Our health: Are we a nation addicted to excess?

It’s time for each of us to take control of our own health and weight, but can we control our excesses? Too much food. Too much snacking. Too many soft drinks and energy drinks. Too many coffee-shop visits. Too much convenience food. Too many take-aways. Too much alcohol. Too much sitting around – at work, in the car, in front of the TV, computer or games console.

I recently came across an opinion piece regarding obesity written in 2004. The author, Janet Street-Porter, thought that Britain as a nation was addicted to excess. Apparently Tessa Jowell MP had asked advertising executives to encourage consumers to eat a balanced diet and to promote “everything in moderation” (presumably the advertising executives worked for large companies producing all manner of calorie-laden products). The author opined that Britain is not a nation where people are the slightest bit interested in moderation, that nowhere is the addiction to excess more apparent than in the area of eating and that the idea that as a nation we would start to eat sensibly and “in moderation” was doomed; she concluded that  that there should be tough measures to deal with the public health crisis that was obesity.

Public health in 2015 

In 2015 the foods we eat (and the way we eat) continues to contribute to poor health, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. More than half of the adult population is now overweight or obese and there is no indication that the situation is likely to improve anytime soon. So where are the ‘tough measures’ required to overcome this public health crisis?

The obesity epidemic, affecting many people simultaneously and continuing to spread throughout our communities, cannot be contained through government efforts. In the last 10 years there have been countless reports and recommendations written and initiatives instigated, all aimed at containing and reversing the obesity epidemic but these seem to have made little impact.

Recently ‘public health’ in the UK was off-loaded to local councils who were asked to manage all public health issues according to the needs of their local population. So ‘stop eating kebabs’ competes for funding alongside ‘stop smoking’, ‘containing the spread of diseases in schools’ and many other public health issues. How much attention do you think that preventative healthy eating is really receiving? Do you recall the ‘Responsibility deal’, an attempt to get manufacturers to make healthier foods for us all (voluntarily)? It was concluded recently that mandatory guidelines for food manufacturers may be required. Oh, you think?

It’s time to take control

The government has not been able to implement a coherent policy to deal with obesity because there are so many factors contributing to the nation’s growing waistline – convenience, excess, wealth, changing family lifestyles and the media all play a part in turning us into the fat man of Europe (Careless eating costs lives).

When it comes to food and activity more than half of the population ‘could do better’. It is time to choose healthier foods for our families. It is time for more of us to become familiar with the benefits of eating a range of nutrients that are required for a long, healthy and enjoyable life. It is time to be more active and appreciate having a strong and capable body that can walk up a hill or run around the park with the kids and grandkids.

Most of us know that obesity and related diseases cost the NHS billions of pounds every year. That means it costs us, the taxpayers, billions of pounds every year. But more than that…it is costing many of us a chance to spend time with our families and friends. Obesity can contribute to mobility problems and has been linked with depression. In short, it can suck the joy out of life for many people.

It’s time to take control of our own health and think about our excesses. If we don’t I think we will be waiting a long time for government policy to make us healthier and, perhaps, happier.


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