Belfast Telegraph

Why we need to get tough in helping fatties fight the flab

By Janet Street-Porter

A few years ago I worked with Gordon Ramsay on a TV series called The F Word - a smart tag based on the fact that we both swore a lot and were passionate about food. Since then, there's only one "F word" dominating the medical and news agenda - fat.

The nation has accumulated tons of blubber. Gordon is just one of dozens of chefs who stroke, pummel, caress and play with food, as the nation sits hypnotised on its sofas, stuffing in choccies and takeaways. Our backsides have spread and waistlines expanded as self-control and restraint seem like throwbacks to another era, our parents' generation perhaps.

Last weekend in Cornwall I stopped at a deli in Tintagel to eat a pasty, and gawped at the procession of fatties, waddling along the main street licking ice creams and gobbling chips, their thighs chafing with every tiny step. I'm no better – after eating pasta every day for two weeks in Italy I have gained an extra roll around my middle.

How can we learn to stop stuffing before we explode or drop down dead from a heart attack? Medical experts have decided that straight talking isn't the answer. Calling obese people fat isn't going to work, according to a study funded by Cancer Research UK, which has been published in the journal Obesity.

The report's authors say that shaming fatties will have no effect and might make them so upset they simply eat more. Worse, they claim that fat people are discriminated against, are threatened by bullies, get poor service in hotels and restaurants, and are the butt of cruel jokes – all of which causes stress, which increases their appetite, especially for junk food.

The experts urge us to treat fatties with "respect" and stop blaming them. Mocking should be avoided at all costs.

So now we have a new crime – weight discrimination. Please! Is there any evidence that supporting fatties, encouraging them, offering them cash vouchers for losing a pound or two and telling them they are doing fine gets a result? Surely the brutal boot-camp approach is better.

Why mince words – 90% of fatties did it all by themselves, not because they had faulty glands, or weird metabolism. In the vast majority of cases, fat is the result of eating too much and exercising too little. End of story.

Now, hospital beds are being made bigger for fatties, ambulance crews need special training, airline seats have to be stronger, and pretty soon they'll be issued with castors or free wheelchairs on the NHS. Isn't it about time we stopped trying to "understand" overeating, stopped trying to accommodate the gorgers? Sure, let's be positive and encouraging, but isn't it time to face up to the reality? A lot of people are addicted to food and, as a result, are costing the NHS a fortune.

My goodness, it's hard not causing offence these days. First, we have to be nice to fatties, and now we must not call anyone with lank hair, and a pallid complexion from spending too long at the computer, a geek or a nerd.

According to a man who made millions from analysing the financial markets, the G and the N words are as derogatory as terms of racial abuse. David Harding has just donated £5m to create a new mathematics gallery at the Science Museum, which will be designed by Zaha Hadid. Mr Harding reckons geek and nerd are a way of putting down clever people, of undermining their achievements.

I look forward to the opening of this fabulous gallery in 2016, but in the meantime, I hope that Mr Harding grows a thicker skin and develops a sense of proportion.

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