Junkfood Science: “Aesthetic objections are not the province of government”

January 02, 2008

“Aesthetic objections are not the province of government”

Daniel Hannan has written a hard-hitting Op-Ed in the Telegraph about the obsessions and bullying surrounding fat, “fatism,” and the new government proposal to require people to exercise and lose weight in order to receive medical treatment.

He says he can’t be the only father of little girls who worries that, “even if they never come close to developing an eating disorder, their lives will be poorer if they are constantly made anxious about calorific intake.”

It’s well worth reading in its entirety — skipping, of course, the deluge of what he calls the “lard-bucket” comments that typically follow all such articles:

Fat or thin, it's not the state's business

Yet again, overweight people find themselves surrounded by a baying mob. Force fatties to diet, cry the commentators. Deny them treatment on the NHS! Make them stop smoking! Put them on treadmills! This time, the none-too-trim figure of Gordon Brown is leading the bullies. In order to qualify for treatment from his new “personalised" health service, says the PM, patients might be required to take exercise and lose weight.

He knows how to strum a populist chord, Gordon Brown. Fatism is the great acceptable prejudice of our era. It's odd, really: we are generally encouraged to be non-censorious, to refrain from making people feel bad about themselves. But, when it comes to Body Mass Index, we let rip....

Whitehall and, inevitably, Brussels are now bristling with national plans and targets and bans and task-forces, all designed to combat the "obesity epidemic." But is the premise correct? Pull out a photograph from a hundred years ago. Observe those jowly Edwardians with their glorious facial hair. See how their paunches strain the fabric of their waistcoats. Are we really that much fatter than they were? Or are we simply vainer?...

After all, if we were truly in the grip of an epidemic, life expectancy would not be stubbornly rising. Ah, say the anti-fat lobbyists, but the apocalypse is coming. It may not be upon us yet but, unless we mend our ways - unless, in other words, we give more money to the obesity industry - we are heading for calamity. Sorry, chaps, but I've heard that once too often: CJD, avian flu - the death toll is always scheduled to take place conveniently in the future.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all in favour of people eating their greens and taking exercise. All I'm saying is that it ought not to be the state's responsibility to keep us in shape. What Gordon Brown is suggesting would place an almost arbitrary power to withhold treatment in the hands of NHS administrators. In any other context we should find such a proposal horrifying....

Thanks for the lead Junkscience!

Bookmark and Share