BETTER HEALTH, POSITIVE OR PROBLEMATIC?

Weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all affair.


The Better Health campaign is one of a slew of measures revealed as part of the government’s new strategy to combat obesity in the UK. The plan comes as a ‘wake-up call’ as evidence has started to mount linking carrying excess weight with a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Sixty-three percent of UK adults are currently overweight or obese, with experts warning that having a medically obese BMI can increase your risk of death from the virus by 40%.

For 1.25 million people in the UK suffering from anorexia, which has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, a campaign targeted at weight loss could be devastating. Part of the drive is to include calorie labels on all menus, to help people make ‘healthier’ choices when eating out. But focusing on weight and calorie counting is incredibly destructive for those whose lives are already all-consumed by it.

There is minimal evidence that calorie counting alone has any judicious impact on helping people lose weight. In the short term, counteracting mechanisms actually act to slow metabolism, making it easier to regain the weight after it has been lost.


MACKAYAN: WEIGHT & HEALTH

On the other end of the spectrum, those above a healthy weight who are already condemned, are pressurized and shamed into losing weight, with adverts using terms such as the ‘war on obesity’ and ‘protect the NHS, save lives’. Fear is not a good motivator in promoting health behaviours and fat-shaming word choices like these have no place other than the stigmatizing bin.

There is renewed attention on personal responsibility, but in a lot of cases being overweight is not simply down to an individual’s lack of willpower. Weight is a complex issue, with an abundance of varying factors at play. Genetics, stress, trauma and socioeconomic background greatly influence body mass, with occurrence of obesity highest among those living in the most deprived areas of the UK.

63% of uk adults are overweight or obese

Both people who are over- and underweight, as well as specialists in the field, are calling for the government to take a holistic approach that avoids a psychologically damaging focus on metrics suchlike weight, calorie counting and BMI. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to tackle such a multidimensional and intricate a subject, and it is important to recognise that weight is not a total measure of health.

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