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Obesity, unhappiness, and poverty: the urgent need to avoid simplistic solutions

A version of this blog can also be found on the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust website here, 

An NHS Trust in Yorkshire recently decided to deny non-urgent treatment to obese patients and also to smokers. A recent guardian article called this a form of discrimination similar to racism. It is true that we are facing an epidemic of obesity and linked health issues including diabetes and heart conditions. The solution is not to discriminate against or blame people who in many ways are already victims. There is a danger that our discourses about food and obesity become another way of blaming the poor for their poverty and its effects. People are criticised for being lazy, greedy, lacking control or selfish, yet often what drives eating is far outside consciousness and has sensible explanations.

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Fat is a political issue: obesity , unhappiness and avoiding simplistic solutions

 In the face of an encroaching obesity epidemic pundits constantly resort to simplistic and judgmental solutions, many of  which blame sufferers, and worse, prescribe treatments and solutions that don’t work and don’t tackle the roots of the problem. Indeed our culture is rife with judgemental attitudes about weight and shape. Few of us are immune to preoccupations with our bodies, our kilo count, fat rolls, thigh sizes or belly width. Diet and food books consistently make the top 10 bestseller lists in the UK while rising obesity levels are seen as a huge threat to the NHS budget. While pubs serve ‘heart attack’ 2000 calorie burgers,  rising numbers of   ‘super-obese’ young people are being prescribed surgery.  With all the angst, guilt and powerful opinionating  we are too often left with a plethora of one-dimensional solutions and strident ideas, yet with too little understanding of what might lead to ‘issues’ of weight.

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