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The number of obese people is terrifying - and that's just Home Counties.

Sun, 27 May, 2018

I live in a nice little town not far from London, amongst rural greenery, gentle hills and sharp property prices. It’s a short commute to London and the place is anything but backwater. A few really good restaurants, cafes and even a stylish arthouse cinema if you’d rather not take the train but want to feel lively.

Fat is not new normal
PC Herald Sun, Australia

The local social media communities are preoccupied with recommendations for vegan wedding caterers, boxing classes and mindbody workouts. In the mornings you can’t move for joggers, the cyclists are narrow country lanes’ bane and the pram-workout mummies occupy the parks in droves. There is an excellent Sports Centre and a couple of gyms – always very busy.

And the other weekend I was walking by the canal with throngs of people tempted out by the gorgeous weather and I swear – two out of three were seriously overweight.

I do not understand. I get that the joggers and gym bunnies are not those fat people I encountered so my experience indicates that they are in minority. That is scary – if the affluent and health conscious corner of Britain is still full of obese people, what are the deprived areas like?

Jamie Oliver is at it again – scathing towards government, demanding health warnings on candy and a ban on BOGOF pizzas. He’s not gaining much applause though – in fact from the cute and quirky youth chef he’s turned into a hectoring beefcake, as he’s none too skinny himself.

Of course he doesn’t get it: he had never had it hard. For all his street cred and pukka-slang he is just another rich do-gooder who thinks he understand because he isn’t posh. First off, that’s not the way to go: quite a few posh people know more about skimping and stinting than the self-proclaimed underprivileged. It’s not the background, it’s the circumstance: I recall times in my life when I genuinely wondered where my next dinner was coming from while my partner with considerably better working class credentials was allowed to eat just the yolk out of his boiled egg.

George Orwell got it as far back as 1930s in The Road to Wigan Pier: ‘The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn't. […] When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don't want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit 'tasty'. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you.’ But then, you see, George Orwell was what he called ‘lower-upper-middle class’.

Secondly, lecturing and berating never works. Do fewer people in the UK smoke? Yes, because smoking has gone out of fashion. And arguably it’s difficult to hold a fag while your fingers are flying over a screen; perhaps that’s an association too far but you never know. Bans, warning signs and restrictions never work that well – it’s the culture that needs to change. We all know that fish is healthy and so is broccoli. Crisps are unhealthy. Sugar is really bad. I don’t suppose there is a single person in the UK who would think eating KFCs and microwaved pasta followed by a Yorkie bar every day is a healthy lifestyle. Everyone knows what’s good and what isn’t; following the good is what is more problematic, and we know why. Why then across the Channel they seem to know better?

About 3% French boys at 11-15 years of age are obese; compare that to over 25% boys at the same age in United Kingdom. A quarter of all boys! Obese, not chubby or overweight? Girls don’t fare better, I’ll have you know. And yes, we know why: from the first year of the primary schools kids are given proper, wholesome, healthy and grown-up meals at school canteens across France.

How about pushing some money and resources into remodeling school dinners here? It won’t happen overnight but it might eventually make a difference. Yes, kids will always go for baked beans and pizza if available but if consistently presented with healthy options, they might start to think that broccoli is edible. No hectoring, no nannying - just education.

Plus, get the lard-arses to move more (and call them that too!): throughout UK taught PE amounts to about 70 hours per year while in France they have recommendations at almost twice the hours. The Daily Mile project is the way to go and again, it’s not about banning or restrictions but positive reinforcement. That’s people’s initiative – could we have a policy or two and a handful of cash to support those?

But hell, isn’t it much more pleasant to bitch about the government ineptitude from the safe haven of your Hampstead mansion while planning another ‘2-minute 3-course dinners’ television nonsense?

 

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