To push a favourite theory

Three in five boys born today in the least affluent parts of Britain will be overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, according to shocking new forecasts.

The figures exposing a growing obesity gender gap come amid warnings of a diabetes time-bomb facing the country, with five million people due to be diagnosed by 2020.

The trend – a 42 per cent rise in cases in just five years – follows a decade in which levels of obesity among children have remained stubbornly high.

Disaster, disaster, yadda yadda.

And my theory is that it takes a generation or two to change diet in response to economic and technological changes. Further, that richer groups get the economic and technological change first and thus adapt the diet earlier.

Think back a century. Fat people were rich people. No, really, the poor (and I do mean poor) weren’t going to be eating enough to be fat. Then we get the economic and technological changes of the past century. Cheap food for the first time in human history. The decline of physical labour, heck the decline in just walking around and or cleaning the house. And what I regard as the really big one, the spread of cheap and efficient central heating.

These changes all came top down – the rich had them decades before the poor. That last, of central heating (and associates, double glazing etc), really only became just normal in the 1980s for the poor. And so did obesity change. The rich got the goodies first, then the next generation slimmed down again and it was the middle classes turn to be portly. And now we’re at the stage where it’s the poor who are fat. And the next generation will have adapted to this vast fecundity and plenty that is modern society and will be slim again.

Err, maybe. It is only a theory after all, but it’s a pet one.

27 thoughts on “To push a favourite theory”

  1. Partly, this is a variation on the “two glasses of wine a week and you are an alcoholic” game.

    Having recently been subjected to hospital food for a month and having gone from 13 stone to 10 I was told by the dietician I could usefully lose “just a little bit more”.

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    It certainly holds up as a theory, IMHO, not sure how or if it could be tested though.

    Anecdotal but does provide some support. When I worked in India in the mid ’90s one of my hosts explained that one of the reasons wealthy and middle class Indian women carried some weight and wore a sari that showed their midriff was to signal their wealth.

    Obesity also makes more rational sense nowadays. Abstinence and exercise are hard and time consuming now we have free drugs that offset the highest risks.

  3. What a load of utter lies. All constructed just to push an agenda of banning ads for junk food during family times.

    Wasn’t banning ads for junk food ads during children’s programmes going to solve this problem? But things haven’t improved? So, why are we doing more of what hasn’t worked?

  4. Your pet theory chimes with mine.
    Hunter gatherers ate little carbohydrate because pre agriculture it wasn’t available.
    With agriculture carbohydrates became cheap and plentiful. Hence that is what poor people eat. Poor people don’t get fat, they can’t afford to, but they do feel hungry.
    When they get less poor they assuage the hunger by eating more of the carbohydrates that they are used to, and get fat.
    Only later do they start to increase the proportion of meat/fish/eggs in the diet, and get rid of the feeling of hunger without getting fat.
    That:s apart from the general hysteria on the subject and the totally misleading BMI which tells us that basketball players are obese and most athletes overweight.

  5. Not to mention that it was in the Eighties that gubmint first started urging people to stop eating fat and cut back on meat, and to make sure they got the bulk of their calorific intake from carbohydrates – because fat will kill you and carbs are gooood. Funnily enough, it seems to my memory that the rise of obesity started round about the same time.

    There’s little or nothing, it seems, that gubmint can’t screw up.

    Not wanting to be thought of as speaking in poor taste, but it was remarkable watching video footage the other day of the aftermath of the Aberfan tragedy. Just about everyone in the footage was whippet thin – yes, a poor community and a mining one, but quite remarkable to see large numbers of people with none who are obese.

  6. They sold off the playing fields then they stopped competitive sports then they stopped competitive exams producing a nation of fat lazy slobs but that’s ok because FLS’s need servicing and we are a service economy now.
    The fat bastard industry is huge and we will lead the world in catering to it.

  7. If you want another reason for porkundity; the ubiquitous sofa. How many hours do people spend sprawled in front of the idiot box? In a physical posture, they might as well be in bed.

    There’s a remedy for podge I’d recommend. If you must sit, use an upright chair. Preferably without arms. You’ll burn a lot of energy just keeping upright & be continually exercising abdominal muscles in the process. If nothing else, you’ll reduce the flabby belly look.

