Public 'need to be more honest about eating habits'


Dame Sally Davies: "People are not honest with themselves about what they're eating and drinking "

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People need to be more honest about how much they eat and drink if obesity levels are to be cut, ministers say.

The message formed a central theme of the new obesity strategy for England as the government tried to stress the importance of personal responsibility.

In doing so, it rejected calls to introduce legislation to change behaviour, such as a "fat tax".

But the strategy was labelled "pathetic and stupid" by experts, who warned it would do little to solve the problem.

Instead of proposing using regulation, the strategy talked about creating the right environment for individuals to make healthier choices.

This included getting councils to use their powers to encourage more physical activity through schemes such as cycling networks and green spaces.

It also said industry had a role to play and promised to build on the responsibility deal, which was announced at the start of this year and saw private firms sign up to a series of pledges, including introducing calorie counts on menus and reducing salt levels in food.

Reverse the tide

Mr Lansley said: "We have to halt and then reverse the tide of obesity in this country.

"Government has a role to play, but it is clear that we cannot do this alone."

When asked about why the government was not more keen on legislation, he said by working in partnership, more could be achieved faster.

However, he admitted officials would continue to monitor the international evidence where countries were trying tougher legislation.

New daily calorie guidelines

  • Alongside the obesity strategy, ministers also announced new recommended levels of energy intake following a review by advisers.
  • It is the first time for 20 years that they have been changed.
  • Despite calling for people to eat less, the guidelines actually increase the amount people can eat to maintain a healthy weight.
  • For a man of average height, the daily amount has increased from 2,550 calories to 2,605.
  • For women it has increased from 1,940 to 2,079.
  • But before you get too carried away, officials stressed that most people are already eating more than the new guidelines.

More than 60% of adults and 23% of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese in England, making it one of the most overweight nations in Europe.

As part of the strategy, Mr Lansley said the government was looking for rates to start falling by 2020.

To achieve this, individuals need to be honest about what they are eating, Professor Sally Davies, the chief medical officer said.

"It is about what we eat, how we cook it and about portion size."

She said one of the problems was that people were not even honest with themselves about their diets, never mind health professionals.

Figures set out in the strategy suggest that the average adult consumes 10% more calories than they should.

But Professor Philip James, of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, said it was a "stupid" and "pathetic" response to the problem.

"It is not simply a question of personal responsibility. There is an environmental problem in terms of the food system we have."

He went on to say that the junk food industry "manipulated" individuals into consuming their products and that was why legislation was needed.

And Charlie Powell, campaigns director of the Children's Food Campaign, said: "This is a deeply disappointing and utterly inadequate response which represents a squandered opportunity to address the obesity crisis.

"High in rhetoric and lacking in substance, it is nothing less than an abdication of the government's responsibility to protect public health."

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott added: "This is very disappointing. We need to do much more to tackle this problem."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    The government needs to step up & outlaw all the chemicals such as high fructose corn syrup & similar obesity-producing ingredients in our food. It's time the UK government grew a pair & made the food industry only use natural ingredients which our bodies can actually digest ! The food industry gives money to political parties so they get away with this bad behaviour which is making us all obese.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    The government are right on this one. A fat tax gives the message that there is good food and bad food,

    In Denmark they've been banning & taxing "bad" foods for years. Denmark has one of the lowest obesity rates in Western World & its falling still further
    UK hasn't done that & isn't going to & the UK has one of the worst obesity rates in the Western World & its getting worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    Each person has the right to choose whether they wish to be overweight or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    596 rudijay
    Forgot to say about your comment about 'portion sizes being reduced by law'. OK, say this is done and allportion sizes of chips from chip shops are reduced. I would simply buy two portions of chips instead unless of course you outlaw that as well. Who monitors this? This Chip Police?

    Now go to your room and think about what you have said....

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    If you exercise, you will convert the mass your body has stored back to energy, thus your total mass will become less.

