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UK parents 'do not recognise their children are obese' - BBC

Recently published on the BBC News website: Parents 'do not recognise obesity in their children'

Did you know that a healthy 10-year-old's ribs should be clearly visible? Many parents would consider that such a child was quite underweight....
Another reason for the lack of knowledge may be that the media often portrays and highlights extreme cases of child obesity. Most children identified by the National Child Measurement Programme do not look obviously overweight. By comparison to the images shown of very obese children in the media, they look slim.

I think the fact that our Government's top advisor on obesity policy believes a healthy ten year-old should be skeletally thin to the point you can play a tune on their ribcage is frankly terrifying and explains much about the British obsession with fat kids, not to mention the exponential rise in body anxieties and EDs. If a concave stomach is now the criteria for avoiding being labelled 'overweight' then no wonder the rates seem so exaggerated. It doesn't give me much hope for the contents of the forthcoming Obesity White Paper, that's for sure.
There's a good point in here (which has been raised on BFB headless fatty discussions in the past) about the distorted perceptions resulting from the over-use of extreme examples to illustrate media obesity articles. However the suggestion that children who appear thin or 'normal weight' are actually obese under the criteria of the classroom weigh-in regime (and the fact that the UK uses a much stricter definition of 'obesity' than the EU, which it also applies to much younger age groups including infants) demonstrates how the criteria have been manipulated to essentially manufacture a 'problem' out of thin air.
Of course anyone who tries to counter the extremism of the obesity panic merchants with these observations is inevitably derided as a denialist and accused of disregarding the health of The Children. Any flickerings of debate about the validity of weighing children in school or the implications of labelling those who don't 'measure up' are swiftly closed down by an immensely powerful lobby whose assertions are accepted without question at the highest levels of government.
It can surely only be prejudice which prevents some of these increasingly outlandish claims being subjected to the same level of critique as (say) those of climate change, alcohol or passive smoking researchers.

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DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
January 23rd, 2011 | Link | Richie- Just wondering, do

Richie- Just wondering, do you have a link on that upcoming white paper, or is it this one, which was released last month?

richie79's picture
richie79
January 23rd, 2011 | Link | It's called 'Healthy Lives,

It's called 'Healthy Lives, Healthy People' (sound familiar?) and is linked here (mention of a forthcoming policy document on obesity during 'spring 2011' is on p78). And it's really quite worrying from a FA perspective; specifically, the proposal to hand responsibility for public health promotion from the NHS, which although deeply fat-phobic can at least be ignored or circumvented, to even more fat-phobic local authorities (as shown by the LGA's assertion a couple of years ago that 'child obesity' equals parental abuse and legitimate grounds for social services intervention, not to mention BMI restrictions on prospective adoptive / foster parents) who have much greater powers to coerce, intervene, punish and fine.

The budget for this will be ring-fenced, at a time of devastating cuts to other priority areas, and will be backed up by a new national quango 'Public Heath England'. The government insist that the aim will to be to 'nudge' rather than nanny; however many pretty illiberal measures such as prominent calorie counts on menus and health warnings in clothing tags potentially fall under this definition. There's lip service paid to the role played by self-esteem in health outcomes but nothing about fat stigma or shame. And then there are schemes such as rewarding dieters financially which have little effect on 'obesity' rates but generate intense resentment amongst the privileged thin at the 'unfair' misuse of public money. Several councils have already enacted a blanket ban on new food outlets in schools or residential areas on the basis that they encourage 'unhealthy' eating habits; this document hints that this strategy will be rolled out nationwide under a new set of planning policies which officers like myself will be expected to consider when making planning decisions.

Much of their strategy seems to rest on the use of social pressure and 'norms' to 'encourage' fat people to change their lifestyles (mention is even made of the claims that 'obesity' can be spread to thin friends and family members through social interaction). I would suggest that besides having no place in a supposedly fair and tolerant society, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the considerable stigma to which fat people are already subjected (particularly as children) has had little impact on allegedly rising 'obesity' rates. Despite their claims that policy will be 'evidence-based' there's little evidence that they've taken any of the myriad studies which downplay the extent and / or implications of the 'obesity epidemic', nor those which highlight the genetic basis of weight and the futility / risks of deliberate weight loss attempts, into account when choosing to prioritise it as an issue requiring 'action'.

I may be wrong, but the distinct impression I get from reading through this is that despite their pre-election promises to 'roll back the Nanny State', this government is going to ensure they offer fat people even fewer prospects of living peaceful lives free from constant official hectoring and intervention than the last lot, who given that they brought the 'war on fat people' to the UK in the first place, is saying something.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

Moody Blue's picture
Moody Blue
January 28th, 2011 | Link | If an animal,s ribs are

If an animal's ribs are visible, their owners can be hauled into court for animal cruelty and neglect...

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