The government is planning new measures to tackle the growing crisis that is childhood obesity. With 18 per cent of UK children now overweight or obese, and a fat child generally becoming and staying a fat adult, this is surely a positive step. However, has the government reduced the potential impact of its measures by refusing to use the words ‘fat’ and ‘obese’ in its campaign, deeming them likely to ‘stigmatise’ children?
The National Obesity Forum has condemned this decision as “prissy and namby pamby” and other experts in the field back this up. Professor Gately, who has run the Carnegie Weight Management Residential Camp for children, a six week nutrition and sports heavy boot camp for obese children near Leeds, for the last 9 years with a 75 per cent success rate, faces constant accusations that the camp stigmatises overweight children. But he has this to say: “These kids get picked on every day of their lives. They are obese, it’s a fact, there’s no point trying to dress it up.”
Is it possible that our society’s ever increasing refusal to call a spade a spade is actually contributing to the obesity epidemic in the first place? As David Cameron said the other week, you don’t ‘catch’ obesity. Most overweight people are not victims of a sustained attack by cream buns they valiantly tried to fight off. While a few are overweight because of medical or psychological conditions, many of us, to put it in its simplest form, expend too little energy and eat too much, often of the wrong types of food. As individuals we have to take some responsibility for our size, and using words that accurately describe the condition makes things clearer for the 68 per cent of us UK adults considered to be overweight.
Which actually makes words like ‘fat’ and ‘obese’ empowering, not stigmatising. Pick up a copy of Pocket Issue Fat for more on fat facts and solutions, and get onto the problem today.