Jamie Oliver attends a cooking demonstration at the Neff Big Kitchen on day two of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 27, 2016
Jamie Oliver attends a cooking demonstration at the Neff Big Kitchen on day two of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 27, 2016

Don't assume obese poor people lack willpower, says Jamie Oliver

‘The concept of middle-class logic doesn’t work’

Sabrina Barr@fabsab5
Monday 05 March 2018 10:45

People from disadvantaged backgrounds who suffer from obesity may not necessarily lack willpower, Jamie Oliver has suggested.

The celebrity chef voiced his views during the launch of a report released by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity about tackling inner-city childhood obesity.

Oliver also contributed to the report, explaining why children who live in poorer areas of London are more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles.

“This city has one of the most vibrant food cultures on the planet,” he wrote.

“Our city’s food environment is also compromising our health, shortening our kids’ life expectancy, reducing productivity, costing taxpayers billions of pounds, crippling our healthcare service and widening the gap between the least and most disadvantaged people in our society.

“The obesity crisis affects us all, but tragically some London families and kids have less defence against unhealthy environments and junk food than others.

“London’s health and obesity lottery is a tragedy of design, caused by the unfair, unhealthy environments within our city.”

Oliver went into further detail, highlighting the different mindsets that people from more impoverished backgrounds often adopt and how this can impact their health in the long run.

“When you get trapped in the disadvantaged cycle, the concept of middle-class logic doesn’t work,” he told The Times.

“What you see is parents who aren’t thinking about five fruit and veg a day, they’re thinking about enough food for the day.

“Willpower is a very unique thing… We can’t judge our equivalent of logic on theirs because they’re in a different gear, almost in a different country.

“If you can only buy crap, you can only eat crap. And if only crap is discounted and Bogof’d [buy one get one free] that’s what we tend to sway to.”

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, emphasised Oliver’s point that poorer people frequently resort to eating cheaper, unwholesome food out of necessity, as opposed to due to a lack of willpower.

“The anti-obesity crusade is largely a patronising upper middle-class reform movement,” he said.

“There is a huge element of food snobbery involved, which is why it is so appealing to celebrity chefs… It is bordering on the offensive to claim that people on low incomes have no willpower.”

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