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Can you escape obesity? The odds are stacked against the overweight

(Credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty)

(Credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty)


May 2, 2023   8 mins

There are a few debates in our political discourse that seem cursed to polarisation. Take, for example, discussion of overpopulation, resource constraints, and environmentalism. The two options appear to be either the belief that the world is or will soon be catastrophically overpopulated, that our natural resources will soon be depleted, and Malthus was basically right; or, alternatively, the attitude that overpopulation can literally never happen, that there is no such thing as resource constraint, and that any concern whatsoever about the carrying capacity of the planet is really just a stalking horse for racism and nihilism. Neither of these options seems appealing to me, but my efforts to carve out a third space have not borne fruit.

Discussion of obesity has similar vibes, but with this conversation specifically, there’s a sort of outdoor voice/indoor voice divide: one thing is said in public, another in private.

We have a big obesity problem, across the developed world and particularly in my home country of the United States. In the OECD countries, often used as shorthand for the advanced nations of the earth, half or more of all adults are overweight or obese. Here in America, one in every five children is obese. Overall, progress comes with a bitter (and expensive) problem: as countries become richer and more stable, obesity rates grow. Obesity is a classic “boiling frog” problem, both for individuals and for societies — a few pounds here and a few pounds there, and you’re suddenly facing real health consequences; a few percent here and a few percent there, and you’ve got projections showing that your already-overburdened healthcare system will eventually collapse. It contributes to heart disease, diabetes, cancer; it is estimated to cost the NHS £6 billion a year. Clearly, something has to be done.

And yet there’s an obvious set of complications. One stems from the simple fact that, though there have been some recent developments, consistent and scalable treatments for obesity are notoriously hard to come by. What works for some doesn’t work for most, and the constant endorsements of diet and exercise have proven totally unhelpful to many millions of people who have tried very hard to lose weight and found that they just can’t. And this connects to another complication: how do we create a public health system that helps people to lose weight and encourages healthy eating without unnecessarily insulting the people who struggle to do so?

It’s here that the polarisation comes in. While it’s increasingly unlikely for people to openly shame people for their weight problems, it’s still far more common than open racism or homophobia. Obesity is not in the same category as race or sexual identity, but as with those identity markers, being fat represents an unchosen vulnerability. The fat acceptance movement has been gathering steam for some time, arguing that not only does society unjustly mock and deride fat people, but does so based on bad science and bigoted ideology. While this general attitude is both understandable and humane, it’s taken to an unfortunate extreme. The “Healthy at Any Size” philosophy insists not only that fat people deserve equal rights and respect, but also that there is no inherent health disadvantage to being obese and that the public health community should be “weight neutral.”  Unfortunately, these claims aren’t true.

Is there no hope of synthesising these perspectives? Can we not communally agree not to be cruel to fat people, regardless of the origins of their condition, and recognise that people have profoundly different odds of being fat or thin, while also insisting on the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise? Is it really so hard to say: “Obese people deserve love, respect, and understanding, even as we recognise that being overweight is unhealthy and that the obesity epidemic is a public health crisis”?

Two new books address some of these questions: the recently-published Ravenous, by Henry Dimbleby, and the forthcoming Ultra-Processed People, by Chris van Tulleken. Both of the authors have impressive credentials. Both take wide-ranging journeys through the obesity crisis. Both offer up explanations, largely complementary, for why we’ve become fat. And like so many analyses of contemporary problems, their diagnoses are more compelling than their prognoses. Only one of the books comes up with a vaguely realistic solution.

Neither of the overviews of the obesity problem offered here is novel, exactly, but they both make a point that needs to be hammered home: expanding waistlines are not the result of declining public virtue, but of structural factors. For reasons of commerce, the modern diet has become unhealthy, filled with foods that offer us a caricature of real nutrition. This shifts some of the moral responsibility for our BMIs off our shoulders and onto the systems in which we live.

“Over the past 150 years food has become … not food,” writes van Tulleken. His definition of ultra-processed foods stresses artificiality in packaging and ingredients: “If it’s wrapped in plastic and has at least one ingredient that you wouldn’t usually find in a standard home kitchen, it’s UPF.” Dimbleby, meanwhile, writes of UPFs: “Colourings, emulsifiers, flavourings and other additives are added to make the products better-looking, tastier, more stable and longer-lasting. This makes them extremely ‘moreish’ – or ‘hyper-palatable’.”

Hyper-palatable, here, does not simply mean tasty. This food is dangerous not merely because it prompts us to desire it, but because eating it does not satiate that desire. These foods are engineered to keep you eating, to a degree that was unheard of prior to modern production techniques. Consider the relationship between fibre and sugars. In nature, they tend to be found together. Your body might crave the sugar in apples, but you can’t sit down and eat an entire bag of them, because apples are highly fibrous, and fibre makes you feel full. In contrast, you most certainly can sit down and eat an entire king-size bag of M&Ms, which have a dramatically lower calories to fibre ratio (1023 calories and 5.8 grams of fibre in a cup) to raw apple (65 calories and 3 grams in a cup).

Modern food is specifically designed so that you never want to stop eating, which makes the food manufacturers rich and you fat. Another element of this broader reality is that ultra-processed foods are often lacking in micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. This, in turn, makes people continue to crave food even after consuming many calories, as they’re simply not getting what their body needs. In communities where UPFs are the norm, it’s very common for obesity and nutritional deficiencies to be found together.

In fairness, the development of these techniques was not undertaken for entirely nefarious reasons. Dimbleby points out that the last food crisis created the conditions that led to the current food crisis. Early in the 20th century, concerns about how to feed a human population that was absolutely exploding — there’s Malthus again — created intense pressure to derive more calories from a given portion of land. There was also a compelling need for better food preservation, leading to the addition of a lot of new substances in our food and the removal of others. It turns out that making food last longer often involves removing fibre. (Think of the way celery goes soft over time and you have a sense of how short fibre’s shelf-life is.) In an earlier era, when there was a deficit of calories, this probably didn’t seem like a bad bargain for food scientists.

But the legitimate need to feed more people fits all too well with the capitalist dictates of the food industry. There’s little inherent financial reason for any given food producer to prioritise nutritional value, and those foods that do are usually more expensive or, at least, practically inaccessible to those who do not frequent farmers’ markets or upscale grocery stores. The “normal” food distribution system continues to prioritise selling as many calories for as little money as possible. As Dimbleby writes, “the food system we created prioritises quantity over quality. We have changed our diet to match this system, and this diet is now making both us and our planet ill.”

Both of the books are potential fodder for the obesity culture war, though they pretty firmly reject simplistic characterisations of obesity as a matter of character or willpower. “Every discussion of weight gain, whether in the press or in our own heads, is suppurating with blame, which is always directed at the people who live with it,” writes van Tulleken. He sees this as straightforwardly unfair in the face of the structural forces that have altered our food supply. Similarly, Dimbleby writes: “Berating or despising individuals for being overweight is unkind, counter-productive (it exacerbates the depression and self-reproach that so often characterise disordered eating) and, above all, misplaced.” Both authors reference research that demonstrates that, while exercise has a number of health benefits, weight loss isn’t among them; Dimbleby has a chapter titled “You can’t outrun a bad diet”, which underlines the fact that exercise increases food cravings, which prompt eating that undoes calorie loss. This has grown to become a bit of conventional wisdom over time, but the age-old advice to eat less and exercise more is hard to shake.

But what can you do? Van Tulleken suggests… just about nothing. He’s insistent that genetics, the presence of unhealthy food options, and marketing essentially hold fat people hostage. Ultra-processed foods, he argues, “hijack our brains”. Even his brief final chapter on trying to live without UPFs is positively fatalistic, mostly counselling people not to hold out hope. As is the fashion, he laboriously argues that poverty effectively prevents the impoverished from making any decisions at all.

