British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

A Rapid Weight Loss Plan for the UK?

There’s quite a buzz in the air about a plan for the UK to overcome obesity. Good for Boris Johnson, who saw the light on obesity after coming face to face with his own mortality. All this because he was briefly the world’s most famous ICU patient with COVID-19. He blamed the severity of his situation on obesity. So now news reports are brimming with the imminent release of a rapid weight loss plan for the UK.

Quick Fix for a Slow Problem

Johnson’s enthusiasm for a serious effort to address obesity in the UK is good news. He’s enthusiastic about fitness and well-known as an avid fan of cycling. He was previously opposed to government policies to address obesity, derisively labeling them as symptoms of a nanny state.

But now he’s done a 180. No more does he reject the idea of “sin taxes” across the board. In fact, the word is circulating that he will propose to further regulate food marketing at the point of sale. No more chocolates and other sweets at checkout to prompt impulse purchases.

One official described the planning to the Guardian for a two-part strategy:

There’s two paces to this. The first needs to be nutrition-focused, getting people’s BMIs down over the next three or four months, using what works. And then we can start thinking in the longer term. But for now it’s about getting people as ready for the next wave as we can.

Apparently this is all about slimming down the British people before the next wave of the pandemic hits in the fall.

Health Coaches Ready to Pounce

Sarah Le Brocq TweetPlenty of well-intentioned people see an opportunity to “inspire and motivate” Brits with obesity. To the extent that we all need a little motivation and inspiration, that’s well and good. But when this offer comes from an assumption that anyone with obesity must be uninspired and unmotivated, this is a swell way to promote weight bias guaranteed to make Britain’s obesity problem worse. Not better.

Obesity medicine physician Scot Kolsin summed it up, tweeting:

We can and do successfully treat #Obesity. But we should remember the goal is not achieving a specific weight but rather decreasing inflammation and improving metabolic health. It is not about pleasing others.

The Pesky Reality of Obesity

Unfortunately, and especially in the UK, people have a tough time accepting the pesky reality of obesity. It’s a chronic metabolic disease, but only 31 percent of UK adults accept this fact. Of course, behavioral strategies – including motivation and inspiration – have a place in dealing with obesity. However, overnight miracles are the exception, not the rule.

The one thing that can produce dramatic results is metabolic and bariatric surgery. For people with type 2 diabetes, it can put the disease into remission. For people with obesity, it quickly improves health and extends life. But right now, access to this surgery is very difficult in the UK. The NHS makes patients jump through hoops and over hurdles to prove their worthiness to receive this care. It can take years.

So if the Prime Minister is serious about a quick fix, he will get serious about removing barriers to obesity care in the NHS. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of patients could benefit right now.

Click here for more on the buzz about plans for addressing obesity in the UK. For a detailed analysis of the unmet need for serious obesity care in the UK, click here.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, photograph © Captain Roger Fenton / flickr

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July 13, 2020

4 Responses to “A Rapid Weight Loss Plan for the UK?”

  1. July 13, 2020 at 11:56 am, Michael R. Mantell, Ph.d. said:

    I believe certified “Health Coaches” are educated and equipped to do far more than “inspire and motivate.”
    I also believe that recognizing someone in need of inspiration and motivation does not come with an assumption that anyone with obesity must be uninspired and unmotivated,

    • July 13, 2020 at 1:17 pm, Ted said:

      I agree with you Michael. Some health coaches do far more than dispense inspiration and motivation. And as noted above, it’s good to recognize (but not assume) when someone with obesity needs motivation and inspiration.

  2. July 13, 2020 at 7:11 pm, Chester Draws said:

    I predict the war on fat will be just as successful as the war on drugs.

    People aren’t obese because of trivial things like whether there are chocolates at the check-out. There are no bad foods — I remain not obese despite eating all sorts of “bad” foods in moderation — and so all the efforts to reformulate and prevent advertising is wasted.

    People are obese because they eat more calories than they burn. Unless you sort that out, the rest is just wasting my tax dollars.

    • July 13, 2020 at 8:53 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks for sharing your opinion, Chester.

      However, the science of obesity tells us that increased prevalence of obesity is due to the interaction of genetics with environmental triggers. Adiposity is regulated by complex, adaptive biological systems. It is not a simple matter of eating too much as you suggest.