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My office cake research has had its first foray into academia with a poster presentation at The Nutrition Society/Royal Society of Medicine joint winter meeting. It was well-received and generated plenty of questions (and smiles and nods of recognition).

For anyone unfamiliar with posters at academic conferences, here’s how it works.  The conference organisers put out a ‘call for abstracts’ several months in advance of the event. Researchers submit an abstract (short summary) of a new study and, if accepted, the researchers are invited to present their work in the form of a poster during set periods of the conference.  The poster needs to be designed to communicate the key points of the research so that it catches delegates’ eyes so they engage in discussion with the researcher. It’s a great way to showcase new research, often before it is published.

You can see my poster here and the abstract here.
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Dr Suzie Edge started the What If Health podcast to explore people’s thoughts and experiences on many aspects of lifestyle medicine.

It was exciting to be invited on and, well, we could have continued for hours! Fortunately for listeners, Suzie’s editing skills mean it’s only an hour long and it’s out today. You can download it from iTunes or Soundcloud or hear it on the What If Health website.

We talked about workplace health and office cake, of course, but also the challenges of the general food environment, the Public Health Collaboration, the Dept of Health’s new prevention focus, dietary guidelines, lifestyle medicine and more. 

Hope you enjoy it!
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It’s always nice to win a prize, but when the judges are hugely respected pioneers it is even more special.

So I was bowled when my office cake research won the poster prize at the Inspired Medics lifestyle medicine conference in Leeds last month. The judges were cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra and GP and diabetes expert Dr David Unwin  who said they liked the research’s pragmatic, balanced approach to a problem which resulted in realistic conclusions.

The conference itself was superb and there’s a blog on the way about it.
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After completing my training, I’m now officially a Public Health Collaboration ambassador. This is an exciting honour and a great opportunity to help a great group of people make a difference to public health… although I know the work won’t provide an easy ride. 

The Public Health Collaboration (PHC) is a charity dedicated to improving public health through diet (its hashtag is #RealFoodRocks). It is tackling the root cause of the UK’s health problems by working to improve the UK’s healthy eating and weight loss guidelines. It also works with GPs, diabetes nurses and other healthcare practitioners to offer more choice to type 2 diabetes sufferers in their treatment, highlighting the NHS-approved availability of a low-carb approach to put diabetes into remission. 

The PHC works closely with diabetes organisation www.diabetes.co.uk to introduce healthcare practitioners to a dietary approach to type 2 diabetes treatment and to provide support with this new protocol. For years, type 2 diabetes has been considered a progressive, irreversible ie terminal condition. But in recent years, thousands have used a low carb/’real food’ approach in combination with other lifestyle changes to put their diabetes into remission or even reverse it completely. Diabetes.co.uk has developed a 10-week low carb eating programme for patients which is approved by the NHS for GPs to prescribe.   It has also received CE Mark approval. At £30 this represents good value compared to the £300 – £375 the NHS currently spends per person on diabetes treatments (and that does not include spend on complications of diabetes which take up around 80% of the total annual diabetes costs of £14bn – 16bn). But this approach is new to the NHS and it will take time for health care providers to be confident to try something different. Recognising this, diabetes.co.uk developed a 30-minute learning module for GPs and other healthcare practitioners which has been approved by the Royal College of GPs.

More alternatives to drug therapy… and more hope
Another dietary lifestyle approach to type 2 diabetes reversal includes the very low calorie diet featured on recent BBC and ITV programmes, based on the DiRECT study. Therefore, alternatives to drug therapy exist for patients, once healthcare practitioners are aware of this. Patients value being given a choice in treatment protocol and, importantly, being given hope that their condition can be either better managed or reversed. 

Type 2 diabetes affects around 6% of the UK population but takes 10% of the NHS budget. With a third of the UK population estimated to have prediabetes, it is obvious that our struggling NHS could not cope if people’s prediabetes progressed to full diabetes. And the issues that lead to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, also predispose people to other conditions such as obesity, cardio vascular issues, fatty liver disease, kidney problems and some cancers. Increasing evidence suggests that our carbohydrate-heavy diet, particularly in terms of sugars and starchy carbs such as flour, rice, pasta and starchy bread, is a major contributor to the obesity and diabetes crisis which is why the PHC is working to revise lthe UK dietary guidelines.

Exciting times ahead!
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Blog, News
Yesterday I gave a TED talk at TEDx University of Chester.

What an honour and what an experience! 

As a graduate of the University of Chester I was invited to speak about the research into office cake culture I conducted as part of my MSc in Obesity & Weight Management. The event’s official theme was ‘Ideas connected’ and talks covered a range of topics including tackling plastic overuse, theatre as a tool in deradicalisation and ‘inventapreneurism’.  But a common theme was that we need to start conversations about difficult situations to help people invest in the solutions.

My talk aimed to help people understand that obesity is more complicated than eating too much and moving too little, and examined the roles of our environment, social influencing and our neurophysiology in causing obesity. The main messages were:  

1. By subtly changing the environments we are in control of, we can make it easier for ourselves to make healthy choices more often, without having to rely on willpower. By making our workplaces less obesogenic we could all make a significant improvement to public health in the UK.
2. We need to start a conversation with colleagues about how often we really want office cake. 95% of office workers thought the ideal frequency for office cake was once a week or less  but this is less than the current availability in most workplaces. People don’t find it easy to speak up when colleagues are apparently enjoying cake (even if they don’t really want it) 
3. Discuss with colleagues how we might get the benefits of getting together socially at work, without cake.  
4. By starting a conversation about something specific like office cake, we can all contribute to tackling the wider obesity problem.

The final call to action was for employers, employees, students and group members to start a conversation about office cake. After all, we have nothing to lose but the weight, and we all have our health to gain.



I will update this blog with a link to the talk on youtube when it is available.
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I was very excited when the email arrived saying my office cake research had been short-listed for an Inspiring Wellbeing Award. It’s obviously nice that one’s own work has been recognised, but even better when it’s recognised as being potentially useful.  

Inspiring Wellbeing Awards are run in conjunction with the annual Wellbeing Symposium which focuses on wellbeing at work, in the community and for individuals.

The award was presented by Christine Hancock, director of C3 Collaborating for Health, a London-based global charity that addresses risk factors in non-communicable disease.

Said Christine, “C3 was delighted to be asked to help judge the Inspiring Wellbeing Awards. To see Lou’s important research on office cake consumption among the submissions was fantastic. We were so pleased to recommend her for an award and happy to see that colleagues agreed and her research was ‘Highly Commended’ by the panel of judges.” 



Caption: (L-R), Christine Hancock, Lou Walker.

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I’m beyond chuffed that my office cake research has been shortlisted for an award.  

The Inspiring Wellbeing Awards are associated with the annual Wellbeing Symposium and recognise efforts to improve wellbeing in the workplace, communities and among individuals. 

Whatever the outcome, it’s exciting that the potential of rethinking workplace cake culture is starting to be recognised. 

You can find out more about the 2018 Wellbeing Symposium here.

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