UK Obesity Plans aren’t going to Work (and Instead will be Counterproductive)

Recently we have been told that being overweight or obese is not good for you, and we have learned about yet another risk associated with this. Which is of course a greater chance of experiencing coronavirus symptoms on a more severe level. Therefore most of us would recognise that this is a problem which needs to be resolved, thus the government has played their part by putting pland in place to tackle the problem at hand. To many these may sound very convincing at first, but as we delve further down, we ought to ask ourselves whether this plan is really going to be successful at tackling this issue at hand. Or on the contrary is it just going to appear convincing to the public, by merely putting something in place that is barely going to touch the real problem and will rather be counterproductive.

Now this is not the first time either that we have seen various governments making efforts to attempt to tackle the problem with obesity; where I would essentially argue haven’t been too successful. These included plans to tackle childhood obesity by encouraging schools to promote and help children achieve a more healthy life style. Advocating the 30 minutes of activity a day aswell as making school food healthier. Also we have seen a huge increase in the numbers of fast food outlets displaying the number of calories in meals including in places like Subway. Plus the traffic light system has become increasingly prevelent and we cannot forget about the infamous introduction of the sugar tax on fizzy drinks. Therefore there has certainly been a good range. Now all of these issues sound like they would be rather effective don’t they? Because it is rather obvious that if children are persuaded to live a healthy lifestyle from a young age they will stick to it, while all adults can easily switch to making the right choices when the food they know is naughty also happens to be cheap, and convienient to buy…

Yet there is much evidence which suggests otherwise, and many of us may choose to ponder on why this is. The most recent data tells us that the problems of obesity are still on the up, even though I am sure that most of us are more aware than ever on the dangers associated with being “fat”. Between april 2018 and december 2019, there were 11,117 hospital admissions directly relating to obesity which was an increase of 4% on 2017/18. Meanwhile it is estimated that 67% of men and 60% of women were either overweight or obese while a fifth of childen aged 10-11 were catagorised as obese. Therefore this strongly suggests that the government needs to come down more hard on the problem with obesity by being even more strict on food labelling and have sky high taxes on junk foods. Because while it does look like a lot more needs to be done to tackle this problem, there has actually been evidence to suggest that these fairly small efforts so far have been mildly successful, with only a very slow increase now in the number of children aged 11-12 being obese. Therefore surely the government just needs to do more…

Though is it not funny that the prevelence of obesity amoungst children from the most deprived backgrounds is actually twice as high as those from the least. Meanwhile the increase in obesity diagnosise in the least deprived group has actually come to a hault, yet the rates are increasing at a faster rate amongst the most deprived group. Therefore it looks like governments have been somewhat successful in helping the more wealthy families realise the importance of healthy home cooked meals and expensive dance lessons for their children, while ignoring the reasons why it is not so easy for those on lower incomes to switch…

Improving health by tackling market failure | The Health Foundation
There is a growing gap between the percentage of children who are obese from the most deprived areas, compared to those from the least deprived (source, health.org.uk)

But anyway, lets have a look to see what stands out from this government’s newest attempts to cut (no pun intended) the size of our Nation? Well this time round the government is going to make food outlets with more than 250 employees to display the calorie content, ban the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar or salt on TV before 9PM and to introduce evidence based tools and apps to support people with losing weight (source, gov.uk).

Therefore surly this is a caring, consciencious approach which will affectively tackle the problem at hand, leading to a far healthier, more active and happier Nation. Or is it ignoring the root problem which I keep on about? Let’s then look into this in more detail so that we can see why I don’t think that the government is going down the right track…

In the first place the government needs to take a closer look at why this problem disproportionatly effects people from the lowest income groups. As you can probably guess that it is not only young children who are going to be affected by this, but this leads to adults becoming more likely to be obese for a number of reasons which need to be addressed. It is true that those on lower incomes are probably consuming more foods which are high in fats, sugar and salt in comparison to those on higher incomes. Which clearly explains why then that more people on low incomes are more likely to be obese. But people on low incomes aren’t going to randomly decide to prefer unhealthy foods in comparison to those on high incomes…

Rather, to begin with it is much cheaper to buy an “unhealthy” precooked meal compared to a “healthy” one. Just look at fast food for instance then you will see that to buy the traditionally “unhealthy” and dare I say low in nutrients “big Mac” meal would cost you less than £5 while a meal from the healthy “Wagamama” is often going cost you more than £10. Therefore those on low incomes are going to have little choice but to purchase something which is cheap rather than slightly more pricey. This argument may lead to some people who spend too much time paying attention to right wing news outlets stating that it works out pretty cheap to buy healthy ingredients and make a home cooked meal, considering that vegetables in shops tend to be fairly cheap. However this is partly a problem due to the long, often late shifts that these people tend to work, meaning it can be next to impossible to arrange a meal with the family together. Oh and actually it is more expensive to prepare a home cooked meal with a right balance of nutrients, rather than just pasta and ketchup, therefore these claims about cheaper home cooking aren’t even true. Plus fit is pretty obvious that if you live in a larger home, with more money avaliable then you are going to take the avaliable storage space for kitchen applicants, and the applicants themselves for granted.

