Obesity – what strategy is required?
The government recently published the National Food Strategy, part 1 which whilst being welcomed by many, it has been criticised for not going further and faster. Whilst no single action will provide the silver bullet we do require a set of joined up strategies that help the UK population to have easier access to fresh healthy food and a way to education the younger generation on having healthy lifestyles.
Advertising bans are OK, but if the agencies who police this sector don’t have adequate resources there will be little use in the new ban. There is nothing said about celebrities and sporting events promotions of food high in fat, sugar, or salt.
Do we need to ban the advertising of alcohol as we did with smoking products? During lockdown more than 75% of adults who drink admitted they drank more. Apart from the usual health issues related to high alcohol consumption, the calorie count of alcohol is high and is often is miscalculated by people when looking to lose weight.
What about easy access to fresh fruit and vegetables? The poorest in our society are most at risk of obesity as the current food system activity encourages people to buy foods high in fat, sugar or salt because of food promotions making it easier to buy.
Putting the calorie count of foods is a good idea, but what about educating people on portion sizes? Many of my clients underestimate their portion sizes and the realisation of their portion size and what they should be eating can be shocking.
How can we connect people with food and the UK agricultural industry? Much of the nation has lost touch with knowing where our food comes from. Connecting schools and the farming communities will help, but more is needed.
I am of the generation that did Domestic Science at school, learning to cook and how to budget. Help teach children how to cook rather than just designing pizza boxes. Improve school lunches and stop the race to the bottom of getting the lowest price food to serve the kids. ¼ of them start school overweight and better healthier food at school will help slow the increase of obesity and educate them.
Finally, don’t put the sole pressure on the individual. Yes, we are responsible for our own bodies, but without help from agencies, food producers and food retailers it is an uphill struggle. Fat shaming has a negative impact on people when they need support and help. Mental health is often at the heart of overeating and obesity and we know the serious impact on mental and physical health.