Lizzy Buchan: Stop blame and get back to basics to fix obesity

It is your fault if your child is overweight.

We need to stop blaming parents for child obesity and tackle the problem. Picture: TSPL
We need to stop blaming parents for child obesity and tackle the problem. Picture: TSPL

These are words no parent wants to hear, as no one wants to be told that they are responsible for their child suffering from a plethora of health problems as well as pervasive social stigmas.

It was the implication earlier this week, when Glasgow University published an interesting piece of research exploring the link between certain parenting practices and child obesity levels.

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The scientists found mothers with lower levels of formal education were more likely to have children with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), as their families were more likely to eat in front of the TV or to have less formally structured meal times.

While this might not be shocking to some, it shows we have gone so far in the wrong direction that we need to learn the basics all over again.

Obesity is the new cancer, the buzz issue that everyone is talking about.

Scientists have uncovered links to a threatening list of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and neurological and psychological conditions such as dementia and depression.

We know that Scotland has a major problem with expanding waistlines, as around 65 per cent of adults were found to be overweight or obese in 2014.

More worryingly, nearly a third of Scottish children were overweight or obese.

It can be very difficult to change the habits of a lifetime and obese children tend to grow into obese adults.

Pointing the finger or judging parents is not constructive but the Glasgow University study raises some interesting points about what can be done to help.

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Firstly, education is the way forward for combatting obesity.

This doesn’t mean whether or not you have a degree, rather what you know about food and your body.

Additionally we need to get parents involved in this fight as it is clear that a parent’s behaviour has a major impact on their children.

Official data points to a strong link between obesity and deprivation in Scotland, however the Glasgow experts found a stronger link between maternal education levels and obesity than household income and area deprivation.

It’s clear our society needs a lesson in how to improve our relationship with food so we can pass on better messages to our children.

As jobs have become more sedentary and days more rushed, many of us are reaching for a quick fix, which is not often the most healthy.

Self-proclaimed experts extol the virtues of giving up gluten, dairy and all manner of things, so it can be hard to know what to do.

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This is where projects like the recently axed Healthier Scotland Cooking Bus can play an important role, as they teach parents and children how to prepare healthy food and to make cooking from scratch a fun thing to do.

The Scottish Government has invested heavily in improving healthy eating programmes for schools, which will hopefully start to bear fruit in a significant way.

It’s clear that we need to go back to basics in terms of both food and exercise, which is sadly far more radical than it sounds.

Obesity costs the Scottish NHS between £363 million and £600m each year, according to analysis by Obesity Action Scotland.

Imagine what good the NHS could do with that sort of money.