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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Half of the nation clinically obese by 2050 — what can be done?

The largest ever UK study into obesity, compiled by 250 experts, said excess weight as now the norm in our "obesogenic" society.
Those of SDS delegates who attended our "Food Abuse: from Addiction to Obesity" will notice that lots of the statements in the report are very much in line with our own conclusions on the day. For the first time there is an acknowledgement from both the specialists and the government that encouraging the individual to choose a healthier lifestyle, simply isn't enough. Obesity, the authors concluded, is an inevitable consequence of a society of cheap, readily available and energy-dense foods, motorised transport, labour-saving devices, and inactive lifestyles.

The report forecast for 2050 is pretty gloomy. If current trends continue:

- 60% of men, 50% of women, and 26% of children and young people will be obese
- Cases of type 2 diabetes will rise by 70%
- Cases of stroke will rise by 30%
- Cases of coronary heart disease will rise by 20%

Though it is very encouraging that the overall attitude towards the problem seems to start changing and the report recognises that the trivialising the issue by 'eat less exercise more' educational approach is not the strongest strategy, most questions remain open:

What can be done to change the tendency?
Is obesity the fault of the individual?
Should more support for obese people be provided by the NHS?

Should changes be made at home or would government action make a real difference?

Looking forward to your replies

Julia Budnik


  1. I have a personal 'short story' which mirrors what I think you are trying to say.

    A couple of months ago I spent the best part of a day looking at a couple of local Gyms and researching what chainsaw I should buy to cur up fir wood for my solid fuel stove.

    Is was only when the chain saw salesman was telling me how much energy I would be saving that the irony of what I was about to do hit me!

    So instead of paying out for a chainsaw and the protective clothing AND for Gym membership I bought a new blade for my bow saw and cut the wood up by hand.

    It can be so easy to 'buy' the answer - buy a chain saw, but gym membership. To drive three miles to the Gym do six miles on a jogging machine and drive three miles home.

    A Mad Mad world!

    D.H., Youth Services Manager

  2. I feel that there is some sort of link between climate control and our own energy requirements and if we get 'things' too easily it upsets that balance. So back to the log burner, if I obtain heat by clicking on a switch I pay for it in terms of money to the electric company and also in environmental terms. At the same time im then relaxing in my arm chair having clicked a switch rather than spending time and energy collecting wood therefore I have physiological imbalance also, this goes back to the chain saw and gym discussion of my last e-mail.

    Of course I only practice what I preach some of the time, living in a grid connected house in the week and on a narrow boat most weekends.

    D.H., Youth Services Manager

  3. For what its worth I think the more we look for an answer to answer other people’s problems is half the problem.

    We live in a world where individuals are so disenfranchised from themselves they cannot confidently adjudicate their own reasoning for their behaviour unless it is written down or sanctioned by an official body or qualified by statistics. And if the official line is “x”,”y” or “z” and you don’t fit into that then you are by default in a no mans land of existence. However, the other side of this is that if we as individuals had a strong sense of purpose and connectedness with ourselves we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be brow beaten into such a corner.

    The “fat issue”, I believe, is just an inevitable consequence of our society’s destruction of family home and community which allowed us to remain firm in our sense of ourselves. Poverty is not the answer and neither is ignorance as these have been around for centuries and people were never over weight before.

    We have as a result largely handed over our minds and souls to the state and we no longer feel able to make our own minds up and given the fact that mind body and soul are so interlinked it is no wonder the body suffers as a result.


  4. I am interested in the subject of obesity

    because I am a counsellor and trainer and

    I am very over weight myself and have been for the past few years.

    I can only speak for myself, but I have been addressing for some considerable time my psychological reasons for my relationship with food and eating. I will list these to show an example of the sort of things I found within myself and the sorts of issues other people may have.

    'Being a good girl' and eating everything on the plate. (getting approval) I now am able to leave some when I have had sufficient.

    Because my mother used food as a means of showing love, I have had the tendency to do the same - comfort eating!!

    Another aspect was finding my 'saboteur' whenever I tried to diet. A diet was a 'have to' in terms of sticking to it and this conflicted with my silent rebellion of resistance against mother for anything I 'had to do'.

    Also I have learnt my eating on the quiet was 'a power against mother's control' because she didn't know.

    AND CHOCOLATE!!! - to do with post war years and lack (+ comfort eating). I now only eat it sometimes and not every day.
    So it is only now that (hopefully) all the saboteurs have been tackled that I feel I have any chance to lose weight by healthy eating - which I have done for some time, and the exercise which I am beginning to do now.

    Recently I have lost one and a half stone by not dieting, but eating healthily and doing some more exercise - no dieting - although I still have a long way to go in the weight stakes.

    What more can I say, except I can't be the only one to have had food and eating issues like these. Although I agree modern lifestyles have a part to play in all this I consider a lot of therapeutic and support work can be done - via the NHS, Group work, maybe??


  5. As an Occupational Therapist I did a research study on attitudes to exercise and why GP exercise prescription will not work for a lot of people due to the complex interplay of social, psychological and environmental factors. As an Occupational Therapist I feel we have a large role to play in increasing physical exercise through normal daily activities which people are motivated to do and address some of the psychological factors and other health promotional issues involved.

    C.N., Alderson Stroke Unit

  6. Lifestyle is part choice and part culture. Car culture is killing people both long term through climate change and short term by making people fat and unfit. Fitness should be part of our everyday lives, not something we have to tag on as extra, as most people don't have the time or the will. This needs government action in indirect ways. Public transport must be improved, at least then people will be walking to and from bus/train stops instead of the door-to-door service a car gives. Car travel needs to be made more complex. Congestion charges are a good idea, making some areas pedestrianised is another. Cycling must be made safer - I cycle as my main transport but I've had too many near death experiences from crazy drivers and loads of people I know won't cycle for fear of that. It must be made clear that pedestrians and cyclists are the kings of the road and should be respected and protected.

    I have been anti sport since school as it was taught in such a way that it enabled bullying. Now I think it would be great to play a sport in my spare time but its so far away from my current lifestyle. Perhaps there is a way to put sport in the curriculum in a more individualised, less competitive way. Maybe dance classes can be brought back - dancing is a super fun way to be fit.

    Cooking should perhaps be taught in schools, although that runs the danger of putting people off it - school often has that effect. But basic skills are necessary - cooking is so easy and so much cheaper but people often perceive it as difficult. It can be as quick to cook from scratch as to sort out convenience foods. Perhaps gardening should be on the curriculum and all schools should have vegetable patches or mini farms on the grounds?

    Perhaps the government should subsidise ORGANIC farming and put an NHS tax on processed foods?

    Overall, I think we need RADICAL changes to have any effect on this. The obesity 'crisis' is a symptom of other issues in our society. In a more sustainable society the fat issue would cease to be.



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