IN his fascinating book Unnatural Causes, forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd observes how, over the years, the dead bodies he examines have changed.
One of the most noticeable is the rapid increase in body fat.
He says: “Unless a patient is homeless or has died of cancer or is so old or poor they could not eat, few are the same shape as the dead of the 1980s when I started practising.
“Looking back at forensic photos from that era I am astonished at how thinness was then the norm.”
Fast-forward just three decades and obesity levels are now rising at such a rate that one expert says the “timebomb has exploded” for our health services.
Consequently, the NHS is reportedly bracing itself for soaring levels of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart and liver disease.
‘FAT SHAMING COMEBACK’
For a taster of what’s potentially to come, let’s cross the Pond to America, where talk-show host Bill Maher had this to say: “In August, 53 Americans died from mass shootings. Terrible, right? Do you know how many died from obesity? Forty-thousand.”
A shocking statistic indeed and it’s indisputable that it should be highlighted and widely debated.
But he then said this: “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end. It needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good.
“We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.”
Meaning that, fuelled by Brit James Corden’s robust response on his chat show, Maher’s call to “fat-shame” became the debate and smothered the real issue of how supposedly developed nations can tackle this spiralling health crisis.
We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts . . . shame is the first step in reform.
Fat shaming isn’t the solution, although in the 2015 case of a mother ordering takeaways for her hospitalised 13-year-old, I could possibly make an exception.
The Manchester-based mother, whose child later died from “a heart condition . . . exacerbated by their morbid obesity”, had persistently ignored healthy eating advice and failed to bring the child to various health appointments.
Shame on her.
But in the majority of cases, finger- pointing and name-calling gets us nowhere.
However, equally, we shouldn’t attempt to normalise obesity for fear of causing offence.