UK obesity crisis: who is to blame?

Alarm bells were sounded 40 years ago warning of an impending obesity crisis in the UK, but fell on the deaf ears of successive governments. Now we are the fattest nation in Europe and set to get even fatter: 26 million are predicted to be obese by 2030.

The country is already in debt to the tune of £2070 billion (The Economist Jan 2011); the NHS is facing a cash crisis and will struggle to cope with managing the obesity-related diseases of a rising obese population.

The research papers that have just been published in the Lancet which outline the scale of the UK’s obesity crisis have prompted fierce criticism of the government for colluding with the food giants and allowing them to ply their vile trade of salt and fat-laden foods to the nation; including the shameless targeting of products at young children.

Professor Steven Gortmaker from the Havard School of Public Health is quoted in the Independent as saying there are proven interventions that could be implemented, such as taxes on unhealthy food products and restricting the marketing of food to children. Yet the government has avoided implementing any, for fear of attracting the ‘nanny state’ label.

Yet even now the health minister continues to insist that the government is doing all it can to tackle the obesity crisis. In my opinion it is not doing nearly enough – in much the same way that it takes a softly, softly approach to the banking industry who brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy and yet still pay themselves huge bonuses whilst paying less tax than the average SME.

The oligarchs of the food industry may as well be running the country along with the banks, given the amount of control they are able to exert through powerful lobbying and government connections. Meanwhile, people are getting fatter and continuing to drain an already depleted economy.

There is definitely blame to be levelled at the government but at the same time, as individuals we must take personal responsibility for what we eat and how much we it. It is always assumed that people put on weight because they lack understanding about calories and fat intake.

But food labelling has improved in recent years and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to check the food label of a product before throwing it into your shopping basket. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to determine that chips, pizzas, burgers, fizzy drinks, chocolate and cakes eaten every day to excess will result in weight gain.

Although it’s rare, there are people who seek to gain weight as way of becoming a celebrity. One such example is the grotesque 52 stone mother of two, Susanne Enman from New Jersey in the US, who is not happy at her current weight and consumes 20,000 calories a day in a bid to become the fattest woman of all time.  

Although we have yet to see such blatant gluttony in the UK, judging by the impending obesity crisis we may not be far off. Ironically many obese people in different parts of the UK who desperately want to lose weight are actually trying to gain weight in order to be fat enough to qualify for gastric band surgery on the NHS.

Reverting to the question of who is to blame for the UK’s obesity crisis, it is clear that present and past governments bear some responsibility, but ultimately our fate lies in our own hands. No-one can ‘make’ us become fat, unless we are being force-fed.

We can choose to take action such as changing our lifestyles to become healthier and lose weight in the process, or to take no action and continue to burden ourselves and the rest of the nation.

Related Links

The Economist: Chronicle of a debt foretold

The Independent: UK fat alert: 26 million will be obese by 2030

The Sun: world’s fattest woman at 52 stone…


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