It’s a conclusion that is not, I think, supported by the evidence he presents. The existence of genetic predispositions and just-so stories about neurological predispositions don’t amount to a compelling dismissal of the role of the conscious mind. It is also a good example of yet more binary, polarised maximalism: it seems not to have occurred to van Tulleken that he could argue persuasively that poverty influences food choices and that our system incentivises eating unhealthy food without arguing that we are all essentially automatons in the hands of food companies that can literally dictate our behaviours to us. I suspect, frankly, that this lack of nuance had more to do with selling books than anything else.

And yet this extreme pessimism is undermined where van Tulleken argues that we must make demands of government. Mandatory food labelling, he suggests, is effective: “The labelling has had huge impact, with decreases in food purchases and, perhaps most significantly, research showing that the regulation made children ask their parents not to buy the products.” If labels can prompt better eating behaviour, how can van Tulleken go to painful lengths to insist on the futility of trying to make good choices. Over and over again, he emphasises that the individual is simply no match for the power of the food industry and their dastardly techniques. But elsewhere, his certainty slips, and he seems to suggest that, perhaps, maybe, just a little, an individual can moderate their consumption of the food he describes as poisonous, and in so doing improve their health. It’s a glaring contradiction.

Dimbleby is a little more sanguine, and allows for a bit more hope. But, like van Tulleken, he emphasises systems over individuals. Dimbleby’s chapter on solutions — titled “The Power of Love”, I’m sorry to say — insists that solving our problems will involve creating a new “food culture”. Using both government intervention and community effort, we can change both the economics of food production and our habits regarding food preparation, in a way that promotes healthier eating. “Change has to come from both directions,” writes Dimbleby: “top-down, in the form of government legislation, taxes and regulations, but also bottom-up, with talented and dedicated people determined to improve the food in their own families, schools or communities.” This simultaneously sounds like a very natural and necessary evolution for our society, and like a heavy lift. But it’s a more humanistic and workable vision than that of van Tulleken, who largely seems content to describe why things are so bad without imagining how they might get better.

Recently, a great deal of ink has been spilled on the power of semaglutides, drugs developed to combat diabetes that have been shown to have meaningful impacts on obesity where so many others have failed. With brand names such as Ozempic and Wegovy, these new treatments are not stimulants, which have often been used for weight loss, and don’t appear to be addictive. But can they tame an epidemic? Van Tulleken doesn’t mention these drugs, but Dimbleby does briefly. He offers an evenhanded approach, insisting that they aren’t a silver bullet, but also admits that the very few other treatments actually work.

And this might just be all we’re left with. Government intervention seems unlikely; the voluntary pursuit of virtue rather than profit by private corporations unthinkable; and individual choice deeply constrained by external factors. The immensity of the problem, the sheer destructive potential of obesity, leaves me wondering if a pharmaceutical solution is the only one we can really count on. No, hundreds of millions of people injecting themselves every week for the rest of their lives doesn’t seem particularly sensible or sustainable to me. But it is perhaps the least bad solution to obesity, a problem from hell.


Freddie deBoer is a writer and academic. His newsletter can be found at freddiedeboer.substack.com.


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Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago

I haven’t finished the article, so bear with me, but the following group-think non-sequeter must be disabused forthwith:
“There’s little inherent financial reason for any given food producer to prioritise nutritional value, and those foods that do are usually more expensive or, at least, practically inaccessible to those who do not frequent farmers’ markets or upscale grocery stores.”

This is utter nonsense and just one of those tired cliches from the left that are repeated by otherwise sane people who don’t get out enough. As a married couple with all the resources to buy any food we want, but who cook for ourselves 98% of the time, I can assure you that the cost of food of ” nutritional value” costs NOTHIING compared to fast food or pre-processed junk. The availability of fresh veggies is just a few minutes from anybody (not living in the wilderness) but the failure to so forage for oneself is completely the product of behavioral disfunction or cultural malaise.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

I disagree, I can buy any number of frozen foods you simply bung in the cooker (pizzas, chips, pies etc) for much cheaper than I can buy the fresh ingredients to make similar meals. Another factor to consider is that these days most families need both parents working full time to pay the bills, and on average youngsters are working longer hours and facing longer commutes than previous generations. Understandably the thought of getting home late in the evening to then start chopping, peeling, preparing and cooking, and then the long washing up that’s usually comes with it doesn’t really appeal, and it’s much easier to simply chuck something in the oven or go to the chippy.
This isn’t to say that the obese don’t bear responsibility for their weight, but to compare your life where you and your wife are seemingly very comfortable to that of the youngsters who barely see their kids due to their jobs it’s apples and oranges. You can say that people should look after their weight while also acknowledging the current system is stacked against them

Last edited 1 year ago by Billy Bob
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Look at someone like Oprah Winfrey. There’s a woman with willpower. There’s a woman with money to pay a full-time chef. But there’s a woman who can’t keep from getting fat.
We need to stop being so facile and face the fact that obesity is a complex problem that we do not know the cause of because there are many factors that work together to cause it. Most medical problems these days are like that, as the easy ones have already been solved.
In spite of that we still boil the problem down to distill out a simple solution only to be surprised when it doesn’t work. When dealing with complex systems we need to move from the reductionist approach that worked so well for physics and chemistry to a more holistic one. That’s true whether the problem is obesity, viral pandemics, or climate change.
Trouble is that people like to take sides and argue rather than admit that they just don’t know.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Agreed. Thor is right on prices in fairness, but on the occasions I go into the office, I’m not back till after 7pm so yeah, the thought of chopping, peeling and de-seeding stuff before I even put it in the oven is not one I would look forward to. Far easier and more convenient to bung something in the oven for 20 minutes or microwave and just put my feet up.

Another factor in my experience might also be limited kitchen space. If you haven’t got a big kitchen, it’s pretty hard to store much of the larger items you would need to make a family meal (or one that lasts a couple of days) on top of the essentials.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

You make chopping, peeling and deseeding stuff sound a terrible labour not to be faced after 7 pm whereas there is little labour involved and plenty of healthy vegetables don’t even require any chopping, peeling or deseeding.

The problem is that convenience food has resulted in a couple of generations who simply never learnt to cook. We know innumerable families who have ample kitchens, indeed enviably large and luxurious kitchens, but who simply don’t know how to cook fresh food and have no inclination to learn.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes, I see this a lot in the US: people buying massive family homes with luxury kitchens which they never use unless it’s to put something in the microwave.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes, I see this a lot in the US: people buying massive family homes with luxury kitchens which they never use unless it’s to put something in the microwave.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

For the price of a McDonald’s meal or a ready meal, you can get a nice steak from Aldi, along with mushrooms and tomatoes. It’s quick and easy to cook, and doesn’t require much space.

I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Exactly. To feed 4/5 people (depending on appetite):
A “Big Daddy” pack of 2 rump steaks (454g) for about £5 rubbed with salt,pepper,garlic, and fried in butter plus some “wonky” mushrooms, and either fried tomatoes or gently simmered peas and carrots (from frozen as freezing retains freshness and nutrients).
Requires 2 hobs for ca 15-20 mins.
As you’re not using whole packets of mushroom/veg, total cost is around £6.
It’s all about thought, planning, approach and culture.

Last edited 1 year ago by I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Let’s not even start on using Slow Cookers for chicken thighs with stock, onions, carrots, etc.
Get home – food is ready and hot, house smells gorgeous, only one pot (+ plates/cutlery) to wash.
Very cheap, very nutritious, very nice.
It’s all about thought, planning, approach and culture.

Last edited 1 year ago by I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Exactly. To feed 4/5 people (depending on appetite):
A “Big Daddy” pack of 2 rump steaks (454g) for about £5 rubbed with salt,pepper,garlic, and fried in butter plus some “wonky” mushrooms, and either fried tomatoes or gently simmered peas and carrots (from frozen as freezing retains freshness and nutrients).
Requires 2 hobs for ca 15-20 mins.
As you’re not using whole packets of mushroom/veg, total cost is around £6.
It’s all about thought, planning, approach and culture.

Last edited 1 year ago by I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Let’s not even start on using Slow Cookers for chicken thighs with stock, onions, carrots, etc.
Get home – food is ready and hot, house smells gorgeous, only one pot (+ plates/cutlery) to wash.
Very cheap, very nutritious, very nice.
It’s all about thought, planning, approach and culture.

Last edited 1 year ago by I Am Phyddeaux
J Hop
J Hop
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

You act as if getting a healthy meal on the able is so difficult. Tonight I threw some butter in a pan, fried up some wild caught trout, threw some asparagus in the pan afterward and cut up an avocado. It took all of 10 minutes and was a delish and healthy meal. You an also throw a steak and veggies on a grill and make a meal in short order. Our Thursday this week is tightly scheduled with kids activities so I’m throwing some ingredients for turkey chili in a crock pot that day. That should take an extra 10 minutes in the morning and allow us to dip in and eat whenever we can.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  J Hop

Wild caught trout, asparagus, both expensive! Good for you, but this solution sounds almost like a parody.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  J Hop

Wild caught trout, asparagus, both expensive! Good for you, but this solution sounds almost like a parody.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

You make chopping, peeling and deseeding stuff sound a terrible labour not to be faced after 7 pm whereas there is little labour involved and plenty of healthy vegetables don’t even require any chopping, peeling or deseeding.

The problem is that convenience food has resulted in a couple of generations who simply never learnt to cook. We know innumerable families who have ample kitchens, indeed enviably large and luxurious kitchens, but who simply don’t know how to cook fresh food and have no inclination to learn.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

For the price of a McDonald’s meal or a ready meal, you can get a nice steak from Aldi, along with mushrooms and tomatoes. It’s quick and easy to cook, and doesn’t require much space.

J Hop
J Hop
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

You act as if getting a healthy meal on the able is so difficult. Tonight I threw some butter in a pan, fried up some wild caught trout, threw some asparagus in the pan afterward and cut up an avocado. It took all of 10 minutes and was a delish and healthy meal. You an also throw a steak and veggies on a grill and make a meal in short order. Our Thursday this week is tightly scheduled with kids activities so I’m throwing some ingredients for turkey chili in a crock pot that day. That should take an extra 10 minutes in the morning and allow us to dip in and eat whenever we can.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I worked very long hours with a long commute for many years. Just how hard is it to steam some vegetables and lightly fry some chicken fillets in olive oil? Such first world problems.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago

Very hard indeed if (say) you have little money, poor access to a fresh food shop (this is a real problem, not an imaginary one), and work long hours and care for children. Your first world is very different from some very large urban population’s, even in the first world.

I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
1 year ago

Iceland/Aldi/Lidl all sell chicken breasts and vegetables both frozen and fresh at prices FAR lower than processed crap.Knock it off with the Baizuo nonsense. It’s all about thought, planning, approach and culture.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

I live in Africa. Anyway, if you cannot afford children and cannot afford to feed them properly, don’t have children.

I Am Phyddeaux
I Am Phyddeaux
1 year ago

Iceland/Aldi/Lidl all sell chicken breasts and vegetables both frozen and fresh at prices FAR lower than processed crap.Knock it off with the Baizuo nonsense. It’s all about thought, planning, approach and culture.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

I live in Africa. Anyway, if you cannot afford children and cannot afford to feed them properly, don’t have children.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

You had that every night did you? It’s all well and good if you have plenty of kitchen space to store everything and no kids to deal with, if you’re in a cramped flat and having to deal with the rugrats then it’s a different ball game. Your life isn’t indicative of everybody else’s, so just because it isn’t an issue in your routine doesn’t mean it isn’t for somebody else

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I had a tiny kitchen and a full time job with a 1-hr each way commute. When I got home, veg prep was first, then put on/in oven, pan, whatever we were having. Fresh cooked meal every night except Fridays. It took until our 40s for my husband to declare that as he got home much earlier, he would take over and cook! We still cook from fresh most nights.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It is no big deal. I was a single parent for years and managed it.
I shop late afternoon on a Saturday when I buy 90% of what I need for the week only shopping again for vegetables midweek.
I would get not long after 7pm and immediately put on the evening meal – meat/fish, carrots and broccoli/beans and rice/pasta/potatoes, taking 15 to 20 minutes to prepare and about 35 to 40 minute to get on the table and at a cost of about £3 per serving.
I’d then do the washing up and make lunch for the following day ham and cheese sandwich/medium sized chicken breast, 4 baby plumb tomatoes, peeled and sliced kiwi fruit, handful of salad leaves, ramekin of cottage cheese/slice of malt loaf, small pork pie, small orange, small peach/plum, small handful of raisins/few blueberries at a cost again about £3.50 per serving

Gorka Sillero
Gorka Sillero
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I read excuse after excuse.
No one needs a huge posh kitchen to store some potatoes, peppers, tinned pulses, rice and pasta (for example). All cheap ingredients, by the way.
If you live off ready meals you have a laziness problem.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Just excuses. Blame everything but yourself. You have become part of the nanny state.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, that’s all I saw excuses to feed them mush.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes, that’s all I saw excuses to feed them mush.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Stop having children if you cannot afford to feed them properly.

Allie McBeth
Allie McBeth
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I had a tiny kitchen and a full time job with a 1-hr each way commute. When I got home, veg prep was first, then put on/in oven, pan, whatever we were having. Fresh cooked meal every night except Fridays. It took until our 40s for my husband to declare that as he got home much earlier, he would take over and cook! We still cook from fresh most nights.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It is no big deal. I was a single parent for years and managed it.
I shop late afternoon on a Saturday when I buy 90% of what I need for the week only shopping again for vegetables midweek.
I would get not long after 7pm and immediately put on the evening meal – meat/fish, carrots and broccoli/beans and rice/pasta/potatoes, taking 15 to 20 minutes to prepare and about 35 to 40 minute to get on the table and at a cost of about £3 per serving.
I’d then do the washing up and make lunch for the following day ham and cheese sandwich/medium sized chicken breast, 4 baby plumb tomatoes, peeled and sliced kiwi fruit, handful of salad leaves, ramekin of cottage cheese/slice of malt loaf, small pork pie, small orange, small peach/plum, small handful of raisins/few blueberries at a cost again about £3.50 per serving

Gorka Sillero
Gorka Sillero
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I read excuse after excuse.
No one needs a huge posh kitchen to store some potatoes, peppers, tinned pulses, rice and pasta (for example). All cheap ingredients, by the way.
If you live off ready meals you have a laziness problem.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Just excuses. Blame everything but yourself. You have become part of the nanny state.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Stop having children if you cannot afford to feed them properly.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago

Very hard indeed if (say) you have little money, poor access to a fresh food shop (this is a real problem, not an imaginary one), and work long hours and care for children. Your first world is very different from some very large urban population’s, even in the first world.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

You had that every night did you? It’s all well and good if you have plenty of kitchen space to store everything and no kids to deal with, if you’re in a cramped flat and having to deal with the rugrats then it’s a different ball game. Your life isn’t indicative of everybody else’s, so just because it isn’t an issue in your routine doesn’t mean it isn’t for somebody else

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

When exactly was this Nirvana when youngsters are working shorter hours and facing shorter commutes than previous generations? My ancestors at Short Bros introduced into their shipyards a 48 hour working week from the previous 53 hour norm during the 1890s. It is now illegal to require workers to work more than 48 hours and the average working week is 36.4 hours according to ONS statistics excluding part time workers.

