1. Nearly two-thirds of the UK population is either overweight or obese.
Men are fatter than women, (67% of men compared to 57% of women are overweight or obese in the UK, according to the Global Burden of Disease study from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle). Interestingly it was also found that deprived areas tended to have higher rates of people who were overweight and you are more likely to be overweight if your friends and neighbours are, as you see it as the norm.
From a personal experience my active, son, aged 4, a good eater, this Summer was playing outside with his T-shirt off and I got several comments that they could see his ribs when he held his arms in the air and so he needed feeding up! This highlighted so many skewed perceptions we have towards weight now. Firstly, if a child is slightly chubby, I don’t tell the parent they need to stop abusing their child by making them fat and they need to put them on a diet. Secondly, this is how all children in the 50s looked and is the healthiest way to be. Apart from us all getting bigger, is it because many people now think a slightly tubby child looks “well-nourished”, so reflects well on them as parents?
Just to clarify a child should be able to see their ribs, especially if they raise their arms up!!!
2. Obesity is shortening our lives
According to Dr David S Ludwig director of the obesity programme at a children’s hospital in Boston, ’Obesity is such that this generation of children could be the first to live less healthy and shorter lives than their parents.’ Alarmingly the proportion of overweight children in the US and the UK are similar. Scary!!!
3. Obesity could bankrupt The NHS
The NHS spends £5bn a year on treating strokes and diabetes that are linked to obesity, and this is predicted to rise to £15bn in a few decades. 10% of the NHS budget is spent on Type 2 Diabetes alone and being overweight is the chief cause. 1.4 million were treated in 1996 and that has grown to 3 million today and expected to rise to five million by 2025! Shocking!!
Type 2 Diabetes is costly in every sense – not only are there complications such as blindness and amputation, it makes you five times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
4. Unfair Fight
The government spends £14m a year on its Change4Life anti obesity marketing programme compared to the food industry spending more than £1bn a year on marketing in the UK. Big Brother is watching us, tracking which shelves we look at, what packaging we go for and where it is situated in the supermarket. Food companies pay a premium to have their product on end displays which accounts for 30% of supermarket sales. How many of us go into a shop with good intentions and come out with a bar of chocolate or fizzy drink, normally because they are on offer.
5 Obesity took off in the have-it-all 80s
McDonald’s moved it’s HQ into Margaret Thatcher’s Finchley constituency in 1982, she opened the building in 1983 and visited again in 1989 when she congratulated the company on the jobs it had created and its economic success. If you are around my age (40’ish) or older you will remember life without McDonald’s, when our once a year treat was a trip to Great British Burger or Wimpy where you sat down for a proper meal on plates! The accessibility of McD’s now means it is not a seldom experience but a way of life for so many as so easy to grab on the run and they are everywhere! This also led the path for many other fast food companies also on every high street. The culture of abundance was certainly growing, literally!
6. Snacking is a newly created behaviour
Snacking was virtually unknown before the second world war. It is now a big cause of obesity with children sometimes snacking 3 times a day in addition to eating their 3 meals per day.
As a parent of a 4 year old I am amazed at other parents need to keep feeding their kids with snacks. Snacking has never become a ritual in our house and only given if nowhere near mealtimes if asked for and then a piece of fruit or vege stick, yogurt, cheese on cracker or piece of toast are offered. This ensures my son eats his proper meal at mealtimes happily gaining the main nutrients for him to grow and develop. I hear endless complaints from other mums that their child doesn’t eat their meals, but having seen what they have allowed them to pick before it I’m not surprised!
Please if you’re a new mum – don’t get into the trap of feeling like you are having to keep feeding your child, like the other mums, as once you start it becomes a habit and they rely on it.
7. Is the Food Industry to blame?
Large numbers of scientists advise the food industry and take funding for research. Outsiders often believe its because they are focused on the small not the bigger picture. But having worked in a research company, knowing how hard it is to get funding that if the food industry didn’t help, we wouldn’t know many of these problems. I have also seen many ethical companies funding research into studies that are likely to reflect poorly on their products, to find ways of improving their products. So maybe this funding isn’t as bad as anti-food industry people suggest?
Afterall, there is no such thing as bad food, as one Mars Bar won’t do you any harm but daily sweet snacks, fizzy drinks and crisps before a cheeseburger & chips are likely to lead to heart disease. It’s all about balance and a little of what you fancy is fine, but be sensible please!
8. Your brain not your stomach tells you when to stop eating
Hunger is all in the mind. During an experiment, two groups were given lunch of sandwiches and cakes. After 10 minutes a second lunch was bought in and the control group without memory problems groaned and refused any more but the group with amnesia tucked in and ate the same amount again.
How often do we eat in front of the television or computer and not focus on what we are eating? Our brain is not registering how much we are eating and whether we have had enough. This is called Distraction Snacking and is thought to be a big cause of obesity in modern day.
9. By age 5, it is almost too late to intervene
The EarlyBird Study in Devon found that out of 300 children, they had already gained 70-90% of their excess weight before primary school. As we all know, it is far harder to lose weight than put it on, even as a child.
Some experts think that if we want to prevent obesity, we need to look at ways to help parents from or even before the birth of their baby. 75% of babies aged 4-18 months in the UK are overfed according to a government commissioned Diet and Nutrition Survey published in 2013, It found that babies were getting more calories than they needed from formula milk and solid foods. Breast fed babies who can look skinny in comparison, actually are the right weight.
Warning – unless medically advised never choose a high protein formula feed for hungry babies as this only increases rapid weight gain of our babies, whereas for health slow weight gain and slimmer babies are the healthiest in the long term
It’s never too early to instil good eating habits.
10. Obese children are increasingly being taken into care
Another finding from EarlyBird was that inactivity does not lead to obesity - obesity leads to inactivity. Overweight children feel less likely to want to run about, and obesity leads to couch potatoes
There has been a lot of discussion in the media about whether those parents that feed their children until they are obese should be convicted of abusing their children and have their children removed from them to put them in care, just as those who neglect their children and cause their children to starve. This is a very complicated issue.
Often parents of obese children are also obese as may not be educated on how to eat healthily, despite the governments change4life work. Treating obesity via health professionals is renowned to be difficult so how do we expect the parents to help their children to lose weight themselves. Parents can often feed their children as a sign of love and find it too emotional to say no to their children, leading them to eat the wrong foods and too much. Bit like the saying “Killing with Kindness
At least 74 children in the last 5 years have been taken into care due to obesity, but these figures could be higher as not all the local authorities responded to a survey.