Fat is the new Folk Devil

// 18 April 2009

So the Department of Health is continuing it’s relentless assault upon those of us, who are just bad citizens for not being automatically skinny. The latest campaign in their series of adverts designed to make fat people todays folk devil is the Change 4 Life campaign. I won’t link to it, because, frankly, it’s hideous, and their website is so horrible it almost gave me a migraine.

At first I thought Change 4 Life would be ok- it targets parents, and explains the importance of making sure kids have good nutrition. Then however the adverts with lurid fat trains piling up inside a plasticine child’s body came out. At this point I just got cross. Terrifying people into accidentally starving their children, and making children scared of being fat, is not the way to make sure you have healthy, nourished children. And, I KNOW people, who having seen those adverts, will panic that they are accidentally killing their children and promptly slash the amount of food they offer to them.

Then, this morning, I log into my Google reader, and am met with this post from Junkfood Science. It details two advertisements from the Change 4 Life campaign, which were run in womens magazines. Both threaten the children in those adverts, with premature death, – one for eating a cupcake (girl) and one for playing computer games (boy). Besides the obvious and irritatingly sexist assumption that only boys play computer games, and only women care about their childrens nutrition and physical activity levels, both adverts are threatening children with dying for doing two very normal childhood activities.

These adverts make me furious on many levels. As a Mother, it is difficult enough, when my daughter comes home crying because someone at school told her she was fat and ugly (she’s actually ‘underweight’ and always has been). My son regularly refuses to eat foods because he has been told at school that they are bad for him.

As a Gamer, I am annoyed that once again computer games are being blamed for children not doing more activity. Just looking at my kids, and their friends, who all have access to at least one games console, not a one of them engages in less than an hour of physical activity. We live on a council estate, in an area that is recognized as having health inequalities, and a level of comparatively high deprivation. The reason those children have access to games consoles, is because their parents will save all year, scrimping on luxuries, walking instead of taking buses and so on, to get them a console as a big Christmas present. Also, especially with the advent of the Wii and the Blance Board based games, which massively encourage physical activity, and it seems clear to me that once again the Government is falling back on time old and dangerous assumptions.

Finally, as a fat, but healthy, woman, I’m annoyed. This campaign against fatness, which for some of us, is our natural body shape, is infuriating, inaccurate and highly dangerous. Parents need to be supported to make healthy lifestyle choices, with a focus on Health, not avoiding fat. It should not be cheaper to go to Iceland and fill your freezer with frozen, processed foods than be able to buy fresh vegetables and lean meats/fish to cook for your family. Fat people should not have to suffer humiliation, and be accused of being a drain on resources, just because some idiot in a government department decided that fat was the danger of the day, despite an awful lot of evidence suggesting otherwise.

Comments From You

Hannh // Posted 18 April 2009 at 11:35 am

I don’t understand how you can criticise the change 4 life campaign – yes it may revert to gender stereotypes, but all it does is reflect the society we live in and the adverts we reguarly put up with, like the persil advert about how to be the best sort of mother – use their washing powder.

Being overweight is a drain on NHS resources, in that it can leads to diabetes, and increase risk of cancer – I do not understand how you can contest this by the vauge reference to evidence – if you provide some which counters this medically recognised fact, I may be more convinced by the suggestion that obesity is about moral panic. I personally find it fantastic that change 4 life is trying to create a world where exercise and health (preventative healthcare) is promoted over curative medicine, when often the problem is too late. This is a campaign that could save a lot of lives.

Suzi FemAcadem // Posted 18 April 2009 at 12:07 pm

Hi Hannah,

I criticise the Change 4 Life campaign on it’s sexism, in the same way I would criticise the Persil adverts and the Iceland adverts, which are massively sexist and rely on gender stereotyping. Just because something is predominant, doesn’t mean it is ok, and certainly a DoH ad campaign should not be reflecting the gender sterotyping of a world we live in- they should be leading by example.

On the evidence front, I would like to point you towards two blogs, which do a far better job than I of deconstructing research, and media reports, to find the more accurate truth about obesity- First up is Shapely Prose- http://www.kateharding.net, and the second is Junkfood Science, which is linked to, in this post. Both blogs are excellent and are careful to promote good scientific research.

I would argue that actually Diabetes is caused by poor nutrition, NOT Obesity. Whilst poor nutrition is likely to also cause Obesity, not all people who are obese have poor nutrition.There are also many other causes of Type 2 Diabetes, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which causes Insulin Resistance, which can lead to Type 2 Diabetes and is recognised as more likely cause of Obesity in women who have PCOS.

Obesity in itself is a symptom of many things, and NOT necessarily the cause. Correlation, does not indicate Causation- otherwise it would be accurate for me to say that a decline in Pirates has caused an increase in the rate of Global Warming.

Whilst I don’t disagree that good nutrition and exercise are necessary to improve health and prevent many forms of cancer, and reduce risks of diseases like diabetes, I do feel that the way the issue is currently handled merely demonises those who are not considered ‘normal weight’ and is likely to contribute to an increase in eating disorders and body image related problems, particulalry with young people.

Suzi

Kez // Posted 18 April 2009 at 2:42 pm

I think health promotion campaigns on this issue are fraught with difficulty. On the one hand, obesity in children and adults is undoubtedly a problem. On the other, as Suzi points out, there is a very real danger that well-meaning parents will, as a result of “scare tactics” like those described, be stressed into feeding their children a diet which is inadequate and inappropriate, misinterpreting healthy eating guidelines for adults as being also appropriate for young children.

What may be a healthy diet for an adult trying to maintain or reduce their weight is not necessarily suitable for children, who are growing and need high-energy foods – that does not mean unhealthy foods, however the type of low-fat diet that may be advocated for an overweight adult is unlikely to be appropriate for a child.

Also, the demonising of “fat” as “the worst thing a person can be” has a potentially very negative effect on children’s self-image and relationship with food. This just reflects the highly conflicted relationship which we, as a society, have with food and weight in general, with on the one hand the fashion industry and “skinny models” being lambasted as promoters of eating disorders, while on the other hand the media promotes images of very slim celebrities as normal, and people of perfectly average weight are accordingly perceived by themselves and others as fat. There is something seriously amiss with a society in which a majority of very young girls (primary school age) state they are too fat and need to lose weight, when most of them quite clearly do not.

I am not saying it is inappropriate for the DoH to issue advice on obesity, but I think they need to be very, very careful in how they go about this.