Plenty work from home and have no commute and in previous generations walking into the office or bicycling in was not uncommon. If the current commute is longer it arises through choosing to live further from work.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The Millenials and Gen Z on average work longer hours and face longer commute (at least until the recent working from home development) than the generations that preceded them, namely their parents and grandparents. Trying to bring in the appalling labour practices of the Victorian age is simply a case of deflection as you’re well aware.
It also isn’t a case of choosing to live further from their work, it’s due to the fact that the only places they can afford are a long way away from where the jobs are, and this is despite both parents having to work full time

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Where is your evidence that Millennials work longer hours than previous generations? The evidence here:
https://ourworldindata.org/working-more-than-ever
suggests this is a myth. When I started working in the city in the early 70s I recall coming in on a Saturday morning – a practice that disappeared by the 1980s and has not been revived as far as I know. It is true that email and mobile phones can make workers more accessible outside working hours but that is not the same as suggesting that average working hours have been extended.

Commuting distance is a choice. You can live nearer work if you are prepared to sacrifice living space.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I am a boomer and also worked very long hours (sometimes 12 hours) with a commute either side.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

What an utterly privileged middle class response! I do think there is probably an issue about the cooking skills, but now just to add to this orgy of self congratulation, we have an absurd denial that house prices have risen hugely in real terms, and not just in London. No, this is not a matter of simply accepting slightly less space, housing affordable to many people on average wages is simply unaffordable for many people, except for the bank of mum and dad.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I am a boomer and also worked very long hours (sometimes 12 hours) with a commute either side.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

What an utterly privileged middle class response! I do think there is probably an issue about the cooking skills, but now just to add to this orgy of self congratulation, we have an absurd denial that house prices have risen hugely in real terms, and not just in London. No, this is not a matter of simply accepting slightly less space, housing affordable to many people on average wages is simply unaffordable for many people, except for the bank of mum and dad.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Losing weight is about eating simply, not overeating and eating the right foods. My mother used to say (not your silly Victorian times by the way), that if someone was overweight they needed to cut back on bread and potatoes. That is starch, carbs. Easy. You don’t need a big kitchen, you don’t need to be rich. Just don’t binge.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

https://ourworldindata.org/working-more-than-ever
The above article does not support the idea that the current generation is working longer hours than previous generations. It rather refutes it.

If you have contrary evidence I look forward to seeing it.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Indeed, I very much doubt this claim. So many things are asserted and allowed to pass without challenge these days.
It is possible that people are spending more time at work today than 40 years ago. But that is not the same at all as saying they are working harder. Work today involves a lot of quite frankly “non work” activities like wasting time on distractions like personal internet stuff and mandatory “compliance training” of various non-productive types.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Indeed, I very much doubt this claim. So many things are asserted and allowed to pass without challenge these days.
It is possible that people are spending more time at work today than 40 years ago. But that is not the same at all as saying they are working harder. Work today involves a lot of quite frankly “non work” activities like wasting time on distractions like personal internet stuff and mandatory “compliance training” of various non-productive types.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

More excuses!

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sorry Billy you are wrong. Check out the ONS data, millenials actually will work 7 years less in their lifetime to reach the same standard of wealth as baby boomers. I do accept some of your points re the food issue. All this pseudo middle class virtue signalling and recipe flaunting is tiresome, the food sounds dull, not surprising people don’t want a bland chicken breast and pulses every night!
The secret is eat slightly less and acclimatise slowly, cut down on unhealthy stuff if possible, move around more…

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Where is your evidence that Millennials work longer hours than previous generations? The evidence here:
https://ourworldindata.org/working-more-than-ever
suggests this is a myth. When I started working in the city in the early 70s I recall coming in on a Saturday morning – a practice that disappeared by the 1980s and has not been revived as far as I know. It is true that email and mobile phones can make workers more accessible outside working hours but that is not the same as suggesting that average working hours have been extended.

Commuting distance is a choice. You can live nearer work if you are prepared to sacrifice living space.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Losing weight is about eating simply, not overeating and eating the right foods. My mother used to say (not your silly Victorian times by the way), that if someone was overweight they needed to cut back on bread and potatoes. That is starch, carbs. Easy. You don’t need a big kitchen, you don’t need to be rich. Just don’t binge.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

https://ourworldindata.org/working-more-than-ever
The above article does not support the idea that the current generation is working longer hours than previous generations. It rather refutes it.

If you have contrary evidence I look forward to seeing it.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

More excuses!

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Sorry Billy you are wrong. Check out the ONS data, millenials actually will work 7 years less in their lifetime to reach the same standard of wealth as baby boomers. I do accept some of your points re the food issue. All this pseudo middle class virtue signalling and recipe flaunting is tiresome, the food sounds dull, not surprising people don’t want a bland chicken breast and pulses every night!
The secret is eat slightly less and acclimatise slowly, cut down on unhealthy stuff if possible, move around more…

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

That’s true so far as it goes, but they a. likely lived no more than a ten-minute walk from the shipyard and b. had wives at home with t’meal on’t t’able at the moment they walked in the door at 5.10PM.

Nick M
Nick M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes but many working men would have a wife who wouldn’t work and so do the shopping and cooking for them. When seen as a unit instead of the individual it feels like people have less free time now.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The Millenials and Gen Z on average work longer hours and face longer commute (at least until the recent working from home development) than the generations that preceded them, namely their parents and grandparents. Trying to bring in the appalling labour practices of the Victorian age is simply a case of deflection as you’re well aware.
It also isn’t a case of choosing to live further from their work, it’s due to the fact that the only places they can afford are a long way away from where the jobs are, and this is despite both parents having to work full time

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

That’s true so far as it goes, but they a. likely lived no more than a ten-minute walk from the shipyard and b. had wives at home with t’meal on’t t’able at the moment they walked in the door at 5.10PM.

Nick M
Nick M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes but many working men would have a wife who wouldn’t work and so do the shopping and cooking for them. When seen as a unit instead of the individual it feels like people have less free time now.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“I disagree, I can buy any number of frozen foods you simply bung in the cooker (pizzas, chips, pies etc) for much cheaper than I can buy the fresh ingredients to make similar meals.”

All this means is that you don’t know food, ingredients and how to cook. I know because for 4 years my friends & I ate well on £15 a week each, for breakfast and dinner, seven days a week (early 90s). We were young, and living in one of the most deprived council estates in Scotland, no car, no good local shops.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Was your deprived council estate perhaps in Glasgow or Edinburgh or another large town?
I used to live in Dumfries, which is not particularly deprived except in terms of it being almost impossible to find fresh fruit and vegetables apart from cabbage, neeps and tatties. Fried mars bars and tablet were always easy to find.
Even the most deprived parts of Glasgow, for instance, are a short walk from great shops.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

Sandilands, Aberdeen. Farmfoods 1 minute walk, Tesco 20 minutes by bus – we visited the former, once, and then frequented the latter!

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

Sandilands, Aberdeen. Farmfoods 1 minute walk, Tesco 20 minutes by bus – we visited the former, once, and then frequented the latter!

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Was your deprived council estate perhaps in Glasgow or Edinburgh or another large town?
I used to live in Dumfries, which is not particularly deprived except in terms of it being almost impossible to find fresh fruit and vegetables apart from cabbage, neeps and tatties. Fried mars bars and tablet were always easy to find.
Even the most deprived parts of Glasgow, for instance, are a short walk from great shops.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s not the “processed” food that’ making you fat, it’s your lack of exercise. No matter what your lifestyle, there are opportunities to be more physical. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk a few blocks rather than riding. Physical activity of some kind can be sneaked into any life.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Look at someone like Oprah Winfrey. There’s a woman with willpower. There’s a woman with money to pay a full-time chef. But there’s a woman who can’t keep from getting fat.
We need to stop being so facile and face the fact that obesity is a complex problem that we do not know the cause of because there are many factors that work together to cause it. Most medical problems these days are like that, as the easy ones have already been solved.
In spite of that we still boil the problem down to distill out a simple solution only to be surprised when it doesn’t work. When dealing with complex systems we need to move from the reductionist approach that worked so well for physics and chemistry to a more holistic one. That’s true whether the problem is obesity, viral pandemics, or climate change.
Trouble is that people like to take sides and argue rather than admit that they just don’t know.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Agreed. Thor is right on prices in fairness, but on the occasions I go into the office, I’m not back till after 7pm so yeah, the thought of chopping, peeling and de-seeding stuff before I even put it in the oven is not one I would look forward to. Far easier and more convenient to bung something in the oven for 20 minutes or microwave and just put my feet up.

