The weight debate

Why are children getting fatter? MP Boris Johnson, writing in
The Daily Telegraph last week, laments the use of words
like “epidemic” to describe the increase in obesity. Johnson, a
self-confessed glutton, believes that the more ministers use this
sort of language “the more the fatties will think of themselves as
victims, and the further we will drift from any concept of personal

But as our cover feature shows, overweight children and young
people have such a strong sense of personal responsibility for
their shape that they hide themselves away in self-disgust. The
evidence is that admonishing children to change their diet is
counter-productive – most children already know which foods are
healthy and which are not. Diets create a misery-inducing cycle of
restraint and bingeing.

Now, government is taking steps to improve children’s nutrition by
providing fruit in schools. New proposals to slap extra taxes on
fatty foods are also being considered.

But while diet is important children also need to be encouraged to
be more physically active. Sports, dancing and PE lessons at school
are important. But we also need to create a culture in which
children are encouraged to spend less time at home in front of a
screen, and more time out and about using public spaces such as
parks. Instead we are suspicious and disapproving of children
playing outside if they haven’t got an adult in tow. Groups of
teenagers can now be dispersed and sent home by the police without
any reason. Home, away from the entertaining company of their
mates, to the telly, or the PC, with a couple of packets of crisps
to cheer them up.

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