09 November 2008

Anti-obesity campaigns: £275m from UK government

According to this feature in The Times, the British government have sunk £275million into an advertising campaign to help people become more grossed out by the idea of fat.

You'd hardly think that this would be something that needed funding, many people already seem pretty revolted by fat bodies judging by the amount of hostile stares, tutting and general opprobrium directed at fat people every day, not to mention our own, learned, self-destructive internalised hatred developed through these experiences. But now the government have managed to spell out exactly how disgusting they think we are, and the results are going to be plastered on billboards, in leaflets and on the TV in your living room. Joy.

Change4Life is modelled on anti-smoking and safe driving campaigns, which regularly use shock based on repellant imagery for effect. I think that shame, disgust and stigma are questionable bases for public health programmes and I suspect that this campaign is likely to do little more than add to the daily burden of fatphobia that so many of us negotiate.

I also wonder if Change4Life (ugh, was there ever an uglier name?) is a government response to the threat of self-acceptance promoted by fat activists and health promotion professionals who are sick of working under a model of obesity treatment and prevention that is ineffective and health-depleting. Perhaps they see self-acceptance as a threat. It's a shame that they're not committed to investing in that as an evidence-based obesity intervention. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the government is committed to chucking good money after bad, by funding one useless and massively expensive obesity initiative after another. Lucky for Saatchi!


Maddie said...

Oh great. Just what we need. More encouragement to think of ourselves as disgusting.

I have a prediction: in ten years time, the public health epidemic draining the NHS coffers isn't going to be all the fat people - it's going to be all the treatment needed for the skyrocketing numbers of people with eating disorders. Some of them will be fat, some will be thin, some will be dying of starvation, some won't be able to stop eating, but all of them will be filled with shame and self-loathing such that it will take decades to start to undo it. And they'll pass that gift onto their children.

vesta44 said...

Yeah, and some people will buy into those ads and do whatever it takes to live a "longer, healthier" life. What they don't realize - they're gonna die anyway, eventually. We all do. Personally, I would rather love myself as I am and treat myself the best I know how to instead of exercising to a fare-thee-well and suffering starvation just to look like someone else thinks I should. I spent 50 years of my life hating my body, I'm not about to spend what's left of my life enduring more torture that didn't work in the past and sure isn't going to work in the future. That governments are willing to throw so much money at a problem that doesn't even exist shows just how misguided and ill-informed they are.

mary said...

God, this is depressing. Sadly I think things may get a lot worse before they start getting better.

wriggles said...

I think that shame, disgust and stigma are questionable bases for public health programmes...

What annoys me is that they pretend that we been made to feel bad already.

Why do they keep trying to break us, when we've had our hands up for decades?