Another factor in my experience might also be limited kitchen space. If you haven’t got a big kitchen, it’s pretty hard to store much of the larger items you would need to make a family meal (or one that lasts a couple of days) on top of the essentials.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I worked very long hours with a long commute for many years. Just how hard is it to steam some vegetables and lightly fry some chicken fillets in olive oil? Such first world problems.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

When exactly was this Nirvana when youngsters are working shorter hours and facing shorter commutes than previous generations? My ancestors at Short Bros introduced into their shipyards a 48 hour working week from the previous 53 hour norm during the 1890s. It is now illegal to require workers to work more than 48 hours and the average working week is 36.4 hours according to ONS statistics excluding part time workers.

Plenty work from home and have no commute and in previous generations walking into the office or bicycling in was not uncommon. If the current commute is longer it arises through choosing to live further from work.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

“I disagree, I can buy any number of frozen foods you simply bung in the cooker (pizzas, chips, pies etc) for much cheaper than I can buy the fresh ingredients to make similar meals.”

All this means is that you don’t know food, ingredients and how to cook. I know because for 4 years my friends & I ate well on £15 a week each, for breakfast and dinner, seven days a week (early 90s). We were young, and living in one of the most deprived council estates in Scotland, no car, no good local shops.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It’s not the “processed” food that’ making you fat, it’s your lack of exercise. No matter what your lifestyle, there are opportunities to be more physical. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk a few blocks rather than riding. Physical activity of some kind can be sneaked into any life.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

If you are reaching for the subjunctive, it looks as though it is usually spelled sequatur, rather than sequeter.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Thank you for that correction. A!though my dictionary spells it non-sequitur. No, I was not attempting latin! To be honest, non-sequitur is not quite the right word, but the passion of the moment combined with cocktails put it out there unedited.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Thank you for that correction. A!though my dictionary spells it non-sequitur. No, I was not attempting latin! To be honest, non-sequitur is not quite the right word, but the passion of the moment combined with cocktails put it out there unedited.

Ross McLeod
Ross McLeod
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Correct. See marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/political-incorrect-paper-day-food-deserts.html

The Whole Foods class think their kale and kombucha are so obviously superior to what the poor eat that the only possible explanation for poor eating is that poor people are denied choice. Yet put an inexpensive but colorful produce stand next to a McDonald’s and you can be sure that the customers will differ by class. Why the poor choose to eat differently than the rich is an interesting and important question but one more amenable to answers focusing on culture, education and history than price and income. 

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

I disagree, I can buy any number of frozen foods you simply bung in the cooker (pizzas, chips, pies etc) for much cheaper than I can buy the fresh ingredients to make similar meals. Another factor to consider is that these days most families need both parents working full time to pay the bills, and on average youngsters are working longer hours and facing longer commutes than previous generations. Understandably the thought of getting home late in the evening to then start chopping, peeling, preparing and cooking, and then the long washing up that’s usually comes with it doesn’t really appeal, and it’s much easier to simply chuck something in the oven or go to the chippy.
This isn’t to say that the obese don’t bear responsibility for their weight, but to compare your life where you and your wife are seemingly very comfortable to that of the youngsters who barely see their kids due to their jobs it’s apples and oranges. You can say that people should look after their weight while also acknowledging the current system is stacked against them

Last edited 1 year ago by Billy Bob
Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

If you are reaching for the subjunctive, it looks as though it is usually spelled sequatur, rather than sequeter.

Ross McLeod
Ross McLeod
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

Correct. See marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/political-incorrect-paper-day-food-deserts.html

The Whole Foods class think their kale and kombucha are so obviously superior to what the poor eat that the only possible explanation for poor eating is that poor people are denied choice. Yet put an inexpensive but colorful produce stand next to a McDonald’s and you can be sure that the customers will differ by class. Why the poor choose to eat differently than the rich is an interesting and important question but one more amenable to answers focusing on culture, education and history than price and income. 

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago

I haven’t finished the article, so bear with me, but the following group-think non-sequeter must be disabused forthwith:
“There’s little inherent financial reason for any given food producer to prioritise nutritional value, and those foods that do are usually more expensive or, at least, practically inaccessible to those who do not frequent farmers’ markets or upscale grocery stores.”

This is utter nonsense and just one of those tired cliches from the left that are repeated by otherwise sane people who don’t get out enough. As a married couple with all the resources to buy any food we want, but who cook for ourselves 98% of the time, I can assure you that the cost of food of ” nutritional value” costs NOTHIING compared to fast food or pre-processed junk. The availability of fresh veggies is just a few minutes from anybody (not living in the wilderness) but the failure to so forage for oneself is completely the product of behavioral disfunction or cultural malaise.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Not buying it.
Why aren’t the Japanese obese ?
If it’s down to highly processed foods, why isn’t everyone obese ?
Why, when I’ve been working in America in Silicon Valley, are almost none of the engineers obese when the stats quoted here suggest that 80% of the male US population is obese ?
I don’t buy Dimblelby’s claim that “exercise increases food cravings”. Not my experience at all. I eat better and drink less if I’m training for an endurance event like a marathon.
It doesn’t need a “pharmaceutical solution”. It just needs better choices.
We don’t need to “create a new food culture”. We had one which was better and abandoned it.
I’m not immune from poor diet choices/eating too much. I found an old diary a couple of weeks ago: 40 years ago I weighed 64kg. Today that’s 79kg. That’s my fault. And my responsibility. Nobody else’s.
I think it is fundamentally wrong and immoral to spend public money on programs which undermine people’s responsibility for their own decisions.
Now there may be a small subset of cases where there are fundamental genetic or medical causes. These should be treated and funded. But – exactly as in the discussion about Lionel Shriver’s article a few days ago – we really must split the 20% real problems and the 80% fake stuff and focus on treating the real stuff.
There really is no limit to the ability of supposedly intelligent people to make simple things complicated and difficult.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The Japanese diet is a lot more fish based than ours, plus rice has far more calories in it than our predominantly wheat based diet does. That’s one reason why Asia was so far ahead of Europe for much of history.

Also, maybe I’m being naive, but I also imagine Japanese businesses in this area aren’t as morally grey on this matter compared to ours.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

“That’s one reason why Asia was so far ahead of Europe for much of history.”

Could you be a little more specific?

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago

H’d only have to be ‘more specific’ if he were arguing the opposite. China, Japan and India were economically well ahead of Europe from ancient times right up until about 1700. But then, the impact of firearms, seagoing technologies, the printing press and capital markets changed everything. Right up until about….now.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Joy

Perhaps economically but not culturally between say 500BC and 500 AD.

Even then paradoxically although the Chinese probably invented gunpowder, the printing press and the magnetic compass, the three key ‘ingredients’ for world domination they FAILED because they didn’t know how to apply them!

Additionally by the early 15th century they had a fleet capable of crossing the Pacific to America but rather fortuitously for ‘us’ turned right instead of left and so failed to find the place.

Thus did Columbus & Co snatch the ‘prize’ some 80 odd years later! And we’ve never looked back.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Joy

Perhaps economically but not culturally between say 500BC and 500 AD.

Even then paradoxically although the Chinese probably invented gunpowder, the printing press and the magnetic compass, the three key ‘ingredients’ for world domination they FAILED because they didn’t know how to apply them!

Additionally by the early 15th century they had a fleet capable of crossing the Pacific to America but rather fortuitously for ‘us’ turned right instead of left and so failed to find the place.

Thus did Columbus & Co snatch the ‘prize’ some 80 odd years later! And we’ve never looked back.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago

H’d only have to be ‘more specific’ if he were arguing the opposite. China, Japan and India were economically well ahead of Europe from ancient times right up until about 1700. But then, the impact of firearms, seagoing technologies, the printing press and capital markets changed everything. Right up until about….now.

