Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Just last month, 53 Americans died in mass shootings…while 40,000 died from obesity




IN his fascinating book Unnatural Causes, forensic pathologist Dr ­Richard Shepherd observes how, over the years, the dead bodies he examines have changed.

One of the most noticeable is the rapid increase in body fat.
Obesity levels are rising at such a rate that a 'timebomb has exploded' for our health services

Obesity levels are rising at such a rate that a 'timebomb has exploded' for our health servicesCredit: Getty

He says: “Unless a patient is homeless or has died of cancer or is so old or poor they could not eat, few are the same shape as the dead of the 1980s when I started practising.

“Looking back at forensic photos from that era I am astonished at how thinness was then the norm.”

Fast-forward just three decades and obesity levels are now rising at such a rate that one expert says the “timebomb has exploded” for our health services.

Consequently, the NHS is reportedly bracing itself for soaring levels of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart and liver ­disease.
'FAT SHAMING COMEBACK'

For a taster of what’s potentially to come, let’s cross the Pond to America, where talk-show host Bill Maher had this to say: “In August, 53 Americans died from mass shootings. Terrible, right? Do you know how many died from obesity? Forty-thousand.”

A shocking statistic indeed and it’s indisputable that it should be highlighted and widely debated.

But he then said this: “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end. It needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good.

“We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.”

Meaning that, fuelled by Brit James Corden’s robust response on his chat show, Maher’s call to “fat-shame” became the debate and smothered the real issue of how supposedly developed nations can tackle this spiralling health crisis.

    We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.
    Bill Maher

Fat shaming isn’t the solution, although in the 2015 case of a mother ordering takeaways for her hospitalised 13-year-old, I could possibly make an exception.

The Manchester-based mother, whose child later died from “a heart ­condition  . . .  exacerbated by their morbid obesity”, had persistently ignored healthy eating advice and failed to bring the child to various health appointments.

Shame on her.

But in the majority of cases, ­finger- pointing and name-calling gets us nowhere.

However, equally, we shouldn’t attempt to normalise obesity for fear of causing offence.
American chat show host Bill Maher was right that we need to take the obesity crisis more seriously, but fat-shaming is not the way

American chat show host Bill Maher was right that we need to take the obesity crisis more seriously, but fat-shaming is not the wayCredit: Getty
Brit James Corden was right in saying that it's not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat

Brit James Corden was right in saying that it's not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeatCredit: Getty

If a four-year-old child is already ­clinically obese by the time they start school, then — medical issues aside — it’s because, at home, they’re being fed the wrong food and not getting enough ­exercise.

HEALTH TIME-BOMB

Those in positions of authority — ­teachers, doctors etc — must be allowed to tackle it with impunity and, hopefully, support the child’s family to implement a change in lifestyle that will benefit all concerned.

As Corden says: “We get it. We know being overweight isn’t good for us and I’ve struggled my entire life with trying to manage my weight and I suck at it.”

Because it’s not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat.

So support and encouragement has to be the answer, together with a collective, open and ongoing conversation about how society as a whole can help.

Interestingly, the tiny South Pacific island of Naura is currently classed as the most obese nation in the world, with 61 per cent of its 10,756 population having a BMI higher than 30.

It’s not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat.

According to one report, this is “possibly attributed to Western settlers who taught them to fry their food and import less healthy food, abandoning their ­tradition cultivation, preparation and ­preserving skills”.

In short, the human body is designed to live off the land and move around ­without the aid of transport, but “modern life” means we’re eating far too much processed food and being more sedentary as we’re ferried from A to B.

But even though the food industry must take its fair share of blame, it’s also the case that certain healthier alternatives introduced by KFC, among others, failed due to lack of interest from customers.

So, contrary to Maher’s claim about smoking and seat belts, it wasn’t shame that prompted change, it was the slow drip of education and a change in laws — and, ultimately, that’s the route we should take in tackling this health crisis too.

In the meantime, we shouldn’t ­demonise obesity, but nor should we normalise it either.

I’m all for “body positivity” but not if it’s masking an underlying health ­time-bomb.

What we should be normalising, and indeed celebrating, is that everyone — whatever their body shape — should eat healthily and get fitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment