Obesity can’t be tackled until we address the trauma that causes it

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People with Covid-19 who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of serious complications and death. In the light of this evidence, the government has launched a plan to address obesity, framed as a way of preventing as many casualties in a second wave of the virus. Boris Johnson’s own tummy was, supposedly, a driving factor.

“It was a wake-up call for me, and I want it to be a wake-up call for the whole country,” Johnson wrote in a Daily Express column. “The facts are simple: extra weight puts extra pressure on our organs and makes it harder to treat heart disease, cancer and – as we have found – coronavirus.” Measures include mandating calorie labelling on menus, ending discount deals on unhealthy food items, banning pre-watershed ads for junk food and expanding NHS weight-management services.

A Public Health England survey suggests that two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. This is a serious problem that needs urgent attention. But if a second wave of coronavirus cases is expected this winter, is a few months really long enough to slim the country’s waistlines? Is this not, at minimum, a three-year objective? The government’s woolly, dissonant messaging – telling us to lose weight in the same week that we’ve been told to eat out more – hasn’t helped.