Comment - Miscellaneous
Grooming for obesity by Jean Robertson-Molloy.
There is an epidemic of obesity, especially in Enfield where children are the fattest in England. It's bad
for our health and imposes huge and increasing costs on our already cash-strapped NHS.
Greens have a particular responsibility to consider this problem seriously, because our eating habits are
not only damaging ourselves but are also reducing the food available in places where people are dying of
starvation. And of course, the processes involved in the making of junk foods produce the green-house gases
which are speeding up climate change.
In fact we are being 'groomed' for obesity! Food companies provide ever-larger portions of crisps, popcorn,
cereals, sweets etc. whilst advertising encourages us to eat between meals, at our desks and even on the move.
Why is this happening? There is a complex but close relationship between the food, diet and sports industries,
and our government's attitudes to all three.
Business wants to increase profits by increasing sales and is indifferent to the health consequences. That's
capitalism. And capitalist governments and government parties rely strongly for their funding on big business.
So controlling food advertising, for instance, does not come high up their list of priorities.
Meantime the rate of obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, pregnancy problems and heart problems is
rising fast. So the solution which suits government departments and businesses, is to blame us for our lack
of exercise and to blame children for being overweight and unhappy, stuck in front of a screen
And yet there is at least one large scale study which shows that children today are no less active than
those of a generation ago. The idea that children get fat because they don't exercise, should be reversed: it is
being overweight that makes it uncomfortable for people to exercise.
But can anything be done, short of food rationing which kept us all very fit during WW2?
There are a few glimmerings of light. Peretti in The men who made us thin mentioned one school in the West
Midlands where children were offered incentives for choosing more healthy food at lunchtime. Their levels of
concentration, and their general health, both improved markedly. Sadly, the experiment was not continued
and the children's health slipped back.
First published in the EGP members newsletter, October 2013