IN his fascinating book Unnatural Causes, forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd observes how, over the years, the dead bodies he examines have changed.
One of the most noticeable is the rapid increase in body fat.
Obesity levels are rising at such a rate that a ‘timebomb has exploded’ for our health services[/caption]
He says: “Unless a patient is homeless or has died of cancer or is so old or poor they could not eat, few are the same shape as the dead of the 1980s when I started practising.
“Looking back at forensic photos from that era I am astonished at how thinness was then the norm.”
Fast-forward just three decades and obesity levels are now rising at such a rate that one expert says the “timebomb has exploded” for our health services.
Consequently, the NHS is reportedly bracing itself for soaring levels of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart and liver disease.
‘FAT SHAMING COMEBACK’
For a taster of what’s potentially to come, let’s cross the Pond to America, where talk-show host Bill Maher had this to say: “In August, 53 Americans died from mass shootings. Terrible, right? Do you know how many died from obesity? Forty-thousand.”
A shocking statistic indeed and it’s indisputable that it should be highlighted and widely debated.
But he then said this: “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end. It needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good.
“We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.”
Meaning that, fuelled by Brit James Corden’s robust response on his chat show, Maher’s call to “fat-shame” became the debate and smothered the real issue of how supposedly developed nations can tackle this spiralling health crisis.
We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.
Fat shaming isn’t the solution, although in the 2015 case of a mother ordering takeaways for her hospitalised 13-year-old, I could possibly make an exception.
The Manchester-based mother, whose child later died from “a heart condition . . . exacerbated by their morbid obesity”, had persistently ignored healthy eating advice and failed to bring the child to various health appointments.
Shame on her.
But in the majority of cases, finger- pointing and name-calling gets us nowhere.
However, equally, we shouldn’t attempt to normalise obesity for fear of causing offence.
American chat show host Bill Maher was right that we need to take the obesity crisis more seriously, but fat-shaming is not the way[/caption]
Brit James Corden was right in saying that it’s not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat[/caption]
If a four-year-old child is already clinically obese by the time they start school, then — medical issues aside — it’s because, at home, they’re being fed the wrong food and not getting enough exercise.
Those in positions of authority — teachers, doctors etc — must be allowed to tackle it with impunity and, hopefully, support the child’s family to implement a change in lifestyle that will benefit all concerned.
As Corden says: “We get it. We know being overweight isn’t good for us and I’ve struggled my entire life with trying to manage my weight and I suck at it.”
Because it’s not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat.
So support and encouragement has to be the answer, together with a collective, open and ongoing conversation about how society as a whole can help.
Interestingly, the tiny South Pacific island of Naura is currently classed as the most obese nation in the world, with 61 per cent of its 10,756 population having a BMI higher than 30.
It’s not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat.
According to one report, this is “possibly attributed to Western settlers who taught them to fry their food and import less healthy food, abandoning their tradition cultivation, preparation and preserving skills”.
In short, the human body is designed to live off the land and move around without the aid of transport, but “modern life” means we’re eating far too much processed food and being more sedentary as we’re ferried from A to B.
But even though the food industry must take its fair share of blame, it’s also the case that certain healthier alternatives introduced by KFC, among others, failed due to lack of interest from customers.
So, contrary to Maher’s claim about smoking and seat belts, it wasn’t shame that prompted change, it was the slow drip of education and a change in laws — and, ultimately, that’s the route we should take in tackling this health crisis too.
In the meantime, we shouldn’t demonise obesity, but nor should we normalise it either.
I’m all for “body positivity” but not if it’s masking an underlying health time-bomb.
What we should be normalising, and indeed celebrating, is that everyone — whatever their body shape — should eat healthily and get fitter.
A NEW poll says that while two-thirds of men would respond to a message from outer space, less than half of women would be inclined to do so.
It’s no surprise that men would be more inclined to respond to a message from outer space, given that they probably picture Zoe Saldana in Avatar[/caption]
Probably because men think that aliens look like Zoe Saldana in Avatar.
Whereas we suspect they are more likely to resemble Edgar the Bug from Men In Black.
Politics has no place
THE Guardian has rightly deleted its breathtakingly insensitive online editorial suggesting that David Cameron’s distress at the death of his severely disabled son Ivan was “privileged pain”.
Some things are off-limits when it comes to making a political point and that’s indisputably one of them.
Some things are off-limits when it comes to making a political point – the unbearable death of a child is definitely one of them[/caption]
In his newly released memoir, the former PM describes six-year-old Ivan’s death as “a torture that I can hardly bear to remember”.
A harsh reality that anyone who has lost a child will recognise.
I was the first journalist to interview him after the death of Ivan in 2009 and we had to stop several times while he regained his composure.
His grief was unforgiving, painfully raw and messy.
But he soldiered on because – as then-leader of the Conservative Party – he felt he had a job to do.
Whatever your politics, you couldn’t have failed to feel the utmost sympathy for him.
Someone has faith in Britain
A RECORD 86 migrants attempted to cross the Channel on one day last week.
Sources say they’re desperate to reach our shores before we leave the EU.
Well, at least someone has faith in post-Brexit Britain.
Barbie is cash up in smoke
THE Duke and Duchess of Sussex are planning a self-funded barbecue area at their Windsor home because Meghan reportedly feels that the outside is just as important as the inside.
If you hail from balmy LA, perhaps.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are planning to hold a self-funded BBQ as Meghan apparently feels that the outside is just as important as the inside[/caption]
But a Blighty winter will put paid to any outside plans unless, of course, one of those gas-guzzling, eco-unfriendly patio heaters is involved that, presumably, the “woke” Sussexes wouldn’t dream of having.
So chances are their fancy BBQ will end up just like our “turbo” model purchased by The Bloke several years ago.
An abandoned piece of garden furniture with cobwebs in the grill and go-faster stripes of rust.
Sounds like a fine wine
THE makers of some of Italy’s finest wines have removed the word “prosecco” from their labels, saying newer vineyards have cheapened it by cashing in on its popularity.
Instead, they’re referring to it as “Valdobbiadene”.
Try saying that after a couple of, er, proseccos.
Home in on a job
Fadi Fawaz has ranted again about being turfed out of George Michael’s house – getting a job doesn’t seem to be an option[/caption]
GEORGE Michael’s ex-lover Fadi Fawaz has posted yet another online rant about the star.
He says [sic ]: “3 years later and his lawyers still not done anything to sort me out so in last few days I have been sleeping in the street instead of being in my home.”
I suppose getting a job is out of the question?
MOST READ IN OPINION
Living up to the GC
ENTERTAINER Michael Barrymore is to make his TV comeback on Dancing On Ice.
Bosses reportedly feel he will have the same “comic impact” as last year’s novelty contestant Gemma Collins and will “be hilarious on the ice”.
No pressure, Michael.
Stamping out sales
EMPLOYMENT has risen to a record high and those in the building trade are seeing the biggest hike in pay.
Probably because the iniquitous stamp duty rises brought in by George Osborne mean that no one can afford to move house – so they’re building up, out and beneath their existing home.
George Osborne’s stamp duty meant that no one could afford to move, so they built up, out and beneath their existing home[/caption]
THE next generation of breast implants could change shape as we age.
Don’t we already have those?
They deflate and head south.
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