Jess McCabe // Posted 18 April 2009 at 4:07 pm

I think health promotion campaigns on this issue are fraught with difficulty. On the one hand, obesity in children and adults is undoubtedly a problem. On the other, as Suzi points out, there is a very real danger that well-meaning parents will, as a result of “scare tactics” like those described, be stressed into feeding their children a diet which is inadequate and inappropriate, misinterpreting healthy eating guidelines for adults as being also appropriate for young children.

I don’t know it’s really such a quandry. Couldn’t they just structure campaigns about healthy eating and the importance of exercise?

The thing is, I really think there’s plenty of pressure on people, and especially on girls and women, to be thin. I just don’t think that what is really needed is more pressure related to body size, even for health reasons… we already have that, surely?

Kez // Posted 18 April 2009 at 4:22 pm

Jess – yes, but as I pointed out in my post, the nature of “healthy eating” for adults and children is not necessarily the same, and the danger is that adults will try to enforce an inappropriately low fat diet on children, when children naturally gravitate to higher calorie foods (which don’t have to be unhealthy).

lisa // Posted 18 April 2009 at 5:29 pm

I haven’t seen the programme but it’s easy to be positive about health – great tasty recipes, fun sports and exercise plus the benefits in every way (mental as well as physical) that I really don’t understand why UK Government Health Campaigns are so useless (low-fact, limited and confusing !).

Expert literature and schools in France and Germany clearly put a maximum of 30 mins screen time (TV, PC whatever) per day for 6-10 year-olds, with a total ban on screen activitites for under-3s so inactive children shouldn’t really be an issue in the first place. Plus all children must learn to: ride a bike, swim, dance (formal of some sort), play a social/team sport (tennis, football whatever) AND have 10 hours sleep a night AND do their homework so when do they have the time to be inactive ?

Anne Onne // Posted 18 April 2009 at 8:20 pm

Jess – yes, but as I pointed out in my post, the nature of “healthy eating” for adults and children is not necessarily the same, and the danger is that adults will try to enforce an inappropriately low fat diet on children, when children naturally gravitate to higher calorie foods (which don’t have to be unhealthy).

Kids also need to learn to enjoy food! Teaching them whilst young to deny themselves everything can’t be good for their adult eating lives! They need to learn about the importance of balanced eating, and why some foods are bad in excess, but also the importance of treating oneself, and not feeling guilty about everything they eat. That it’s OK to eat something unhealthy or fatty sometimes. It’s not a crime.

I think it’s important to be careful about how we discuss dieting (even for health reasons and not the fad kind!) around children. They pick things up very easily, and it’s very important to give them a healthy attitude about food. I’m scared of how many kids pick up the idea of being too fat from parents, and how that affects their perception of food. As well as the obvious fact that kids have very different needs from parents in terms of fats, (there are healthy fats, people! This is a fact that CANNOT be emphasised enough. Nuts and fish and milk (if you eat these, if not there must be vegan options and supplements) are contain fats but perfectly healthy. Kids do need smaller portions than adults, but they need to be allowed to be children, too. So many worry so early about looking fat that it’s heart-breaking.

The way society treats fat is not acceptable. Yes, I know the health problems associated with certain types of fat. But can we honestly say most of the furore is about this? There are many, many smokers in the UK, and smoking is much more unhealthy than being obese, yet it is more socially acceptable to smoke. People don’t tell you to your face that you’re unhealthy and disgusting if you smoke. The fat smokers (for want of a better way of describing these lovely people) I know are under much more pressure to be skinny than they are to give up smoking, regardless of how healthy they may be. I’m frankly surprised how experts can defend smoking as a lifestyle choice, albeit a very unhealthy one, that people are allowed to choose, yet fatness is a burden on resources. Looks definitely play into this, and it’s not pretty.

There are real health issues that should be focused on, and the focus of helping any group (smokers, obese people, etc) should always be on health benefits. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to believe that fat people can be healthy, or that some people will, no matter how much they police their diet or exersise, be fat.

Hannah // Posted 18 April 2009 at 8:54 pm

I actually think Change 4 life is better than your usual government health programme – it’s interactive and its emphasis is on healthy eating and exercise. From looking at the ‘fat’ websites you showed me (which I thought were interesting but I was not clear about what they meant by ‘fat’ – I mean the majority of people are traditionally ‘overweight’ but I thought the problem was obesity, and specifically when obesity leaves you immobile) it’s clear that a picture of a cupcake does not necessarily need to be associated with being ‘fat’ just unhealthy eating, ditto with game sets, that’s just seen a lack of exercise (and I think the majority of people can distinguish between the health benefits of three hours on the PS2 and an hour on the wii-fit).

Have a look for yourself for people who have not seen it, I don’t really think it is that fat orientated and I don’t associate it with the pressure to be thin. http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/default.aspx – I also quite like the website, but that’s a personal preference.

What I don’t like about criticism about this campaign is that I think the NHS is brilliant, and as long as we have it the government will attempt to reduce strain on it, through these kind of initiatives. I think it does support parents in healthy eating, rather than demonising them. Although the DoH do need to tread lightly, I don’t feel like it’s an area worth being angry about, but something that should be celebrated. The way I view it is the more healthy eating/exercise is promoted throughout our lives in this way, the less the idea of ‘fat’ being associated with laziness can oppress women and the less the size zero myth can oppress everyone who doesn’t look that way naturally, regardless of their diet and fitness programmes.

I do respect your opinion about it though – I’ve never really thought about fat-demonising before though, and I suppose that is another area one has to consider in public spaces, if there is a ‘thin’ privilege.

Aimee // Posted 19 April 2009 at 1:24 pm

I completely agree with this post. It’s offensive and relies on misconceptions, fearmongering and gender stereotypes. For those of you who say things such as ‘being fat is a drain on NHS resources’.. well so are a lot of things, but those things are not demonised and blamed on women like being fat is. Second of all it’s possibly to be overweight and perfectly healthy. This campaign is offensive to those people who are naturally larger, but still healthy. It’s not really about health, in all honestly, it’s about a societal norm, and it’s about promoting the weird idea that skinny=good and fat=bad.

Also, I think it’s hilarious that people have to be TOLD not to feed their children the same amount of food as they would eat as an adult. Gah.

Amy Clare // Posted 19 April 2009 at 5:57 pm

I agree with Hannah… I think the adverts are definitely not perfect, neither are the smoking or drinking ones (all women drink chardonnay, according to them), but it’s a lot cheaper to try and persuade people to eat healthily via TV ads than it is to treat them for obesity especially when it involves drastic measures like gastric band surgery. I think it’s a bit of an overreaction to say that the ads treat anyone who isn’t “automatically skinny” as a “bad citizen”, they seem to me to just be advocating healthy eating and exercise. There is a big difference between being overweight and being obese – a person cannot be morbidly obese and ‘healthy’. I would prefer it if there was a message about the dangers of undereating incorporated within the ads too, however.

