Natalie Haynes: We may be fat, but we don't like the Government going on about it

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Perhaps it's because I am returning from a week of reviewing in Edinburgh, but when I read the headline "Don't tell me what to eat", I can only hear it being belted out by Barbra Streisand, to the tune of Don't Rain on my Parade. Which has undeniably made the new report from the Adam Smith Institute a little jauntier for me.

According to its recent research, we don't like being told what to eat or drink by the Government, or at least 48 per cent of us don't. And since the Government's consumption advice is rarely to have a second plate of chips and a chunk of cheese, who is surprised? The Government, as is well known, wants us to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, and not solely in the form of lemon curd and potato waffles. That is advice many of us don't want to hear.

A mere 22 per cent of us are keen on the Government telling us what to eat, and those people are presumably too young to have seen Sir Cyril Smith in parliament. Or indeed Eric Pickles. The numbers skew slightly on gender lines – more women think the state should butt out of their lunches than do men (49 per cent to 45). But the real difference is in the age of the respondents: only 28 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds oppose Government cheesecake-intervention, whereas a hefty 57 per cent of over-60s do.

Interestingly, these figures directly reflect what many of us already believe – that young people need their hands held all the time, while older people are vastly more self-reliant. So it's worth mentioning that, statistically, the people who reject government advice are also more likely to be overweight or obese.

The independent Social Issues Research Centre has been studying obesity for several years. Its numbers are intriguing. Children, despite endless headlines suggesting that they are all now spherical and would be rolled over their school sports fields if they still existed, are getting slimmer. Fewer children are either obese or overweight than in 2004, and more now eat five portions of fruit or veg a day. Fewer of them smoke or drink alcohol than did so in the late 90s. And slightly more now take an hour of physical exercise a day than children did a decade ago.

Under-24s are vastly less likely to be overweight or obese than older people. Young men are more likely to be underweight than obese. Being middle-aged or retired are the danger years for fatness: which encompasses the exact people most likely to eschew Government health warnings about booze and food intake as the machinations of a giant Mary Poppins complex.

So while it may be tempting to stuff muffins in our ears to avoid being told what we already know, perhaps we should exercise a little restraint. The really interesting question, I would suggest, is whether more older respondents said they disliked government interference, precisely because they already know they're overweight. No one likes being told something they know is true when they wish it wasn't.

Some truly moving works of art

In the interests of full disclosure, I should confess that I am writing this while eating a slice of cake. This is because I am on a train, and travelling long distances without cake is as stupid as doing it without wheels. Also, I need the energy, as I am in the middle of a week of reviewing hiking artworks. By which I mean that I am hiking, and the art is also moving.

On Sunday night, I climbed Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, having been armed with a lit-up walking stick. Given my tendency to wear floor-length black at all times, I like to think I resembled a hardy nocturnal wizard. As I clambered up the hill, runners (wearing dark costumes covered in lights) formed patterns on the inclines nearby. It was serene and lovely, and only occasionally precarious and alarming.

Today, I head to Norfolk, for Robert Wilson's descriptively titled "Walking" art installation. I like art on the move: it's more fun than standing around in a gallery, and I can wear sensible shoes with pride.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own