DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR: It’s not cruel — doctors have a duty to tell patients they’re fat
Obesity causes misery. It’s linked to a host of diseases, from type 2 diabetes to high blood pressure — and this week we learned it’s responsible for more cases of bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancer than smoking.
Cancer Research UK backed up these alarming statistics with a hard-hitting advertising campaign featuring cigarette packets branded with the word ‘Obesity’ in an effort to kickstart awareness of the problem.
Yes, smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable cancer in the UK, but since obese people now outnumber those who smoke two to one, and 63 per cent of the population is classed as overweight, we face a terrifying obesity time bomb.
So what was the response to the ad? Were people appalled at the toll that over-eating takes on their health and the pressure it puts on the NHS? Did it prompt a national vow to start losing weight?
Obesity causes misery. It’s linked to a host of diseases, from type 2 diabetes to high blood pressure — and this week we learned it’s responsible for more cases of bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancer than smoking
Unfortunately not. Instead, Cancer Research UK was accused of ‘fat-shaming’.
Because, nowadays, being fat is celebrated. Woman should cherish their curves, while men must fondly pat their pot bellies. Young women verging on the obese flaunt their bodies in fashion and beauty advertisements, and we’re supposed to praise it as a sign of ‘body positivity’.
Making someone feel embarrassed about their size and shape is verboten. Anyone who does, even accidentally, is hounded on social media.
But it’s not ‘fat-shaming’ to tell people about the myriad health problems that obesity causes and the cost. Overweight people might like to kid themselves they can be fat and healthy, but the evidence shows this isn’t the case.
As a doctor, I would be in breach of my duty of care if I didn’t advise overweight patients about the risks — just as I would be if I didn’t tell them about the dangers of smoking or taking drugs.
It’s not ‘fat-shaming’ to tell people about the myriad health problems that obesity causes and the cost. Overweight people might like to kid themselves they can be fat and healthy, but the evidence shows this isn’t the case. (File photo)
But now we have the ridiculous situation in which patients complain when doctors point out that they’d be better off dropping a few pounds.
A Freedom of Information request confirmed this week that the NHS receives hundreds of such complaints annually.
Some fat people do accept that their weight is a consequence of their lifestyle — too many calories and too little exercise.
But others argue that being overweight is not a lifestyle choice or due to any lack of self-restraint; they are victims of their metabolism, their appetite, big bones, genes or whatever other excuse they can conjure up.
They are lying to themselves. Being fat is a choice. While I accept there might be complex reasons for obesity, it doesn’t absolve an individual of responsibility.
A ‘wellness company’ called ‘Get a Drip’ was forced to withdraw its so-called ‘fertility drip’ after doctors raised concerns on social media.
The £250 vitamins and minerals treatment was on offer at a clinic in a shopping centre in London.
Intravenous vitamin drips have become increasingly popular but it is a very poorly regulated area. Get a Drip insists its products have nutritional benefits but concedes ‘insensitivity’ over its fertility drip.
We need to watch this ‘wellness’ industry carefully. I’ve no objection to people taking supplements, but claiming that a concoction can help someone conceive is untrue and heartlessly manipulating people for profit.
We don’t have the same attitude to smoking. There are genetic aspects that make it more likely that someone will become hooked on nicotine, while social factors such as poverty and low education may play a part in why someone smokes.
But ultimately people choose to light up, just as people choose to eat more food than their body needs, or persist in indulging in a fat and sugar-laden diet.
This may sound harsh, but I’m not advocating that we abandon fat people to their plight. Support and compassion are crucial to helping them understand why they have piled on pounds. And for those whose problems are rooted in emotional issues, better access to counselling is required.
But let’s not play along with this alarming trend — promoted by the misguided body positivity movement — of pretending that it’s fine to be fat.
Of course, any individual has the right to ignore medical advice, but the NHS shouldn’t have to pick up the pieces. Obesity cost the NHS more than £6 billion in 2015, which will rise to £9.7 billion by 2050.
We must understand there are finite resources and that we must take responsibility for our health. So let’s stop talking about people ‘battling’ with their weight, as though it involved a malignant force beyond their control, and start talking about people battling with their lack of self-control.
If they don’t, then their greed and irresponsibility will be the death of the NHS.
Songs that say bye to the blues
Can Adele help alleviate depression? A Canadian study claims that she, and other purveyors of tear-jerking ballads, help those struggling with low mood.
Researchers say the rhythm of such songs regulates overactive electrical activity in the brain.
But I think something else is at play — how the lyrics relate to longing, missed opportunities, confused relationships and unfinished business.
Can Adele help alleviate depression? A Canadian study claims that she, and other purveyors of tear-jerking ballads, help those struggling with low mood
The words resonate with the listener and it helps them feel less alone. It’s a bit like therapy.
Take Adele’s When We Were Young. Many were in tears when she sang it at a concert I attended recently. Who doesn’t look back on their younger years with wistful yearning?
Or what about Someone Like You? Every one of us has a lost love they wonder about.
I’d be interested to hear what songs you turn to in tricky times.
A fascinating study by Masaryk University’s Research Centre for Neuroscience in the Czech Republic into Holocaust survivors reported this week that the depression and anxiety they suffered can be ‘passed’ on to their children and grandchildren. There is evidence of a similar phenomenon after the Rwanda genocide.
It is thought that severe psychological trauma can alter an individual’s DNA which may manifest itself in chemical and structural changes in the brains of succeeding generations, making them more susceptible to mental health issues.
This is the emerging field of epigenetics — how environmental factors can impact on genes. The good news is therapy can reverse some of these changes.
Ban that smacks of sheer daftness
France is to ban smacking. This is despite the fact that 85 per cent of French parents admit to smacking their children. There has also been vehement opposition from politicians who feel the ban is too intrusive of the state.
The ban is unlikely to have much impact as the legislation contains no specific punishment for parents who breach the rules. But campaigners are on the warpath.
A smacking ban has been debated in Scotland, and demands for a similar one elsewhere in the UK are growing.
I have never been convinced that smacking is as harmful to children as the campaigners claim, although my opinions on this have provoked anger and, rather ridiculously, accusations of supporting child abuse.
But I’ve also been consoled by the hordes of readers who agree with me.
I believe the anti-smackers are out of touch with the public’s view on this.
While I do not advocate hitting or abusing a child, there is a world of difference between that and a light smack on the back of the legs. I simply don’t buy the argument that smacking causes deep-seated psychological trauma.
If so, we’d have a damaged generation of older people who grew up in an era when smacking or slapping by parents or teachers was the norm, and a generation of emotionally well-adjusted youngsters whose childhood was a smack-free zone.
I don’t think that’s the case, do you?
Dr Max prescribes… You Got This by Bryony Gordon
Frank and funny, this is great for teenage girls because it gives the lowdown on the mental health of young women by someone who really understands. She has been there herself.
Gordon tackles complex issues that can take over the lives of youngsters whose parents may struggle to comprehend what is going on and find it difficult to talk about it with them. It’s like having a big sister sit you down and give you an inspiring pep talk.
You Got This is published by Wren and Rook, £9.99.
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