    Its not quite that simple, once you've accumulated fat cells you have them for ever, you can make them smaller by eating less & lose mass, as you say, but those emptied fat cells are still there waiting to fill up at the slightest hint of over indulgence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Have cut out sweets and chocolates mainly because they cost money. As a result crave fruit and have lost some weight to the extent that other people have noticed. Best of all though is being able to get up stairs without gasping or breathe.
    The only way to sell diets to people is to convince them it's life enhancing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    I am overweight. I am overweight because I don't do much exercise (a little but probably should do more), live a 2 minute walk away from a sedentary office job and like fine booze which is fattening. I don't put on any weight because I actually eat very well.

    Is that honest enough for you?

    Get out of my life...

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    fat tax - government legislation - more spin, but thats all.
    just try this - go to your local supermarket and try to buy a breakfast cerial without added sugar or salt - check out healthy eating products at the biggest supermarket of the lot - theyve replaced in many products the sugar with sweetners - this is not the fault of consumers, its the fault of the producers who respond to the retailers

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.


    What on earth do you mean sport won't help????

    Truly ridiculous things to say! Yes portion control but of course sport and exercise help. Especially competitive sport as you burn more when you have the motivation of winning.

    Big seat in the corner for you for that doozy!

    Oh and why have to wait 10mins to post, try and have a convo in a bar with one comment every 10mins, useless!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Food is mass, you eat it and your body converts it to energy. It stores excess energy as mass. If you exercise, you will convert the mass your body has stored back to energy, thus your total mass will become less. Also, your body is a complex machine that needs high quality fuel. So if you feed your body with the right fuel and use up all the energy it provides, your mass will remain the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    596 rudijay 'Most Over-weight people are in denial'

    What a load of patronising twaddle! I am overweight and it is not your place or anyone elses to tell me that I am in denial. I am fat because I like chocolate and beer and think exercise is boring and pointless. You probably think I am a bit thick as well but you would be wrong there as well.

    Talk about stereotyping!

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Personally i'm with Sir Mix- A- Lot

    On a more serious note, people who have food issues and live with those who never have had (wife & I) face a conflict of interest when eating together. I feel guilty eating things she shouldn't & she feels guilty for making me choose. We both go to the gym, i am naturally muscular having played sports all my life. She finds it much harder to shift.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Shame that Nick Triggle's report mentions salt levels in report. Obviously, salt is not connected with obesity but it suits the BBC's lamentable approach to the reporting of scientic FACT to include it here.

    BTW, there is also no scientific proof whatsoever that 20th century salt levels in food increase hypertension in people with no previous history but ALL MSM lazily perpetuate this myth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    The government are right on this one. A fat tax gives the message that there is good food and bad food, whereas the message should be that a balanced diet is needed with a wide range of food in the correct proportions (British Dietetic Association). Anyone needing to lose weight should stick to the same proportions but eat smaller amounts of each group. I've lost a stone on this principle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    475.151179 suggests "there is plenty of doubt" that obesity is an alarming problem. I agree in this world we are lied to and misled by media, which is why we have to use our eyes, ears and common sense and I see fat people everywhere I look these days (except in places where they are too fat to sit down like the tube and theatres etc.) We cannot deny we now have a serious problem here in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    I take full responsibility for being overweight, but it isn't easy to lose weight. Healthy food is not as cheap as the more unhealthy options. When you are on a very limited budget, sometimes you have to make choices between eating and paying bills, or eating healthily and not having as much money left. I don't drink or smoke though, and I am on a diet, so I'm doing what I can!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    I get angry at the deliberate,cynical attempts made by many industries including food to turn vulnerable people into addicts caring little about their health or about killing them. I get really really angry about successive governments that call themselves caring pre elections but do nothing post elections to control or manage those who systematically do others harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    The food industry,the alcohol industry, the betting industry, the violence industry, the sex industry and so on and so on. All of them have these qualities in common in Britain. They are driven by greed. They are obsessed with maximising profits. If profits were plowed back into keeeping prices down instead of expanding real estate etc to kill off competition we might have decency in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    Re Hypothyroidism - this does not cause weight gain on its own - family history of it and all thin as rakes
    Hypothyroidism may even be what makes the people with it in your family thin but it also is a major contributory factor in making many people who have it obese. Its a disease which has a huge number of potential & often contradictory symptoms. It also often goes undiagnosed


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