Obesity and the Cost of Jeans

Image courtesy of moveeattreat.org

Image courtesy of moveeattreat.org

Here’s a conundrum for you: if you pay less for children’s clothes, according to the size of them, why do you pay the same for adult clothes, whether you’re a size 0 or a size 20?

My girls have grown recently (they have no consideration for our bank balance) and so new jeans were called for. Amelie is a shrimp, and as I flicked through the racks of kids’ denim in Next, I noticed the difference in cost depending on your child’s age and, therefore, size.

This got me to thinking – how is it that I pay the same for my jeans as I would pay if I were a much larger size? In some cases, a substantial amount of extra material is being used, so either I’m paying over the odds for mine, or the larger lady is getting away with a bargain.

So, how does this work? And is it because the retail trade doesn’t wish to be accused of penalizing shoppers according to how fat they are?

The government have often bandied about ideas of penalising obese people by charging huge amounts of tax on particular foods, and there are various ethical arguments revolving around the cost of diabetes type 2 and bariatric surgery.Whatever the cause of the weight gain (and I mean the psychiatric cause, for the only physical one is eating too much), there is no doubt that it is draining NHS resources, and it is self-inflicted.

Ditto alcoholics and liver transplants. Alcoholism is a disease, but does the poorly 4 year old get the transplant or the alcoholic? And I don’t say this lightly – my own father was an alcoholic up until his death.

I’ve also experienced the overweight side of the coin, having gained a huge amount whilst pregnant and signed-off work, sat on the sofa with SPD. Luckily I’m a stubborn moo, with (as yet) no underlying psychological issues that cause me to overeat, and I couldn’t wait to lose it again. And I don’t say that lightly either (excuse the pun) because I was 5 and a half stone heavier than I am now on the day that I gave birth.

Whatever your opinions about this issue and its thorny complexities, there is no doubt that we need healthier families and we need to stop pouring money down the obesity plughole. Why are people using food to self-medicate so much nowadays? Have humans always needed to fill the emotional hole inside themselves, and it just so happens that food is now readily available as a drug of choice? What’s the root cause? And how can we afford to fund the effects?

Not easy questions, and certainly no easy answers.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 27th January 2015




A Family Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas.


Image courtesy of mamanyc.net

Image courtesy of mamanyc.net


Although December is now a few weeks past and, according to Tesco, the Easter bunny is just about to roll us all into the bariatric surgery wards, I do need to hark back to Christmas in order to illustrate the point of this week’s column. I apologise in advance.

I’ve been trying to explain to my girls recently just how much time people used to spend together with their families. Long gone are the times when the shops would close for a period of days, as opposed to mere hours, over the festive period. It used to be a big deal to go and do the Christmas food shop for example, requiring the kind of preparations and time allowance that one would usually need in order to scale Everest or similar.

In fact, if Christmas Day fell on a Saturday, then the world would close its doors from Friday afternoon until Wednesday, because the bank holidays would run into the next working week.This closure made the whole experience feel so much more special – and I am positive that’s not nostalgia talking. There was something thrilling about the fact that the world was shutting up shop, the streets would empty, and people took indoors to hibernate and rest.

Time would be spent playing games, or reading books, or tuning-in in our millions to watch the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special. The build-up to the festive period did not seem like an anti-climax because the festivities lasted for days, and not just until Next opened their doors at the ludicrous hour of 6am on Boxing Day.

It seems that there is no longer any area of our lives that is not governed by the shops. Is it just me, or is this ridiculous? Is it just me, or would it be fabulous to still have one time of year when much of the world grinds to a halt, and we have to focus on what really matters: each other?

It is because of these post-festive thoughts that my husband and I have been trying to make a concerted effort to have a little bit of ‘Christmas’ each weekend. To snuggle up on the sofa with the kids, to relax and walk the dog, chatting about our plans, and to focus on our family and simply forget the weekday rush.

