Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dial H-E-L-P-M-E-I-M-F-A-T

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Everyone's read (and many ignored) the 'Smoking kills' type warnings on cigarette packets.

Health experts in the UK are now advocating applying a similar type of health warning to larger size clothing in an attempt to stem the obesity empidemic.

Professor Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow, is advocating that oversized clothing should have obesity help line numbers sewn on to labels. It's proposed that such labels would appear on all clothes sold with a waist of more than 40in for men and 37in for boys, women’s garments with a waist of more than 35in or size 16 or above, and more than 31in for girls.

Granted, it's only one of several proposals put forward in the British Medical Journal on combatting obesity (full reference below although you'll need a subscription to read the article). Most of the suggestions don't really offer anything groundbreaking though, despite the author stressing the need to think outside the box. Another key suggestion is the taxation of high sugar, high salt foods. Given the limited success of a similar tax on cigarettes, the only consequence I foresee is the swelling of government coffers. It can be argued, of course, that this will counteract some of the additional health costs that accrue from obesity related conditions.

But back to the label.

What does it add?

People with weight issues often have a complex relationship with food and measures like this completely ignore the psychological aspects of weight gain. Many people who carry excess weight suffer from depression and low self-esteem. Struggling to find clothes that fit and then finding a helpline number attached, doesn't that have the potential to aggravate emotional distress and exacerbate the problem?

Personally, I think it will have little influence. I also think it's highly intrusive. What do you think? A much needed kick in the pants or overzealous?

I wanted to set up a poll but technical ignoramus as I am, I couldn't seem to generate the code.

Now, who's game to tell this guy?

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Lean, M., Gruer, L., Alberti, G., & Sattar, N. (2006). Obesity—can we turn the tide? British Medical Journal, 333, 1261-1264

Obesity could bankrupt the NHS


Sarebear said...

As a plus size gal myself, I would be horribly offended.

It's difficult enough finding clothing to fit, and some changing room stalls are rather small, anyway. (not that I'm too big for the stalls, but there's a few places where it might be hard for even skinny, tall people to get things on and off)

Anyway, can you see all the discrimination lawsuits? And the fact that there are medical conditions, plus many medicines, that cause weight gain, too.

We need less stigma; I think when people can accept themselves, they might be more likely to lose weight. They'd be healthier overall once just accepting themselves, anyway.

Would be nice if I could accept myself, but I can't.

Hi HP, hope you are feeling ok!

Alison said...

I think it would be particularly offensive to have a helpline phone number sewn into a label. Not to mention patronizing and dumb.

Think outside the box indeed!

Anonymous said...

ohhh paaalllleeeaaassseee do you these people seriously get paid for these ideas, because im thinking their box of ideas should remain never opened thats ludicrous

Dreaming again said...

oh boy ... I could just see what this would do to my years of eating disorder therapy.

mckay said...

heck, let's just make a law for manufacturers to sew battery operated elliptical machines into XXL pants. that way fatties are forced to go through the motions of exercising, as it were.

anything to get me back in a size 8.

didja try this poll site?

Shinga said...

On a related matter, in the UK, the home of the Magna Carta, we are about to have a very dubious programme where so-called Nutrition Nannies will infest the aisles of supermarkets, stalking obese children and their parents and talking to them about healthy food options. That won't embarrass anyone or lead to heated words, will it?

I'm ashamed. I very much agree that, despite the publicity, in some areas there is little understanding of the principles of a balanced diet and healthy eating. But plans like this and the phone number make me want to sit in a compost heap and eat worms.

Regards - Shinga

Psychosomartyr said...

Santa is admirably long-lived and very happy. Santa is active and has plenty of stamina. I fear that medicalising Santa's weight would do nobody any favours and might transform him into a grinch with nothing but coal for anyone.

Is the corollary that 0 and sub-zero size clothing will carry phone numbers of, Do you have an eating disorder? helplines?

