"Mars bars don't make people fat; people make people fat"

Every morning, I lay in bed, gradually waking to the sound of pre-recorded bird-song and artificially generated sunrise, until the radio kicks in at 6am, welcoming the day with the morning’s headlines.

Today, I rolled over and my ears pricked up, as I heard “Food manufacturers told to cut calories by 20%”. My Health Coaching head immediately kicked in – what did I think of this. Is it progressive? Developmental? Or offensive, insensitive and unnecessary?

I spent the day with this playing on my mind and did some light reading before really making up my mind – and the result may surprise you….

Public Health England is leading a drive to reduce calorie intake by 20% by 2024 – that’s not far away, and a lot of work still to do.

So what are the options for reducing this number? The announcement today points towards Public Health England giving direction to food companies to reduce the calories in their food. How can they achieve that? Well as we’ve seen from the recent “Toberlone-gate” the easiest way to cut calories in food, is to simply reduce the portion size.

I’m as guilty as the next person for finishing what’s on my plate just because it’s there. But in the majority of cases, just giving people smaller ready meals, won’t help reduce the calorie intake of an entire country. We will still experience the same hunger, blood sugar rises and crashes, and cravings for salty, fatty foods as we ever did.

Really – the only way to reduce calorie in take is through education. Educate our country on eating well. On the impact of sugars and bad fats on your body. Teach our children cookery skills. Subsidise our farmers to keep fresh, vitamin-rich foods at reasonable price levels. Educate us, to believe that one ready meal won’t make us fat. Guide us towards nutrition. Help us become more active.

I’m a firm believer that mars bars don’t make people fat; people make people fat. We make our own choices and everything we eat, or don’t eat is a choice that we have made. We shouldn’t be punished if we want one chocolate bar, or one ready meal once in a while. If we are educated to make our own choices, we can learn to cut our own calories by 20% - through making small, positive health choices.

But sadly, education takes time, and it’s time we don’t have. In 2015/16 there were 525,000 admissions in NHS hospitals where obesity was recorded as the primary or secondary diagnosis, an increase of 19% on the previous year[1]. Our nations needs to act.

So whilst our nation’s health professionals, teachers, government ministers and parents work on educating our great nation on eating quality food, for now, we will have to accept the smaller portions and artificially reduced calorie options the food manufacturers can offer us.

 

[1] Office of National Statistics: Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity, and Diet – England, 2017