Monday, September 19, 2011

The BIG issue

It wasn't until I started going to the gym that I realised how easy it is to put on calories – and how hard it is to lose them.

Pounding away on a running machine gives you time to contemplate the fate of those of us who have put on a few pounds.

It’s boring, hard work and takes forever to work off the ill-effects of even the most modest-sized Mars bar.

The Health Police are getting more and more noisy about how obese we’re all becoming. And the latest survey listing the towns where kids are fatter than their parents isn’t flattering for those of us in the West Midlands.

It seems Tamworth in Staffordshire is the worst offender in the country. In at number one in the obesity league, almost one third of Tamworth’s children are larger than their parents. Cannock is ninth; Sandwell 12th equal.

A separate survey claims Wolverhampton is the fat capital of the region with one in ten people described as obese.

But, wherever you look, there is no doubt that people are getting bigger.

A walk down any High Street reveals an alarming number of people whose paunches, muffin tops and lardy arses are crying out for a diet.

A surprising number of fatties seem so unconcerned at their size they’re usually to be seen stuffing their faces with something containing over their body-weight in calories.

Before I started writing this column I thought it only right I should do two things which I have studiously avoided for years.

First I weighted myself and then I worked out what my Body Mass Index was.

BMI, as weightwatchers everywhere will know already, tells you if you are healthy, overweight, obese or – imagine – too thin.

I was surprised to discover I was actually nervous about checking out my BMI rating.

I know I’ve put on a few pounds over the years but it’s only because everyone’s making such a fuss about obesity that it’s started to bother me.

It turns out that the NHS and the World Cancer Research Fund agree. My BMI rating of 27.9 means I am overweight, which I knew already, but not obese, which comes as a bit of a relief.

It’s not good news but at least I can carry on moaning about the wobbling flesh we see around us with the superior air of someone who is – officially – not excessively gross.

The alleged epidemic of obesity is, of course, the result of living in a land of plenty.

Despite the new austerity, we still have enough money to eat ourselves stupid.

My 88-year-old father has a theory that his generation is so long-lived because they grew up in the 1930s depression and the Second World War when food was scarce. They had no choice but to eat small meals.

And they didn’t have the TV to slump in front of when they were young so they had a lot more exercise.

As a result, he and his contemporaries are living longer than any previous generation. He reckons the sedentary lives and indulgent diets of today will reverse that trend.

But if kids are putting on weight, are their parents guilty of child abuse?

The mad health police in Dundee want to snatch four children from their family home and send them to be “fostered without contact” because they’re too fat.

Three daughters, aged 11, seven and one, and a five-year-old son, will be ripped from their parents and given away, presumably to people who won’t feed them very much.

This is taking health fascism to unacceptable extremes. It’s not difficult to feel sorry for chubby children and wonder what on earth their parents are doing allowing them to get so fat.

The parents may well need more advice about how to feed their children. You could even imagine some earnest social worker standing over them at mealtimes dictating what they may and may not eat.

Even so, tearing the family apart because some of the kids are overweight is simply unacceptable in a free society.

What we really do not need are lectures from officious do-gooders telling us how to live our lives let alone breaking up families in the name of healthy eating.

Before we know it, the Government will slap 20 per cent VAT on fast food, biscuits and other indulgencies.

We’ll be told this is in the interests of the nation’s health. In reality it would be in the Treasury’s interests bringing in about £5.6 billion-a-year in tax revenue.

The health police would argue that a “fat tax” would reduce consumption and create a healthier society.

Actually it’s just another tax and we already have far too many of those.

We all know about the perils of obesity. Those of us who need to shed a pound or two know what we must do and how to do it.

But lead us not into temptation. Stick a few chips under the nose of even the most dedicated dieter and their will-power crumbles almost as fast as a vegetarian’s faced with the delicious aromas of a bacon sandwich.

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