Will dumpy, dark clothing of a certain style carry a phone number for Low self-esteem? Poor body image? Call us for instrusive questioning and possible humiliation.

Do people come up with these lousy ideas to provoke debate or are they serious? That supermarket idea is truly dreadful, Shinga. I can see it leading to punch-ups in some places.

healthpsych said...

Hi Sarebear,
I agree that this is just likely to ceate greater stigma. I think the people who come up with these ideas really have little idea of what it means to have a weight problem.

Hi Alison,
Patronising and dumb indeed. Spot on!

Hi McKay,
That'll probably be the next idea off the block!

Hi Shinga,
As a relocated Brit (considering returning), this kind of thing puts me right off. What a shocker of an idea. Still, when an irate parent eventually lays one on the Nutrition Nanny, at least one could argue they're getting some physical exercise *not that I'm advocating violence!!!!*

Hi Psychosomartyr,
Like the extension of labels to clothing for all sorts of situations. Maybe you should you write a paper ;) While obesity is a serious health issue, I can't help but feel the world is going a little bit crazy.

Like I said, most of these ideas seem to come from people who don't have issues with weight. Maybe they should canvas people who struggle with these issues for 'out of the box' suggestions?

Hey Dreaming Again,
Exactly, the potential for additional psychological consequences is real.

psychgrad said...

Does this mean that anyone who wears a size 0 or size 2 is going to have a tag with the number to an "eat more" hotline?

Such a dumb idea.

Roy said...

See similar post, Mandatorily Thin, on Shrink Rap.

BTW, thanks for the vote, hp.

healthpsych said...

Hi Psychgrad,
Along a similar line, I liked Psychosomartyr's logical extension of the labelling concept :)

Hey Roy,
Thanks for dropping by. Great post - if people haven't read it yet, follow that link!

Alison said...

Hee hee HP, I told my big brother about this and he started laughing and shaking his head. He said, "No let's just put on labels this one thing: 'Hey Fat Bastard, You Are Going To Die'".

I hope people understand the humour behind that...!

Anonymous said...

There are so many factors causing greater weight gain in our culture.
It is stupid and utterly unrealistic to think that a statement on a label will change anything!
Some people are genetically heavier set, and this is likely right for them. We are not all meant to be the same build.
Others have been damaged by use of prescribed drugs and have been left with systems no longer able to regulate themselves.
We have a whole generation of inactive young people who are afraid to go outdoors lest they be raped and killed.
Nutrition is little understood and not taught to any adequate standard.
Today's young adults live on ready-meals and even if they do know how to cook... many have very little time to do so.
Good fresh food is increasingly more expensive compared to pre-packaged low vitality foods which are full of refined products, sugar, salt, fats and additives.
Even fresh foods are nutritionally depleted, tampered with genetically and pesticide-sprayed due to current accepted farming practices.
Our supermarkets are wastelands!
Until all of these issues (and likely many more) are addressed, people will continue to gain.
It is not made easy for anyone to maintain health-- even if they are slim.

el.cameleon said...

I had to return to my track suit bottoms that have the letters FBUK blazoned across the backisde.
The company mark Fat Bastard UK
and when I´m in emergency mode i reach for these little darlings, then my friends know I am aware I have gained weight so P off, dont need you to make me feel worse than I already do.
Labels? bad news

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

As you know, a lot of reasearch has been pointing to genetic and biological determinents that ADD to the difficulty of weight loss. So, I while I think raising awareness is good, people like me who have always been overweight will find it hurtful and intrusive. I think realizing the relationship between the emotional/psycholgoical issues with food AND the buiological/genetic components will help take the sting out of a very tough issue.

healthpsych said...

Hi Alison,
Got to love a man with a sense of humour!

So many important points. Most importantly, the emphasis should be on health in general rather than weight..thank you.

Hi El Cameleon,
Interesting play on the FCUK label!

Hi Deborah,
I'm with you. Labels do nothing but oversimplify the problem and potentially cause further damage.
Good to see you back.