Government healthy eating guidelines have fat chance of making an impact

The Good Life Letter

Sunday 8th January  2012

Our nationís health is in a shocking state and Government healthy eating incentives are doing little to help our waist-lines.

A recent report published by the Department of Health states that 24% of all women and 22% of all men in the UK are obese.

Worryingly, it predicts that 90% of our children will be affected by 2050 at the current rate of Ďexpansioní!

But what does this actually mean?

First of all what qualifies a person to be considered as obese?

The NHS, in common with other health agencies labels the obese as people who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 30.

Now Iím not sure about you, but this doesnít mean a great deal to me Ė even with the helpful calculators they provide on their website.

The problem is weíre in denial. We all know when someone is too fat but weíre too polite to say and we certainly know when weíre heavier as our clothes donít fit but weíre too embarrassed to admit it to ourselves.

The BMI is only an indicative measurement based upon your mass in kg divided by the square of your height in metres. What it doesnít do is take account of your makeup.

I donít mean the thickness of your eyeliner, Iím talking about the amount of bone & muscle you have.

For example, you will have seen the powerfully athletic form of a professional rugby player (if youíre anything like Lara you might be caught taking TOO much interest in photographs in the newspaper!)

Well, most of those lads would fall into the overweight, if not the obese category on the BMI scale yet theyíre actually strong, fit young men.

You see the problem is that muscle is much denser than fat, so even though the likes of George North is as fit as a butchers dog the muscle

bulk in his thighs weighs as much as a big old spare tyre around his middle.

I donít know for sure but Iíll wager he has a BMI of between 25 and 30, and there is no way that he is overweight is there?

Why your tape measure is a better indicator than the BMI scale

It has always been my contention that we need nothing more sophisticated to judge the amount of fat in the body than a tape measure.

And Iím not alone in this. Just take a look what Dr. David Haslam, a GP and chair of the National Obesity Forum has to say:

"Measuring waist circumference can help identify patients at higher risk of these problems. Yet surveys we have carried out show that many people, including some doctors, are unaware that this measurement is a good health predictor."

As a rule of thumb, a waist measurement of over 40 inches (102cm) for a man, or over 35 inches (88cm) for a woman is a sign that you are at a heightened risk of cardio-vascular problems.

That seems simple enough doesnít it?

Are you up for Ready, Steady, Slim?

The reason why all this is in the news again is all down to Ainsley Harriott.

You know the over jovial chappie from the telly who does the Ready, Steady, Cook programme.

Well it appears that our Government has been reading all that I have been saying for the past six years and want to help the country eat more healthily.

Along with the new year we get a new healthy food campaign, just like last year... and the one before that!

This time they have got the smiling chef to publish a cook book of healthy food recipes [(wonder where he got that idea!)]

Along with this they claim to have a scheme to guarantee that the fresh ingredients will be available at discounted prices in the supermarkets.

Why the Governmentís new healthy eating scheme is flawed

When I read this I began to think they had finally done what they should be doing Ė making the supermarkets stock seasonal food at low prices.

But no, sadly they havenít the guts to do that.

Rather than getting the big boys to offer good locally sourced produce at competitive prices instead of nasty ready meals in the freezer cabinets they have taken a more cowardly approach.

What they have done is allow three small chains to advertise themselves on the back of the campaign, without saying exactly how they are going to make the scheme work.

If the Government is really serious about getting us to buy, prepare and eat healthier foods it really has got to be a little more demanding of the food manufacturers and retailers.

Ban advertising on junk food, open up more opportunities for exercise and educate our kids in the skills of food preparation is all that is needed. (Maybe I should run for PM!)

The problem is that they would lose party donations from big businesses, risk the wrath of voters by decrying McDonalds and PepsiCo and have to spend money putting good cooks back into schools.

Basically, we canít expect our beloved leaders to be turkeys voting for Christmas.

Start your own campaign for better food 

We do have some influence though, especially over our own lives and families.

I have always included my kids in the process of sourcing and preparing their food, in fact it is a delight for all of us to grow a few of our own vegetables at home.

When we need to buy stuff I take them along to help me choose which cut of meat, piece of fish or fresh cauliflower to purchase because this helps them connect with where their food comes from.

Likewise, they are no strangers to the kitchen and act as my sous chefs in preparing and tasting the food as it cooks.

Please donít get me wrong, I am not trying to paint a picture of bliss (our house is far from a health commune I assure you) and we do occasionally have a take away or a meal out.

But the point Iím trying to make is that changing our national approach to health has to begin at home, and we need to devote a little of ourselves to [getting fresh seasonal dishes on the table.]

If we keep looking to our Government, food giants or retail megastores to help us out, it wonít be long before we snap the tape measure!

Yours, as always





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