I find ads from companies such as Special K and Weight Watchers offensive as they show normal-sized women obsessing and dieting in a bid to make themselves thinner, and not a man in sight. The Change 4 Life ads on the other hand are specifially aimed at preventing obesity, and the ones I’ve seen show a whole family, so I don’t find them offensive. I think it’s difficult for the NHS to try and get the message across to people about food and exercise, granted there’s a LOT more they could be doing but this is better than nothing, isn’t it?

Rob M // Posted 19 April 2009 at 8:20 pm

Do point it out if I’m missing it, but as far as I can see, the Change [For] Life website doesn’t mention body shape at all. It actually seems to tick many favourable boxes, save for being somewhat over simplistic (“avoid drinks with sugar, instead drink pop that’s filled with all sorts of shite to replace the sugar.”)

(I’d previously been irked by a Change [For] Life poster I’d walked past on my way to work, that smugs something like “WHY DON’T YOU CYCLE TO WORK?”, to which my instinctive reaction is “Why don’t you fuck off? And stop using the number four in place of the word “for”, for Christ’s sake.” I think the hoity smugness of some of this sort of thing can be irritating, but again the website seems fairly clean.)

The shock-tactic DEATH ads are clearly insane, though. Both for the fact that they’re unhelpfully hyperbolic (likely effects: scare children; piss off parents,) and that they just let that poor young girl happily eat a DEATH CAKE whilst filming her! Why didn’t they stop her?! Also, the boy one might be a cleverly subversive, because he looks like he would rather be doing anything else than play that game, and has possibly never held a game controller in his life… But maybe he just hates the PS3. To DEATH.

Shea // Posted 20 April 2009 at 8:32 pm

Good points in the article- also an interesting point about correlation and causation. It intrigues me that the highest areas for obesity are industrial or formerly industrial areas. I wonder if we are missing some link, not just social deprivation but an environmental cause like with the Edinburgh slums and lead pipping(high rates of mental illness). There must be literally tons of toxic waste and mineral deposits in the water and earth around these places, but of course its easier to blame people. Just my two cents.

Aimee // Posted 20 April 2009 at 9:59 pm

Totally off topic, really, but Rob, your comments made me chuckle… and perhaps guffaw a little.

It’s the scaremongering that really annoys me, and the implication that fat automatically means death. It’s just not true and I don’t like that they’re trying to present an aesthetic social norm as predominantly about health. It reminds me of those people who say it’s unhygenic for a woman not to shave her underarms. I know it’s not exactly the same thing, because we know that for some people being fat IS extremely unhealthy, but it’s not an objective stance and it relies on perpetuating certain stereotypes and judgements… even if this is ultimately for positive effect, i’m afraid it’s not justified for me.

Julie // Posted 20 April 2009 at 11:19 pm

Obesity is at worrying levels in Britain, and obesity is life threatening. Working class people are far more likely to be obese than any other section of the British population and if they get ill they should be treated by the NHS. The view that “obesity is a drain on NHS resources” should be challenged. The Government likes to peddle this lie in order to justify cutting public services, because of the recession”. The Government HAS spent billions bombing Afghanistan and Iraq, and bailing out the bankers. The Government can afford to pay for the NHS treatment of patients who are obese, patients who smoke and patients who are alcoholics. Remember it was both Tory and Labour governments who slashed the budgets of state schools so that they were forced to sell off their own playing fields. And it was both Tory and Labour goverments which slashed the catering budget of state schools. Gordon Brown could start repairing the damage, by injecting cash into state schools so that they can providing decent, high quality school meals, and take all school canteens out of the private sector. The Government could provide extra funding for more school playing fields, and more resources so that state schools could provide a wide variety of recreational physical education, non-competive as well as competitive. I would have loved to have done trampolining or dancing at my school and not just netball, netball, netball add infinitum…………

Aimee // Posted 21 April 2009 at 8:00 am

It’s not really a case of ‘missing something’, it’s quite obvious to me.. when you’re living on £50 a week, you can’t really afford to buy a load of fruit and vegetables! Food is incredibly expensive and so many people are simply forced to live off cheap crap from the freezer department. If the government wanted to cut obesity they would make healthy eating possible – by increasing the amount that the poorest people live on and by regulating the price of healthy food.

Kez // Posted 21 April 2009 at 9:04 am

Aimee: “It’s not really a case of ‘missing something’, it’s quite obvious to me.. when you’re living on £50 a week, you can’t really afford to buy a load of fruit and vegetables! Food is incredibly expensive and so many people are simply forced to live off cheap crap from the freezer department. If the government wanted to cut obesity they would make healthy eating possible – by increasing the amount that the poorest people live on and by regulating the price of healthy food.”

Hmm, I’m not so sure. I was a single parent on benefits for quite some time, and I think it is certainly possible to have a healthy diet on a very low income. Admittedly, you are not going to be buying best quality organic everything, but it is not necessarily more expensive to cook fresh food from scratch than to buy cheap ready-made crap.

I’m not sure you can necessarily blame the government for the fact that some people feed their children rubbish.

Jessica Burton // Posted 21 April 2009 at 12:05 pm

The Change4Life adverts that I have seen, and the website that I’ve just looked at use cartoons that are both gender neutral and body-shape neutral. The website always says “parents” never “mothers” and emphasises small changes such as cutting back on high-fat snacking and has placed a lot of importance on doing a bit more exercise.

The ad I saw said “Could you bike it?” (Not “Why don’t you?”) and it turns out, I can bike to work and because its a traffic free route, I don’t have to see any more Change 4 Life adverts.

Doing more exercise is not only good for healthy weight levels, it also improves things like circulation and very importantly, mental health.

The over the top DEATH ads were actually made by Cancer Research UK in consultation with parents and give useful statistics about cancer and being overweight here:

http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2009/02/20/change4life-body-weight-and-cancer/

As for fresh veg being expensive – where do you all shop?

Just today I bought 6 bananas for 46p a huge bag of onions for 50p, a bag of mushrooms for 43p, a bag of radishes for 69p a whole cucumber at 70p and a tin of tomatoes for 33p. All tinned veg is under 50p (peas, sweetcorn etc.) and while you have to be careful with them, potatoes can bulk up the meal, and at £1 per 2.5kgs, they’re cheap too.

my fruit/veg came to £3.11, and last time I went to Iceland all the frozen stuff was £1 for something small – eg 2 cheese lattices and £2 for bigger things like a pizza. I think my veg will go further than 2 cheese lattices and a pizza.

