Obesity is rarely just greed

By Charlotte Hofton

Friday, April 4, 2014



I'M NOT sure I’d be entirely comfortable having Dame Sally Davies at my dining table. She is England’s chief medical officer, who told us last week we’re all fat slobs and need to stop stuffing our faces and brace up on the exercise front.

Dame Sally sounds a bit fierce for my liking and possibly not the kind of woman I’d want inspecting my fridge.

She is, however, quite right. We consume far too many calories and that makes us fat. Easy answer, according to smug Sally — sorry, our much respected chief medical officer — is to cut down on what we eat, particularly sugar, and sign up for the gym.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem and the cure. It’s not complicated, it’s not, on the face of it, difficult. It merely requires overweight people to stop popping so much into their mouths.

You don’t need a complicated regime of food combinations or some loopy diet of pomegranate pips and raw seaweed.

You don’t have to torture yourself with fasting. You just have to eat less and eschew the stuff that makes you fat.

Few people have conditions ("It’s glandular, you know") which make them fat without overeating. Yes, some people can eat chocolate all day and not put on an ounce, while it takes only a sliver of cake for others to pile on the pounds.

It’s not fair, but tough luck. Know your metabolism and eat accordingly.

If, by any chance, you can’t distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food, here’s an easy way to tell. Unhealthy food leaves sticky marks round your mouth and is almost certainly the stuff you like best.

Dame Sally would be tut-tutting all over the place if she visited the Island. The latest figures on our chubbiness indicate a high level of obesity in five-year-olds. Things get a bit better as the kids get older but it’s all dunkin’-donuts by the time they’re grown-up, with the Island’s adults recording higher obesity levels than the national average.

The council’s corporate (a singularly appropriate adjective) plan for the Island includes its vision for wellbeing. "People make healthy choices for healthy lifestyles."

So that’s sorted. Do as Dame Sally and the council tell you and make healthy choices. Simples, n’est-ce-pas?

If only it were that easy. You must be very stupid if you don’t understand that to lose weight, you must eat less. And most people do know it.

Perhaps there are some who simply don’t care if they’re fat but among even those who seem to have no shame and go around with rolls of blubber gaping from straining seams, who really wants to be overweight?

People eat for all sorts of reasons. It’s seldom solely because they’re greedy.

They eat because they’re lonely or their love life has gone to pot, they eat because their home is chaotic and they’re exhausted.

The underprivileged of the inner cities eat because of hellhole sink estates, because rich people despise them, because they can’t get a job, because they feel hopeless.

Kids eat the wrong things when their parents indulge them with misguided love. Then the children get fat and are teased and when they come home from school, waddling and miserable, they are given a bar of chocolate to take away the tears.

People in constant pain from crippling conditions eat for comfort and as the pain worsens because they’ve grown so fat, they despair and eat even more. Women eat because they’re bombarded with fashion spin telling them they should be thin, should be beautiful, that cellulite is the most disgusting thing in the world and when they don’t achieve these absurd expectations, they feel a failure, give up, and munch biscuits.

It’s easy to eat the wrong things. We are surrounded by food outlets, many of them trading on our love for calorie-packed foodstuffs.

Marshmallows with your hot chocolate, madam? Ooh, yes please. Naughty but nice.

It’s not all the fault of the outlets. If the nation weren’t addicted to sugar, for whatever reason, there wouldn’t be a market for these retailers. If the retailers weren’t there, we wouldn’t be getting fatter and fatter.

Chicken and egg syndrome. That’s fried chicken and a creme egg, of course.

Our rising obesity levels have at their heart something much more complex than merely overeating.

More often, it is, for all sorts of reasons, less physiological than psychological. Unfortun-ately, too, a lettuce leaf just doesn’t hit the spot when you’re miserable and crave comfort food.

They’ll ask you about your eating habits down at the surgery and they’ll explain how to lose weight.

But the nation’s obese already know.

The first question a doctor should ask is not, "How much do you weigh?" but "How unhappy, tired, wretched, impoverished, isolated, or in pain are you?"

When these things are properly addressed, many will find it much easier to eat less.

PS. If none of this applies to you and you’re just a fat slob, you should present yourself to Dame Sally for a severe ticking-off.

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