Calder said it was no surprise that wealthy city suburbs have the lowest rates of obesity and believes more preventative strategies need to be in place for regional or disadvantaged communities.
“We have spent too long as a nation expecting individuals to be able to change their behaviour to reduce their weight,” she said.
“However, the evidence is very clear that this has little chance of success without a very strong focus on the environmental factors in the places where we live that contribute to poor nutrition and inactivity.
“People in our wealthier suburbs tend to have better access to information about healthy diet and the financial means to access healthy food options and enjoyable physical activity.”
So is the recent closure of health food store Healthy Life in Penrith Westfield indicative of our unwillingness to splash money on nutritious food? Or are we just getting lazier?
Penrith Dietician Candace Sciberras from OnePointHealth said there are a whole host of contributing factors to the region’s weight problem including money, convenience, variety and education.
“There’s a big misconception that healthy food is expensive but there’s definitely ways around it,” she said.
“With careful planning and creativity you can easily eat healthy on a budget and make that food taste good as well.”
Her tips for saving on healthy foods include buying fruit and veg that’s in season, being strategic by looking out for sales on bulk items and replace expensive animal proteins with legumes and lentils when necessary.
“Avoid eating out is also a big one, feeding a family of four at a restaurant can cost you upwards of $80, just imagine how many fruits and vegetables you could buy for that cost.”
Ms Sciberras said for those looking to make lifestyle changes, be wary of the misconception of some ‘healthy’ foods.
“Greek yogurt is great for you but there’s so many flavours, same with oatmeal or cereal, pre-sweetened or flavoured items have so much added sugar,” she said.
The latest data shows the national obesity rate has risen 27 per cent over the past 10 years with almost a third of Australians obese, placing them at much higher risk of diabetes, some cancers, heart disease, arthritis and dementia.
Currently the top medical killer in Penrith is circulatory diseases like heart disease, strokes or cardiovascular disease.
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Nicola Barton is a news journalist with the Western Weekender, primarily covering crime and politics.