And I shop in Sainsburys!

If smokers are demonised and pregnant women advised not to drink alcohol during or *before* pregnancy and if we all agree that while “wearing your seatbelt” and “don’t drink and drive” ads are both over the top and patronising, yet save lives, I don’t see that much to complain about with this campaign.

Rob M // Posted 21 April 2009 at 7:27 pm

I don’t really object that much to the bike ad too much (as i say, it was an instinctive reaction,) but in my case it’d be rather a Change 4 Death, swapping a twenty minute walk and public transport for a forty-five minute death-chase through heavy and psychotic traffic whilst breathing in a metric tonne of carcinogenic awful. When you factor in air quality and accidents, I really don’t think bike riding in our glorious capitol is all that healthy. Promoting exercise, though, fine.

Regarding the DEATH things, I do think shock ads have a place, but you have to be careful. “If you don’t wear a seatbelt in the back of the car, you could KILL the PERSON in the FRONT SEAT with the FORCE of a FUCKING ELEPHANT” is fine, because the result of the fear it promotes is “shit, I’ll wear a seatbelt.” – there isn’t really any negative fallout. “If a young girl EATS a CAKE, she’s going to DIE YOUNG” isn’t fine, because it’s confused and the target of the fear is indiscriminate – “holy fuck, I’d better avoid what to any sane person – in moderation, obviously – would appear to be an actually fine and healthy wee dessert, because it’ll bloody kill me / my child.” In shock ads, the instinctive reaction is the point, so all the caveats in the world put in 10pt text next to your giant picture and screaming headline don’t really save it. I don’t think it’s a storm-the-castle issue for a one off press ad, but I do think they’ve messed it up.

But mm, otherwise, I more or less agree the Change ‘4’ Life ‘campaign’ looks okay. But I also agree that it’s crap as a standalone thing.

Aimee // Posted 21 April 2009 at 10:05 pm

Yes, but when you have hardly any money at all, it’s a lot cheaper to buy beans and bread than it is to buy some bananas and a cucumber. Remember people need to make meals out of this stuff… a quick search for healthy meals for kids on google comes up with all kinds of bizarre things which I think would frankly alienate the kind of people this campaign needs to target… so many people simply don’t know how to make simple meals, and when faced with ‘healthy lentil skillet’ or ‘tofu stew’, they’re a lot more likely to stick with what they know. All i’m saying is that I can see how it’s very difficult for people on a budget who don’t necessarily have the knowlege, time or resources to cook healthy meals, to feed their kids healthily.

Liz // Posted 22 April 2009 at 9:24 am

Also didn’t they work out that per calorie fatty stuff is cheaper and when people in poverty buy those foods it’s sort of a sane economic decision as you get the most calorie for your money.plus you have to factor in having time to cook veg a luxury not always available.

Charles Crawford // Posted 22 April 2009 at 10:06 am

Suzi

I have linked to your post: http://charlescrawford.biz/blog.php?single=907

I agree with you on the idiocy and stereotyping of the Do H campaign. But I don’t see where you get the idea from that food in Shop A ‘should’ be cheaper than food in Shop B.

I think it makes no sense to argue in this abstract way, plus the more the state intervenes to fiddle with prices, the more new distortions will pop up somewhere else. Abolishing the CAP would be the best way to get more cheap nutritious food in our shops and help poor farmers in eg Africa (just as repealing the Corn Laws in the C19 gave a huge benefit to everyone other than those farmers enjoying prices puffed up by the state) – a demand Fairtrade are curiously coy on?

Cara // Posted 22 April 2009 at 5:37 pm

Exactly, Aimee.

I’m from a pretty middle class background, but have struggled to afford healthy food in the past when I had just moved out of my parents’ after uni – (financial difficulties which I won’t go into). When you’re literally looking at a fiver left to buy food for a week until payday – I’d live on beans on toast, cheese sandwiches, and pasta.

Fruit and veg are relatively expensive. Espcecially – soapbox alert – the way ‘metro’ supermarkets only sell them in huge packages, which one person just isn’t going to be able to eat before they go bad. Veg might work out cheaper if you’re a family, but there is no point a single person buying the huge value packs – they are bulky and heavy to carry (not everyone has a car), most of it would go to waste.

Even where you can buy single or small numbers of veg items, a few veggies, and potatoes/ lentils/ other healthy carbs easily costs as much or more than said beans, cheese and bread, per day.

(For example, an onion, a few tomatoes, a pepper or two, a few mushrooms, a tin of tomatoes, a tin of beans or lentils, could easily cost £2 or £3 (and that’s ignoring garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, and other seasoning to give it flavour, and also ignores carbs. Cheap nasty supermarket own brand pasta costs under 50p; brown pasta or rice costs far more, and even enough potatoes to last a few days would be more than that).

A loaf of bread is under 50p, and tins of beans can be had for under 40p. Crappy processed cheese can be had for £1-£2. Supermarket value pasta, as I mentioned, is often under 50p and ready made pasta sauces can be found for under £1.

And then you have to cook.

I was working stupid hours and really didn’t have the time or energy to cook. You want quick and easy food that fills you up, and that, to be honest, is a comfort. No-one really works all day and feels like going home to cook. Pasta and sauce, beans on toast and cheese, take minutes.

Iceland do ready meals for as little as £1.

Obviously, it’s even harder for people on benefits/ even lower wages – I don’t wish to sound like a poor little rich girl. But that’s my point, really, I struggled, and I did know how to cook healthy meals and what a balanced diet is.

If the govt. want us to be healthy, they should make sure everyone can afford healthy food, rather than lecture and patronise people.

Suzi FemAcadem // Posted 22 April 2009 at 5:42 pm

Hi Charles,

First off, thanks for linking to my post.

Just to clarify- you’ll note I didn’t give an example of where carrots should be cheaper in, and I was using Iceland as an example purely because they are a well known purveyor of predominantly processed food.

I’m not suggesting the state intervenes to fiddle prices, although I do have some strong opinions about the legality of selling such processed, nutrionally inadequate, food in the first place, and that perhaps a large share of the blame for poor nutrition lies in what food is easily available to people, and ther levels of education people receive about how to cook cheap healthy meals within the limited time that most of us have available.

