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Thursday, January 03, 2013


fighting the flabbies

as one of the many overweight people in the country i am always interested in fat news and obesity scaremongering. i know why i am fat – it has little to do with being intelligent or sitting in front of a computer for long stretches of the day. nor does it have anything to do with being around other fat people. nope the reason i am a porker is i eat the wrong food (and sometimes lots of it) and i don’t exercise properly.
it is a combination that piles the pounds on.

one of the talking points of the olympics was how to get more elite athletes – when really it should have been more about how to get most of us up and at ‘em, getting us just a bit fitter.
two greats of british sport are sir clive woodward (coached england to rugby world cup glory and had a hand in the olympic success of team gb) and sir david brailsford (supremo of british cycling and in no small part responsible for the success of sirs hoy and wiggins), both talked about 1% improvements, the small things you can do to improve. this is one of those mantras that all people who are trying to achieve something need to remember but is often forgotten – sometimes you have to do it one baby step at a time.

so a lot of people in the uk are fat, and a lot of those fat people make me look slim (and i thank them for it), most of us fat people are fat because of the dreaded combo of poor diet and poor exercise.
if it were just a problem of ever expanding waistlines then it wouldn’t be that much of a disaster – sure it would mean some people couldn’t use the tube, or fly or go to the cinema (seats too small) or wear the latest fashion (it is never made in large sizes and is always designed for stick insects). sadly though being fat, fatter and fattest also leads to a variety of health issues.
these health issues cost money and money is something that the national health service doesn’t have in abundance.
in a sense these medical complaints are self inflicted and are sometimes compared to those issues thrown up by smoking. (smoking is an easy one to use because it has successfully been demonised, the problems caused by drink isn’t quite as often used in comparison – because drink is still very much loved by the middle class).
as, in the main, obesity is self inflicted there is an argument that people themselves should do their bit to ‘heal’ themselves.  government would have a role to play in this ether through legislation or through the nudge principle.

funny enough a report called ‘a dose of localism’ is all about this.
jonathancarr-west, acting chief executive of the local government information unit, described the report’s proposals as being win-win as they were about "finding innovative ways to both improve people's lives so they don't suffer from these conditions, while also saving money for the public purse".
the basic idea is to encourage the overweight to do something about their situation, including having their gp prescribe trips to the gym or local swimming pool. good idea. encouragement and the means to carry it out. win. i could easily see local libraries running council led weight watcher style programmes, or schools and colleges allowing the overweight to use their gyms.
it could be the big (ahem) society writ (ahem) large.

as ever with these sorts of things it is not the idea that is at fault but the presentation and the potential implementation.
in this case it looks like westminster council has decided that it will take the idea of encouragement and turn it into a case of carrot and stick, it being a tory run council the stick is the way they see it working.
of course westminster being a tory council see it as, yet another way, to punish those on benefits (those tories do love to attack those on benefits – compassionate conservatives my fat arse).
their idea is that any of the overweight and obese who refuse to go to the gym, swimming or exercise, or do not live a healthy lifestyle will lose some or all their benefits. fantastic plan – starve them thin!
the implication of all this is that the only people who are fat are those on benefits – people who are working are all within their right weight ranges. hey they are tories so their world is like that, the rest of us live in the real world.
a spokesman from westminster council was trying to defend their (potential/ alleged) position by focusing in on the positives of the plan, he wasn’t so concerned with the health issues but the fact that money could be saved and that is important because we pay taxes (and of course those on benefits don’t pay taxes).

if it were just about health then the solution would be to send every fat person who came into  the doc’s off to the gym, swimming pool or have them eat 5 a day. after all middle class fatties are more likely to demand more from the national health service – so they are even more of a potential burden. it is not like they can’t be hit with the council’s financial stick either: don’t follow through with the plan then increase their council tax. simple.
but not the sort of thing the tories do.

there is nothing wrong with the council/state encouraging people to take charge of their well being. nor is there anything wrong with pushing them to exercise and diet. hell it makes perfect sense, even if some would see it as being the nanny state.
healthier people mean less of a burden on the resources of the national health service.
healthier people mean a better standard of life for people.
healthier people also means (to make the capitalist argument) a better workforce.
councils and the government should also be making the argument with companies getting them to provide showers on site so that staff could go out for lunch time runs, or run/cycle into work, they could provide cheap membership to gyms, bonuses to those people who don’t miss work through sickness,
councils could stop flooding the high street with fast food joints. the government could legislate that all food manufacturers comprehensively mark on their foodstuff the health rating.

however if westminster council are going to press ahead with their scheme then let them put their money where their mouth is and challenge that fat tory, eric pickles, to lose weight or lose his state salary.
go on eric – you can do it. shed pounds or lose pounds. (see what i did there).

(strangely fat becomes a bit of an issue in today’s times. camilla cavendish has an opinion piece about how the government needs to step in and change things in order to help people, and help them off the addiction to sugar and trans fats. considering the newspaper it is a pretty bold statement. it is somewhat ruined by her claim that she is ‘educated, genetically thin person with a high metabolism’ which of course means that there has to be genetically fat people. still at least she isn’t blaming the poor – so score one for camilla).

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