A personal battle of the bulge
A good friend of mine is Ruta Dalton, who came to Peterborough some years ago from Lithuania. She is the excellent Conservative Action Team Leader in Gunthorpe and will make a fine councillor. She also retains her Eastern European directness.
Ruta had no problem telling me that I looked portly on the night I was elected an MP. It was true. Weeks of campaigning had meant weeks of grabbing any food available – no British dancing around the subject could hide my waistline.
I needed a diet. But I also needed someone to tell me I needed a diet, because it’s all too easy to pretend or put it off.
I’m one of the two-thirds of people carrying a little extra weight. My days of kicking a football around are gone and I eat and drink too much. Doing something about it is more difficult.
During lockdown, I took the Joe Wicks workout every morning with my young children. They didn’t need it, but they had fun and it helped. My fast for Ramadan also helped and I lost a stone.
I looked a lot better. Yet even with that incentive, discipline easily slips. After putting some weight back on, I can now offer a cautionary tale.
While I was enjoying some socially-distanced drinks in a garden, a friend went to fetch us all pizza. Nothing wrong with that. Government guidelines were followed and everything is fine in moderation.
Arriving at 2 Tasty on Lincoln Road, he got chatting to the owner. Unhelpfully, he mentioned that one of the pizzas was destined for the local MP. Back came the reply, ‘Oh, he was in here last week buying a kebab for his lunch!’
This story was immediately retold in the presence of my wife. Well and truly busted! Fortunately, I have been sticking to regular exercise.
Boris is also overweight. He admitted this week that his terrifying experience with COVID-19, when our PM needed an intensive care unit, was probably due to his weight. The medical evidence suggests obesity is a key factor.
It gives Boris a personal reason for this new battle of the bulge. Other reasons aren’t hard to find. Obesity-related conditions are costing the NHS around £6 billion a year and one in three children leaves primary school overweight.
Instinctively, I don’t like it when governments tell people what to do or what to eat. But someone needs to tell us. Not everyone knows Ruta, even in Peterborough.
The best parts of the national plan are about publicity and making the right choices easier. More information on calories, fewer sweets by supermarket counters, help to get cycling or take part in sports, less unhealthy advertising.
It’s also great that NHS weight management services will expand to help our waists shrink. This will include more self-care apps and online tools.
What works for one person won’t work for another and I don’t want to see too many regulations. No one likes a nag, especially not your MP.
Finally, a word of warning. As part of the national effort, my own plan involves running.
If you happen to spot me sweating along the streets of our City, I apologise in advance.