*Photo: Takeaways, calories and watching your weight
First published in the Isle of Thanet News of Friday 31st July 2020
As anyone still trying valiantly to “stay alert” knows, this government will not win prizes for its messaging. Despite Matt Hancock’s “crystal clear” pronouncements today on fresh lockdown strategies for the North of England and the postponement of easings various, many people claim to be confused by the latest guidelines. And if they are on the hefty side, I’m not surprised!
Responding to the evidence that the obese suffer more badly from Covid-19, the government has turned its attention to the two-thirds of the country who are overweight, and promised a raft of new measures. TV adverts for high-fat foods will be banned before 9pm, and the calorie content of dishes will be printed on menus. BOGOF deals on sugary stuff will no longer be allowed, while GPs will “prescribe” cycling and the government will offer vouchers if you want to get your rust-encrusted bike fixed. They will also facilitate the eating of half-price MacDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King for the duration of August “as many times” I quote from the government website, “as you like.”
The discount of 50% on Big Macs and Whoppers, along with many other high-fat, high-sugar, low-fibre meals, will be available to “all diners in a group of any size”. I think we can safely guess what size most of them will be.
As mixed messages go, it’s all pretty impressive. But in reality, I doubt reducing the cost of a boneless bucket for three weeks, will make a massive impact on the size of Britain’s backsides. The pert ones will still be pert, and the double-airline seaters will be like that a bit longer.
If the powers-that-be won’t take the plunge and simply outlaw a certain level of sugar altogether, then it’s going to take a seismic shift of attitude to turn the blubber tide. Adding a few extra modules to the school curriculum might be a start. Teaching cookery, nutrition and the benefits of anti-oxidants is all very well, but lessons entitled: “Actually you CAN’T have it all,” and “Why willpower is underrated,” might be even more useful. Because in this modern I-want-so-I-must-have culture of ours, telling people who like deep-fried Mars bars to eat five different vegetables a day instead, doesn’t really cut it. Which is why most government advice on healthy eating falls on deaf ears.
They would be better off instructing us that if we want cake, to eat cake. But have it for lunch, with an apple and a vitamin pill, and don’t have stuffed-crust pizza with extra cheese straight after.
Which, as it happens, is one of the top tips in the diet plan that some years ago, I wrote myself. As those of you who have had the joy of observing me at close quarters will know, I am not particularly skinny. But neither am I obese. My BMI has stayed within normal parameters all my life. Which, given the wine I’ve drunk and the industrial quantities of crisps I eat, is a minor miracle. And the thrust of the book.
It’s the simple idea that you can eat what you like but not all at the same time, and if you exercise you can eat a bit more. And that chocolate is really quite good for you. Six squares of it – the darker the better – not six bars.
If you are already composing a furious comment to tell me about big bones, slow metabolisms and problems with glands, then all I will say is: maybe, occasionally. You don’t see too many fat people in areas of famine. It’s probably a truism no longer acceptable, but 99.99% of the overweight are like that because they put too much food in their mouths, too often.
I accept that over-eating, like over-drinking, may well be a mental health issue and a form of self-medication (most of us have been there and got that particular T-shirt at some time or other) and a reflection of deprivation on many levels. The former needs the right intervention and appropriate therapy, and the latter more social spending; no amount of nagging about wholemeal bread and five-a-day will help.
But I am a lay person. Better brains than mine, from No.10, Downing Street, have divined the way forward.
So, have a good weekend and there’s your Monday to Wednesday sorted, courtesy of the latest advice from her Majesty’s Government. Cycle to the chip shop – and then fill your boots.
My book, 100 Ways to Fight the Flab, is available at Amazon – just click on the image below:
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