I watched Monday night’s Dispatches about the recent change in the government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity with a mixture of great interest, fury and despair. Why is it whenever discussions about how to solve the obesity crisis pop up, the average UK householder is depicted as a goggly-eyed moron wandering around the supermarket being duped at every turn by all those evil corporations and fat cats only interested in financial gain. Of course I don’t disagree with the portrayal of the latter, but I do take offence at the notion that we are all weak-willed idiots at the mercy of these companies with no ability to take control of our own lives and health or make informed decisions about what we eat. Doesn’t perpetually pedalling this stereotype actually encourage us to keep shifting the blame, and discourage us from taking responsibility for ourselves and our bodies?
Don’t get me wrong, I think Jamie Oliver is a truly inspirational guy who has done more good work for the health of our nation than all the politicians put together. And I fully support all of the measures included in the government’s plan to tackle obesity, from the sugar tax to reducing the amount of junk food on special offer in shops and supermarkets. But I also think the focus of his campaigns and the government’s so-called “plan for action” on obesity needs to be widened to incorporate more strategies to help, support and perhaps dare I say even force people to take control of their own, and of course their children’s weight and overall health.
The problem is that being overweight has become the norm, so now there is even less impetus on people to change their ways. Perhaps eventually it will follow the same trend as smoking and go from something ubiquitous to something much less commonplace. I don’t know what the solution to the obesity epidemic is, but if we continue to blame others for our health problems rather than recognising that ultimately we are responsible for our own well-being, nothing will change.