David Cameron’s latest policy idea – demanding obese people accept help to lose weight or risk losing benefits – may be a great sound bite, and a distraction from the HSBC scandal, but it’s little more than a media puff of empty calories.
Let’s start where Cameron starts: nobody likes fat and lazy people. We’ve had enough of them. We all know them. They live down the road; we see them in the shops and the pubs or in their front rooms – lounging around all day, enjoying the life of Riley – at our expense. There are too many of them – wasterals – and so we have to penalise them.
So vexed are the Tories about fat people that last October Ian Duncan Smith was considering putting fat claimants on liquid diets – I kid you not!
These are classic bully tactics: take a group perceived to be unpopular, single them out, and pick on them. Then, usefully, we can divide and rule into the deserving and the underserving. Because, let’s face, fat people are not deserving. They’ve only themselves to blame. I know – I read that on the back of a cornflake box, I think
The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) keeps yearly records of the number of obese people claiming. According to government figures released by the DWP last month, there were a total of just 1,540 people claiming employment support allowance on the basis of obesity last year. That’s not a typo, that’s the figure: 1,540. (Reference: article from politics.co.uk)
A further 240 obese people claimed incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance. So that’s a grand total of 1780 claimants, or a whopping 0.002% of the UK population.
Cameron’s policy has shamelessly revealed his and his government’s prejudice and we are all being invited to join in.
No doubt David Cameron will be able to find a slimming organisation to ‘help’ endorse his policy. But whether it will work is another matter. Fact: 97% of diets fail long term.
Imagine every time you see a doctor or nurse (for whatever reason) they mention your weight – as if you’ve never thought about it yourself. Read this woman’s experience from The British Medical Journal (http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.g6845) who says, ‘….. my GP—like many other people in the world—sees me as a fat person first, and an individual second. It makes me feel like a problem to be solved—something unpleasant that needs to be eliminated”.
People are fat for a variety of reasons: eating habits, activity levels, genes, metabolism, or perhaps, like me, and that woman, we were just born this way.
If it were that easy to sustain weight loss who in these thin obsessed days and in their right minds wouldn’t? Who would open themselves up for bullying and prejudice when all they had to do was ‘drop a few pounds’?
Have you every wondered why many fat people are poor? Well, they find it harder to get jobs for a start, (sizeism is the last acceptable prejudice), and nutritious, healthy food is expensive.
Who would choose cheapo sausages and burgers – full of saturated fat, high in salt and additives – above a nice piece of fresh haddock, a free range chicken and some fresh, organic vegetables?
There are three main reasons for food poverty: lack of money, poor information and ‘food deserts’ – poor people living in areas where shopping choices are limited and transport costs are high.
In a nation of 60 million, 1780 is a miniscule drop in the ocean, but is useful to make headlines and reinforce prejudice – when so many of us have negative body image and in this culture there is no escape for anyone – even a size 10 woman is likely to be watching every morsel she puts in her mouth.
Which is where fat people are very useful – in helping us feel a little better about ourselves. When you don’t feel good about yourself, it can help to look down on the fatties.
You notice none of this has much to do with health – physical or mental. I prefer a different approach: health at every size (and stage of life). It’s teaching children to respect and value themselves and others, to learn to cook and to be healthy and active (even if useless at sport). It means stronger controls on the food processing industry. Fit gyms in the park, walking buses, health walks… and bottom line, self-acceptance.
In summary, support people to be healthy and their diet/weight will look after itself – because we all deserve much better.