This is Andrew Lansley. I do not know him. I’m sure he is, at heart, a dedicated public servant, regardless of some of his expenses claims and outbursts about how the recession will do us plebs some good. I actually like many of his policies on the NHS and healthcare; however he has recently made some very misguided comments about school dinners campaigner Jamie Oliver, and fatties, which are born not out of malice, but rather ignorance about the complex subject of diet and obesity. Lansley has said on record that if you “tell people that biology and the environment causes obesity…they are offered the one thing we have to avoid: an excuse”.
I will accept there is an element of truth to this. Charles Poliquin, the famous strength coach, regularly discusses willpower: “There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe. You are the result of what you love most. You either love finely etched muscular abs more than donuts or you love donuts more than wash board abs”.
Paul Chek, another renowned health professional also discusses excuses: “I've had multi-millionaires and world-class professional athletes in my office tell me that organic food is too expensive. I walk them to the window and point to their $140,000 sports car and say, "Eat that f*cker then!
However the story takes a further development when Mr Lansley recently induced various false conclusions from what we philosophers call syllogisms to attack Mr Oliver’s campaign for healthy school meals.
- Educating people about healthy eating is lecturing
- Lecturing people is counterproductive
- Therefore educating people is counterprodutive
From this false conclusion he then induces that personal responsibility is more important than education. Now I do not intend to pick on Mr Lansley’s physique; he acknowledges he could do more to improve his own fitness: "I have a body mass index of 28 which means I'm classified as slightly overweight. I make no secret about the fact that I could be fitter, but following fitness training with Men's Health last year I use a running machine and my children wear me out playing football."
Don’t get me started on Men’s Health telling him to lose weight on a running machine; what worries me is that this simplified health advice comes from a politician who clearly does not know how to maintain his own fat percentage or what constitutes healthy eating. Yet here he is, criticising Jamie Oliver for attempting, nobly, to educate a very, very ignorant public; preferring instead to say ‘it’s your fault fatty’ whilst, let’s be honest, not being in the greatest shape himself. (A BMI of 28 doesn’t disguise the fact his body fat is significantly higher than ‘slightly overweight’)
I don’t suggest Jamie Oliver has the answers; in fact I’d love him to read Gary Taube’s ‘Diet Delusion’ before advocating so many pasta, bread and potato dishes - stick to the meat Jamie! - however at least he is trying to help a public who still believe animal protein is bad and that Frosties are part of a nutritious breakfast.
The difference between Charles Poliquin, Paul Chek, Jamie Oliver and Andrew Lansley is that the first three offer solutions and education to the public, whilst acknowledging that personal responsibility plays a role; but if you don’t know how to lose fat then no amount of willpower will magically make it happen.
I think perhaps Mr Lansley would benefit from accompanying me to a typical consultation with an overweight young man, clearly depressed, who has tried everything his Dr has told him, who has followed the ‘healthy eating guidelines’ the government suggests, who consumes 70% of his diet from wholegrain carbohydrates, who is clearly insulin resistant and has oestrogen related ‘moobs’, is well on his way to Type 11 Diabetes, who is in floods of tears, who runs 5km every day, and who hasn’t lost any body fat. Then he should tell him that there are no excuses, it’s not his hormones, or the BPAs in the environment, or the awful food advertised all day long, or the agricultural products the government subsidises and promotes or finally the very debateable dietary advice the government gives.
No, it’s because he can’t say no to Turkey Twisslers.