ONTD Political

Deflating the Big Fat Lie with Big Fat Facts

11:04 am - 01/24/2013
Yesterday Anna Soubry, Minister for Public Health, made some comments. As is the fashion these days, they were directed at poor people. Or rather, they were directed at rich people, who like to read about poor people and nod along.

Soubry explained how she “can almost now tell somebody’s background by their weight” when she walks around her constituency. She expressed surprise at the fact “there are houses where they don’t any longer have dining tables. They will sit in front of the telly and eat.” She spoke of her horror at seeing parents buying their children fast food and concluded that poor people should be more disciplined about teaching their children proper table manners.

The springboard for this tirade was a set of government figures which “showed that 24.3 per cent of the most deprived 11 year-olds in England were obese, compared with just 13.7 per cent of children from the wealthiest homes”. A highly selective sample – with no definition about what “most deprived” or “wealthiest homes” might include, looking at children of a very specific age.

In an unusual move, I shall try to intrude in this debate with – gasp! – some facts. An analysis of the most recent and most comprehensive set of figures, collated by the Department of Health, concludes that there is no obvious relationship between obesity and income. The groups with the lowest levels of obesity are poor men and rich women.

The dataset also strongly suggests that there is no obvious relationship between obesity and social class.

Now there is some evidence to suggest that there is a problem, specifically with children, looking at the same data. Currently 6.9 per cent of boys and 7.4 per cent of girls are obese - with the difference between the lower and higher classes 0.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively for boys and girls.

However, there is a chasm as wide as the Grand Canyon between a study showing that a variation of values between 0.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent is beginning to emerge in children and the Minister for Public Health saying she can tell poor people's background just by looking at them because they're fat. And then going on to criticise them for not having dining tables – gosh, these people are animals!

It is not so long ago, I had to subsist on a bag of frozen fish fingers (40 for £2), two loaves of value bread (42p) and a bottle of cheap ketchup (31p) for twelve days. I remember it well. I remember the panic of running out towards the end and beginning to make my daily sandwich with three - not four – fish fingers, to make them stretch. So, when some affluent minister in a position of power, sits on her perfect Laura Ashley clad arse, in her perfect Laura Ashley dining room (paid for by our taxes), in her pink Laura Ashley life, and criticises me for not giving that splendid, nutritious meal the ceremony it deserves with a candlelit setting, I get very, very, very annoyed.

Soubry’s target is what she sees as bad parenthood and misinformed choices by poor people. Her comments about dining tables ignore the rising trend of limited affordable housing, with limited space in it, especially in urban areas. Her insufferable arrogance of condemning a parent buying their kid a MacDonalds, goes directly to her prejudice. Was it a rare treat? Was it a regular thing? Did she stalk this parent for a month to observe the family’s nutritional habits? Do you, when you make similar judgements?

The subtext of her solution – the only thing to do is speak to manufacturers – is steeped in the presumption that "these people are too thick to do the right thing, so we have to tackle it at the source".

Her understanding of the issues is derived from years of a sustained tabloid campaign to portray poor people as idle, fat, lazy, stupid, ignorant slobs, responsible for their own demise. And, possibly, a DVD box-set of The Royle Family. Once the premise is established in one's mind, of course, it is very easy to walk around a poor area and identify examples which confirm it. But that doesn't make it evidence and the policies which result from it are not evidence-based. They are prejudice-based.

For every poor fat woman she sees (and judges) on a high-street, there are two of regular weight, an undernourished person in the queue at the job center, an emaciated pensioner who has to chose between heat and food, and plenty of incredibly fit people who clean others’ houses and build others’ conservatories. Anna Soubry just notices them less. Perhaps she wants to. The evidence and statistics actually do not support her position. She is just airing her own anecdotes.

Critically, she does so, while her government dispenses with school dinners and closes health centres, public libraries and local swimming pools. Those are the real, the shocking facts, Ms Soubry.

There is conclusive evidence linking poverty to poor nutrition, which brings terrible health problems and a reduced life expectancy. So, in fact, the only way for Anna Soubry to effectively poor-people-spot would be to observe someone for a very long time and see if, having suffered insult and condescension by her miserable government at every turn, having had their public services pulled from under their feet and privatised, they then die relatively young of some horribly painful ailment.

Let's sort out the underlying problems, instead of further victimising their victims. Let's not become judgmental, twitchy-curtain neighbours, like Ms Soubry, and call it anything other than pure cruelty.

nitasee 24th-Jan-2013 03:59 pm (UTC)
Or that the most affordable food is often the least healthy: starchy and over-processed.
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 05:50 pm (UTC)
Starchy and overprocessed food is cheap in the states because that's (one of) the kinds of food the government subsidizes. Not every country is like that.
nitasee 24th-Jan-2013 03:59 pm (UTC)
Most appropriate quote.
idemandjustice 24th-Jan-2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
I go to McDonald's for the play area (but yes, we buy food when we go), and have to wonder what the article writer was doing at a fast food restaurant herself if it's so terrible.
crossfire 24th-Jan-2013 04:51 pm (UTC)
rich people, who like to read about poor people and nod along

Quoted. For. Truth.
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 05:49 pm (UTC)
Ah ha ha, ha ha, ha. Fuck you, lady. Jayzus. Who cares *where* you eat so long as you *get* to eat? We eat in front of the tv sometimes - we turn on Rachel Maddow or whoever and force Elf to watch and listen to our political rants.

