Is it finally becoming OK to talk about weight now?

PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:53 04 May 2020

Is a cream cake preferable to living longer? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Ruth Black

Is a cream cake preferable to living longer? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Ruth Black


It’s human nature to try to look for the positives. Christine Webber sees several: including that Covid-19 might finally start to break down taboos around weight and obesity

On Friday, we’ll be remembering VE Day and how, 75 years ago, the war ended in Europe. There was quite a party!

I remember my mum telling me how she and all her friends converged on Glasgow’s George Square and joined the ecstatic crowds celebrating the famous victory.

In the past weeks, many pundits have drawn comparisons between the Second World War and Covid-19.

For me, the biggest similarity has been the desire to find something good out of past suffering.

This is human nature, isn’t it? We look for a silver lining because it helps us believe there’s a pattern to our existence, and that life’s adversities are not pointless.

After World War Two, this global ambition to create positive initiatives out of a prolonged period of destruction, resulted in the birth of the United Nations and various offshoots including the World Health Organization. In Britain, the population emerged from the war demanding more equality in the future that they’d fought so fiercely for.

The politicians’ response in launching the NHS and better social care have shaped our lives ever since.

Throughout history, ordinary individuals too have sought to make sense of their own tragedies by creating change for the better.

In recent times, campaigning journalist Lynn Faulds Wood, who died last week, turned her experience of bowel cancer into a quest for better understanding and diagnosis of the disease, and this benefited enormous numbers of patients. And in the ’70s, Shirley Nolan started a project that routinely saves the lives of more than a thousand people a year, after her son Anthony was born with a rare, lethal blood condition.

A bone marrow transplant was the only hope for his survival, but unfortunately, no one in his family was a good match. So, Shirley set up a register of bone marrow donors. It’s incredibly sad that she lost her little boy before an appropriate donor was found for him, but the Anthony Nolan Charity continues to work miracles for many who would otherwise die.

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To return to the corona virus, are you hoping that good will come out of this turmoil? I think most of us are.

We’re seeing some surprising benefits in how we’re having to live at the moment – and we’re wondering if we can retain those that could help us improve family life, the environment and our stress levels.

But strangely, it’s possible that the biggest winner resulting from this nightmare could be better health for the nation.

Several doctors have told me they hope we’ll all be sufficiently alarmed by the damage the virus can do, that we’ll clean up our lifestyles in ways that medics have been advising for decades.

One specialist said: ‘There’s only so much we can achieve in the clinic. We need patients to help us to help them. I’ve lost count of the conversations in my consulting room where someone has assured me it’s impossible for him or her to lose weight. What they mean is that they’re not prepared to change their habits to improve their health. I sometimes want to scream: “Would you sooner eat cream cakes, or live to see your kids grow up?” So, could this crisis be the wake-up call we need?

Reports from various health bodies indicate that smokers, the obese, and adults with raised blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or diabetes tend to become more ill than the rest of us if they get Covid-19. One cardiologist even said on television last week that when the Prime Minister contracted the virus, he got it much more severely than his colleagues, because he’s significantly overweight. Who would have dared say that four months ago?

Priest and journalist, Giles Fraser, is someone who has been galvanised into action by what the experts have said, and he wrote an article about it. Here’s an excerpt.

‘As the medical authorities started to list the so-called “underlying conditions” that multiply the dangers of Covid-19, there was a terrible moment of panic when I realised I had quite a few of them. So, I cut out most of the major carbohydrate groups (except alcohol, obviously) dropped two stone and am no longer technically obese.’

He went on: ‘Do those of us who have conditions that can be addressed through diet, have some sort of moral responsibility to take themselves in hand? Indeed, if we are all about protecting the NHS at this time of national emergency, shouldn’t that also include making an extra effort not to be become a casualty oneself?’

These are challenging questions, and it will be interesting to see how we respond.

If you want to follow Giles Fraser’s example, you might find it helpful to read The Diabetes Revolution by Dr Charles and Maureen Clark. This book has persuaded thousands of people to stabilise their blood glucose levels, lower their cholesterol and cut the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Perhaps it could be the inspiration for you to change – or indeed save – your life.

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