The 5×5 Food Fight

From the Weight Debate archive: Because some things never change.

A few years ago I managed to attend this sold-out event of London-based seminar series 5 x 15, who bring together 5 experts to speak on their specialist topic, each with a limit of 15 minutes.

In the audience that evening I was surrounded by like-minded people, passionate about proper reporting of the issues surrounding obesity.

Thought- provoking, and right on the mark-these are the big points from each food expert:-

The size of the problem

Professor Phillip James from the International Association for the Study of Obesity spoke about the ‘size of the problem’ .

He asked, “Should we be worried?” Yes, because…

  • 1/3 of children are overweight, 1 in 5 are obese.
  • 8% of GNP is currently spent on obesity related conditions.
  • The poorest people are now the fattest.
  • Healthier foods cost 3x more.
  • Educating people is seen as the lowest priority – because it is not seen as being effective.
  • The Government is locked into a ‘mistaken’ belief that it’s all up to the individual, it’s our responsibility. 

A sobering reminder that the “size of the problem” is complicated, and – as I have always said, dictated by economic and social inequalities as well as a lack of political will.

It is easier to blame the individual, but:

It’s Not all your fault

Up next was George Monbiot, “a writer best known for his political and environmental activism.” A lively speaker, clearly committed to his own beliefs, Monbiot told us forcefully:

  • Lack of, and lax, environmental regulation of the farming and dairy industries are to blame for the mess we are in.
  • It is very difficult to lose weight because the body holds on to fat. If you do manage to lose it, the body wants it back – it seeks the equilibrium it once had.
  • Weight stigma allows us to patronise the poor.
  • It’s not accidental that we have put the blame for obesity on the individual. This allows businesses to dodge their responsibility.
  • Fact: People eat the equivalent of USD 20 billion a YEAR in excess calories. This won’t be given up easily by industry.
  • The only way to change is a campaign along the same lines as the anti-tobacco campaign.

Again, the point was made that we lay the blame for those affected by obesity on individuals, when it is clearly not the case.

Nothing about food is rational

Food critic, journalist and author ( who passed away shortly after this event) A.A. Gill started his 15 minutes by asking provacatively: –

“Is anybody sitting next to a fat person? If so, please stand up and point to them.“

I believe he was making a not-so-subtle point that the majority of the audience weren’t fat, before going on to state:

  • “Nothing about food is rational.” Food is emotional and our responses to food are buried in the oldest part of the brain..
  • We all need a TABLE. A table is everything. Eating at table helps to keep us slim.
  • In a recent study blindfolded subjects ate only half the food on their plates. When not blindfolded – they ate all of it.
  • Diets “talk too much about what to eat instead of how to eat.”

Changing how, and why, we eat, he argued, avoids weight gain and the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Drug companies love Type 2 diabetes

So argues Dr. Michael Mosley, TV presenter and author of the mega-bestselling 5:2 Diet. He told us:

  • Drug companies love diabetes; people don’t die straight away, they’re sick for years, and the treatments are extremely profitable.
  • Fact: More limbs are removed due to diabetes then were amputated during the Vietnam War.
  • Fat in the liver has overtaken alcohol as the major cause of liver transplants.
  • Ban sugar.

Do we need more regulation to fight back against increasing levels of obesity? It seems that …

Dog food was more regulated

Passionate as ever, cook, author and food activist Jamie Oliver declared:

  • The NHS is going to fall apart from the cost of treating obesity.
  • We are not in a time of ‘rational’ anything. Self-regulation is ‘bullshit’.
  • We need honesty in food and drink labelling.
  • Only 10 years ago there was more regulation for dog food than children’s food.

When asked, during the Q&A session, what they felt was the most important change to make this is what they said:

  • Clear labelling – Jamie Oliver
  • Effective legislation – George Monbiot
  • Only eat around a table – A.A.Gill
  • A ban on sugar – Michael Mosley

What would you add?

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