Obesity versus terrorism… and airports on a diet

EXPANSION is the word for today – of waistlines and airports. One’s getting bigger while the other’s staying the same for now.

The two stories arrive together in the departure lounge of news. Let’s take the obesity story first, and if you don’t mind we could do with two of those seats.

Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, says in her annual report released today that obesity is the biggest threat to women’s health and the health of future generations.

All very sober and sensible. So let’s look at the newspaper headlines. The Daily Mail offers “OBESITY IN WOMEN ‘AS DANGEROUS AS TERROR THREAT’”.

As always its front page stands proud as a tombstone that could topple at any minute and crush you to death.

The ‘terrorism’ line must be buried deep in Dame Sally’s report, as the BBC website ignores it altogether. The Sun wins the prize for cynical journalistic chutzpah with “APORKERLYPSE NOW”. In case you don’t get it, the ‘PORKER’ has been tinted to stand out. And it’s next to a picture of a very fat women seen from behind.

Incidentally those pictures are rather shaming, aren’t they?

Newspapers keep a stock of such photographs to put on the page whenever an obesity story rolls along. This means that at some point a photographer has been told to go out and snap some fat people, presumably using a long lens. And possibly carrying a bag of buns as a bribe. Or with their running shoes on for a quick getaway should offence be caused.

I always wonder what these people must feel like if they spot themselves in print. Overweight people are still people – something that seems to be forgotten at times, and by me too, as I confess to having a few kneejerk ‘fattist’ responses, as illustrated by my cheap buns gag in the last paragraph.

Aren’t people overweight because they eat the wrong sort of food or just because they eat too much? Quite probably, although saying that some people can eat what they like and stay slim, while others balloon outwards on exactly the same diet.

This is tricky territory. Personal responsibility has got to be part of the solution. Most people can lose weight if they eat more sensibly – but some people can’t. And most diets make you put on weight in the end.

I read the other day about the next big thing being individual diets that take account of each person’s metabolism and their individual reactions to different foods. That might work but it would make family mealtimes even more of a dietary minefield.

A decision about the expansion of Heathrow Airport has now been put on hold by David Cameron. Before he became prime minister Cameron had one of his “no ifs, no buts” moments, promising that a third runway would never be built. Those ifs and buts now trail behind him like a smoker’s tarry detritus.

Cameron promised a decision before Christmas on Heathrow versus Gatwick, but has now wheedled out of that one – in order, the conspiracy theorists say, to appease Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, who is Conservative candidate for next year’s London Mayoral elections and has said he will resign if Heathrow gets the go-ahead.

Business leaders have called Cameron “gutless” – which is true enough, even if in literal terms he appears to be amply gutted.

Should we take everything business leaders say at face value? I guess that depends on whether we think the world is purely an economic playground, a survival of the fittest grab-fest in which anything that can be sold should be sold, and as quickly as possible.

Is constant expansion of the economy necessarily a virtue or do we ever reach a point where we have enough of everything? Probably not, sadly – but sometimes you wonder where constantly having more of everything gets us. Apart from tipping us into obesity.

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