The UK government recently released their new campaign for tackling the nation’s ‘Obesity Crisis’. The campaign is designed to encourage healthier lifestyles, however there are clear issues with the measures being taken. Here’s why the UK Government’s new health campaign is just another example of fat phobia.
Fat phobia example 1: Evidence behind the campaign is inconsistent
In March 2020, the UK went into lock down following the emergence of a new virus. Gyms and leisure centres were closed, food was stock piled and our mental health was tested in a way we’ve not experienced before. Diet culture swooped in on our insecurities and the general consensus was ‘you don’t want to come out of lock down looking like that do you?’
Now, the government is claiming that new research is showing that overweight and obese individuals are “at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19”. This is their foundation of the new campaign, despite the fact that research in 2019 found being overweight or obese actually protects you from infectious disease mortality. In fact, the greatest risk of mortality was in individuals who were underweight. As we would expect, a non-smoking lifestyle with low alcohol consumption also gave protection against illness.
Health exists at every size and the longer we shame individuals for looking a certain way, the longer the problem of ‘unhealthy’ lifestyles will continue to exist. Probably the most unhealthy part of our lifestyles are our relationships with our bodies and food. We allow ourselves to be judged for our choices even when being in a larger body makes us no worse than any body else.
All foods are fine to eat in moderation. If they are really so bad for us then the government should scrap the products altogether. But they’re not. However, it all comes back to the negative relationship with food cycle. We’re told that certain foods are good or bad. When we eat bad foods, we feel bad about ourselves. But this only leads to increased feelings of shame and our natural instincts are to make ourselves feel better with more food.
Fat phobia example 2: our vulnerable members of society are going to be affected most by the changes
It has been announced that the government is going to ban ‘buy one get one free’ deals on ‘unhealthy’ foods. How does this help the most vulnerable members of our society? Are they also going to decrease the cost of ‘healthier’ alternatives? Will they include offers and promotions on whole foods instead?
No. Because this isn’t about helping the nation with its obesity ‘problem’. This is another case of fatphobia and the government using the ‘obesity crisis’ to win back affection after it’s appauling handling of the Corona Virus.
People who are from lower socio-economic backgrounds can’t afford to buy fresh produce. It’s cheaper to buy pre-made meals or tinned food. These people are often less educated on home cooking or they work so often that they do not have the time to cook. These new measures do nothing to help them.
The government should be focusing on helping those who are most vulnerable, cracking down on diet culture and fatphobia. It’s OK to not be OK, but not, apparently, when it comes to food. As soon as we eradicate the ‘ideal body’, we’ll see a shift in eating behaviours and active lifestyles. When people are encouraged to move their bodies in ways that they enjoy, we will see a change. Rather than focusing on how many calories we can burn; we should be focusing on what feels good. When people no longer feel judged for having a larger body, we can begin to repair our relationships with food and exercise.
Intuitive living should have been the foundation for this new campaign. Now, more than ever, people need to listen to their bodies and their minds. So that’s why the UK Government’s new health campaign is just another example of fat phobia.
If you’re struggling with your relationship with food, contact BEAT Eating Disorders service for support.
Always remember to take a paws!