This week the government announced their new plan to tackle ‘obesity’ now that it has been clearly linked to the chances of death from Covid-19. Every fitness professional I saw on social media seemed to slag off the initiative but for me at least they are doing something. If you missed it, here is the sum up off the government website –
– Ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm
– End of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food high in salt, sugar and fat
– Calories to be displayed on menus to help people make healthier choices when eating out – while alcoholic drinks could soon have to list hidden ‘liquid calories’
-New campaign to help people lose weight, get active and eat better after COVID-19 ‘wake-up call’
For the more in-depth government outline then read it here on the Department of Health website>>>
Alongside this there was a nice article on the BBC: Obesity – Have 20 Years Of Policy Had Any Effect>>>. It looked at the statistics and effects from the various policies used to tackle obesity. As you could guess there has been very little benefit from anything tried but the article is worth a read as has some nice graphs and data, especially on childhood obesity. A more positive interpretation of the data would say that the initiatives have leveled off the obesity increase. I would say wait and see the next sets of data, especially considering a 3rd of the population has gained a significant amount of weight during lock down.
What Can Boris DO?
To begin to answer this you first need to go a little deeper than health advice. The issue comes back to what role you want the government to take. If you have ever taken the the political compass test>>>, which is a fun little survey (though has various debates around it>>) then it tells you where your beliefs lie on both a Right / Left political axis and also an Authoritarian/ Libertarian line as well.
The reason this is important is that an effective solution may just impose upon your personal rights. Right now we have just been through a lock down where the government took away our rights in the name of health of the nation. If you really wanted to solve obesity, food rationing remains the most effective measure a government could use. This is of course impractical and completely against human rights or liberties. However, the lock down effectively banned sex for any single person in the country so it is not totally out of the realms of government power to try and curb a human basic drive.
Personally, I prioritize personal choice and liberty so if someone wants to be overweight then that is fine for me just as it is for a company to sell their products even if they are chocolate bars or Mc Donalds. However, the government can influence how easy it is for someone who wants to change shape as well as influencing the thinking and decision process.
Some things Boris could do –
He could easily build upon current schemes fairly quickly by –
– Paying For Exercise – They should greatly expand the financial support for people who are overweight. Anyone who is overweight gets free gym membership etc. However, as most people despise gyms with a passion the government could use some money to set up various different types of exercise. They could pay instructors to create walking groups, work with park run to expand it further to be on other days , free bikes to rent etc.
An important area here would be the transition out of school (where kids do exercise) and into adult life. Why not just give away free netball or football leagues so people can continue onwards. There are so many possible ideas here. It could also go a long way to addressing loneliness and the mental health impact of a lack of social contact which if not now, will become one of the biggest issues for society to address in time to come.
Make Some Exercise Areas For Overweight People – The government should create facilities for overweight people. You cannot blame people for not wanting to go to a gym or play a sport when everyone else seems to be faster, fitter or stronger. With some money it would not be hard to create a hub for people to exercise that could also be used to educate and support. It would also help greatly for social contact which influences emotional eating.
While expanding exercise is nice enough what we really need is new education –
– The Government Needs a New Campaign That Actually Works – The government has been fairly effective at two public health campaigns, reducing salt in the diet and promoting the message of eating your 5 a day (the message at least, maybe not the application of it) . Sadly, neither of these have much to any influence on reducing body fat. A campaign to change the shape of the nation should focus on the following –
NOT EATING – Stop telling people to eat more, instead a message should be promoted to stop snacking between meals as well as a re-education on hunger so people are not scared at its first sign. They should promote the message that not eating for a few hours is actually a healthy thing to do in a calorie rich world.
MOVE DAILY – The government should just push 10 000 steps a day as a must for health. Ensure all phones have a step counter on them and this will about cover exercise. I understand the health benefits of the ’20 mins real exercise’ stats but for me human psychology only allows people to pick up one message at a time in most areas. Exercising is hard work, walking for 2 hours a day is not. This is a much easier message to promote and more likely to lead to people doing exercise, esp when losing fat.
LOW CAL FOODS FOR THE WIN – The food message is too confusing, the government should promote low calorie dense foods. Forget sugar, salt, fat, 5 a day etc, instead simple calorie density would be enough. You could remove the confusing issue of food portions and simple have every food or food product listed by calorie density. Soon people would learn and see how most of the foods they eat daily are high calorie dense foods. You could force the company selling high calorie foods by making them remove attractive food packaging colours from anything over a certain calorie density and/or force shops to put high cal density foods in a certain section of the shop away from usual walking route, e.g. why do newsagents have all those chocolate bars right at the till.
Clever food companies would start cutting out calories from their products and doubling the size of their products with low to zero calorie methods (water) to get better density stats. This would accidentally fill people up so they end up eating less calories overall.
The government could also tax heavily high calorie dense foods and use this money to subsidize low calorie dense foods such as vegetables. The adoption of a consistent unit that will never change going forwards means you can teach kids this system and stay with it as it will not change.
DE-STRESS WITHOUT FOOD – The government should be promoting ways to remove stress without eating. This could be enhanced with free mediation classes alongside the exercise above, there could be workshops in other techniques such as mindfulness, journaling as well as other techniques or support groups. The government should be teaching people how to handle stress and reduce it in the first place. It is a big part of how I work with people as I use all of the previous techniques alongside Emotional Freedom Technique to create this support structure for results.
This would be a message that could actually get results. If you were ok with not snacking between meals, you moved 10 000 steps a day and ate lower calorie foods as well as had a couple of non food related stress techniques. It would actually give people a chance to make a change going forwards.
What Would You Do IF YOU Were In Charge??
Photo – Obesity Rates Over The Last Twenty Years From The BBC Article. Click here>>>
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