Suzi

Lotus // Posted 22 April 2009 at 5:46 pm

The problem is the prevailing stereotype that all fat people are fat because we sit around on our lard arses all day munching on hamburgers and cake. Those adds don’t have to say “Don’t eat this cake or you’ll get fat and get diabetes and die” because we already know that scoffing caked gives you TEH FAT and that gives you DEATH!!!!!

The thing about this campaign, other then the pushyness with which it has come into my life (“Could yet get of the bus a stop early?” No, I’m late! And a survay through my door asking me if my childre are FAT so I can, you know, cure them or something) is the fact that it isn’t science based. They started with the assumption that fat is bad and that fat is a disease that we can cure through exercise and dieting (and therefore that all fat people are sitting on their asses and gulping milkshakes). Both of these are deep cultural stereotypes, I was shocked when I first saw the failure rate for diets. Almost all of them fail. Almost all of the people who lose weight thanks to this will fail.

I think the fact that they focus on children is incredibly problematic. To start with, it’s hard to say what’s normal for a child anyway as their bodies change so much, it has to be thought about on a child by child basis and not by a one-size-gits all goverment initiative.

I am of the beliefe that the obesity epidemic is a myth. I think we have a seriously skewed version of what a normal body should be. I think we need to accept the fact that some bodies are different and stop trying to police other peoples bodies, women’s in particular.

Jehenna // Posted 23 April 2009 at 6:16 am

I’m sorry in advance for the rant. But maybe some of you will identify with this. I feel desperately alone in this experience but at the same time I cannot believe its just me.

I’ve been catalogued as overweight since I was 12 years old. I’m not terribly tall now, but at 12 I was average for my age. Unfortunately I’d hit puberty and was putting on weight over my breasts and hips. I remember the teacher and nurse weighing me and the tuts of disapproval. This was 1987.

At 16 I wasn’t thin, nor unhealthy.. Still full in the chest and hips. I did regular sport, walked a great deal. Still there was this constant feeling that I was ugly because I wasn’t as thin as the women in magazines that I was ‘supposed’ to look like.

My mother says things like ‘that’s an interesting outfit for a girl of your size to be wearing’ as I’m about to leave the house to go clubbing.

I end up living with a boyfriend who feeds me the same amount he does (he’s a foot taller and has a high metabolism), and criticises me for wasting it if I don’t eat it all. I put on more weight, which draws more criticism. I see a dietician and start effectively starving myself – small portions, no fat, lots of exercise. I lose weight, but I’m never the ‘ideal’ I am somehow supposed to achieve. This is the unhappiest time of my life.

Further bouts of depression and different partner’s and I’m now 15kg over what my doctor wants me to be. He gives me Xenical. The result is horrific and I believe that the ongoing stomach problems I’ve had since are a result of taking this drug.

Now I’m 30. Every time I see a doctor, regardless of for what complaint, they want to talk about my weight. I’m sent to a dietician again, who speaks to me in small words, as though somehow I’m an idiot.

No one ever asks the critical question – why are you overweight?

It isn’t because I’m stupid and I don’t know how it works. I’ve read more about diets, dieting, exercise, energy theories than any sane person should. They contradict each other of course, but I’m getting used to that.

I know that energy intake must be lower than energy output. I know how many calories I should eat for a ‘healthy’ weight.

What all these great advertising campaigns do not address is anything beyond the stupidity and laziness of the people they are targetting. The assumption is you are either so stupid that you have to be told to eat healthy, or so lazy that you have to be motivated to get off the couch. I don’t believe that so many people are either stupid or lazy. There are other factors at play, but it isn’t convenient for the marketing campaigns to recognise them.

Food is a product. Food is a heavily marketed commodity. Food is laced with emotional investment from a very early age, firstly in your socialised family, and then saturated in the media.

If you’re not happy, if you’re stressed, depressed, anxious, worried or even just a bit blue – you’re going to be told the answer is food. Watch an icecream ad, watch a chocolate ad. Sweets are given to children as a reward, a treat.

Now the reason for me summarising my experience with dieting, starvation and yet still putting on the weight, is that I wanted to explain the extremely personal, desperate and depressing relationship I have with food.

When I’m depressed, I eat. When I’m stressed, I eat. I have hypoglycaemia, which also inclines me to eat when I don’t feel great, as the sugar is a surefire way to lift my mood.

So how does it feel when your mother, your partner, your doctor, the television, magazines, movies, the people around you, and now, health food advertising, imply that you’re incredibly inadequate, lazy and stupid because you’re overweight?

Not good. And I reach for the nearest comfort food.

It’s all very well to educate people about the value of eating healthily and of exercising. But to assume that bad eating habits are formed in a vacuum is being willfully blind. To assume that people are overweight because they have no self control is also unreasonable. I would be willing to bet that most overweight people have been on a diet before. They’ve probably also lost weight. If it was just that easy, they’d still be thinner, right?

But it’s not, and I’m so angry and tired of weight being presented as a simple equation when everything we see shows that its not.

Anne Onne // Posted 23 April 2009 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Jehenna, it really puts this in perspective. Food is something we need to live, it’s not something we can avoid. More importantly, it’s not something we should avoid. But also, it’s something society gives us unhealthy messages about. It tells us to eat, that food is rewarding, and yet that it is bad and we should avoid it.

Also, I wanted to highlight this:

I know that energy intake must be lower than energy output. I know how many calories I should eat for a ‘healthy’ weight.

I don’t want to pick on you, or anyone, but that’s part of the problem. None of us really know how many we should eat. An average number of calories for an average person really doesn’t fit us all, especially when our bodies are so different. Especially when our dietary needs shift from day to day, from month to month, year to year. Some people need much more than 2000 calories a day. Some need 2000, some need less. The thing is, a lot of us ‘need’ considerably less, but the way food is marketed, the high calorie content of a lot of food, and the way we’ve been brought up, expecting people to eat copiously, makes it difficult for people to eat what used to be ‘normal’ portions. It’s too unrealistic to keep everything as it is and just expect people with slower metabolisms (that would be most of us!) to have miniscule meals which are unsatisfying because of how they have been processed and how we have been conditioned.

The way food is marketed and produced needs to change, as well as social attitudes to food. Just expecting people to eat tiny amounts is unrealistic when everything about how we see food combines to form our attitudes and problems.

And the very fixation on calories as a unit rather than what’s in food is problematic as well, if we want people to be healthy, not skinny.

Also, ‘bird food’. I hate hate hate that anything healthy and non-meaty is automatically classed as ‘rabbit food’ or ‘bird food’ and seen as not worth eating. Part of the actual problem with eating habits is the eqation of healthy food with being unappetising, not filling and generally uncool. Why is a main meal without meat considered so shocking? For a lot of people, meat seems to be tied in with success, with being good food, but the abundance of meat means we cannot look at it in the same way our ancestors did.

