THE WEEKENDER: Too fat to fight back -are we at the point where overweight is OK?
IF you are just sitting down to a hearty Saturday morning bacon and eggs breakfast - with all the trimmings - this might not be the time you want to think about obesity.
But the comments this week of England's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies should give pause for thought as the next forkful is poised.
In her annual report, she warns that obesity is now so common that society is "normalising being overweight."
Two thirds of adults and a third of children are now overweight or obese, according to Professor Davies, and many of us no longer recognise when we or our loved ones have a problem.
She cites a study that indicates that three quarters of parents of overweight children did not recognise their kids were too fat, while half of overweight men and a third of overweight women thought they were about the right size.
She also warned that there has been "a profound change in the health of the nation over a relatively short time."
For England of course, read Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Everywhere you look Brits have got bigger and the indications are that we will continue along that path, with all the consequences for our health that will bring.
The old cliche involves comparing school class photographs from 30 or 40 years ago, with ones taken this year, to compare how much bigger we are getting.
A more accurate measure might be to find an old photo of a crowded High Street and take a new photo from the same spot, when it is similarly busy. It is a fair bet the contrast will be stark.
It makes for depressing thought indeed - but Professor Davies makes an extremely important point.
What we see around us is bound to influence our perception of what is normal. It may take some people longer to be influenced, but it will happen in the end, and whether or not we seek to counter it, nevertheless that influence is there.
To use a variation of the buzz-phrase of the week, this may not be a case of us unconsciously uncoupling ourselves from reality, so much as the goalposts of reality being changed.
Professor Davies argues that initiatives like clothes stores having larger mannequins may be part of the process of normalising being overweight, and to a point, she may be right.
But equally, it could be argued that not acknowledging this shift is effectively discriminating against larger people.
Surely we cannot ignore the practicalities of the situation, and we must recognise too that if there is a need and a demand for larger clothing sizes, then the companies that sell these things are going to spot, and seek to exploit, the commercial opportunities they bring.
Professor Davies has also added her voice to calls for consideration of measures such as a tax on sugar, and for municipal authorities to improve road safety to try to encourage more people to cycle.
We have heard these cries of despair from health experts many times in recent years, but collectively, we just keep getting bigger. Either we simply do not care, or for the majority of us, the paths to healthier lives that we seek to follow are just too strewn with obstacles to navigate.
Whacking a tax on sugar, fatty foods, or whatever may be a start, but ultimately a lot of this stuff comes down to us and the choices we make. Such measures can only ever prod us hopefully, in the right direction.
Sorry to interrupt. Back to the bacon and eggs...
AUTUMN, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, may be getting misty and fruitful for longer, according to researchers from Southampton University.
Their study of a quarter-century of images depicting different types of vegetation, such as grassland, shrubland, forests, crops, and woodland, including factors such as leaf cover and changes in colour, suggests that autumn can for some plants and trees have been extended in recent times by up to four weeks.
Meanwhile, the processes of spring may be starting earlier, though this is less pronounced, at up to four days earlier.
Wandering daily through Coed Melyn in Newport, and down the path bordering the eastern edge of St Woolos Cemetery, it is easy to observe this phenomenon.
Leaves clung to trees a lot later in 2013, while the warmer though admittedly much wetter winter encouraged an early appearance of daffodils and crocuses.
Thankfully, this autumn 'creep' does not yet seem to signal the end of traditional winters, though said season appears to have taken a year off in Britain.
I hope though, that autumn and spring don't get too much longer. I much prefer a dose of the colder, snowier weather we have been denied this year, than endless weeks of the dank and the damp.
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