Home > General Politics, Sports, Terrible Tories > No excuses, no nannying?

No excuses, no nannying?

ObesityHow wonderful it is to see the Conservatives acknowledging that obesity might be a problem in our modern society. Having recently checked my Body Mass Index, suitably adjusted for a non-smoker, I find that I am something like 0.4 of a point overweight, so I was particularly interested to see what Andrew Lansley might propose to help get our nation of lard-arses on the move again.

Once more it turns out that the Conservative Party is all about big talk but limp wristed action; so with pornography, now also with the health of the nation. The grand plan is to ask the food industry if they would be good chaps and reduce the size of the portions they dish out, presumably meaning in ready-meals, frozen meals and desserts. I imagine that the food industry will have no problem with that as they’ll keep the sticker price the same, padding their profit margins.

Along with a few government initiatives to make it seem cool to eat healthy and signing up to the EU mandates about having nutritional information on the front of the pack (which most supermarkets’ own brands largely comply with anyway), Lansley’s speech was remarkable mostly for its demonstration that the Conservatives actually don’t have a coherent health policy. Apparently things like halting the fire-sale of school sports pitches aren’t viable alternatives.

Lansley commented, “… we must be positive – positive about the fun and benefits to be had from healthy living, trying to get rid of people’s excuses for being obese by tackling the issue in a positive way.” So the Conservative policy seems to be a case of talking away the causes of obesity instead of actually tackling them, believing that most people are obese largely by choice. So not anything to do with time constraints, declining skills in fresh cooking, increasing costs of fresh produce and other more mundane considerations.

Here’s a thought. Why shouldn’t half an hour of every week-day involve paid cardio-vascular exertions? The incoming Tory government could plan leisure facilities on a scale not seen in decades (which reminds me, might not a cause of obesity be a result of the rise in price of surviving leisure facilities and the declining level of these overall?). For each town and city, per several thousand people we could provide gyms and we could compel companies to write into their staff contracts paid time every week-day for a work-out session.

Boom, the whole nation is suddenly on the road to cardio-vascular health and obesity rates are drastically decreased. Obviously exceptions could be built into the plan – such as those with heart problems, the unemployed, the disabled and so forth. Even if this is unworkable in the specifics, the idea is sound – it just seems that these days an ever decreasing number of people is interested in imaginative solutions to the problems which are confronting the entire Western world and are therefore unlikely to be solely due to  bad personal eating and exercise habits.

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  1. Koeler
    August 28, 2008 at 12:57 am | #1

    It’s good to see that you’re resisting the drive to turn obesity into a personal moral failing, I thought I’d point out a few things.

    Firstly, people’s bodies are very resistant to attempts to alter their size, as attested by the fact that diets are usually undone within a few years and must be endlessly repeated. http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/05/08/healthscience/snfat.php?page=1

    Secondly, while fatness is, as we are constantly told, ‘associated with a risk of’ certain illnesses, large numbers of obese people do not develop those illnesses and large numbers of ‘normal weight people’ do. Other illnesses are negatively associated with fatness. We do not know the direction of causation in these cases. Consequently, obesity should not be a target or goal of social policy – health should be, regardless of the effect on obesity. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080812/ap_on_he_me/med_healthy_obesity

    Thirdly, a focus on obesity per se is a linked with dieting, which is also associated with health risks, and eating disorders. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15175588

    The point is: we should care about health, not about weight. The reason we care about weight is that we also care about beauty, and because being fat serves as a symbol of gluttony, laziness, and other moral things we enjoy condemning. As a feminist I’m sure I don’t have to point out the links between problematising obesity per se, body image, and gender. Public health, including diet and exercise, is important but there’s no need for the word ‘obesity’ to figure in discussions of it.

  2. Koeler
    August 28, 2008 at 1:00 am | #2

    Also, I like your daily half-hour idea, although I think it might also be good to have the exercise somehow made private – equipment in cubicles rather than a shared space, or something similar, because for people who don’t do a lot of exercise, having to do it in front of an audience of people who do can be very dispiriting.

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