My View, Peter Burrows - Obesity needs tackling

Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.

A few weeks ago the “Dragons Den” entrepreneurs were offered a stake in a company called “Fat Lad at the Back”, a range of designer cycling wear for the fuller figured person.

It made good TVn viewing though the “Dragons” decided against investing - primarily because of the negative brand image. The brand name conjured up some humour at first, but as the “Dragons” recognised it implied negative criticism of the larger person. I agree with their decision whilst wishing the company every success. The range of clothing was extremely good; it was the name and its inferences that were wrong.

I was once a “fat lad at the back”. Up to my early teens I was overweight which resulted in never being picked for the football or cricket team, always coming last at cross country running, being bullied and never being able to wear the latest fashions. Being large had, in my own experience as a child, a negative psychological impact which wasn’t good and even now I’m probably overly conscious of weight issues, though thankfully there have been no long term ill effects.

In today’s language I would have been described as obese. This is a serious issue for society and we constantly read reports warning against the long term impact of obesity on health and mental well-being. There have even been reports identifying South Yorkshire as one of the most critical areas for this problem. Only two weeks ago health leaders were calling for an emergency taskforce to be set up to tackle childhood obesity in England. The open letter states “An entire generation is being destroyed by a diet of junk food and sugary drinks”. It’s estimated that around one in three children under 15 and one in four adults are overweight and the UK has higher levels of obesity and overweight people than anywhere in Western Europe except for Iceland and Malta. There’s no doubt that this issue needs addressing as a matter of urgency for those who have no underlying health issues that contribute to weight gain. The experts tell us that there are easy ways to address the problem such as eating a balanced, calorie-controlled diet - though not easy if you’re on low income or unemployed. They advise that you take more exercise such as walking, jogging or swimming. Even eating slowly and avoiding situations where you will be tempted to overeat is recommend. If lifestyle changes don’t help medication and surgery may be an option for some.

How we tackle the issue in our own life is a personal and individual matter to be discussed with medical experts and others keen to help and support. I have no expertise or qualifications for writing about this subject but I know it needs tackling with urgency. I write however, in the hope that in the midst of the media frenzy we’ll learn to be more sympathetic in speaking about the issues - in what we say and how we say things to those already feeling vulnerable and at risk. When we get it wrong that has a negative and damaging impact that can last a lifetime. It adds to the pressures and health issues that many obese people are already under and they could well do without.

* Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster