Spotlight On: Scotland’s Obesity Epidemic – Who is Really to Blame?

By Émer O’Toole

Recently, there has been a sizeable backlash on the health food industry. Almost half of Scots have admitted that they cannot afford to eat healthily; 10 per cent of Scots surveyed claimed that preparing healthy food takes too long; and the same number revealed that they do not even know how to eat healthily. It is unsurprising then that, come January, thousands of people wanting to get rid of their expanding waistlines fall for the claims of the latest weight loss craze.

The most notable of these fad diets as of late has been the 5:2 diet which involves severe calorific restriction for two non-consecutive days per week and regular eating the other five days. Inevitably, dieters have a hard time committing to fad diets since the very notion that you are on a diet suggests that you will abandon said diet eventually. In other words, the pounds will pile on twice as fast after the diet ends. Are diets that offer no long-term solution to weight loss even worth the effort in the first place?

It has been suggested that the Government plays a significant role in the rising obesity epidemic. Obesity experts state that a 20-30 per cent reduction in sugar over time will lower our calorie intake by around 100 calories per day- and even more than that for individuals who consume vast quantities of sugar. Kellog’s Cornflakes contain 60 per cent less salt than they used to and people have failed to notice. These simple actions could possibly prevent the 2007 prediction that over half of Britain will be obese by 2050 if sufficient action does not take place.

Despite the great lengths the Government and food industry is going to promote healthy eating, people still seem to believe that we are being forced to make the wrong choice. Nearly half of the nation suggested that fast food and fizzy drinks companies should be forbidden from sponsoring high profile events. 45 per cent – the highest number in the UK – said that school meals need to be regulated as soon as possible.

These findings were discovered by UK health charity Nuffield Health, who questioned 3,100 British adults in support of National Obesity Awareness Week.

Bethany Aitken, Expert in Obesity Management at Nuffield Health Glasgow Hospital suggested that we need to make better choices when it comes to healthy eating: “if we continue in this way we are heading for not only an obese population of children and adults, but a chronically ill population. The key to success is not just dieting, it is long-term lifestyle changes; we need to focus on changing the obsessive relationship that people have with food.”

Does this so-called ‘obsessive relationship’ stem from the food industry itself? Its messages employ an all-or-nothing attitude, particularly the ones aimed at women: we should either view our bodies as temples or indulge our ‘naughty’ appetite. However, over a third of Scots have never attempted to lose weight. Almost two thirds of Scots surveyed were overweight – with a Body Mass Index of over 25 – which significantly increases the tolls of obesity related health issues. In saying this, BMI is not necessarily a helpful indicator of obesity since it does not take muscle mass into account.

The truth is that there is no magic solution to lose weight. It is disappointing that so many of us believe that since unhealthy food is the cheaper option, it is also the best option. Eating healthily requires effort and planning. Both of which, Scots seem unwilling to do. The trick is to eat less and move more. It’s that easy and yet it’s that hard.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);