Furthermore working long and late shifts can be very tiring. Now I am sure that at some point you have resorted to coffee, or foods high on sugar when you have felt especially tired. Now just imagaine what it would be like if you were in this situation every day… Additionally it reduces time avaliable for exercise and other leisure activity, especially when people work night shifts, meaning that they would be sleeping in the day time.

The exercise issue also explains why children from low income backgrounds are more likely to be overweight or obese. Unlike while their middle class counterparts who generally have a larger garden to play in, paid sporting opportunities and more family outings, those from lower income households don’t often have the money and resources to do this- however much they might want it for their children. And the parents on low incomes who’s children do have some of this, have worked incredibly hard and have made huge sacrifices to enable this to happen. Furthermore those from low income families tend to live in areas with higher deprivation, where there are higher rates of crime, and often less green space. Therefore parents are likely to be reluctant to let them out at a young age due to the issues which they might face.

I also think that this could potentially lead to those on lower incomes being even more belittled than what they are currently, basically because while information and encouragement about having a more healthy lifestyle is more avaliable than ever before, from this you should already realise why in reality this is difficult to achieve. Therefore much of the press is going to boast even more so than before about how these people are lazy for example, when in reality we know that this is far from true. This potentially could make potential policies about creating a better welfare state even more difficult to achieve when poorer people are going to be blamed even more for their own difficulties. Although I will acknowledge that there has been a small step made in the right direction, as the government is extending the free school voucher scheme over the summer holidays meaning that children from low income families are not going to lose out over this period, however this is not going far enough to tackle all of the intertwined issues that these families face.

Funnily enough I also spotted a policy which does more than bypasses the issue, and actually puts the focus on the wrong issue entirely. The irony is in that most resteraunts are now going to have to display the calories on their foods. Now how on earth is this going to be effective. When it is those from middle and high income families who can afford to frequently eat out in resteraunts, while it is more of an occassion for those on low incomes. Yet there again, I think that there are very few people who eat out every other day, regardless of their income levels, and we already know about what is kinds of foods are good and bad therefore those who are privileged enough to be able to eat out that frequently could also choose to become a member of a gym! Therefore surely when we do get the chance to go to a resteraunt, we should be allowed to simply enjoy our meal for a change, rather than getting all fretted up about the numbers of calories?

Now I want to finally add that I feel that this policy is going to be doing far more harm than good. For a start, by getting restaurants to display calories on all the foods and drinks, having even more foods with the calories labelled on, as well as introducing yet more apps which aid weightloss, will put yet another obsticle in place for those who are trying to recover from an eating disorder. As for many, a large part in letting go is by no longer counting calories. However when confronted by a list of dishes with the calories next to them clearly displayed, it is going to turn an enjoyable meal out into a mentally euxausting often traumatising time out, being triggered into having no choice but to think about old, unhealthy and irrational behaviours. And it is not just terrible for those trying to recover from an eating disorder, but I think that it is going to have a catrastrophic effect on how society as a whole percieves the thought of consuming calories, especially young children. Already calories are being portrayed as being increasingly “evil” things, rather than being something that is absolutely essential. Because they don’t make you bloody fat! Instead they enable our hearts to pump blood around us, power our brains and let us reproduce (if you have a vagina that is). Now you might think that I am horrendiously overreacting, but already there are 1.6 million people in the UK who are suffering from eating disorders, and this is what we know of. While according to a UK survey, more than half of teen girls want to lose weight, and this was conducted a few years ago. Therefore do we really want to risk extending the already widespread fear of weight gain amoung society, especially amongst the youngest and most vulnerable?

Therefore I cannot see how this is going to have much success in reducing the rate of obesity. Though I do acknowledge that the government is also going to extend the provision of free school meals over the school holiday, which will merely help the poorest of children get the continued provision of one healthy meal a day during this period. I also acknowledge that food labelling to some extent will help further educate people, but considering the damage of this on top of it at resteraunts, this most certainly is going to be doing more harm than good. Therefore mainly this will be further dehumanising toward those on low incomes, and is going to enhance many problems which from what I have seen, the government is turning a compleatly blind eye to. And though getting rid of all nutritional information on foods is not ideal either, displaying calories on all products is certainly counterproductive and there is surely another, better way forward. Rather maybe foods which are either very particularly high in fats, or that are particularly low in calories could be discreetly labelled so that those wishing to lose weight are able to process, and a traffic light system from shop brought meals could still be used so that people don’t end up consuming far too much sugar and bad fats. This way the calorie content of all foods won’t involuntarily be chucked into people’s faces, making them feel inclined to pick something with a very low calorie content because they are apperiently evil. While the government could actually put in a bit of effort to make the lives of those on low incomes more comfortable so that they are able to make the choices that they are being told off for not making!

Published by victoriarose002

Hello, well I suppose that it is about time that I update this little section where I talk about myself. I suppose this blog is a platform for where I give my opinions on different topics, from beauty standards, mental health and whatever the fuck the UK government is doing. Though I am going to be a little personal on here too. So a little bit about myself: I am 17 years old and I am hoping to pursue a career in Journalism. I have taken an interest in political and ethical issues from a rather young age, and I suppose I am pretty opinionated, even though I am fairly quiet in real life (until you get to know me). I am also studying Politics, economics and geography for A levels, and I also enjoy playing the guitar, swimming and going to the loveliest places and taking loads of photos. Finally I happily welcome all comments, and discussion.

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