Has the NHS got it wrong on obesity?

Harsh but very true!

Harsh but very true!

 

The House of Commons Health Committee have questioned why the NHS in England spends more on bariatric surgery than well-established measures to prevent obesity?

MPs called for urgent steps to help people understand the wider health benefits of physical activity.

“The committee regards it as inexplicable and unacceptable that the NHS is now spending more on bariatric surgery for obesity than on a national roll-out of intensive lifestyle intervention programmes that were first shown to cut obesity and prevent diabetes over a decade ago.”

The report emphasises the “huge health benefits” of physical activity. The MPs pointed out that recent research found that for the most inactive people, walking for 20 minutes a day would have a greater positive impact than not being obese.

“It is vital that the importance of physical activity for all the population – regardless of their weight, age, gender, health, or other factors – is clearly articulated and understood.”

The report states that “fear of judgement” is a major factor preventing women from taking exercise. Julie Creffield, witness to the committee stated;

“I have women who tell me they run on a treadmill in their shed because they just don’t want to be seen in public, but that is part of the problem. Because we don’t see many overweight women exercising in public, other women don’t think that exercise is for them.”

Read my previous article on this subject here; http://nofadfitness.co.uk/fatties-working-out/ 

I find this report is extremely alarming, the escalating rates of obesity and inactivity are seemingly out of control. We hear cries all around of a lack of funding for the NHS and of Hospitals that are, in reality, bankrupt. No government can can continue to pour ever increasing amounts of money into the NHS and we are at a real crisis point in our history, one where the free healthcare for the Uk is on the cusp of being lost forever.

Obesity is very preventable but, it must be tackled on multiple fronts and very early on in life, logically we must start with our children but to do that we must first tackle the much more difficult task of re-educating their parents. We need to stop being so overly sensitive and politically correct when it comes to fat people!

In our very recent history we have seen a massive change in attitudes to smoking but that only came about after some hard hitting campaigns and strict new legislation. These campaigns turned smokers into pariahs and made smoking socially unacceptable and it worked!

Yet we as a nation are still squeamish about challenging peoples attitudes to obesity, overeating, bad eating and sedentary lifestyles. ‘Fat Shaming’ is a negative term applied to anyone who challenges a fat persons lifestyle choices, but are we really helping them or our society by keeping quiet to avoid offence?

big_boned_myth_busted_540Don’t misunderstand me here, bullying a person for being fat is not going to help, especially as this can lead to withdrawal, less activity and even more eating of unhealthy comfort foods.

It is the case that most people who begin an exercise program do so with the goal of losing weight fairly high on their agenda, usually above any wish to increase their physical fitness.

The reasons given at first are the usual superficial ones, “I want to lose weight for my holidays” or “I just want to tone up a bit”.

As I get to know my clients I quite often learn that their reasons are much more meaningful than they would would first let on. Concerns about living to see their grandchildren, worries after the early death or ill health of a relative and so on.

Then of course there are the people we never get to see. I have no doubt that there are many, many more people who will never start a proper exercise or weight loss program because they feel they have left it too late, they are already deeply worried about their health but they will not air their concerns because they believe everyone will just say it’s all their own fault.

Where are the messages and big budget advertising campaigns to encourage these people that it is never too late and that there is an abundant amount of help, encouragement and support out there for them?

sugar in drinksIt doesn’t exist! The big gyms and fitness providers aim their marketing at the young and aspirational and why wouldn’t they, it is an easy demographic to sell to. Who wants to throw money at a campaign to bring people into their facility which would require so much effort and investment to change attitudes so completely before there was any hope of getting customers through the door.

Unfortunately this results in the image that everyone in the gym has a beautiful muscular physique and super bright even white teeth with which to smile whilst working out effortlessly.

Could anything be more off putting to someone who breaks into a sweat whilst tying their shoelaces?

This is where government, NHS and local authority spending needs to be put to use in a highly coordinated campaign.

Legislation to force better labeling on food products, tax on sugar and high fat foods, hard hitting national TV, press and internet campaigns. Forget the little Morph like characters who polity suggest you might like to exercise more, show people what obesity will do to their health, show kids crying because Mum/Dad is too fat and wheezy to play in the park with them, bust the myth that every fat person has a medical condition that is the reason for them being fat.

Make being fat as anti social as smoking!

Next time you're on the high street see if you can spot a trend.

Next time you’re on the high street see if you can spot a trend.

Along with this encourage the use of facilities that already exist, it costs nothing to go for a long walk, you don’t need a £500+ light weight, olympian endorsed racing bike, serviceable used bicycles cost £20-30. There are a multitude of gyms, fitness classes, athletic clubs, football clubs and so on that don’t cost the earth.

In short the facilities and help are already there what’s needed is a big change in attitudes towards obesity to get people to use these facilities and opportunities to take responsibility for their health.

“Bariatric surgery generates huge costs to patients, families and the NHS. We need public health policies that can save money by helping prevent people becoming obese in the first place.”
Dr John Middleton

“It is welcome to see the findings of this report recognise the importance and benefits of physical activity beyond weight loss, as previous findings have shown regular physical activity of just 30 minutes, five times a week, can make a huge difference to a patient’s health.”
Prof John Wass of the Royal College of Physicians


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