It’s too late to take the soft approach with fat people – it’s a choice, and it costs the NHS millions

The majority of obese men and women did it all by themselves, not because they had faulty glands, or a weird metabolism

Click to follow
The Independent Online

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 –  the majority of fatties did it all by themselves, not because they had faulty glands, or a weird metabolism. In most 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 and accommodate the gorgers?

Bracketing jokes about fat people in the same category as racial discrimination is just plain daft. 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.

Freaks and geeks need to grow some thicker skin

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.


The Kafkaesque plight of Paul Gambaccini

Almost a year ago, radio presenter and writer Paul Gambaccini was arrested by police from Operation Yewtree because of allegations relating to “historical sexual offences”. Since last October, Paul has been on bail – he still hasn’t been told what the alleged offences are, and he hasn’t been charged with anything. His life has been turned upside down. How can the police need a year to decide whether to charge someone? Why should bail be indefinite? In 2013, 57,000 people were on bail in the UK – more than 3,000 had been held for over six months. The Law Society has proposed a 28-day limit on bail, and Liberty, the rights organisation, is campaigning for a six-month limit. There are dozens of people who have been held for more than two years. This is a shocking state of affairs, and the treatment of Paul Gambaccini is a disgrace.


Floating like a walrus on a tray: the new national sport?

Sorry to return to the subject of larger people, but during my trip to north Cornwall for a wedding last weekend, I made this observation – Brits have stopped exposing their bare flesh to the waves.

My plucky pal Phillipa and I couldn’t wait to don our cossies and plunge into the bracing waves at Crackington Haven, joined only by two blokes snorkelling in wetsuits. Even the surfers wore wetsuits, in spite of temperatures in the 70s. Next day, at Bossiney Bay near Tintagel, it was the same story – young men and women swimming in wetsuits in bright sun. On Sunday, at Watergate Bay, the sunny beach was full of human seals – chubby middle-aged men and women in horribly clingy wetsuits clutching paddle boards in the relatively small surf.

What is this sport where you flop your belly on to a sheet of plastic and then float inshore for 25 yards like a walrus on a tray? We want to be surfer dudes but don’t want to get really wet or swim. Pathetic.


A symphony woven from the cacophony of London voices

I was on a cross-Channel ferry during the 2011 riots in London and watched the coverage relayed from French television, fearful that I’d arrive back in Clerkenwell to find my home burnt to the ground.

Those momentous nights have been brilliantly recreated by London Road author Alecky Blythe in Little Revolution at the Almeida. The work is composed of edited interviews she gathered during the running battles, talking to residents, young people and shopkeepers in her area of Hackney.

The action focuses around the well-meaning attempts of the middle-class residents to form an “action group” and help the owner of a looted convenience store. Alecky plays an ironic version of herself and there’s a truly embarrassing BBC reporter. The star turn is undoubtedly Imogen Stubbs as a liberal mum with a flower in her hair, but all the actors and volunteers are terrific.

The result is refreshing because it accurately reflects the cacophony of voices in London’s fragmented inner city. We talk about “community” but the truth is, we don’t have much in common. Alecky uncovers some uncomfortable truths. There’s an unsatisfactory conclusion, but overall, this is unmissable.