Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Ladies and gentlemen we have an epidemic - run, save yourselves!

I’m sitting here watching the BBC 10 o’clock news and one of the reporters on it is describing, not for the first time, the 'epidemic levels of obesity in England and Wales'.

Obesity epidemic; you have to love that phrase, a journalist (probably American) somewhere has spent many years in university before coining such a phrase and many journalists since then have seized on it and used it for themselves. But come on, can we really call obesity an epidemic? To me the black death was a proper epidemic. Poor sanitation and hygiene with rats rapidly spreading disease killing 240 million people in Europe, a third of the entire medieval population, now that is a serious epidemic. To describe obesity with the same language has got to be a joke.

Imagine 50 years from now some kid asking his grandparents about the obesity epidemic of 2006 for a school project,

‘Grandad how did you survive?’

‘Oh son it was terrible, there were Burger King joints at just about every corner. We couldn’t walk to get the paper in the morning because we had the car. At work we sat at computer desks for 8 hours a day, then came home and sat at the computer some more to write on something called blogs. We had far too much salt and sugar in our diets but with super size meals just 50 pence extra it was so hard to resist. Really son, it’s amazing you are even here, your grandmother found it very hard to have kids due to my diabetes, if it wasn’t for viagra we doubt that your father would ever have been conceived.’

I know obesity is a serious issue and I shouldn’t make light of it but the language is over the top. Obesity is a problem of our time because of the lifestyle many of us in the western world lead. We’ve become lazy when it comes to meal times, we don’t cook home made meals like people used to, some of us can’t even cook. In the past people used to walk locally to work everyday, now many of us have to drive to work. Work itself used to be physically exhausting it involved manual labour; now most work is office based moving nothing but our fingers and our mouths.

Obesity is not an epidemic. It is a killer but so is cancer. It’s a long term slow process killer, it doesn’t come along and sweep through the population wiping a third of it out in the space of a few decades. It’s a result of our spoilt lifestyle with food being in easy reach of us all and few of us exercising enough. It’s only an epidemic if you consider McDonalds & Burger King the rats of the 21st century sweeping through America and Europe. Even then you have to wonder why the world’s population is still growing if we are in the middle of an epidemic.

I love language, the English language is a great tool but I hate to see it abused by people who should know better. Describing obesity as an epidemic at best shows a lack of knowledge of the causes of obesity, at worst it is a deliberate attempt to use scary language to frighten fat people into dieting. If I were obese I’d tell the journalist who coined the phrase ‘obesity epidemic’ to stick two fingers up his judgemental ass.


ill man said...

Tell it like it is brother!


Apparently I'm not a kick in the arse off being 'obese'. I am about 6ft and weigh about 16 stone. I assume it's very mild obesity, a bit of a spare tire I could work off in about a month if I put my mind to it...........

You are correct about the language, it's so sensationalist it becomes almost meaningless.

I predict athletes foot as the next big killer.

Anonymous said...

Oh son it was terrible, there were Burger King joints at just about every corner. We couldn’t walk to get the paper in the morning because we had the car......

i heard it in a song recently and i am trying to find out who it is.