I can’t help but think that just telling people to eat less, without addressing all the other factors, is not going to be successful, and will only further shame people.

Laura // Posted 23 April 2009 at 3:10 pm

Cara, Aimee

I do see your point about fresh veg being expensive, but there are other ways to do it:

Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with pasta, it’s things full of saturated fat that are the problem.

Secondly baked beans are actually pretty good for you. If you only eat baked beans or eat them in such massive quantities that you become clinically obese then you might run into trouble, but basically they’re a great source of cheap and fairly healthy food. Spagetti hoops on the other hand are less good.

Thirdly, yes, the list of fresh veg you list, Cara, might come to about £3, but you can get a can of chopped tomatos at Tesco for 17p (used to be 11p when I went to uni… stupid inflation!), plus an onion for about 25p, then a can of sweetcorn/beans/mushrooms/whatever for about 30p, and presto you’ve got pasta sauce for well under a quid. And if you eat it with a lot of pasta or add lentils, which you can buy in bulk even if there’s just one of you as they don’t go off (they’re expensive in supermarkets but cheap in huge bags in Asian food stores) you can probably stretch it out for two days.

And even if at the end of all that you end up with a week of beans on toast and my personal student-era favourite, pasta-with-margerine-and-marmite, at the end of the month then as long as you’re eating vaguely OK the rest of the time it won’t do you any harm.

Finally, I do agree that these campaigns can be patronising and we need to learn that BMI isn’t the be-all and end all – some people are just designed to be heavier than others. However, we also need to acknowledge that there are people who eat shit the whole time and feed it to their kids too, and they’re doing themselves and their kids a lot of harm. I don’t think ‘eat a cupcake and YOU WILL DIE’ is the right way to go about it, but I don’t think there’s a problem per se with this kind of campaign.

Oh, and Jehenna, your doctor and dietician sound like blithering idiots. Generally I think we need to be much more educated of the whole different body-types thing, particularly as as nutrition improves people are generally getting taller and stockier, which means that ‘typical’ body types will become increasingly outdated.

Lotus // Posted 23 April 2009 at 9:49 pm

Laura,

It’s not just Jehenna’s doctor. It’s something all fat people are aware of and something that nearly landed my mother in hospital (though luckily they stopped telling her to go away and lose weight and actually checked for problems a little before she collapsed). See, there’s this thing that happens when you go into the doctors office as a fat person. It goes a bit like this.

“So, doctor…I’m having some pain in my knee…”

“Ok, would you mind stepping on that scale?”

“Well, sure, but I got weighed by the nurse just the other day…”

“But we just want it for a resord of this. I mean…um…if you’re knee is hurting you won’t exercise as much so we’d better keep an eye on that…”

Or something.

So you get on the scale, and the doctors puts your number into the computer and those little NHS gears grind away and suddenly, there it is. A look of horror crosses the doctor’s face. They don’t know how to tell you, don’t know what to say. They look at you, then back at the screen, then to you again…then they tell you.

You have THE FAT!

Because, you know, you never noticed until the doctor told you. I mean, I keep forgetting a thinking I’m a size ten or something and I was wondering why my new clothes didn’t fit but, well, it turns out I’m fat.

Funny old world.

Then you get the concerned talk. “Oh, we’d better do something about that!” Like it’s easy. Like most diets don’t fail. Like I’m some kind of fucking idiot who doesn’t understand how my body works and like somehow the doctor has any imput into my weight. “Maybe you’d like to talk to a dietician”. Oh yeah, what a great idea, maybe all these hamburgers were a problem…Or not.

There’s so much hatred of fat in the NHS it’s unread. There’s this assumption, again, that if you’re fat you’re lazy and stupid and can’t figure out that liquidised beef might not be a good dinner or something. The assumption that you must WANT to lose weight, want to spend your life on a diet.

I’ve yet to meet a doctor who hasn’t commented in some way on my weight, from the “ZOMG DEATH FAT” to the slightly more respectful “Would you like to talk about you weight” to whole innapropriate things like “Been eating a bit too much chocolate, haven’t we?”.

The campaign isn’t about healthy eating on a budget, or learning to enjoy physical activity, or they’d be giving out recipie cards and setting up sports teams rather then suggesting walking an extra five minutes a day and asking how fat my children are.

Aimee // Posted 23 April 2009 at 10:50 pm

Laura – Yes! If you’re a student, but you can’t feed your kids pasta for every meal..! My main quibble is this: hypothetically…I’m a parent.. I can’t cook for shit (maybe not so hypothetical..ha!). I want to feed my kid something healthy and nutritious but I haven’t got a clue where to start so I go to google, I type in ‘healthy recipes for kids’ or something like that… I get recipes for salmon and potato pie, and lentil skillet… This is from one of the top results:

“Cheese on toast with a little mustard, garnished with sliced tomato and basil

Crumpets (take out of the freezer and pop in the toaster) topped with haddock (microwave or poach in milk) and poached eggs, garnished with basil

Mini-pizzas made from toasted French bread or ciabatta, with sautéed tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, courgettes and peppers piled high, topped with grated cheese and flashed under the grill

Bagels with smoked salmon and low-fat cream cheese, served with a cucumber and tomato salad

Pancakes filled with a Mexican style bean chilli (sautéed onions, garlic and green pepper, fresh or dried chilli, a tin of kidney beans, tomato puree) and grated cheese

Boiled eggs with buttered soldiers and a glass of orange juice ”

heh… d’you see my point? That doesn’t look cheap and simple to me.. it looks expensive and difficult. Where’s the accessability and where’s the education and help for people who simply don’t know about eating healthily and nutrition etc.

On another note, I totally agree that obesity is not a cut and dry issue. Obesity is seen as something to be ashamed of and somehting that doesn’t deserve help because it’s supposedly ‘self inflicted’.. I have a friend who has really awful thyroid problems and is very overweight and has often been subject to derision and humiliation by doctors and nutritionists. Attacking the obese and making them feel like it’s their fault is not the answer.

Jehenna // Posted 24 April 2009 at 6:49 am

The point is not that the doctor and dietician are blithering idiots (I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt) but that their answers to everything come back to – you are overweight, therefore you must be stupid.

Going to the pasta point – even pasta isn’t safe:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/mar/22/obesity-children-eating-habits

Dr Alex Richardson, a research fellow at Oxford University and an expert on nutrition and the brain.

