chapter  5
15 Pages

An elephant in the room and a bridge too far, or physical education and the ‘obesity epidemic’

ByMICHAEL GARD

The idea that we are all getting fatter, regardless of age, sex, class, ethnicity or nationality, has been received, if not with glee, then at least with enthusiasm by people championing a startling diversity of causes. Some geneticists have claimed that fatness is primarily a problem for molecular biology and, not surprisingly, implore governments to direct more research funds their way (Hope 2002; Pirani 2002). Neo-Darwinists have announced it as proof that our modern lifestyles are out of step with our prehistoric and biologically determined natures (Engel 2002; McMichael 2002). ‘Family values’ advocates have seen it as yet another lamentable outcome of fragmented modern families which they claim no longer partake in wholesome, communal family meals nor take time to enjoy idyllic (and calorieburning) walks and picnics (Shanahan 2002). And for those with an anti-globalcorporation bent, increasing obesity is yet another ill which can be blamed on US-based multi-national fast food chains (Bunting 2002; Nestle 2002; Schlosser 2001; Tabakoff 2002). In each case, there is an obvious willingness to calmly

accept the proposition that an ‘obesity epidemic’ is sweeping the world and now poses a serious global health problem.