The Resource Channel – Is obesity the greatest safety risk in mining?

A job in the Australian mining sector apparently fattens more than your wallet.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, 76 per cent of all Australian workers aged 18-64 years classified as overweight or obese are in the mining industry.
With obesity the fifth largest risk factor contributing to deaths all over the world, it’s a safe assumption that the issue is not just confined to mining in Australia, but across the total global mining industry.

Long shifts, working fly in, fly out and irregular hours all contribute to the issue, with men in particular, at greatest risk. Australian mining employers are seeing an alarming rise in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. High blood pressure and poor mobility are also prevalent.

According to health specialist, Mareike Bout from Mining Family Matters, a major issue is that many don’t see themselves as overweight or obese.
With the demands of industry making it easier for workers to fall into unhealthy routines, she says workers were often doomed to fail when taking a practical approach to weight loss and exercise.

The availability of food at camp, together with the often easy access to cheap alcohol, tiredness and limited leisure hours, means health and fitness can fall by the wayside.  It also means that the problem can’t be attributed to any one cause.

Whilst Australian employers are increasingly providing education on healthy choices, improved food options at camp, accessibility to exercise facilities on site and time off, workers still need to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

Mareike says that keeping the kilos at bay while you are working away can be challenging if you don’t consider the calorie content of what you’re tucking into. Here, she provides her tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight range.



Cereals (especially muesli, porridge

and Weet-Bix)

Fresh fruit

Grainy, wholemeal toast

Poached or boiled eggs

Grilled tomato

Low-fat natural yoghurt

Nuts and seeds

Baked beans




Scrambled eggs

Poached fruit



Fruit juice


Wraps or grainy bread such as multi-grain or wholemeal filled with chicken breast and as much fresh salad as possible are a great choice. Finish off with some fruit and a few nuts and you will have plenty of energy to get you through the afternoon.

This is where it can get tough: you have worked hard all day, you’re hungry and tired and all you want to do is relax and eat a tasty and satisfying meal. The bottom line with weight loss or weight maintenance is that you must keep your portions to a reasonable size. Your body can only process and use so much food at a time; any excess is quickly stored as body fat. Mareike tells her clients that the one thing they can do right now to start losing weight is to eat what they normally would, just 1/3 less of it. Simple.

You still get to eat what you like (within reason!) so you don’t feel deprived and you don’t have to worry about counting calories or sourcing special foods.

Tips for stopping the kilos from piling on:

Banish the bread.

Slow down and savour: remember to eat slowly to allow your brain the time it needs to register you are full. Put your fork down between mouthfuls and savour your meal.
Start with soup or salad: the more you eat of the healthy stuff, the less you will eat of the calorie and fat-laden choices. For soups, go for vegetable or bean-based, the chunkier the better. Avoid any that are cream-based. For salads, the golden rule is to use minimal dressing.

Fill up on extra veggies: again, a low-calorie food choice.

Go for lean protein: stick with low-fat cuts of meat or chicken. If necessary, you can remove the skin. Fish and shellfish are excellent choices but shouldn’t be crumbed or battered.

Sauce on the side: gravies, sauces, and dressings are big traps when you are watching your weight. Go easy on them or avoid them altogether.
Finish with fruit.

For dessert, fresh fruit (without the ice cream) is your best choice. Most other desserts are a dietary disaster. Her advice is to avoid dessert or if you must indulge, a couple of spoonfuls with your coffee should get you off the hook with minimal dietary damage!

Other tips from Mareike include:

Aim for a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9

To calculate your BMI, divide your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in metres) squared. If you have a high percentage of muscle, your BMI might be higher than this without you actually being too fat, so measure your waist circumference to see if you need to lose weight. A waist measurement of 94cm means you are at increased risk of health problems; a measurement of 102cm means you are at a high risk.

Listen to your mates

Most blokes don’t hold back telling each other that they’ve ‘got fat’ or developed a beer belly. If your mates start to pay you out, don’t take it as a compliment. Instead, take it as an indicator that you need to shift some weight.

If you don’t like ‘diets’, don’t go on one

Instead, focus on ways in which you can improve your eating habits – for weight loss that will last. There’s less stigma attached to healthy eating and you won’t feel as deprived.

If you have a partner, ask for help

Most partners will be delighted and only too happy to serve up healthier meals and smaller portions and join you.

Get to grips with the basics of healthy eating

Here are a few simple rules:

eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains

have fish twice a week (including one serve of oily fish like salmon, mackerel or fresh tuna)

opt for low-fat dairy products

choose lean sources of protein like lean red meat and chicken

go for fresh, natural, unprocessed foods

eat fewer fried and fatty foods

cut back on salt and sugar

watch portion sizes

don’t drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol in a day

Don’t be fooled by low-carb diets

Large amounts of red meat, eggs, cream, cheese, butter and fried food might seem appealing but diets based on these foods are usually loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat – and men are already at an increased risk of heart disease than women.

Carbs are actually friends to weight loss rather than foes, especially if you opt for whole grains such as brown rice, wholemeal breads and porridge, which will all help to fill you up – and keep you fuller for longer.

Eat fewer takeaways and choose healthily

For example, if you love burgers, go for a chicken or small burger rather than a double cheeseburger; choose a thin crust Hawaiian pizza rather than stuffed-crust pepperoni; and have steamed rice rather than fried rice.

Eat a healthy, balanced meal before going to the pub so you’ll be less likely to grab a takeaway on the way home. If you don’t have time for a proper meal, opt for a wholemeal sandwich or soup and a roll.

Drive to the pub…

so your mates won’t keep encouraging or forcing you to have beer after beer. All alcohol is packed with calories, but men tend to drink beer and beer tends to be the worst option – and the stronger it is, the more calories it will contain.

Single measures of spirits with low-calorie mixers like diet coke or tonic are the best choice with just 50 calories each. And remember, if you’re not drinking, you still need to stick to low-calorie drinks to gain the benefits. A pint of orange juice and lemonade contains around 160 calories while a pint of regular coke contains as many calories as a pint of full-strength beer – around 240!

Don’t be afraid to tell a white lie…

if any of your mates start questioning you about what you’re eating and drinking. If you’re off the booze tell them you’re on antibiotics; if you’re skipping the burger and fries tell them you have high cholesterol and the doctor has told you to cut down on fat; or if you’re eating more wholegrain carbs, fruit or veg tell them you’re in training for a sporting event such as a half marathon or triathlon.

Don’t just watch sport…

from the comfort of your armchair or local pub. Instead, get off your butt and start playing it. Think back to what you loved at school – football, cricket or running, for example – and consider joining a local club. Or have a go at learning a new sport, such as golf – an hour at the driving range might not give you a great cardiovascular workout, but it’ll certainly burn more calories than sitting in front of the TV.

Arrange social events around playing sport, too – for example, get a group of mates together and go for a kick around in the park at the weekend. And if you have a gym membership, make sure you’re using it.

Whatever you do, don’t wait until you’ve been diagnosed with a health problem before you take action! Weight loss will give you more energy and help to improve everything from your health and looks to your confidence and love of life!

As we begin a new year, Mareike provides sound advice for a healthy and safe 2013 across the total global resource sector.

Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. Mareike is a regular contributor to Mining Family Matters ( which is dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles and relationships for those working in the Australian resource sector.

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