The Doomed War on Fatties

The government's War on Fatties is doomed to failure because it is focused on the wrong issues.

People have poor diets for all sorts of psychological, social and financial reasons, but I have yet to meet anyone who thinks that inactivity and a diet of chocolate bars, crisps and chips is actually good for your health. Yet the government insists that re-education is the solution, and all would be thin if only the fatties would listen to them.

Especially the children — if only the government could get to them before their parents taught them bad habits.

So it becomes another job for schools.

Schools — The Universal Solution

So now children come home from primary school full of the official dogma, pointing out bad foods on their dinner plates, and waving a letter offering detail of the next fitness challenge. Sports days have lost any element of fun and competition, to be replaced by anodyne keep fit activities. Teachers even police lunch boxes to confiscate contraband. Everything in their young lives revolves, now, around their body image and health.

When our TV screens are full of anorexic presenters, and chubby politicians admit to being bulimic, shouldn't we be trying to steer youngsters away from an obsession with healthy living, and towards living their lives?

It Won't Work

Apart from the fitness freaks, people will do what they enjoy and eat what they like. If they enjoy eating good food and can cook it, then a better diet will be the likely outcome. If boys learn to enjoy competetive sports, and are allowed to win and lose, then the will develop character and fitness. And girls should be encouraged to dance, sing, ride if they don't like school team sports. Not for the shallow health benefit and being seen to meet a policy activity target, but because it is good to develop interests beyond the National Curriculum.

Teach children cookery instead of menu planning in Food Technology lessons. Make sports days competetive, teach children how to win and lose gracefully, show them the value of delayed gratification and the value of persistance and extended effort and teamwork.

We are sacrificing all those childhood opportunities, for building resilient and confident characters, on the altar of healthy living.

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