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Fat fight

Gavin Allen | 17:15 UK time, Tuesday, 8 April 2008

I'm fat. Officially.

After three months of pounding the streets and just hours before I set off on the London Marathon, this is slightly disheartening news.

Politics Show logoBut the BBC's fat calculator doesn't lie - and after a rigorous diet of lager, red wine, pot noodles and pork pies (there must be some carb-loading in there somewhere, surely?), I'm officially 25.58 on the Body Mass Index.

That tips me, or heaves me sweatily, into the "overweight" category. Fat, to you and me. And unless I've got very heavy glands, it isn't glandular.

But don't mock just yet - check out your own BMI here first.

The question is what, if anything, to do. And should I be doing it alone? After all, the government's very keen to help. "Tackling obesity" is the war du jour.

There are ministers, taskforces, committees and tsars all sipping tap water and foregoing the biscuit plate as they thrash out solutions to Fat Britain.

But are my love handles - and there's handle room there for a whole lotta lovin' - really a matter for Gordon Brown? Do we really need to be told about fruit and exercise, not curries and pints?

I know it costs the NHS billions every year. I know 90% of my fellow men - assuming I'm still around to be amongst them - will be obese by 2050.

Overweight boyBurgers for kids are a form of child abuse. Every snack bar should have traffic light alert warnings. This is a fat fight to the death. And on, and endlessly on.

But does it all work? And does it even matter?

On the Politics Show this Sunday we'll examine whether the government's right to spend millions of pounds trying to educate the public into eating and living healthily - or whether diet is one choice people should be allowed to make for themselves, regardless of the consequences.

Ultimately, is obesity just not a matter for government? The Health Secretary Alan Johnson will join us to chew the fat with our resident couch-potato Jon Sopel, so let us know what you'd like Jon to ask him.

And don't forget we're on air a bit later this week - 2pm - to give the likes of me plenty of time to trudge round the marathon course.

Now, where's that packet of chocolate hob-nobs?


  • 1.
  • At 12:06 AM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Christine Mitchell wrote:

Let's have a real FITNESS channel on the TV!

At the moment many people are guilty of being couch potatoes - watching non-stop soaps and crime/hospital series, eating their meals in front of the TV.

It would cost effective - people would become fitter and therefore would need less hospital care.

There could be classes of different levels of fitness at different times of the day - a variety of 'teachers' - with the emphasis on FUN.

It makes sense! It would work! Let's not just talk about dealing with obesity, let's have some action - do something to combat it.

  • 2.
  • At 09:47 AM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Phil wrote:

Apparently I'm verging on obese - I have BMI of 29.8. I walk 5 miles a day to/from work, go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week and play football once a week. I would point out that BMI is a very flawed measure, as it takes no account of the lean/fat ratio of the body.

I remember once hearing that practically the entire England Rugby team was considered obese on the BMI scale. Surely with the advent of test-yourself body composition kits from about £10 in pharmacies, we should stop using BMI alone as a measure to condemn people?

  • 3.
  • At 09:48 AM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • rodolfo catacutan wrote:

I think the government should start providing free access in council's gym for everyone . One of the reason why people dont go to the gym its because its expensive and most families in poverty line cant afford it .

  • 4.
  • At 10:17 AM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Adam Walker wrote:

Fitness channels are nothing more than a government myth to try and tick audit boxes.

We need to be a better motivated society. There has never been any quick fix solution in life EVER! When i was 12 i was overweight and had serious eating problems. After a year like this i decided that i would change this and began running, doing push ups and eating more healthily. I am now 18 and through sheer willpower and determination i am at a comfortable 10 and a half stone wiht 60% of my body mass as muscle. I feel fantastic and have never looked back.

People need to get real and realise that the government cannot help you. Obesity is not a medical disorder it's just a lack of discipline. Take responsibilty of your atcions and take control of your life.

Hi Gavin,

The BMI calculator is a load of rubbish frankly.

It takes no account of muscle mass and fitness professionals (like me) have been telling the general public for years.

As a perfect example I knew a gym instructor who wanted to apply to the Police. He was told that he needed a BMI of less than 25 (or something, that’s not the important bit).

The instructor was only 5 ft 3 inches tall, and weighed around 12 stones 7 lbs.

Therefore the BMI scored him as obese. This instructor was an ex gymnast and could hold himself out horizontally and parallel to the ground from a bar fixed to the wall.

He was solid muscle so why use something that is so grossly inaccurate, I’ve never understood it!

As for the government and obesity then I think it does have a certain responsibility and this is because of the drain the people who are obese and/or diabetic (those that have caused this from poor diet not those that are struck down by it from no fault of their own).

We all as tax payers contribute to the NHS, why should I pay for someone who has not got the self control or desire to eat healthily and therefore ‘eats into’ a large proportion of the budget.

If the government did not educate us then I think there could be case for people saying they were ignorant.

If everyone was educated by the government (I don’t think it does that very well anyway) and they still didn’t do anything about it then I think they should be responsible for their own medical costs related to self induced problems.

It’s just my opinion, and why I have clubbed together with 9 other fitness professionals to bring Britain a wellness program that will educate them long term and give them relevant information from ‘in the trenches’ trainers.

Look out for leading Britain to wellness very soon.
Details will be released very soon, check out for more info.


  • 6.
  • At 10:53 AM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Alison C wrote:

I think that the government need to be intereste in obesity for financial reasons.

Large numbers of obese people are going to cost a absolute fortune for the NHS.

Maybe in the future we will not be taxed on earings but on Kilos?

  • 7.
  • At 01:31 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Tim Dennell wrote:

I am seriously lean, no love handles etc. Yet according to the BMI I come in (just) as obese. I’m not convinced of its usefulness.

I do know about the importance of diet, (lots of fibre, fresh fruit and veg, B. Vitamins, Antitoxidants, Omega 3 oils, moderate intake of alcohol) and exercise and I do take these into account when cooking. I also take supplements.

You ask “is government right to spend millions of pounds trying to educate the public into eating and living healthily - or whether diet is one choice people should be allowed to make for themselves, regardless of the consequences.”

The answer is that both will happen regardless. If only because of the costs to the NHS the govt. should try and educate people. But unless we return to wartime rationing and an ethos of grow your own the govt. can’t force people to eat what is considered the most healthy diet.

From observational evidence I’d say people become more diet conscious as they get older and the educated, working middle classes show most signs of taking the message on board and eating healthily. I’m impressed and a little surprised at how many salad and fruit lunches I now see in the office I work in.

Also that class and income play a part. Supermarket salad lunches aren’t cheap and even if you do get the message, being able to afford more than the Tesco basics range plays a part, as does ingrained eating habits. It’ll be the ‘Shameless’ estates where the message is most likely to fall on deaf ears. Plus ca change.

  • 8.
  • At 05:11 PM on 09 Apr 2008,
  • Brian Eggleston wrote:

The Government does have a responsibility to tackle public health issues, whether it is alcohol or drug abuse, smoking or obesity - that's why we have a Health Department.

I drink and I smoke but I don’t complain about the high levels of tax on booze or the ban on smoking, so why should overweight people complain if the Government introduces measures to encourage people to lose weight?

I´m fat and I´m happy with it. I think if the government start's providing free access in council's gym for everyone I wouldn´t go ever

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