Apo State
Apo State
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Interestingly, Asians have less obesity, but relatively high rates of Metabolic Syndrome (that’s the rice diet). It’s just a different type of unhealthiness, based on diet.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

The Japanese find ‘western’ alcohol a bit of a problem despite considerable perseverance.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

“That’s one reason why Asia was so far ahead of Europe for much of history.”

Could you be a little more specific?

Apo State
Apo State
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Interestingly, Asians have less obesity, but relatively high rates of Metabolic Syndrome (that’s the rice diet). It’s just a different type of unhealthiness, based on diet.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

The Japanese find ‘western’ alcohol a bit of a problem despite considerable perseverance.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Not everyone is eating highly processed foods – why would you assume that?

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

I’m not. I’m also assuming this is a choice and personal responsibility. And denying the “get out clause” – repeated in this article – which claims that people have no choice.
I think it is true that some foods don’t really satisfy your appetite and encourage you to eat more, while others do. And that this may be by design by the food industry.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

I’m not. I’m also assuming this is a choice and personal responsibility. And denying the “get out clause” – repeated in this article – which claims that people have no choice.
I think it is true that some foods don’t really satisfy your appetite and encourage you to eat more, while others do. And that this may be by design by the food industry.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Absolutely. I do still have sympathy for people that are obese and can’t exercise the required self control, it’s not easy and I don’t know what psychological issues anyone else is dealing with, but it does no-one any favors to say it’s not an issue of individual choice, when the evidence absolutely everywhere around you, demonstrates that it is.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jake Prior
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Jake Prior

And I quite agree that this can be very difficult for some people and that we should have sympathy for those who are really struggling with obesity and do what we can to help. But we need to be certain that what we are doing really is helping. And pretending that obesity is normal (or even desirable) won’t help.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Jake Prior

And I quite agree that this can be very difficult for some people and that we should have sympathy for those who are really struggling with obesity and do what we can to help. But we need to be certain that what we are doing really is helping. And pretending that obesity is normal (or even desirable) won’t help.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Why did Mrs B tolerate such an astonishing weight increase!
Mrs S certainly wouldn’t have done.

ps.Only harmless banter no harm intended!

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

But not all people are as great as you Peter, silicon valley…. marathons? Couldn’t help dropping that in could you? A lot of people through no fault of their own lack education and experience in life and find it difficult to achieve the results that others find easy. Their is a lot of snobbery in the comments, disappointing really.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The Japanese diet is a lot more fish based than ours, plus rice has far more calories in it than our predominantly wheat based diet does. That’s one reason why Asia was so far ahead of Europe for much of history.

Also, maybe I’m being naive, but I also imagine Japanese businesses in this area aren’t as morally grey on this matter compared to ours.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Not everyone is eating highly processed foods – why would you assume that?

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Absolutely. I do still have sympathy for people that are obese and can’t exercise the required self control, it’s not easy and I don’t know what psychological issues anyone else is dealing with, but it does no-one any favors to say it’s not an issue of individual choice, when the evidence absolutely everywhere around you, demonstrates that it is.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jake Prior
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Why did Mrs B tolerate such an astonishing weight increase!
Mrs S certainly wouldn’t have done.

ps.Only harmless banter no harm intended!

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

But not all people are as great as you Peter, silicon valley…. marathons? Couldn’t help dropping that in could you? A lot of people through no fault of their own lack education and experience in life and find it difficult to achieve the results that others find easy. Their is a lot of snobbery in the comments, disappointing really.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Not buying it.
Why aren’t the Japanese obese ?
If it’s down to highly processed foods, why isn’t everyone obese ?
Why, when I’ve been working in America in Silicon Valley, are almost none of the engineers obese when the stats quoted here suggest that 80% of the male US population is obese ?
I don’t buy Dimblelby’s claim that “exercise increases food cravings”. Not my experience at all. I eat better and drink less if I’m training for an endurance event like a marathon.
It doesn’t need a “pharmaceutical solution”. It just needs better choices.
We don’t need to “create a new food culture”. We had one which was better and abandoned it.
I’m not immune from poor diet choices/eating too much. I found an old diary a couple of weeks ago: 40 years ago I weighed 64kg. Today that’s 79kg. That’s my fault. And my responsibility. Nobody else’s.
I think it is fundamentally wrong and immoral to spend public money on programs which undermine people’s responsibility for their own decisions.
Now there may be a small subset of cases where there are fundamental genetic or medical causes. These should be treated and funded. But – exactly as in the discussion about Lionel Shriver’s article a few days ago – we really must split the 20% real problems and the 80% fake stuff and focus on treating the real stuff.
There really is no limit to the ability of supposedly intelligent people to make simple things complicated and difficult.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Remember back in the day when smoking cigarettes was considered the most sophisticated thing since sliced bread? Hollywood showed us lots of hot actresses smoking with the utmost sophistication.
Today, of course, we regard smokers as lower than white male racist-sexist-homophobes, and smoking is down, way down.
I wonder why? It couldn’t be that we “shamed” smokers. No, we would never do that.

Last edited 1 year ago by Christopher Chantrill
J Guy
J Guy
1 year ago

Shamed? More like taxed!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  J Guy

And shamed!

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  J Guy

And there you have the answer: a £1,000 tax – no, call it a Community NHS Support Premium – on being a fat bustard. This can go to pay for a comprehensive annual health MoT – including weighing – for all citizens.
Obese, but can’t pay? Don’t worry, it’ll be deducted from your benefits, helping you reduce your food consumption by that amount!
They’ll thank us for it, eventually.

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Joy

This but without the irony lol. If we are gonna have a massive government we might as well wring a few drops of good out of it

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Joy

This but without the irony lol. If we are gonna have a massive government we might as well wring a few drops of good out of it

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  J Guy

And shamed!

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago
Reply to  J Guy

And there you have the answer: a £1,000 tax – no, call it a Community NHS Support Premium – on being a fat bustard. This can go to pay for a comprehensive annual health MoT – including weighing – for all citizens.
Obese, but can’t pay? Don’t worry, it’ll be deducted from your benefits, helping you reduce your food consumption by that amount!
They’ll thank us for it, eventually.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

This example came to mind after I wrote my comment. We have – successfully – socially shamed public smoking and drink driving largely out of existence. These are activities where individual choice is constrained because it pushes unnaceptable costs onto the rest of society and society as a whole said “we’ve had enough”.
Is obesity – and it’s impact in denying essential public health resources to non-voluntary conditions – really that different ?

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Something in that PB, but also we banned smoking in many places – it wasn’t just a ‘shame-strategy’. We also insisted seatbelts in cars and made them mandatory. We also make drug dealing illegal and devote law enforcement resources to combat that – otherwise one could just extend your ‘personal responsibility’ argument to that field too.
We’re grappling with what might be the equivalent interventions for the ‘obesity crisis’ in part because it doesn’t just have an impact on the individual. Not an easy one for sure

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Something in that PB, but also we banned smoking in many places – it wasn’t just a ‘shame-strategy’. We also insisted seatbelts in cars and made them mandatory. We also make drug dealing illegal and devote law enforcement resources to combat that – otherwise one could just extend your ‘personal responsibility’ argument to that field too.
We’re grappling with what might be the equivalent interventions for the ‘obesity crisis’ in part because it doesn’t just have an impact on the individual. Not an easy one for sure

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago

True, but another large part of it was the ban on advertising. I think banning advertising unhealthy food, and perhaps sponsoring adverts for ‘real’ food might have a good effect, and a tax on all UPF.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

anti smoking is a truly lower middle class obsession! oooh what will the neighbours think?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

ps- ” most sophisticated thing since sliced bread” Your mixed metaphors just say it all….

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

ps- ” most sophisticated thing since sliced bread” Your mixed metaphors just say it all….