Sometimes we have to stop and remember that a family is for life, not just for Christmas.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 20th January 2015



Why Sleep Deprivation is a Form of Torture.


If you have small children under the age of four, it is probably best that you look away now. If you read on, then I run the risk of you declaring me a smug, sleep-filled swine, with more shut eye than I know what to do with.

So, here it comes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On Sunday, our children let us sleep until 9.50am! All together now, to the rousing tune of Handel’s Messiah, HALLELUJAH!

Until our eldest was born, my husband and I had no idea as to why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. We told ourselves that, as two hardcore partiers who were used to crawling out of a taxi and into bed at 4am, this night-feed malarkey would be fine.

What a couple of deluded plonkers we were.

In fact, I had entertained the fantasy when first pregnant (back in the days when we planned to have FOUR CHILDREN), that on Sunday mornings I would rise first, creeping with stealth into their bedrooms. I would gently wake the darling creatures, and they would bestow beams of joy upon me as, clasping hands, we would tiptoe back to mummy and daddy’s bedroom.

My husband would stir at the sound of their approach, and he too would be filled with an overwhelming sense of joyous peace at the sight of their sleep-tousled little heads approaching, whilst I moved downstairs through pools of morning sunlight, to pop breakfast on and start our day.

I would call up to them when our morning feast was ready, and we would sit around the table together, smiling beatifically at one another, filled with anticipation for the day ahead, and leafing through the Sunday papers.

Back in the land of reality, and I’d have been hard-pressed to tell you what day of the week it was, or possibly even my own name.

My eyes felt as though they were swinging from my face on strings, and I wondered if it was actually safe for me to be driving a car. In fact, upon reflection, it is probably as sensible to allow new parents to operate vehicles, as it is to send your offspring for a sleepover with Jimmy Saville.

It is unlikely that our daughters will leave us until that time again, but it’s better than 2am. Either way, I can confirm that the Sunday paper myth still eludes us. We live in hope.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 13th January 2015



Ebola Lands in Britain


This morning, I woke up to the news that we’ve all been expecting since the summer: Britain has a confirmed case of ebola.

Despite the ‘screening’ at airports, someone has slipped through the net. And given that the net has holes the size of Africa in it, this is hardly surprising.

It transpires that Cameron’s screening could be performed by a couple of carefully trained cocker spaniels, if only they had opposable thumbs. Because all the screening consists of is… a questionnaire.

Did you know that it does not even include the taking of a temperature? And given that ebola is a haemorrhagic fever – the clue is in the name – a thermometer seems the most basic of precautions.

How it can possibly be, as we enter the sixteenth year of the 21st century, that worldwide governments did not get their inflated heads together last December, when this outbreak began? Think of the lives that could have been saved, think of the families that could have been spared horrific heartbreak, and think of the ebola orphans, who might still have had their mummies and their daddies with them this year.

It makes me unspeakably cross that the people with the most power in this world, are the ones who are hidden behind disinfected doors, issuing forth their decrees, like Herod. Only with not a wise man or woman between them.

Surely it is common sense, that when health workers return from an ebola stricken country, they go into quarantine for 21 days during the possible incubation period?

Back in the good old 20th century even pets were put into quarantine before vaccination passports existed for them, yet a nurse who has been mucous-membrane deep in protective clothing has managed to bring back a virus that is allegedly very hard to catch. She has sat on flights, transferred at airports, wandered through them, and presumably answered Cameron’s questionnaire.

“Have you been near ebola in the past few hours?”

“Yes, practically rolling it.”

“Do you feel ok?”

“Fine and dandy.”

“Great, come on in then!”

Some members of the public have expressed fury with the health workers – this is clearly wrong, how else can it be tackled if not for these brave people and their families? But you can empathise with the fury, because it is bred of fear. We cannot trust the people in charge, we have no control: we can simply sit and wait for the next headline.

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 6th January 2014