  8. Not wanting to be thought of as speaking in poor taste, but it was remarkable watching video footage the other day of the aftermath of the Aberfan tragedy.

    I noticed some cunts on FB trying, as ever, to make political hay over this. “If Eton had been at the bottom of the hill this never would have happened, etc.”

  9. How many hours do people spend sprawled in front of the idiot box?

    To be fair, they’d get no less fat doing that than reading Harry Potter. And the Concerned Classes like to encourage that.

  10. Trends in smoking go a similar way. First the rich did it, then the poor took it up, then the rich weaned themselves off, by and large. This year’s intake at Harvard had just 3% smokers. The poor will follow, eventually.

  11. “To be fair, they’d get no less fat doing that than reading Harry Potter. And the Concerned Classes like to encourage that.”

    Yes, people don’t tend to read Jane Ayre on a treadmill.

    Anyway, the panic now is that two-thirds of the adult population are “overweight or obese”. If 60% of boys are projected to be the same, and assuming women don’t get any fatter (big assumption), doesn’t that mean a projected fall?

    And of course the dishonest conflation of ‘overweight’ with ‘obese’ again. Most of the ‘overweight’ will be in the BMI range just over 24.9, in other words, not particularly overweight at all. It’s the same dishonest politics which conflates calling a woman ‘darling’ and raping her.

  12. The decline in smoking doesn’t get mentioned much with regard to ‘obesity’, but how many ex-smokers piled on the pounds after they gave up? Young women often choose to smoke to suppress appetite.

    If smoking prevalence drops from 30-40% to 16%, how many of them will be eating more?

  13. It’s worth remembering that a few million people became “overweight” overnight when the top end of the BMI classification of “normal” was reduced from 26 or 27 (can’t be *rsed to look it up) to 25. Could the definition of “diabetic” have had the same “adjustment” and thus the same increase in numbers?

  14. What are the obesity rates like in those ex-Soviet cities where they switch on the municipal heating in October and the whole place is a sauna until the following April?

  15. See http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/2014_january.htm for a list of all the reclassification’s which have been made. This is American data but the same will hold true for here.

    The important point to remember here though, is that on no account should middle age men attempt to shed the pounds by taking up cycling. We established on a thread yesterday that it is fetishistic.

  16. If food is going to be 15% more expensive due to Brexit then levels of obesity will go down by 15%!! Take that remoaners!!

  17. It’s worth remembering that a few million people became “overweight” overnight when the top end of the BMI classification of “normal” was reduced from 26 or 27 (can’t be *rsed to look it up) to 25

    According to the link above, it was 28, which is a massive drop.

  18. I see photos of myself in my late teens and am amazed how skinny I was. And then I remember that while we had central heating my bedroom was unheated. There was a trend to just have heating on the ground floor initially. I remember many mornings waking up with ice on the inside of the window.

    Even now I have a habit of keeping the heating lower than other people expect. 18deg is nice and comfortable with a nice cosy jumper.

  19. I think I first discovered that on Tim Newman’s blog, but I can’t find the specific post now.

    Heating turned on here.
    And off here.

    (I had to go to the archives from the first few months I was in Sakhalin: 10 years ago!)

  20. @Tim N

    I thought you were only mid 20’s now. Which would make you about 15 when you went to Sakhalin.

    Were you exiled?

  21. So tell us Mr Newman, were the Sakhaliners both overheated and overweight? Or did long walks in the snow manage to offset the exuberant domestic heating? Or does the evidence from Russia cast doubt on Mr Worstall’s theory?

  22. And what I regard as the really big one, the spread of cheap and efficient central heating.

    But that would not explain, of itself, why obesity levels are rising in (say) Greece and Spain, where central heating is, er, limited.

    Is the rate of increase in obesity greater in societies with CH than those without?

  23. “Three in five boys born today in the least affluent parts of Britain will be overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school…”

    ‘Will’ be – and they know this via which crystal ball?

    Meanwhile, ‘overweight’ compared to what?

    Is there a technical specifications sheet for Humans?

    ‘Obese’ – according to a discredited measure, the BMI.

    Incidentally – many children and adults are ‘overheight’ – just look at those Tudor doorways and beds.

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