He says: “Unless a patient is homeless or has died of cancer or is so old or poor they could not eat, few are the same shape as the dead of the 1980s when I started practising.
“Looking back at forensic photos from that era I am astonished at how thinness was then the norm.”
Fast-forward just three decades and obesity levels are now rising at such a rate that one expert says the “timebomb has exploded” for our health services.
Consequently, the NHS is reportedly bracing itself for soaring levels of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart and liver disease.
‘FAT SHAMING COMEBACK’
For a taster of what’s potentially to come, let’s cross the Pond to America, where talk-show host Bill Maher had this to say: “In August, 53 Americans died from mass shootings. Terrible, right? Do you know how many died from obesity? Forty-thousand.”
A shocking statistic indeed and it’s indisputable that it should be highlighted and widely debated.
But he then said this: “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end. It needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good.
“We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.”
Meaning that, fuelled by Brit James Corden’s robust response on his chat show, Maher’s call to “fat-shame” became the debate and smothered the real issue of how supposedly developed nations can tackle this spiralling health crisis.
We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.
Fat shaming isn’t the solution, although in the 2015 case of a mother ordering takeaways for her hospitalised 13-year-old, I could possibly make an exception.
The Manchester-based mother, whose child later died from “a heart condition . . . exacerbated by their morbid obesity”, had persistently ignored healthy eating advice and failed to bring the child to various health appointments.
Shame on her.
But in the majority of cases, finger- pointing and name-calling gets us nowhere.
However, equally, we shouldn’t attempt to normalise obesity for fear of causing offence.
If a four-year-old child is already clinically obese by the time they start school, then — medical issues aside — it’s because, at home, they’re being fed the wrong food and not getting enough exercise.
Those in positions of authority — teachers, doctors etc — must be allowed to tackle it with impunity and, hopefully, support the child’s family to implement a change in lifestyle that will benefit all concerned.
As Corden says: “We get it. We know being overweight isn’t good for us and I’ve struggled my entire life with trying to manage my weight and I suck at it.”
Because it’s not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat.
So support and encouragement has to be the answer, together with a collective, open and ongoing conversation about how society as a whole can help.
Interestingly, the tiny South Pacific island of Naura is currently classed as the most obese nation in the world, with 61 per cent of its 10,756 population having a BMI higher than 30.
It’s not just about what people eat, it’s about why they overeat.