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Dispatch III — UK Weighs In On Obesity

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, August 30, 2006

In the old days, you could at least run into London and either do some business, visit with friends, shop or sightsee. But with the security issues, going back through security can be such a hassle you don’t even want to bother.

It also would be nice to take a shower, and shower facilities are available. But with the limits on carry-on, you can’t fit a change of clothes, especially if you need a laptop, cell phone and some business papers.

So I killed a day in the British Airways lounge where, among other things, they have plenty of British papers. I thought it would be interesting to go through them all and see what items are of interest to our business. We’ll run some from time to time:

The Guardian ran a major focus on the “Obesity Epidemic”. The report consists of three separate articles. The first explains that a group of “health campaigners” is leading a fight to get advertisements for “junk food” banned before 9:00pm. There is mention of a report, “Forecasting Obesity to 2010”, which predicts that one in three men would be obese by 2010, as would three out of four women.

The article is filled with health advocates pushing for — with government approval — a voluntary code for advertisers to be drawn up, one which could become mandatory if the volunteer program wasn’t satisfactory. But the government doesn’t like a mandatory ban. A great quote from Patricia Hewitt, Britain’s Health Secretary:

“We’ve already stepped in, but there’s only so much the government can do. People need to want to change their lifestyles and take responsibility for their health.”

The Pundit agrees with the Minister, but finds the whole article bizarre. At no point does the reporter seem to ask anyone if there is the slightest scintilla of evidence that banning ads of junk food before 9:00pm would reduce obesity in children or anyone else.

A second piece in The Guardian’s coverage is a Fashion piece that focuses on the move by retailers and manufacturers of women’s clothing to feature plus sizes in their lineups. The piece mentions that from the 1950’s to 2002, the British woman has gained almost 7 pounds, 2.5 inches around the hips and 7 inches around the waist.

A similar trend for men is expected to result in similar changes there.

The article is fair enough, but misses the more interesting story: Manufacturers and retailers who keep the same sizes but secretly increase the actual width of the clothes — thus allowing people to gain weight without having to buy larger sizes.

The final piece in The Guardian’s Obesity coverage is a report on a town by the name of Bradford, which Men’s Health magazine named Britain’s fattest city. There is a lot of psychobabble: “The socio-economic state of a large city which suffered industrial decline is an important context…” and reports on various efforts being made to reverse the situation.

What really comes across is how incredibly lame any of the responses are. They talk about having general practitioners “prescribe” walks and subsidizing the purchase of home gym equipment. Considering how much home exercise equipment that sits idle, I highly doubt that subsidized exercise equipment will do much good at all.

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