Daily Mail. November 11, 2008: “We’ll pay the obese to take a walk.”
News of the World. April 12, 2009: “Lards of Money: NHS paying fatties £425 to lose weight.”
Daily Mail. July 3, 2009: “Lose weight and we’ll give you £1 for every pound.”
(Don’t you just love the NOTW headline!)
This story just doesn’t go away. I first saw it around November 2008. The news then was that Manchester would begin the scheme and then, if successful, it would be rolled out. The idea was that people would accumulate points for things like: losing weight; walking children to school; joining exercise classes and/or slimming clubs etc. Points could then be traded in through supermarkets for healthy food.
The initial proposal received much negative reaction – Tam Fry of The National Obesity Forum called it “too little, too late”. Other politicians attacked the idea as ‘gimmicky’ and ‘open to abuse’.
The April 2009 NOTW article, didn’t mention Manchester, but said that scheme would be set up under the name “Weight Wins” and that it would be run by the NHS. The maximum payout would be £425 for someone who loses 50lbs. Apparently even 40 “chubby” (as the NOTW calls them) nurses had signed up to the scheme.
The July 2009 Daily Mail article said that “Men and women are to be paid to lose weight in the first scheme of its kind in the UK”. They will be given a £1 shopping voucher for every pound they shed, in the pilot scheme involving 100 volunteers. The pilot is due to start in September 2009 in Essex and Basildon. A Basildon council spokesman said “we have initially set aside £1,000 for the scheme. We don’t want to encourage people to excessive weight loss.” (This is probably a fair sum given the success people usually have following government weight loss advice!)
I’m confused! So what happened after November 2008 and April 2009? Nothing?! Is this the pilot scheme or the third scheme? Will we hear about results, or just initiatives?!
And all of this misses the complete point that people who want to be slim don’t lack motivation. In a study of formerly fat people, who had lost weight after intestinal bypass surgery, researchers at the University of Florida reported that virtually all said they would rather be blind or deaf or have a leg amputated than be fat again. That is how much people want to be slim and yet two thirds of people in the UK are overweight (Body Mass Index, BMI, of 25+) and one quarter are obese (BMI of 30+).
So people don’t lack motviation – they lack advice that will actually work. The current eat less/do more, base your meals on starchy foods, graze, eat everything in moderation – all this advice is what needs to be changed – not financial incentives offered to already desperate people.