Sugar Tax, helping the future generation?

In the news this week there has been a lot about childhood obesity and the plans in the budget of a “sugar tax” on sugary drinks. The reason used for this is to prevent childhood obesity getting worse. This is something I am sure a lot of my readers have strong feelings about so I have put back my next blog post for a day or two so I can do this one!

Were you overweight or obese as a child? Are your children considered overweight? Do you think that children grow and change so we shouldn’t worry until they are 16? Do you worry about your children/grandchildren and future generations? This is a topic I think we all have strong feelings on and as such I thought I would share mine.

According to the NHS (here), The UK has higher levels of obesity than any other country in Europe. In 2013 it claims that 24.8% of adults were obese and 61.7% of adults were either overweight or obese. This is worked out based on BMI (the body max index worked out based on the height to weight ratio), a score of 25-29 is considered overweight and 30 and above is considered obese. The NHS say that they believe that a number of factors cause the obesity levels to increase, including income (areas of deprivation are said to have higher obesity rates), an obese parent is said to be more likely to have overweight children, and an overweight child is likely to grow into an overweight adult. As the NHS research is based on collection of a lot of data I guess we can not really dispute this however I do feel there are some important points to raise.
Firstly I personally would question the BMI as a measure of obesity and its accuracy. As I have said in previous posts I am in size 8 clothes very comfortably, I weigh 12 stone at target (I am currently around 12.5 stone but still in the same clothes), I am 5 foot 10 inches tall and have a waist measurement of 75cm. Clothes sizes do vary between different shops but I am most definitely an 8 in the vast majority of shops. Everyone who sees me would consider me slim and my clothes size also indicates this. However my BMI is currently 25.1 therefore according to this I am overweight. Everybody’s views on this may be different but in my view if the BMI doesn’t seem to work with everyone then how can we use that as a measure of the populations obesity levels. There are often stories in the media about sports people with a lot of muscle having a high BMI but obviously this doesn’t mean they are overweight. Of course also we have all seen pictures of children who have been labelled as overweight and do not look it in photos. These are all points I believe need to be considered alongside the photos we are shown of clearly overweight children and adults.

Two very different photos of me at the weight I am now 12st 7lb
so with an “overweight BMI wearing size 8 clothes!
Will the increased costs of sugary drinks affect the obesity levels? Personally I cant see that they will because if we are saying that the cost of food and drinks is key then we need to remember that you can buy a pack of around 8 sausage rolls for just £1, multipacks of crisps for less than £1 and a packet of cheap biscuits for less than 50p. If cost is considered by the government as a major factor then they, in my opinion, need to look at all these things as well as sugary drinks. What about the fruit juices with added sugar and flavoured milks, that are not covered by the sugar tax. Why is it generally cheaper to buy a bag of 10 doughnuts than a bag of 10 apples? These I believe are all things that need considering not just the cost of sugary drinks.

Should we be labelling children anyway? I think this is a difficult one, I do think that parents should be given some indication as to whether their child is getting overweight so that it is easier to gradually change their habits and try to reverse any unhealthy habits while they are still young. I do however disagree with youngsters knowing about this and feel it is important to just promote a healthy lifestyle for all children. As adults we predominantly cook for our children so we can monitor most of what they eat and can ensure a balanced diet where possible.

One thing that isn’t often discussed is the importance of building a child’s positive body image. I believe that part of what allowed me to get overweight as a teenager and young adult was that I already believed I was fat so felt that it wasn’t important what I ate because I was fat anyway. I feel by improving a child’s opinion of themselves and taking away the negative influences of magazines with photo-shopped images will also have an impact on their future size.

Children are without doubt very impressionable and need us as adults to guide them towards a healthy lifestyle. There is always going to be parents who chose unhealthy food over healthy food even if the price is the same. There will always be people, both adults and children who will have an unhealthy relationship with food, eating disorders are considered to be mental health diagnosis’ and support for those are needed. I think it is great that the government are looking at childhood obesity and the money raised from this sugar tax will be put in some way into sports in schools but I do think that it is only part of the bigger picture. All adults I believe need to look at their relationship with food (and of course drinks too) and as such how their lifestyle influences that of their children.

So, next time you are thinking about giving up on your weight loss plan, not happy with the number you see on the scales or dislike the way you look do remember that your children are looking up to you as an example. We as adults buy the food in the house, we chose what our young children eat and we set an example of what older children will chose, I for one hope that my son will grow up to chose the foods and drinks that are healthy alongside also having treats sometimes and I hope that is from my parenting not just the governments taxes. No parent is perfect but I am sure like me all parents hope they do their best for their children and future generations and in my eyes any help from the government in this is great but doesn’t take away our responsibility as parents.
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