Well, there’s a surprise. Ambulance services all over the country are having to get their vehicles modified or new ones made to higher specifications because the patients they carry are increasingly obese. Thirty years ago the average weight was about 12st 8lb. It’s routinely 15st 8lb – 17 st, with people over 20st by no means unusual. What a testament to our eating habits. And to the power of communication.
Ins spite of decades of jeremiads, awful warnings, dire statistics, finer-wagging advice, we still stuff ourselves as if were were on the brink of starvation. Of course, we may be, but not immediately. In fact, we’ll probably be dead of a diet-related disease long before we reach that state of affairs.
The fact is that we persist in stuffing our faces – I am no exception to this – in the face of available evidence in part, I believe because the language in which advice is given is patronising, hierarchical and didactic. Diet is always related to health and not to pleasure. And a great many people feel they have so little control over their lives, that the one thing we can control unconditionally is what we put in our mouths. So when the powers that be tell us that we MUST do such and eat so, we say, sod off, I’ll do what I like.
The only way to begin changing the situation is through making cooking and the love of food, and I emphasise the word love, compulsory in schools, by taking control of school meals and menus, and making school lunches free to all, by investing far more in school kitchens and kitchen staff, so that kids grow up in a culture that respects and appreciates food.
And the maybe, in a generation or so, we would have a population that wasn’t overweight, was dying prematurely of heart disease, wasn’t costing the NHS until billions, and didn’t require specially strengthened ambulances to carry them if they did fall ill.