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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The biggest problem in Britain today

The biggest problem in Britain today is one that everyone seems to be avoiding.

Obesity.

Gillian McKeith's programme You Are What You Eat neatly illustrated the scale of the problem this week. Two sisters, both with teenage children, and all of them overweight. The sisters seemed to have normal intelligence. Yet they had no idea about nutrition or what they should be eating. Their habits were appalling, and obviously their children were just going along with it. The kids were being bullied and were miserable about being fat. Yet to start with, they rejected all the healthy foods, and it was ONLY through their fat parents role modelling what to eat, and getting them involved in food preparation, that they started to change their habits.

It's a huge uphill battle because the majority of overweight adults don't want to change their habits. They don't see the connection between the poor health they suffer (arthritic knees, diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, constipation) and the food they consume. Let's face it, it's much harder, and more expensive, to eat healthily. Busy parents who work will find it tough to cook meals from scratch when they get home and have hungry kids to feed. You have to get organised, prepare menus, cook at the weekend and make sufficient quantities to freeze.

The resistance to healthy eating was illustrated by the Rotherham mothers, who, rather than have their children eat the healthy lunches their school was providing, decided to push burgers and chips through the railings. Jamie Oliver's campaign to force the government and schools to provide healthy, freshly cooked meals in place of pre-cooked rubbish like turkey twizzlers and chips, was laudable in that for some children it's the only healthy meal of the day. But it avoids the biggest issue: somehow Britain's parents need to understand the problem, get the message and change their habits.

The repercussions if they don't are already known. Children will die before their parents. The NHS will drown under the weight of obesity-induced illnesses.

Yet I don't see much action. The government introduced some namby pamby traffic lights system to indicate what's in our food, but not all the retailers adopted it, leading to confusion. There's been more investment in school meals: good, but not good enough (we're still below all the other EU countries in terms of amount spent per child). Vending machines in schools are banned from selling chocolate, crisps and sweets. What else?

My immediate suggestions would be to make PE mandatory on the curriculum at all schools (and not just for 30 mins a week) and to reinstate domestic science at all state schools, to try to re-educate on nutrition.

Then we have to tackle the parents. I'm giving this serious thought and would welcome your ideas and support.

1 comment:

Mr Besilly said...

Just came out of denial myself as it pertains to the medical clasification of obesity which is 20% above our ideal weight for age and height. Just posted my own battle with it myself on mrbesilly.com. I'm in need of a personal change. We are so buried here in the US with this problem as well. But I don't look obese... Great subject!

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