“If a child eats mashed potato or chips, I’m sorry, it might as well be sugar,” she says. “There is no fibre and there are no nutrients – unless you have left the skins on the potato. Bread and pasta are just the same. Unless it is wholegrain, it is a waste of time.”

Or juice:

“If you give kids two litres of apple juice a day,” says Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), “it is not much different from giving them two litres of Coke from an obesity point of view.”

Fruit:

Even fresh fruit, Professor Wiseman warns, is a highly calorific food that should be treated with caution. “One consequence of the government’s Five-a-Day campaign is that children are eating fruit rather than vegetables to meet their target,” he says. “If you are consuming an extra five pieces of fruit a day and changing nothing else [such as exercise], it will give you more calories because fruit is very sugary. Eating half a cabbage and some carrots won’t.”

This is what I mean about contradictory information. It is focussed on the impact on children, and children do need to eat differently, but the effects are going to be similar to adults.

Even what’s ‘healthy’ is going to make us fat.

And with regard to the calorie count, its between 1200 and 1500. I know because that’s what I’ve been told by dieticians. Yes of course, common sense suggests that this needs to fluctuate according to lifestyle and body type, but have you ever found a diet that tells you that?

This isn’t about making people healthy, because if the interest was genuinely in making people healthy then there would be less demonisation of those that are larger size. That only closes avenues of assistance to us and makes us uncomfortable to be in the very places we need to be – the gym, the pool, the beach, outside in the park. If you’re so self conscious of your body shape that you daren’t do any exercise in a public space, that doesn’t make for an improvement in your life style.

And that’s exactly what is happening now, by making people’s bodies available to public scrutiny and judgement, with a nice moral ‘health’ tag for justification.

Helena Wojtczak // Posted 24 April 2009 at 1:20 pm

Hannh claimed that “Being overweight is a drain on NHS resources”.

Every single person who uses the NHS is “a drain on NHS resources”.

For example, those who take part in any kind of sport (hundreds of thousands of casualty admissions annually), people who smoke, drink, take drugs such as heroin, ride a motorcycle, drive a car (3,500 deaths on the road annually).

People who go yachting are forever being rescued by the coastguard and taken to NHS hospitals. People who hike and climb mountains and go down potholes are forever being rescued by air-ambulances that cost us a fortune.

So why don’t you start a campaign to stop people doing anything dangerous because they can live without it, and they are an unnecessary drain on the NHS?

Why should people having sex be allowed to drain NHS resources? Non reproductive sex is not essential for life. It’s just for fun, yet everyone is entitled to free contraception on the NHS and free treatment when they pick up an infection!

How many millions of pounds does the NHS spend supporting people’s sexual behaviour?

Hannh you are picking out fat people as being unworthy of NHS treatment simply because you hate fat people, because the argument that they should not get treatment because it is “self inflicted” does not hold water.

Helena Wojtczak // Posted 24 April 2009 at 1:37 pm

May I add that it is a statistical fact that, if we DO manage to get all the millions of inactive people cycling, jogging, aerobics, kickboxing, swimming, playing tennis, football, netball, squash, and so forth, it is unavoidable that there will be a corresponding increase in casualty admissions for injuries sustained during these activities. They will be “draining NHS resources”.

Lastly, I lost both my parents to heart attacks; I know four people with diabetes. My partner died of cancer aged 36; my stepmother died of breast cancer aged 52. Leonard Rossiter (a squash champion) died of a heart attack aged 47 and Richard Beckinsale died of a heart attack aged 31. One thing all these people had/have in common: they were/are all slim and fit.

I have been obese since age 18 (I am nearly 51). I have never received any treatment on the NHS as a result of my obesity, yet I have drained NHS resources when I got an infection from the swimming pool and a sprain from aerobics = sports!

Helena // Posted 24 April 2009 at 2:08 pm

Laura said: “Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with pasta, it’s things full of saturated fat that are the problem.”

This is very far from being a cut-and-dried issue.

Millions of people have lost gargantuan amounts of weight on the Atkins (and similar) diets? They do not count calories, and they do not eat pasta or fruit but loads of fat. Atkins is a 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carb diet. I personally know two women who have lost 7 stone and 11 stone respectively on this diet, eating more calories and more fat than they did when they were getting fat! I’ve seen hundreds of before-and-after photos of Atkins dieters online and read their stories.

Two nights ago on TV was a programme called something like “Beat the Takeaways”; on it was a man who never, ever cooks, has never eaten a vegetable, and who lives entirely upon takewaway, chiefly doner kebabs and Chinese. He was thin as a rake. If he were fat, everyone would point to him and say that it was because he didn’t eat veg and lived on takeaways.

Nothing’s cut and dried.

My boyfriend never eats veg, has a fry-up for breakfast every day, and has never seen the inside of a gym or been for a jog. At 50, he’s the normal weight for his height and hasn’t seen a doctor in 25 years.

Shea // Posted 24 April 2009 at 8:21 pm

@Helena Wojtczak- hell yes! I totally agree- I think judging by some of the assumptions underlying the comments here that there is a class based element to this campaign. The two major health campaigns & “epidemics” of recent years have focused on smoking and now on obesity. Both problems associated with the working class. No one is hounding the suburban middle class alcoholics heading straight for liver disease, or as you point out the car drivers causing multiple fatalities and more to the point massive amounts of respiratory disease. I think we can now accept that just living is a “drain on NHS resources”.

I still maintain we are missing something. It isn’t a simple case as the above comments show of eating too much/eating the wrong stuff = getting fat. There are multiple metabolic disorders and medical conditions that factor in. I have met a few people who were just fat before they tried dieting, they are now morbidly obese. It is not even as simple as “healthy eating” as Helena points out above- alot of carbohydrates have hidden sugars.

I have a problem with this argument that poor people/ people on benefits = terrible diet, fat and obese, despite the Jamie Oliver programme. My family have never had much money and we have always eaten well- it is having the knowledge of how to cook and what to cook (ingredients/ seasonal produce/ foraging etc) that is vital. I was never as healthy as when I was a student- my food budget was £15 pounds a week and I walked everywhere (too poor for buses) as do alot of poorer people/ people on benefits. I dislike this whole idea of the working class being obese because they are just idle and eating crap, it seems like the same old class prejudice recycled in a different form. Of course back when food was scarce & therefore expensive (i.e during the war and just after), being chubby was something to aspire to………..!

