Understanding Obesity – Why it’s essential to include those of us who have been obese in finding the solutions
Today’s news is dominated by the obesity debate. Researchers reporting in The Lancet are calling for Government action – including taxing junk food. About time – thank God we finally have some research which doesn’t think it’s just down to blaming people who struggle with their weight. This is a real opportunity to hear the voice of those of us who have ourselves been overweight and have found ways to overcome it.
I know all about this given I used to be a size 22 but have maintained at a size 10 for over 3 years now. I know that the biggest factor has been my own self determination and complete desire to not be over weight again. But since day one I have felt that society and our institutions have made it really hard for me:
- Everywhere you turn there is food, and generally it’s high fat/high sugar comfort food. At work or get togethers you go to meeting and there are cakes and biscuits; rarely fruit, or something like veg sticks with healthy dips. We all need to change so we don’t think it’s a treat to offer people obesity causing food. Like many overweight people I cannot resist – so please, don’t tempt me all the time!
- It’s an outrage that processed food and junk food, full of rubbish that our body cannot digest and therefore turns to fat quicker, is cheaper than organic food which is good for our bodies, less likely to turn to fat, and is better for our economy and land.
- Over the years when I was fat the medics just used to tell me to lose weight. I didn’t get any real help from the NHS, just lectures – my doctors surgery even wanted to charge me to do a medical report to say I was OK to go on the Lighterlife diet! I was lucky and could afford to do Lighterlife and so had a year where I was supported to come to terms with my relationship with food through its counselling. One woman in my group had to drop out because she couldn’t afford it. This kind of counselling needs to be available to all and diets like this funded by the NHS. It’s far cheaper than the cost of treating obesity related diseases and far cheaper than weight loss surgery.
- This is because obesity is not just about the food we eat. We have to get to grips with the psychological reasons why people put on weight. For so many of us, our weight is related to self esteem and how we feel about ourselves. When I was fat I was so overwhelmed by how let down I felt by life and my body if people had a go at me about it then that just made me feel worse – and then even less able to deal with it. We have to stop blaming and stigmatising people and start understanding more.
- We don’t structure society to help us being able to eat well. How many people gobble a quick lunch whilst working, eating sugary snacks to get us through long working hours. How many families are able to sit down to eat a meal together each day? Life has become so busy we try to just fit in food in between everything else. How many people know how to cook? Basic life skills and yet we don’t have them. I’ve been looking at some cooking courses at local colleges yet they cost quite a bit of money….
I could go on …..
Plus, there is virtually no information dedicated solely to how you keep weight off. I had to find it out for myself. That’s why I’m now sharing what I know.
Joining the debate – where are our voices?
This morning I was lucky to get on the Radio 5 Live ‘Your Call’ phone in.
Someone asked me why overweight people simply just don’t eat so much. I know that sounds easy and straightforward to people who have never struggled with their weight but I can tell you as someone who has it’s not that straight forward. I don’t have a ‘off switch’ from food I like. I wish I did, but I don’t.
You see this is just one really good illustration why I believe people like me have to be at the heart of the debate about how we deal with obesity. I know what it’s like, and I know what took me there. I don’t judge people who are overweight but I know it’s possible to change and to keep weight off.
I hope that as well as listening to The Lancet, policy makers start listening to people like me to see if together we can find the solutions to this very complex problem.