Then she goes and informed opinions about stuff!

Teh horror.
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
People tend to overeat when they are distracted. Knowing the right portion size is already a challenge for most people, so mindlessly eating huge portions = weight gain.
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
If you put portions on your plate, you can only at what's on your plate. So unless you're already serving yourself too-big portions, you're only going to eat what's there. That's how it works at my house, at least. The only thing anybody generally goes back for is another biscuit or to finish off the broccoli.

I mean - the food's in the kitchen, not the living room, so....
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
People do serve themselves oversized portions, and distracting themselves while they eat stops people from stopping eating when they're satisfied.

Also going back for another biscuit makes it pretty easy to overeat, it's not exactly low-cal.
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
Then they need to deal with their portion sizing. You can get just as distracted having a good conversation as you can watching tv, so unless meals are just silent affairs where you do nothing but stare at your plate...there's always a distraction.

Uh, two biscuits with a meal isn't exactly piggish. Especially if you don't have them with *every* meal, which we don't, 'cause i tend to forget i have them and the meal's ready to eat when i have my forehead slapping moment.
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 06:36 pm (UTC)
I agree, people need to learn about portion sizing and realize what a serving of grains actually looks like. But since most people are not willing to measure all their food to eat a proper serving, at least paying attention to their body while they eat would be the next best thing.

"Uh, two biscuits with a meal isn't exactly piggish."

tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 06:39 pm (UTC)
*rolls eyes*

lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
Sorry if you consider it radical that people should not overeat if they don't want to gain weight.
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 06:43 pm (UTC)
Considering you have *no* idea what the rest of the meal is, what my weight is or the fitness level, etc. of me or my family, our eating habits, etc....

I think you're making assumptions based on zero info.
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
Um, none of my comments in this thread were talking about you specifically. I made a comment about people overeating and not knowing portion sizes, and you apparently decided to make it all about you and your food habits. I guess something there seemed to resonate for you, but that doesn't mean my comment was about you. Stop being self-absorbed.
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 06:48 pm (UTC)
Considering that i was talking about *meals at my house*, well...yeah, it was kind of about me. Stop living up to your username.
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
You were talking about how eating in front of the TV is no different than eating anywhere else, you're wrong, I corrected you.

The "people tend to" in my first reply should have tipped you off that it was a general reply, but maybe your ego got in the way.

My username is a compliment...I am sweet and so is my c*nt....so I'm not sure why you're phrasing it like living up to my username is an insult. I mean, it's not like my name is 2ndbiscuitresiduec*nt

Edited at 2013-01-24 06:53 pm (UTC)
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 06:59 pm (UTC)
Your *opinion* about eating in front of the tv is different than mine, not 'better' or 'more correct'. And the fact that i can only know about *how my family* eat should have tipped *you* off that i was using my own experiences to inform my opinion. I have no idea or interest how other people eat. And, shocker, people *eat differently*. Every human doesn't sit down to dinner just like every other person.

A cunt, as a tag, means to me a jackass of a person, which you are being right now. AND, this is incredibly off-topic and also getting tedious. Please feel free to have the 'last word'.
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
No, actually my opinion is better, because it's backed up by fact. I'm not so self-centered to assume that my anecdata trumps actual evidence.

Good job using a gendered insult against me though, you're showing off your astounding ignorance right now.
lickety_split 24th-Jan-2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
Stop feeding the troll bb.
tabaqui 24th-Jan-2013 08:14 pm (UTC)
I can't help it, i *do* like to fight sometimes.
kyra_neko_rei 24th-Jan-2013 09:57 pm (UTC)
Because you totally DO know all the individual circumstances of the everybody else you were talking about?
lollycunt 24th-Jan-2013 10:21 pm (UTC)
Facts don't lie hun, stay in denial if you want.
idemandjustice 24th-Jan-2013 08:10 pm (UTC)
This. Good lord.
aviv 24th-Jan-2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
Fuck her. I'm not eating at my table because we have one chair and 3 plastic stools and my back is killing me, so fuck her.
dagnirovanaliel 25th-Jan-2013 05:24 am (UTC)
I like eating on my bed because I can recline on pillows and it puts less pressure on my hips and back. Chronic pain is fun. Of course, then I end up getting crumbs everywhere.

Also, I tend to eat while watching TV or blogging, because thanks to years of fat-shaming and disordered eating, I feel horrifically uncomfortable focusing on food.
idemandjustice 25th-Jan-2013 04:16 pm (UTC)
I eat in front of my computer a lot. And as for that ridiculous wank up above, I put the same amount of food on my plate whether I'm sitting at the computer or the kitchen table. I'm not eating a different amount of food either way.
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