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A weighty problem

Comment
Mike Gaunt


I was relaxing the other evening, watching the ‘beeb’, as is my wont of a summer’s evening, here in Portugal. It keeps me in touch with things British and, as an Englishman abroad that is both necessary and interesting.

But my word, how depressing! The story was about childhood obesity and it caught my attention. Did you know that nowadays, in England, some one in 25 children are obese as they leave primary school? Of course you did.

It’s worrying, though.

One of the armchair experts on another news channel later that evening said that if a parent allowed their child to become obese it was tantamount to child abuse.

His point was that it offers a worse life expectancy and brings with it increased health risks. Being a parent who allowed this to happen was irresponsible, he said.

I think I agree with him.

Funny stuff, though weight, isn’t it?

Most adults I know are either trying to lose it or talk about weight they have lost or want to lose. To a typical Brit, weight and weather are the big talking points.

As an adult, though, it is different. If you are fat or just even a bit chubby, it has been your choice that put you in that position. If your child is fat, you, as a parent, have let them down rather badly, as you have, effectively, made choices for them which are poor choices. That’s not right.

In our little village here in Portugal, there aren’t many children. In our parish, though, which is four or five little villages, you see some around the place. They tend not to be too plump.

Mind you, Portugal has had an interesting time with childhood obesity recently. It seems that many factors play a part, but here in Portugal it has to do with increasing rates of urbanisation and a loss of the Mediterranean diet. As families from the countryside have tended, for employment-related reasons, to move to the cities, such as Lisbon, or even to other countries, children have eaten more easily available and less fresh food.

When I see the children around us, they quite literally live off the land. An orange picked here, an apple there, they move around a lot, take incidental exercise and forage on fruit and nuts during the day.

Portugal was one of the EU countries which had difficulties but has had some success, as reported by the WHO (World Health Organisation), along with countries such as Greece, Italy and Slovenia, in reversing the trend.

Even the adults around here tend to eat quite healthily. Having said that, Portugal’s adults are generally too fat, with some two-thirds being overweight or obese. Yes, two-thirds!!

Once again, the change in where people live and how they live is at the heart of this.

There is little point in being employed and being able to afford to put food on the table if the choices made as a result are making you and, more importantly, your children, ill.

I hope that people are waking up to this issue. It is, quite literally, killing us.

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