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Anti smoking is a profoundly lower middle class obsession, like anti betting on the horses, and is an alternative to having ” Mr Pooter” written in felt pen on ones forehead, and smoking does lose weight, quitting puts it on.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Pass the vomit bucket for Mr Toylitte above…

J Guy
J Guy
1 year ago

Shamed? More like taxed!

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

This example came to mind after I wrote my comment. We have – successfully – socially shamed public smoking and drink driving largely out of existence. These are activities where individual choice is constrained because it pushes unnaceptable costs onto the rest of society and society as a whole said “we’ve had enough”.
Is obesity – and it’s impact in denying essential public health resources to non-voluntary conditions – really that different ?

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago

True, but another large part of it was the ban on advertising. I think banning advertising unhealthy food, and perhaps sponsoring adverts for ‘real’ food might have a good effect, and a tax on all UPF.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

anti smoking is a truly lower middle class obsession! oooh what will the neighbours think?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Anti smoking is a profoundly lower middle class obsession, like anti betting on the horses, and is an alternative to having ” Mr Pooter” written in felt pen on ones forehead, and smoking does lose weight, quitting puts it on.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Pass the vomit bucket for Mr Toylitte above…

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Remember back in the day when smoking cigarettes was considered the most sophisticated thing since sliced bread? Hollywood showed us lots of hot actresses smoking with the utmost sophistication.
Today, of course, we regard smokers as lower than white male racist-sexist-homophobes, and smoking is down, way down.
I wonder why? It couldn’t be that we “shamed” smokers. No, we would never do that.

Last edited 1 year ago by Christopher Chantrill
Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago

I disagree that cooking from scratch has to take time. Sure, some dishes do but I always cook from scratch. If I know I have an evening or a week I will be home late I plan ahead and do some batch cooking at the weekend, then it keeps for up to 3 days, or longer if I freeze it. Also many dishes don’t take time. A pasta sauce takes 20 minutes, a rich healthy salad takes 10 minutes and you can include leftover meats from previous meals. Fish takes 20 minutes at most unless you’re baking it.

I also disagree that it’s more expensive to cook from fresh ingredients. My weekly shop is far more expensive if I include precooked and processed foods rather than buying the ingredients to make the same!

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

Rich healthy salads mean buying fresh vegetables more often, which is can be difficult unless you live near good shops.
In other words, “hunting and gathering” time has to be added to preparation time.
It’s not a problem for me, as a lone widower whose kids have long since left home. Buying small quantities of fresh vegetables can be a challenge though, (it’s all bulk around here, if they have any at all) and I often have to throw unused veg out.

Apo State
Apo State
1 year ago

Roast and freeze your extra bulk veggies — you can either thaw and rewarm them, or use them to make a delicious nutritious soup. The French did that traditionally with their “potage”, which incorporated all the leftovers from the previous week. Extra soup? Freeze in easily reheatable batches.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Apo State

I’ll be sure to let you know how my roast mouldy spinach, parsley, lettuce, mushrooms and tomato potage turns out.

Apo State
Apo State
1 year ago

Sigh. You roast them before they spoil.

Apo State
Apo State
1 year ago

Sigh. You roast them before they spoil.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Apo State

I’ll be sure to let you know how my roast mouldy spinach, parsley, lettuce, mushrooms and tomato potage turns out.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

cabbages last a long time in the fridge – = coleslaw plus whatever

Apo State
Apo State
1 year ago

Roast and freeze your extra bulk veggies — you can either thaw and rewarm them, or use them to make a delicious nutritious soup. The French did that traditionally with their “potage”, which incorporated all the leftovers from the previous week. Extra soup? Freeze in easily reheatable batches.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

cabbages last a long time in the fridge – = coleslaw plus whatever

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

Rich healthy salads mean buying fresh vegetables more often, which is can be difficult unless you live near good shops.
In other words, “hunting and gathering” time has to be added to preparation time.
It’s not a problem for me, as a lone widower whose kids have long since left home. Buying small quantities of fresh vegetables can be a challenge though, (it’s all bulk around here, if they have any at all) and I often have to throw unused veg out.

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago

I disagree that cooking from scratch has to take time. Sure, some dishes do but I always cook from scratch. If I know I have an evening or a week I will be home late I plan ahead and do some batch cooking at the weekend, then it keeps for up to 3 days, or longer if I freeze it. Also many dishes don’t take time. A pasta sauce takes 20 minutes, a rich healthy salad takes 10 minutes and you can include leftover meats from previous meals. Fish takes 20 minutes at most unless you’re baking it.

I also disagree that it’s more expensive to cook from fresh ingredients. My weekly shop is far more expensive if I include precooked and processed foods rather than buying the ingredients to make the same!

Michael Daniele
Michael Daniele
1 year ago

“Your body might crave the sugar in apples, but you can’t sit down and eat an entire bag of them, because apples are highly fibrous, and fibre makes you feel full. In contrast, you most certainly can sit down and eat an entire king-size bag of M&Ms…”
That’s why I choose to eat the apple. This article is utter nonsense, as is our collective attitude. People today, speaking generally, have an appalling lack of self-discipline and common sense.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

You are right. The problem seems to be that if everybody is fat then it suddenly becomes OK. And it isn’t OK. It shows a lack of self-respect. Others above would argue that you lack self-respect because you are poor – something to blame. You lack self-respect because of you.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

You are right. The problem seems to be that if everybody is fat then it suddenly becomes OK. And it isn’t OK. It shows a lack of self-respect. Others above would argue that you lack self-respect because you are poor – something to blame. You lack self-respect because of you.

Michael Daniele
Michael Daniele
1 year ago

“Your body might crave the sugar in apples, but you can’t sit down and eat an entire bag of them, because apples are highly fibrous, and fibre makes you feel full. In contrast, you most certainly can sit down and eat an entire king-size bag of M&Ms…”
That’s why I choose to eat the apple. This article is utter nonsense, as is our collective attitude. People today, speaking generally, have an appalling lack of self-discipline and common sense.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

As LvR has posted, losing weight is easy – you just cut carbs and the weight disappears.
But there are other problems. Firstly, (as they say in silly AA movies) you have to admit that you are fat, not just ‘a little overweight’. “Yes, I am fat,” My wife calls all strangers, people she doesn’t know, etc, FAT. For friends and family she would never use the ‘F’ word; she would say ‘a little overweight’. For family it is rude to say ‘F**’. This causes a problem, especially with fat children.
Secondly, in life you tend to compare yourself to other people. So, if everybody is fat, then you don’t have a problem. Your family is fat, your friends are fat and you can just laugh and go for a meal.
Thirdly, people don’t have any imagination. All family and friend celebrations involve eating and drinking. There is no other way to celebrate.
Fourthly, people are not used to working in long stretches. They work in spells and every spell deserves a ‘treat’. The world lives on treats, usually sweet treats.
Fifthly (unpopular and downticks), women suffer particularly after having children. Obviously, there are medical reasons for this but I also see groups of young mothers going out for lunch together and comparing babies. The mothers will then take the baby to visit other family members and have a snack or biscuit in the kitchen while they discuss the babies. This period after giving birth is deadly for women if they don’t want to put weight on.

