Obesity in the UK: Time to tackle it?

June 08, 2012, 11:22 AM GMT+0

With obesity an issue continuing to make news headlines, we invited you to tell us if there was anything you thought could be done to tackle it.

According to most recent estimates, over 60% of adults and over 30% of children in the UK are overweight. Another report has predicted that, if the current trend continues, half of the UK population will be classified as obese by 2030.

We gave you the space to tell us which, from a list of possible policies and measures, you thought would be the best way forward for tackling obesity in the UK.

Among the options listed was a tax on high fat foods, daily PE lessons, and free gym memberships for people who are very overweight.

But also, whether you felt it was down to the state at all to create policies and measures for addressing a highly personal issue.

  • Of those who took part in the discussion, the highest proportion said that making daily physical education (PE) lessons compulsory in primary and secondary schools up and down the UK was the best way to tackle obesity
  • Many participants said that reducing the cost of fruit and vegetables would be the best way to encourage healthy-eating
  • And the third most popular anti-obesity strategy among those who took part was making cooking lessons in schools mandatory for children up to the age of 16

Everyone who took part was invited to describe their diets in their own words.

As you can see below, many of you taking part to comment on obesity, used the word 'healthy' to describe your eating habits. Several of you also said you tried to take a 'balanced' approach to eating, which included the occasional treat:

How should obesity be tackled in the UK? Is it for government to intervene, or up to the individual?

Add your voice to the conversation below

YES, measures should be put in place to tackle obesity

IDEA 1: Compulsory daily PE lessons in schools

“Calories in, equals calories out. If children develop unhealthy life patterns they will not have the energy or motivation to break an unhealthy cycle of destructive eating and lack of exercise. From an early age, children should be made to participate in outdoor exercise, both in team games and competitive games/sports. It is vital that the winning mentality is taught, balanced with a desire to play and participate in a productive team. The weight aspect is incidental to the main purpose which is to instil self-image and pride in their appearance and feeling of self-worthBob, Burton Bradstock

Getting into a pattern of regular exercise would set them up for life – not to mention it is easy to get back to being fit and healthy as an adult, and build up stamina and fitness levels, if you had them to start with as a child” Emma, Reading

My grandson was obese, and the family moved to the country where he played out with the local boys, and went to a school that did play games and had PE lessons. In six months he had lost most of his excess weight and had grown taller. He now looks healthy” Alan, Colchester

When I was a child in the ‘50s our diet was high in fat, but we didn't see many fat kids. I put this down to the fact that we were far more active. PE lessons would be a start” John K, Northampton

“I believe that the majority of children today do not exercise enough. They go to and from school by bus or car, and when at home far too many of them sit and watch TV or play computer games. When I was young we all walked everywhere and had some kind of PE every single day and these things coupled with a healthy diet meant that we were all slim. I can honestly say that even though I attended a large school I cannot remember one single overweight personDMP, North Yorkshire

It instils discipline and teamwork with your peers. Exercise is one of the best ways to deal with life pressures. It also creates healthy bodies with plenty of fresh air” Anon

“When kids are fitter and healthier they have more energy, and can concentrate more in other classes. But PE teachers also need to help, shall we say ‘larger children’ to get into sport a bit more. There is no point in putting a larger, unfit child in, say, a football team with other kids that are good at it, as they then can't compete and loose self-esteem. Why not have different levels of PE for different standards of fitness and ability, then hopefully the unfit, unhealthy kids catch up a bit with the others, you never know once they see they can enjoy and compete they might actually start to enjoy it” Mark R, Windsor

IDEA 2: Reduce the cost of fruits and vegetables

“This is one of the main sources of bad nutrition. Good food should not be more expensive than bad-quality fast food. If stuff has lots of nasties (e.g. sodium benzoate, excess salt, excess sugar, excess omega 6s) added to it, then it should be more expensive than food to which nothing has been addedMark R, Glasgow

If the price of fruit and vegetables was reduced, perhaps more people would be encouraged to purchase them. At the moment they are very expensive and people on low incomes simply cannot afford to buy them. Encouraging people to grow their own at home would be even more beneficialAnon

