Weight Loss: The War on Fat - Tonight

For nearly two months during the recent lockdown the majority of us were stuck indoors, mostly cooking for ourselves, with limited opportunity to exercise and often easy access to snacks… it’s perhaps not surprising that in a survey earlier in the year half of the people questioned said they’d gained weight since March, with over a quarter saying they had been drinking more alcohol.

Obesity had already been described as a ticking time bomb in this country with around two thirds of adults in the UK now classified as overweight. So with the increasing threat of local lockdowns this winter, reporter Angellica Bell has been finding out what we can do to win the weight loss war.

The government have placed obesity high up on their agenda, revealing their new obesity strategy in July. They are planning to introduce restrictions on supermarket promotions, ban buy one get one free offers on unhealthy items, stop junk food TV adverts before 9pm and introduce new rules for displaying calories on menus in large restaurants, cafes and takeaways.

It comes at a time when links between obesity and the coronavirus are becoming apparent, our own Prime Minister Boris Johnson having vowed to lose weight after becoming seriously ill with the virus earlier in the year. Three quarters of people in the UK who ended up in intensive care with coronavirus were overweight or obese, with research suggesting that carrying too much fat increased the risk of dying from the disease by nearly fifty per cent. 

So what can we do if we want to lose weight and keep it off in the long term? Professor Tim Spector from King’s College London has spent much of his career researching the role our gut health plays in weight loss. His view is that calorie controlled diets are not a good long term option: because we all respond to food differently, how we process calories will vary too. His advice is to concentrate on improving our gut health, which impacts on our ability to lose weight:

But there are different views on the best ways to shed the pounds. Someone who’s known for his strong opinions on weight loss is personal trainer and author James Smith, who’s gained a big online following with his no nonsense style.

Unlike Professor Spector, James advocates that people who want to lose weight do track their calorie intake, so they think about what they are putting inside their bodies.

Meanwhile some people categorised as very obese will opt for surgery to lose weight. It’s dangerous and NHS doctors say it should be a last resort. But surgeons who carry out so-called ‘bariatric procedures’ say enquiries for private operations have increased over the summer. One of the companies providing such surgery, The Transform Group, say requests are up by a quarter compared to the same time last year- a spike they put down to an increased awareness about the way obesity impacts on our health, the coronavirus link and people having more disposable income right now.

It seems there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution to losing weight. Keeping track of what you eat and drink, watching your portion sizes and aiming to eat 30 different types of fruit and veg a week… all of these can help. 

The key is finding something that works for you in the long term- and doing your best to stick to it.Watch 'Weight Loss: The War on Fat?' on ITV this Thursday (10th September) at 7:30pm.


NHS Better Health Campaign

NHS weight loss app

Government Obesity Strategy

Obesity UK, info and advice on how to deal with obesity in the face of coronavirus

NHS advice on bariatric surgeryTim Spector's research and latest book