How Do We Fight The Flab?

A Chiswick Book Festival discussion

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Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley has started watching what she eats more closely since she began research for her book, The Shape We're In; How Junk Food and Diets are Shortening Our Lives ( Guardian Faber Publishing)

The Ealing-based journalist says that while everyone has an individual resposibility to look after their health, she believes society in general and government, in particular, need to tackle the food industry in a concerted manner.

Jane Michell, who shared the stage at the Chiswick Book Festival with Sarah (Saturday 13th) started her business delivering ready-made controlled meals for those trying to lose weight. The two women approach the problem of obesity from varying aspects, looking at the role of society, the food industry, government, health agencies, and the individual's responsibility in taking good care of their health.

Sarah says it is not enough to say if people just used willpower and ate less, there would be no problem with being overweight.

"It's not exactly fair given that the government spends about £14 million encouraging healthy eating while the food industry is worth an estimated £1.4 billion. It's in the business of making money and I believe the government should do more to help the public make better choices- maybe in the area of pricing, making sugary' treat' foods more expensive, subsiding fresh food so its cheaper than processed food for example".

While she admits there is "masses of information" on healthy eating, she also believes people need help to interpret the information and make choices.

"Two-thirds of people in the UK are now overweight, so that's most people actually- it's now considered normal to be fat"

Sarah, who has two daughters, said her book is aimed at people who are "overweight or heading down that road" and she hopes it be of some help as a move for government and policymakers to take action on the issue of obesity. She spent a long time speaking to public health experts who she claims are "desperate" for a government lead on the issue, knowing that obesity is a major challenge for the health services in the years ahead.

"Since I started to write the book I've become much more aware of my own eating habits, I'm much better behaved, I snack less, I don't eat as much chocolate and I try to focus on fresh food. It's amazing how when you change your eating habits, the taste of a processed readymade meal from the supermarket isn't the same" she adds.

Jane Michell ( above) is also a campaigner for healthy eating- a nutritionist and creator of the Jane Plan (bespoke diet delivery ) says that we are all eating far too much and that the current advice on calorie counting is way out of date. You can read more here

"For example, it's generally stated that women should eat about 2,000 calories a day. But if you are a woman in your forties, with a sedentary lifestyle, you should be eating far less."

"The real problem is emotional eating- wine o'clock is where a lot of wome fall down. They need tactics in how to stop reaching for that extra glass of wine or piece of chocolate, Portion control is also really important - by all means have carbs but make sure the portion is no bigger than a tennis ball".

September 12, 2014