Britain’s Got Belly

Hospitals across Britain are having to widen ambulances and supersize beds in order to transport and treat the ballooning amount of overweight patients. But what’s going on, and why are the people of Britain turning from fitties into fatties?

The most recent Health Survey for England reported that a quarter of all adults are considered medically obese, as are a fifth of all children. These shocking statistics reinforce the fact that the people of Britain are in fact getting fatter.

The government is spending a whopping £80 billion on patient care, and a substantial amount of that will be going towards bigger ambulances and equipment designed to cope with increasingly large patients.

We’re constantly being bombarded with adverts and programs warning us of the problems of obesity. We have daily reminders in newspaper articles, there’s constant and ongoing research into obesity from scientists across the world, and of course Jamie Oliver likes to pop up on telly a good few times a year to feed school kids lettuce instead of pizza just for good measure.

However none of this seems to be working. Britain ‘aint getting no smaller. So what’s going on? Where are we going wrong?

Well it could be the old favourite; School dinners. They’re not good for kids. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. So why do schools insist on serving the same old stuff? Chips, pizza, peas, beans…all the usual suspects. And ids go mad for it! But when i was at school it wasn’t even that nice, it was lukewarm, far too chewy and only vaguely tasted like what it should have. And i can’t imagine that’s changed over the ensuing years. Personally I stuck with brining my own sandwiches.

Maybe Britain’s problem has got something to do with us having our Stateside friends as role models. Britain is increasingly becoming Americanised. Some people have adopted the American pronunciation of some words, the popularity of proms and huge ‘sweet 16’ parties is rocketing, and then of course there’s the introduction the quadruple cheeseburger and the Big Big Big Macs and refillable Cokes…Maybe this is where we’ve gone wrong? People of Britain are watching 90210 and Beverly Hills and seeing all the young thin American celebrities on telly and thinking ‘hmmm…they’re from America, the land of the free and home of the Big Mac, and they’re also beautiful and famous!’ Well this is true. But then those thin American yuppies probably survive on one small bowl of grass a week and shed loads of Red Bull. Also you never see the endless supply of obese people being wheeled into casualty because they had a heart attack while gorging on a KFC.

Now, just to be clear, I’ve got no problem with fat people. People who are just big or enjoy food or are indeed just big boned, because they’re not the people who are causing these problems here in good old Britain. But what about when it goes BEYOND fat? When people are HUGE. For example people who are too large to even get out of bed. They weren’t born that way, they’ve become that large over time, and in a majority of the cases it is completely avoidable.

Ironically, the worlds heaviest man isn’t an American, he’s from Ipswich. At a gigantic 70 stone, Paul Mason, 49, was unable to move from his bed. On an average day he would consume over 20,000 calories, which is 10 times the recommended daily intake for a man. Paul funded his habit by stealing money from letters at his job as a postman and even getting his own mother to take out a second mortgage on her house. He couldn’t clean himself or even go to the toilet and as a result he had to have a care worker come and look after him, clean him and even cook for him every day for 15 years. This care didn’t come cheap, and over the course of those 15 years Paul racked up a bill close to £1million for the taxpaying public.

Charlotte Linacre, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said, “It’s such a shame that so much time and resources have to go to help one person, these nurses will be sorely missed at a time when public finances are squeezed. Although there is sympathy for people struggling with health issues, taxpayers will not feel this is a fair allocation of funds as they sit on waiting lists while footing the bill for his personal care.”

Channel 4s 2010 documentary Britain’s Fattest Man followed Paul’s life as he embarked upon the decision to have life threatening surgery to lose weight. In the documentary Paul blamed his weight problem on the heartbreak that he suffered when he was younger. When he was 26 he lost his girlfriend of 5 years, and shortly afterwards his father died. This was when he turned to comfort eating and ended up 70st and bedbound with what family he had left disowning him. Fortunately for Paul he was able to have bypass surgery without any complications, and he now weights a relatively light 37st.

I’m sure many people say that maybe Paul isn’t to be blamed for his massive weight and that he suffered a trauma that excused his actions. Watching the Channel 4 documentary it is almost impossible not to feel sorry for him as you see the huge impact his weight has had on his life. However as I have already stated, it is completely avoidable. He didn’t have to turn to food. He could have been strong and found another way to deal with his problems, but he gave in too easily. It’s no different to someone that suffered a similar trauma but turned to drugs instead of food. It’s sad, it’s an addiction, but it’s all self inflicted.

I heard an interesting argument several years back while at school. One of my science teachers, Mr Ashley, said to me that we should all thank the obese people. They are the direct descendents of our successful ancestors. It was the human ancestors who sought out meat and sugars and fats who were the ones who survived and reproduced, passing those genes for seeking and fat along. Those were the survivors. Those that sought out lettuce and salad died. And now we have all the sugar and fat that we want. All those people who can’t help themselves and continue to eat fat and sugar have obviously inherited those powerful genes that allowed all of us to be here.

An interesting argument, I’m sure you’ll agree. However maybe one would have thought that these people that inherited the genes to seek out meat and sugar and fat would have also inherited a brain to tell them to stop eating too.

I’m reminder of the story of a woman who weighed 28st due to eating pie and chips up to 10 times a day. Every day she made 10 separate trips to the chip shop. In a taxi. Eventually she got so obese that they had to take her to hospital in order to staple her stomach. On the hospital bed before the operation she said “It’s a really dangerous procedure…but it’s the only option left.”

Well…it’s not is it. She didn’t have to eat so much, she could’ve taken up exercising, she had so many opportunities to curb her overeating. But no. And now hospitals are having to shell out to treat these overweight patients.

Weight loss operations are up 40% since last year, obesity cases are up 30% and people are the British public are doling out 1.2 million on dieting drugs. Hospitals admissions for obesity over the past year had gone up to over 5000, treating them for various problems including strokes, heart attacks and diabetes. And the worrying thing is that the real figures will be much higher, as private treatments aren’t counted. I’m sure this may be a wakeup call for some people. They may realise that obesity is becoming alarmingly common in Britain and be inspired to watch their weight and try not to let their weight take over their lives.

But I’m also sure that for a lot of people this will not be the case. Overeating and becoming obese is a vicious cycle, and like any addiction it’s a cycle that is difficult to break. Some will have the will power, others won’t.

With the government granting the NHS £80million to deal with patients, it seems wrong that a large portion of that will go on super sized ambulances, stronger beds and even structurally reinforcing hospital wards so they can cope with the growing weight of patients. Cancer rates are climbing year upon year, and the equipment in all hospitals constantly needs maintaining or updating. Special care baby units are being shut down in many hospitals and newborn babies are having to be transported to other hospitals in order to receive treatment. Money that could go towards things like this is going on dealing with the obesity problem.

True, it is becoming a big problem that needs dealing with, but despite this huge effort, is it really that likely that the size of your average Joe in Britain will go down? The solution needs to start at home. People need to eat smaller portions and exercise more. It’s a simple solution really. Smaller people equals less money spent on catering for the overweight (no pun intended).

So come on people of Britain, stop being greedy and stop overeating. It’ll save NHS money, it’ll save your money, and most importantly it’ll save your life.

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