Published as a letter to the editor in the Times on Jul 27, 2020.
Sir, I welcome the proposed restrictions on junk food advertising (“Junk food adverts to be banned on TV before 9pm watershed”, Jul 24). The causes of obesity for most people are straightforward, and junkfood is a key player. We gain weight when we consume more calories than we burn.
Limiting the reach of unhealthy foods is a positive step, but we should not overlook the importance of exercise. It has often been said that losing weight is 90 per cent diet and 10 per cent exercise; whether this is true or not, it remains the case that exercise releases “feel good” hormones that help us to make better choices about food. It was refreshing during lockdown to be actively encouraged to exercise daily.
To reduce obesity we must focus less on losing weight and more on good nutrition and building fitness through exercise. We can create an inclusive culture for monitoring physical health, based on transparency, personal competition and an acceptance of failure. Parkrun and Couch to 5k are good examples of this, monitoring fitness in a way that is inclusive and relevant. Both have helped people to lose weight and become fitter.
The tools to maintain physical health are increasingly recognised as central to schools’ “recovery curriculum” from Covid-19. This is a great opportunity for a review of the whole curriculum.