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“It’s not about willpower and self-control.”

“It’s not about willpower and self-control.”

The UK has one of the highest levels of obesity in Western Europe. Two in three adults are overweight or obese. This was revealed by statistics from the National Childhood Measurement Programme. In 2021, obesity rates among four- and five year-olds in reception classes increased to 14.4%, compared with 9.9% the previous year. In year 6, 10 and 11-year-olds, obesity rates increased to 25.5%, from 21%.

These figures can be correlated to the food environment in that individuals operate, new research highlights.

According to a systematic review conducted by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Obesity Policy Research Unit, the British food environment – where people eat out of the home and the advertisements and promotions they are exposed too – actively hinders people’s efforts at losing weight and maintaining a healthy body mass.

According to the review, people who are actively trying to lose weight due to the popularity and appeal of unhealthy food are forced to avoid certain areas of the food environment, such as the supermarket, work canteen or social situations.

This review shows how difficult it can be to lose weight in Britain and keep it off. It also shows that it is not easy to find healthy food options that are cheap, convenient, quick, and appealing.Kimberley Neve is co-author of this review and Research Assistant at Centre for Food Policy, City University of London.

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