It's cheaper to buy a 6-pack of chocolate than a 6-pack of apples. If fruit and veg were made cheaper, more people would be able to afford to buy them more often” Michelle H, Kent

People on low incomes will naturally choose the cheapest option to stave off hunger, and high-fat ready meals fit that category nicelyJo W, Merseyside

It’s ridiculous the price of fruit and veg – how the hell are we supposed to get our 5 a day when it’s impossible to get 1 a day? Government needs to do more to make fruit and veg cheap, and junk food expensive” Anon

“I would love to eat a wider variety of fruit and veg, and my kids would love it too, but the cost is prohibitive. I find myself rationing the family’s fruit intake simply because it is too expensive to buySuzzie, Fife

It's common sense really – you can get a disgusting greasy burger for 99p, but it costs £4 for a bunch of grapes. Ridiculous Anon

IDEA 3: Cooking lessons in schools should be compulsory up to age 16

Cookery lessons include training about healthy food, healthy ways to prepare food, and the economies of using raw ingredients to create meals. They also include analysis of the various forms of damaging ingredients, saturated fats, and the best substitutes for them” David, Cambridge

Children would get a better chance to eat healthy, home-cooked food if they learn to cook it at school, rather than buying readymade food or fast-food. The option would then be theirs in the futureAnon

Bad or unhealthy cooking comes from ignorance, and people using convenience food instead. A well-educated nation of cooks will help people try a bit betterJohn T, Croydon

People need to grow up learning to cook. If they are not getting this from home they don't know how to cook, and end up buying food filled with crap from companies that supply supermarkets instead of supporting butchers and farmers that sell clean and healthy raw meats and veg” John M, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

By the time I was 9-years-of-age, I could cook a 3-course meal and pudding for 4 to 6 people, because my Mum taught me. Now, however, most mums (under 35) don't know what a kitchen is, therefore how can they teach their children” Anon

I learned to cook at school, and as a result I can tackle any recipe, which means I can use fresh ingredients to cook healthy food for myself instead of relying on convenience food that is high in fat, salt, sugar and other additivesAnon

“It's much simpler to go to Tesco's and buy a ready meal, but cooking can be fun. Teaching it should be fun. … Is the teacher in a rut, is she/he taking the easy way? If the teacher is not prepared to give his/her subject some original thought, then the kids sense this. If the lessons are stale the kids will pick up on it. ‘Who has been abroad in the last six months?’, might be a question, and, ‘What did you eat, did you like it? Okay, let’s have a go at making that.’ Adventure, excitement, fun; the kids need stimulationTony B, Maldon Essex

NO, the government shouldn't intervene

  • While those arguing it’s not for governments to take the initiative on obesity were in the minority in this instance, giving the opposing view, they said it was a matter of personal choice, and not the government's place to tell them how to live.

I think obesity is a personal choice. People should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies. I think what we need to do is make being fat an accepted and valid lifestyle choice, especially in the media” Anon

I was bullied about being fat and now live a very uncomfortable life in fear of being fat and being bullied again. I am obsessed with low-calories and low-fat, reading food labels religiously, keeping a food log/planner spread sheet, depriving myself of a lot of foods (and therefore a lot of social occasions). The government is validating the bullying of obese people and seems to want everyone to live like I do, which believe me is not pleasant. What happened to freedom of choice?” Anon

We are paranoid about other people being fat. We had some senior moron in the British Olympic Athletics team saying Jessica Ennis is fat – this is ridiculous. Why don't we have more effort in tackling morbid 'stupidity' in this country? God, this country is being run by the a bunch of morons and the obesity question is just a way of deflecting how gormless Cameron really isBrian Kirby - 20 stones, working and perfectly healthy

“I believe it is up to each person what they eat; freedom to eat what we like is a human rightAnon

It is none of the government's business - they should keep their ‘Nudges’ to themselvesPaul

How should obesity be tackled in the UK? Is it for government to intervene, or up to the individual?

Add your voice to the conversation below