Why the Government’s Anti-Obesity Strategy Won’t Work

On Monday, Public Health England launched a brand new nationwide anti-obesity technique outlining a lot of measures meant to “encourage millions to lose weight and cut [the risks of] COVID-19”.

The opening paragraphs of the announcement are filled with statistics that can inevitably bounce round the information for months: two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight, eight % of critically unwell COVID-19 sufferers in intensive care have been morbidly overweight, obesity-related diseases value the NHS £6 billion per yr.

These statistics could also be indeniable, however they’re framed in a means that communicates a transparent message to the public: fats individuals are the downside. And neglect about human lives, this downside will value the NHS and the nation the most vital factor of all: cash.

Many of the measures outlined in the bundle have already been met with outrage on-line, in addition to criticism from consuming dysfunction charities, however let’s check out precisely what they’re and why precisely they’re so crap.


What is it? This most pointless a part of the marketing campaign will see adverts for meals excessive in fats, sugar or salt (HFSS) banned on TV and on-line earlier than the watershed, “when children are most likely to see them”.

What is it alleged to do? This will, apparently, discourage youngsters from eager to eat unhealthily, and assist to cease childhood weight problems.

What will it really do? Fuck all. An extension of earlier rules that noticed, as an example, toys faraway from cereal bins, this transfer significantly overestimates what number of adverts youngsters eat in the age of on-line and on-demand content material. The authorities’s personal analysis discovered that an advert ban would solely scale back every UK little one’s calorific consumption by a negligible 1.7 energy a day. Also, it’s already been a factor for ages, in some form or different, and has made completely no distinction.


What is it? Legislation that can limit the promotion of meals excessive in fats and sugar, comparable to “buy one get one free” gives. There can even be a ban on these things being positioned in distinguished areas, like checkouts and entrances, each in outlets and on-line.

What is it alleged to do? By making unhealthy meals much less tempting, fewer individuals will eat them and can “logically” turn out to be thinner.

What will it really do? It is way from an exaggeration after I say this may starve individuals. In specific, working class individuals who depend on reductions to feed their households. Responding to the measure, Charlotte – a 53-year-old mom from South Wales, engaged on a restricted earnings – says this may harm the most deprived households.

“A lot of families can’t get to the big supermarkets and have to rely on what’s local, because even a bus fare to and from the shops has to be included in a household budget,” she tells me. “Often shops like Co-Op will have meal deals of, say, chicken nuggets, chips, peas and garlic bread, with ice cream for dessert, for a fiver. You could spend the five quid on veg to make soup or a stew, but at least I know kids will eat the frozen meal and it will fill them up. If kids don’t like the healthy option, many mams won’t have the time or the money to make them a new meal.”


What is it? The “Better Health” marketing campaign features a free, NHS-approved, 12-week weight reduction plan app to assist people monitor their calorie consumption and scale back their BMI.

What is it alleged to do? Help people who find themselves dwelling with weight problems to “develop healthier eating habits, get more active and lose weight”.

What will it really do? Like all weight reduction apps, it’ll encourage disordered consuming, solely this time it comes with a authorities stamp of approval. This is particularly irritating, as each calorie counting and BMI weight reduction strategies have been proven to be bullshit.

“The campaign will encourage people with eating disorders to use the promoted weight loss app, which fails to prevent under-18s or people with low weights from using it, despite it not being suitable for them,” Andrew Rashford, Chief Executive of the UK consuming dysfunction charity BEAT, defined in a press launch. “It is worrying to see a renewed emphasis on measures such as calorie labelling, as evidence clearly shows that these risk exacerbating eating disorders of all kinds.”


What is it? Large eating places, cafes and takeaways with greater than 250 workers shall be required so as to add calorie labels to menus and all meals they promote.

What is it alleged to do? More individuals are consuming out today, consuming extra energy than they’d at house. Providing a calorie rely on menus will supposedly “help people make healthier, informed choices as part of a balanced diet”.

What will it really do? Again, fuck all – in addition to, once more, primarily attacking working class individuals.

Diners visiting impartial small plate eating places won’t be confronted with the poisonous calorie counts on their menus, however those that can solely afford a Bella Italia for his or her birthday meal shall be knowledgeable in daring crimson writing that it’ll make them fats/fatter – and, as the authorities clearly needs us to understand, being fats is the worst factor you possibly can presumably be.

Grace, a 25-year-old Londoner, additionally factors out that “the government is wielding a double edged sword” by shaming junk meals and launching the “Eat Out to Help Out” marketing campaign on the identical day. “You’re simultaneously telling people to go out for food while attacking them for doing so,” Grace explains.

It’s value impressing once more at this level that calorie counting just isn’t solely harmful, however can turn out to be an consuming dysfunction all of its personal.


What  is it? Alcohol will now have calorie labels on the packaging.

What is it alleged to do? Due to a standard ignorance of the totally different calorie counts of alcoholic drinks, “around 3.4 million adults are consuming an additional days’ worth of calories each week”. By offering dietary info, individuals could make “better” decisions about what they drink.

What will it really do? Besides our earlier factors about calorie counting: better of luck to anybody who thinks that clearly highlighting the quantity of sugar in a can of Stella can have a constructive affect on the UK’s consuming habits!


What is it? From 2021, medical doctors shall be provided incentives to make sure that individuals dwelling with weight problems are “given support for weight loss”. Primary care workers will “also have the opportunity to become ‘healthy weight coaches’.”

What is it alleged to do? Doctors will actually be given cash to refer fats individuals to programmes like Slimming World, Weight Watchers and NHS weight reduction companies when treating them. This will cease weight problems costing £6 billion per yr and additional encourage plus-size sufferers to shed some pounds.

What will it really do? If you’ve gotten ever been fats, British and used an NHS service, inform me if you happen to discover this state of affairs acquainted: you enter A&E as a result of your leg has been gnawed off by mutated sewer rats and aliens have laid eggs in the wound. You require assist with this affliction. The physician takes one take a look at you and says: have you ever ever thought-about weight reduction?

NHS professionals already advise weight reduction as remedy for plus-size sufferers no matter what their criticism is. The solely distinction now’s it’ll be rewarded with a heavier pay packet for medical doctors, whereas plus-size sufferers more and more keep away from looking for assist from the NHS.

“Countless times I’ve had doctors who aren’t my chronic illness specialists try to get me on weight loss plans,” Ione, a 26-year-old with a persistent sickness, tells me. “It even put me off getting a smear test, as I had a particularly insensitive nurse who continuously told me to lose weight despite me informing her of my condition and the reasons I don’t actively want to. I’ve also been prescribed weight loss pills that would harm my condition further. This policy will embolden both the public and health professionals to be even more fatphobic, which only limits the lives we can lead.”

This newest “anti-obesity drive” reeks of a fatphobia and classism that can solely gasoline already rampant misinformation round weight problems. Instead of concentrating on the socioeconomic elements that may contribute to weight problems and investing in companies accordingly, the authorities is as soon as once more laying blame at the foot of the particular person.

The Tories, it appears, would quite suggest that fats individuals are in charge for Britain’s excessive COVID-19 figures and our struggling NHS. They would quite proceed to gasoline animosity in the direction of those that are already shat upon, quite than deal with the long-lasting harm of their very own lazy, self-serving insurance policies.


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