The rising obesity problem is a subject that is constantly in the news these days. As with every ‘latest thing’ that comes in and out of the public consciousness, when a topic is hot, we find every journalist and blogger out there writing about it, and opinions become varied, multitudinous and often contentious. And so it is with obesity.
In recent years we have seen many opinions about obesity, and read much shared research. We see that obesity can be blamed on genes, and we can read that childhood obesity is down to parenting, not junk food. We might read in the news that obesity could be classified as an eating disorder, or the next day the news will tell us that obesity is caused by poverty. We read that in the US, obesity is being treated as a disease, and we see obesity being blamed on something called obesogenic environments. Another day we may read about the obesity-promoting role of hyperpalatable foods, and we are constantly reading that sugar is to blame for obesity, and other addictive foods. We see the obesity epidemic blamed on the giant corporations of the food industry, and we may have even read that obesity is socially contagious.
Amid all this, while many derogatory words have been written about obese people over the years, now we see the tide turning. Many journalists and bloggers are now reporting that fat shaming does no good, it only makes things worse, it hurts people, and it’s time to stop blaming obese people for their condition; we must be more understanding and supportive. It is suggested that obesity is actually just a learned set of behaviours. We are seeing new reports that obese people are treated differently, to their detriment, by the doctors, and some experts are saying that if you put together everything above, then it plain isn’t your fault if you are fat.
It certainly is a contentious topic. I’m not going to go through all those news articles linked above and address each one of them in turn, giving my analysis and opinion on them all, that would take many pages of writing. Suffice to say that some of those articles I broadly agree with, some I largely disagree with, and most, or perhaps all of them, I would say contain some truth, but not ‘the only truth’.
The weight problem in the UK is accelerating rapidly. Official data from 2013 shows that 26% of men in the UK are obese, and 67% of men in the UK are either overweight or obese. For women, those figures are 24% and 57%, respectively. Of all the large, populous nations in Western Europe, the UK is the fattest. In the United States, the problem is even worse, with 71% of men and 62% of women overweight or obese.
To give that data some context, 50 years ago, in the mid-1960s, obesity in the UK stood at around 1.5% (1.8% men, 1.2% women, in 1965). Read more