Aimee // Posted 25 April 2009 at 9:46 am

I didn’t say that poor people were idle and unhealthy. I’m saying that there is not enough information and help availiable to people who don’t have the knowledge or the resources to cook healthily. I’m talking about myself aswell! I don’t KNOW how to make healthy food for my child. When I go to the supermarket, I can’t AFFORD to buy all the expensive ‘healthy’ stuff they want me to buy. I actually think my child eats well, but I don’t slave over a stove for hours a night whipping up homemade soup or any of the other time consuming, expensive things they expect us to have the time or resources to be able to conjour up and the websites just alienate me. There’s one in particular which tells me that I can have a healthy homecooked meal on the table in just under an hour. Awesome, like i have an hour to make a meal in the evening. Like I WANT to spend an hour cooking for my family otherwise i’m an awful, horrible parent with no morals. The entire thing, actually is SO presumptuous and SO middle class that it defies belief, often.

Hannah // Posted 25 April 2009 at 10:39 am

‘Hannh you are picking out fat people as being unworthy of NHS treatment simply because you hate fat people, because the argument that they should not get treatment because it is “self inflicted” does not hold water.’

Helena Wojtczak, my saying that being fat is a drain on NHS resources does not preclude other things from being a drain on NHS resources. It’s illogical to assume that because I think that being obese might lead to health problems that I hate fat people. It’s also offensive. I can understand that this is a very sensitive issue and that some might immediately assume the government is ‘fat blaming.’ I’ve been reading shapely prose and thinking about this over the last week, and I have a lot of sympathy for the way in which overweight people are generally targeted. I think it’s unfair and, when you think about it, of course it’s ridiculous, in that if you’re three stone underweight you would probably die, where as those who are three stone overweight would not.

I think that because there is a culture of fat=evil and wrong, and this notion of the perfect slim figure which women are constantly having forced down our throats, people are going to see that everywhere. I was saying that I don’t thing C4L is about that, and I still don’t. I have a lot of sympathy for how people are targeted for being fat, when yes, it is very hard to eat healthily on a low budget, and it’s very hard to know what healthy means. I think these are all salient issue to talk about (and I say this while trying not to fall into the whole feminist 101 why are you talking about x when y is so much more important thing) because this blog has made me re-consider some basic assumptions that I had, which were clearly flawed.

Anne Onne // Posted 25 April 2009 at 4:36 pm

Millions of people have lost gargantuan amounts of weight on the Atkins (and similar) diets?

It’s also patently unhealthy, encouraging abnormal and potentially dangerous metabolic pathways in the name of fast weight loss. I know you were rightly pointing out that people’s metabolisms are all very different, and that people can have bad diets and not be fat, which is definitely worth mentioning. But I am uneasy with the way the Atkins diet is portrayed as a harmless or healthy way to lose weight, when the reason people lose weight on it is because they are filling up on proteins and stimulating abnormal pathways. The fact that society wants a quick fix to weight loss is part of the problem.

@ Helena Wojtczak: when people complain that fat people/smokers/drinkers/drug users/etc shouldn’t use the NHS because they drain resources, I ask them how many people they know who aren’t overweight, do the required excersise, eat as recommended, never drink, never smoke, don’t do drugs etc. It’s often the same people who think that ‘women’s problems’ shouldn’t be NHS concerns (contraception, abortion, fertility, etc). The way some people think the NHS should be, we would never be treating anyone!

Helena Wojtczak // Posted 25 April 2009 at 5:41 pm

Hannh: “my saying that being fat is a drain on NHS resources does not preclude other things from being a drain on NHS resources.”

Then why single out fat people in your sentence: “Being overweight is a drain on NHS resources”?

Anne Onne – Regarding which reducing diets are healthy. Many experts (Atkins included) are adamant that sugar and white flour products (both man-made, processed products) are the Enemy. They raise insulin levels sky-high, which leads to the storage of fat on the body. However at my GP I picked up a booklet that claims that to lose weight we should eat “thick slices of white bread” and jam for breakfast, chocolate bars every day, sugary sponge cakes and plenty of white pasta. (If you think I am making this up, google my name, email me from my website and I will scan the booklet and email it to you!)

So, the experts do not agree. And while they continue to disagree, and while people on high fat diets continue to lose weight, as they do, then nobody can categorically state that eating fat makes you fat.

The Atkins diet is based on eating meat, fish and green vegetables, and a few berries. In other words, what our cave-people/neolithic ancestors ate. After a few months a small amount of wholemeal bread or pasta and brown rice can be eaten now and again.

To get to the main point: I brought up the Atkins Diet to cite an example where millions of people have lost weight eating a 70% fat diet. It is also true that many people have lost weight on a low fat diet.

So, the scientific conclusion, based on evidence, is that nobody can claim that a low fat diet is the ONLY way to lose weight.

And therefore, when someone says “People should eat healthily and they will lose weight”, well, nobody can say what the best diet is for weight loss. It’s not acceptable to always tell people to cut down on fat because for millions of people, eating high-fat has led to weight loss.

Lastly, I agree with every word you say in your second paragraph. I am very obese, but am teetotal, drug and tobacco-free.

Charlotte Revely // Posted 25 April 2009 at 6:23 pm

I too am fed up of overweight people being demonised. This is absolutely a political issue and anyone who thinks otherwise should read Eat Your Heart Out by Felicity Lawrence or Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel, both readable and well researched. We eat what the Americans subsidise, most of our food is controlled by three major corporations and they don’t make much money if you nip down the local farm shop. This is probably one of the most important health issues of our generation but it also links to feminism (80% of the world’s farmers are women but virtually non of the profits go to them), environmental destruction and right wing neo-con politics and most people are completely oblivious to it. The reason the dietary advice keeps changing is because the profit crops keep changing. If you are veggie and eat soya you need to know about the secretive Cargill company and if you are a meat eater or lacto-vegetarian I suggest you read Graham Harvey The Carbon Fields – there is a world of difference between grass fed meat and dairy products and intensive grain fed products. Not just in terms of nutitional benefits to human consumers (less antinbiotics, no TB etc) but also in animal health and welfare and in soil maintenance (soil is our biggest carbon store and soil health is essential if we are to carry on feeding the world and prevent worsening climate change). Wake up to this – what you eat is a political statement and scare-mongering parents and making children feel bad is beyond wicked from the same people who subsidise agricultural policies leading to cheap junk food, a countryside and rural communities destroyed and global injustices.

Hannah // Posted 25 April 2009 at 9:24 pm

Helena Wojtczak, I specifically discussed overweight people because it’s a blog about fat blaming and the NHS. It’s not about smokers, or drink drivers, or anyone who is ill or may or may not be a drain on NHS resources. I really resent you acusing me of hating fat people, it was agressive and unecessary.

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