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

To add to your point about women, there are cultural attitudes about putting on weight during pregnancy. My wife, in the UK, was told by the medical staff following her pregnancy to eat whatever she wanted, that the pregnancy cravings were just the baby letting her know what it needed. Her sister, in Italy, was told by medical staff to watch what she was eating lest she put on too much weight and found it hard to lose it afterwards.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

True. When I had my first baby I had put on exactly the right amount of weight and the midwife, my husband and others kept telling me to make sure I ate lots more than usual because I was breast feeding and I would ‘naturally’ be the right weight. The result of that was a weight gain that I have never managed to lose.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Paolo Canonica

True. When I had my first baby I had put on exactly the right amount of weight and the midwife, my husband and others kept telling me to make sure I ate lots more than usual because I was breast feeding and I would ‘naturally’ be the right weight. The result of that was a weight gain that I have never managed to lose.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I think you mean “biological” reasons rather than “medical” for why women tend to find it difficult to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy.
I agree about the “treats” thing. When i worked in an office with women of various ages, almost all of them had snacky stuff on their desks which they’d pick at after a spell of work – or sometimes throughout the spell of work. I got into a conversation about this and a couple of them maintained they started to get “light-headed” if they didn’t keep their carbs “up”. I asked if they did the same at home, which led to some puzzled expressions as they realised they didn’t, or to nothing like the same extent.
I suspect the male/female metabolism has significant differences, for perfectly good biological reasons, but this would only make weight reduction in the population as a whole rather more complicated since a “one size fits all” policy would be unlikely to work. With males, i suspect weight gain is more to do with having exercised during their sporting days, building muscle mass which then converts to fat as the activity declines – plus the boozing on large volumes of calories with mates.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The office snacking thing is comfort eating, through boredom and needing to socialise and wanting to share something with colleagues.
In the ‘good old days’ we would regularly stop for a fag when we would have a chat with colleagues and a short therapeutic break. (anyone remember Kathy Burke in the Harry Enfield show ‘I’m smoking a FAG’)
Of course we didn’t realise we were killing ourselves then, and now we are killing ourselves with cake.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The office snacking thing is comfort eating, through boredom and needing to socialise and wanting to share something with colleagues.
In the ‘good old days’ we would regularly stop for a fag when we would have a chat with colleagues and a short therapeutic break. (anyone remember Kathy Burke in the Harry Enfield show ‘I’m smoking a FAG’)
Of course we didn’t realise we were killing ourselves then, and now we are killing ourselves with cake.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I put some weight on after both my kids and it largely stayed on due to me finishing the meals they couldn’t because of not wanting to waste food. Tbh though, I’m not overweight as I was underweight to begin with, however I maintain as healthy a diet as I can, minimising sugars (can’t cut them out completely due to being only human). I also try not to obsess over food and diet so I can try to model a healthy attitude towards food and eating for my kids.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I was fat. People used to laugh at me and call me names. I had moobs when I was young and was ashamed to go to the gym class. Luckily, I left home at 18 and got away from my mother. Then I lost the weight and felt normal for the first time. Whatever people say, being fat is horrible. IMO you have a great attitude but you can’t afford to lose concentration because it will catch you in a crisis in the future.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

I was fat. People used to laugh at me and call me names. I had moobs when I was young and was ashamed to go to the gym class. Luckily, I left home at 18 and got away from my mother. Then I lost the weight and felt normal for the first time. Whatever people say, being fat is horrible. IMO you have a great attitude but you can’t afford to lose concentration because it will catch you in a crisis in the future.

Paolo Canonica
Paolo Canonica
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

To add to your point about women, there are cultural attitudes about putting on weight during pregnancy. My wife, in the UK, was told by the medical staff following her pregnancy to eat whatever she wanted, that the pregnancy cravings were just the baby letting her know what it needed. Her sister, in Italy, was told by medical staff to watch what she was eating lest she put on too much weight and found it hard to lose it afterwards.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I think you mean “biological” reasons rather than “medical” for why women tend to find it difficult to lose the weight they gained during pregnancy.
I agree about the “treats” thing. When i worked in an office with women of various ages, almost all of them had snacky stuff on their desks which they’d pick at after a spell of work – or sometimes throughout the spell of work. I got into a conversation about this and a couple of them maintained they started to get “light-headed” if they didn’t keep their carbs “up”. I asked if they did the same at home, which led to some puzzled expressions as they realised they didn’t, or to nothing like the same extent.
I suspect the male/female metabolism has significant differences, for perfectly good biological reasons, but this would only make weight reduction in the population as a whole rather more complicated since a “one size fits all” policy would be unlikely to work. With males, i suspect weight gain is more to do with having exercised during their sporting days, building muscle mass which then converts to fat as the activity declines – plus the boozing on large volumes of calories with mates.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I put some weight on after both my kids and it largely stayed on due to me finishing the meals they couldn’t because of not wanting to waste food. Tbh though, I’m not overweight as I was underweight to begin with, however I maintain as healthy a diet as I can, minimising sugars (can’t cut them out completely due to being only human). I also try not to obsess over food and diet so I can try to model a healthy attitude towards food and eating for my kids.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

As LvR has posted, losing weight is easy – you just cut carbs and the weight disappears.
But there are other problems. Firstly, (as they say in silly AA movies) you have to admit that you are fat, not just ‘a little overweight’. “Yes, I am fat,” My wife calls all strangers, people she doesn’t know, etc, FAT. For friends and family she would never use the ‘F’ word; she would say ‘a little overweight’. For family it is rude to say ‘F**’. This causes a problem, especially with fat children.
Secondly, in life you tend to compare yourself to other people. So, if everybody is fat, then you don’t have a problem. Your family is fat, your friends are fat and you can just laugh and go for a meal.
Thirdly, people don’t have any imagination. All family and friend celebrations involve eating and drinking. There is no other way to celebrate.
Fourthly, people are not used to working in long stretches. They work in spells and every spell deserves a ‘treat’. The world lives on treats, usually sweet treats.
Fifthly (unpopular and downticks), women suffer particularly after having children. Obviously, there are medical reasons for this but I also see groups of young mothers going out for lunch together and comparing babies. The mothers will then take the baby to visit other family members and have a snack or biscuit in the kitchen while they discuss the babies. This period after giving birth is deadly for women if they don’t want to put weight on.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

The growth in girth has proceeded in lock step with the growth in abrogating responsibility. We live in freer times than ever before, and it seems that much of that latitude has been used to rebuild our cages and deny self-efficacy.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

There’s something in that. We are so comfortable with being victims now, it seems.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

Probably we always were – at least many have noted a fear of freedom. For example, Erich Fromm:

As ‘freedom from’ is not an experience we enjoy in itself, Fromm suggests that many people, rather than using it successfully, attempt to minimise its negative effects by developing thoughts and behaviours that provide some form of security. These are as follows:
Authoritarianism: Fromm characterises the authoritarian personality as containing both sadistic and masochistic elements. The authoritarian wishes to gain control over other people in a bid to impose some kind of order on the world, but also wishes to submit to the control of some superior force which may come in the guise of a person or an abstract idea.Destructiveness: Although this bears a similarity to sadism, Fromm argues that the sadist wishes to gain control over something. A destructive personality wishes to destroy something it cannot bring under its control.Conformity: This process is seen when people unconsciously incorporate the normative beliefs and thought processes of their society and experience them as their own. This allows them to avoid genuine free thinking, which is likely to provoke anxiety.
Just yesterday I heard Andrew Sullivan lamenting that whilst Gay people fought for freedom (for themselves), trans activists are fighting for control over others.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Hilary Easton

Probably we always were – at least many have noted a fear of freedom. For example, Erich Fromm:

As ‘freedom from’ is not an experience we enjoy in itself, Fromm suggests that many people, rather than using it successfully, attempt to minimise its negative effects by developing thoughts and behaviours that provide some form of security. These are as follows:
Authoritarianism: Fromm characterises the authoritarian personality as containing both sadistic and masochistic elements. The authoritarian wishes to gain control over other people in a bid to impose some kind of order on the world, but also wishes to submit to the control of some superior force which may come in the guise of a person or an abstract idea.Destructiveness: Although this bears a similarity to sadism, Fromm argues that the sadist wishes to gain control over something. A destructive personality wishes to destroy something it cannot bring under its control.Conformity: This process is seen when people unconsciously incorporate the normative beliefs and thought processes of their society and experience them as their own. This allows them to avoid genuine free thinking, which is likely to provoke anxiety.
Just yesterday I heard Andrew Sullivan lamenting that whilst Gay people fought for freedom (for themselves), trans activists are fighting for control over others.