Monday, 28 May 2018

Being “obesist”? Perhaps!

In one of the newspaper magazine sections this weekend there was an interview with Jane Fonda. At the age of eighty she is looking rather fabulous. She is probably one of the best arguments for starting to exercise young and keeping up the fitness regime. All the twenty-somethings (including our granddaughter) who think they can put off exercising until they are older, should look at Jane Fonda and think again.

In my twenties I bought her workout book. Together with a book on yoga it made up what was probably my fitness bible at the time. I no longer have it. It made its way to a charity shop during one of my periodic clear-outs. If I still had it, I expect it would be worth something now. In fact, quite a lot of our ancient books might well be worth money as period pieces now.

Jane Fonda’s photo on the front of the magazine is in profile, possibly because that is a good way to disguise any incipient droopiness. She looks pretty taut, no sign of any chicken skin just under the chin. Mind you, she admits in the interview to having had facelifts - for professional reasons, she explains. “They bought me an extra ten years.” Anyway, it seems to have been well done and probably not too excessively. There are people who look as though they have been seriously mangled in the process. 

Exercise and getting very actively involved in political causes seem to be the secret of her success. 

Then this morning I saw a headline that made me smile: “Obese people should start work later to ease rush hour anxiety, government adviser says.”

And he was perfectly serious.

It seems that Britain’s obesity problem is the worst in Western Europe. Not only that, but it is expected that the number of people in England, Wales and Scotland diagnosed as obese will double by 2035! Consequently, we should now begin to regard obesity as true disability and overweight employees should be offered flexible starts and should have the right to sue employers if they are not offered jobs or promotions because of their weight. “Some people say that obesity is the last characteristic that it’s still socially acceptable to make fun of. There is a widespread belief among doctors, employers and society that obesity is self-inflicted and is a lifestyle choice,” explained Professor Stephan Bevan, of the Institute for Employment Studies. “They don’t believe making adjustments for people with obesity is as important or deserved as someone with what they regard as a ‘proper disability’.”

Well, okay, there are some people who have physical conditions that make them put on weight but that is not the case for everyone, not even for the majority. And really, would it not be better to continue to combat obesity rather than pander to it.

Other people see it my way as well. Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said, “Being fat is not a disability and the majority of people get to work by car so it is difficult to see why obese people should be given an extra hour to arrive. If obese people are to be given special privileges, should we not also give special privileges to smokers, alcoholics and compulsive gamblers? Where does it end?”

Quite so!

Britain might be the fattest country of Western Europe but statistics show that other places are catching up. The much-vaunted healthy Mediterranean diet had been coming in for some stick lately as it turns out that places like Spain, Italy and Greece are now seeing an increase in the number of obese children.

A number of factors come into play here. More working mothers have less time to prepare traditional Mediterranean dishes and rely much more on fast food. Youngsters prefer fast food. (I can vouch for the latter. Just over ten years ago I accompanied a group of sixth form students from Salford on an exchange to La Coruña on an exchange holiday. On one of our excursions the Spanish staff wanted everyone to go to a tapas to sample regional delicacies. The Spanish students all refused point blank and took their young English guests off to the nearest McDonald’s for burgers and chips. Enough said!) And then there is the exercise factor - or rather, the lack of exercise in our busy modern life! 

Which brings me back to Jane Fonda and her workout books.

 Of course, I might be completely wrong in all of this. Perhaps it is all down to the “obesogens” I read, and ranted, about recently.

Or, while we are inventing words based on “obese”, maybe I am just “obesist”!

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