I don’t think I quite comprehended the question when the BBC rang me for a comment. In a week where it felt like a tiny step had been made for mankind (the potential for brands to be financially punished for not cutting sugar out of their fizzy pop) I was genuinely being asked if I thought we should ban elasticated trousers as they might encourage obesity.
Before I go any further, although it is probably quite clear already, I don’t believe a stretchy waistband in anyway encourages obesity, just as I don’t think the mere existence of plus size fashion or models contribute either.
The desire to place blame on obesity on anyone but the food industry and government simply smacks of people not truly understanding the workings of it all.
Sammy Margo, a physiotherapist has called for elasticated waistbands to be ‘banned’ in a bid to make people realise their clothes are getting a little tighter and apparently as a means to make them do something about it. While after listening to Sammy talk herself into riddles on the radio – her main culprit in this drama appears to be leggings – it became clear that this has been nothing but another exercise that misjudges and misunderstands the complex notions behind obesity.
So in order to dispel the outdated notion that plus size fashion is still all leggings and tunics and the rather sketch show vision that all plus size humans sit at home with hobnobs wearing sweat pants I’ve come up with 10 other things more culpable for obesity than the humble legging.
1. Food. We live in a society obsessed by it. Whether we are banning it, cooking it, writing about it, making a tv show about it or eating it, a large part of our lives revolve around it. From just sustaining us to being a money and job generating industry, the choice we now have far exceeds that of our ancestors. The boom of supermarkets, restaurants, convenience and fast food has irreversibly changed our lives and diets forever. There is no point reminiscing about a period before this as the money made and jobs created in these industries mean that we are never going back to a time without them. What we do need to do is learn how to balance out this new sensory overload.
2. Sugar. Sugar is everywhere and in everything and frighteningly it is pretty un-legislated territory. It seems insane that we are only now talking about the sugar content of a can of Cola and even then, the legislation (which kicks in in 2 years time) doesn’t actually guarantee they will cut sugar content – they can simply just pay the tax instead.
3. Sugar – because it is still even in places most people don’t realise. Now we all know that fizzy drinks are pretty bad for us but the truth is unless you have shunned all processed food (and let’s be honest who has the time for that) then you are unwittingly consuming more sugar than you probably realise. While we aren’t as bad as the American corn syrup industry (whole different ball game) the fact that labelling is so bad and that we let manufacturers get away with it is essentially criminal and far more dangerous than leggings.
4. Time – because not consuming processed food takes up a lot of time people just don’t have anymore. We work longer hours and have more commitments than ever before and while it isn’t impossible to shun processed food, that again means lots of money and education to ensure people can not only produce food from scratch but have the time to do it.
5. Money. Please don’t tell me eating healthily is cheaper. It isn’t. When a pepper costs 89 pence and a full fast food, hot meal costs 99p we have a problem. Yes it is possible to cook cheaply and healthily but we are bombarded with advertising and outlets for fast food and in lower socio economic areas fast food is much more readily and cheaply available than nutritious, healthier options. Until we address this imbalance we have no chance.
6. Availability. How many fast food outlets are suspiciously close to secondary schools; and how ridiculously cheap are they! At a time when a quid will get you a hot box of fried chicken and chips is it any wonder young people are snacking on these on their way home.
7. Education. We need better home economics and lessons on nutrition. How can we expect people not to buy processed food if we have never taught them how to cook. How can people make healthy food choices if the information has never been adequately given over.
8. Responsible food information. You can’t get through a magazine or newspaper without a quick fix diet or some new food fad. The majority of these are not sustainable and not healthy. Let’s stop talking about how quickly you can drop a dress size and how you can improve your health and nutrition for life. I’m fed up with seeing a news story proclaiming miracle cures or saying this is health; for the following week there is always a totally U-Turn story… Sort it out.
9. Mental health. This is not separate from your physical health. We need to have a balance of both in order to be healthy. There is a lot of work done between the link between mental health and obesity. Vast improvement in mental health services are needed. Whenever mental health is discussed it is often seen as an entirely separate entity to physical health. This is not the case. Healthy minds mean that we want to feel good and want to look after ourselves. This is not dependent on size or leggings.
10. Health. Let’s talk about health and not size. I still find it amazing that although we can recognise that we don’t all look the same and aren’t all going to be the same height, we still somehow think we should all fit into one particular dress size or body type. If we were more concerned with health rather than running around visually diagnosing everyone perhaps the conversation would be more sensible.
So there you have it, 10 things that contribute to obesity that are not leggings.