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Healthy Lives, Healthy People:
An Obesity Plan for the UK

By WLR's Site Manager, Laurence Beeken

The government has set out its approach to public health to enable the nation to lose weight and get healthier. Published at the same time as new dietary guidelines, the basic message is to eat less, make sensible choices and exercise more.

Background to the Obesity Plan:

England, along with the rest of the UK, has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe and one of the highest in the developed world.

The government report came about to acknowledge that obesity rates are increasing and to plan how to tackle the problem.

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What are the Aims of the Obesity Plan?

  • to see a downward trend in the level of excess weight in children by 2020
  • to see a downward trend in the level of excess weight averaged across all adults by 2020.

How will Healthy Lives, Healthy People work?

  • Government will continue to invest in and develop Change4Life as a trusted source of support and encouragement to individuals on their behavioural change journey.
  • The public will be asked to work with government by taking responsibility for their own lifestyle choices – basically they will tell us what to do and we will do it – failure to lose weight will therefore be down to the individual.

Is there a New Daily Calorie Allowance?

Professor Ian MacDonald and his team considered data on weight gain in England. They advised that a reduction in energy intake of 100 calories per person per day on average would lead to a moderate degree of weight loss.

However, at the same time, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) released new recommendations:

  • Calorie intake for men: 2,605 calories (up from 2550 per day)
  • Calorie intake for women 2,079 calories (up from 1940 per day)

What do the experts think of the Healthy Lives, Healthy People White Paper?

Terence Stephenson, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "The plan has no clear measures on how the food and drink industry will be made to be more responsible in their aggressive marketing of unhealthy food." He also pointed out that clear calorie labelling needs to be provided in all food chains. “The government calls on people to cut down the calories they eat, but isn't giving them the tools to do so," he said.

Dr David Haslam, a GP and chair of the National Obesity Forum, said issuing the new calorie guidelines alongside the obesity plan was "really unhelpful", adding that it gives out the wrong message. "People are going to think that they can eat that little bit more. If anything, that will add to the obesity problem."

WLR says

Simply telling people what they already know – that they need to eat less and move more – is not going to help people struggling to maintain a healthy weight. What we need is demonstrable action now to give people the tools they need to be able to make better choices. Only then can we start to encourage people to eat better food. 

The country's obesity rates are increasing, and are not going to get any better if a clearly defined plan of action isn't put into place. The UK simply can't afford the financial or health costs of doing nothing.

The release of the new calorie quotas by SACN alongside this paper seem to send out conflicting messages, on the one hand we can eat roughly 100 calories more, while on the other we need to reduce by 100 calories. Nothing appears to have changed.

If you really want to lose weight, then you must stick to a calorie quota tailored to your individual circumstances. Only then will you see the pounds come off.

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Further information:

Press release

Healthy Lives, Healthy People

Change4Life

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