Boris Johnson 'leading by example' in UK's fight to lose weight, says minister

27 July 2020, 09:27

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson is "leading by example" in the UK's fight to lose weight, Minister for Care Helen Whately has told LBC.

Speaking with LBC's Nick Ferrari on Monday morning, the Minister of State explained how the government was "supporting people" in making decisions that will help them shed the pounds.

It comes on the day the prime minister is set to reveal his "Better Health" campaign to tackle the country's obesity problem, following his own brush with coronavirus.

Public Health England published a study on Saturday which revealed that being classed as medically obese increased someone's risk of death from Covid-19 by 40 per cent.

Mr Johnson - who has previously criticised state-backed measures to tackle obesity - insisted the new "Better Health Strategy" would help people "not in an excessively bossy or nannying way."

"We want this one really to be sympathetic to people, to understand the difficulties that people face with their weight, the struggles that everybody faces or many, many people face to lose weight, and just to be helpful," he said.

Read more: Boris Johnson to ban confectionery at store checkouts to tackle obesity

Read more: Brits rush to cancel holidays amid quarantine concerns

Boris Johnson pictured running during the 2016 Conservative Party conference
Boris Johnson pictured running during the 2016 Conservative Party conference. Picture: PA

Ms Whately told LBC the coronavirus pandemic is "a moment" for change in the UK's fight against obesity.

She said: "Now is a moment where loads of people have changed the way they live their lives because of coronavirus and lockdown.

"It is a moment to take stock and many people want to. We've seen with Covid that your risks of getting seriously ill are much greater."

Ms Whately was quizzed about whether the prime minister's policy was an example of the 'nanny state' - an approach Mr Johnson has been critical of in the past.

When asked about a deadline for when the country will know if sufficient progress has been made in tackling obesity, Ms Whately would not be drawn on giving an answer.

She said: "What we are doing is we are supporting people to make the choices they want to make. Many people want to lose weight and this will help people.

"As you mentioned the prime minister, he is leading by example. He himself is already losing weight."

The minister was also asked why the government is trying to tackle obesity on one hand but giving half-price meals at fast-food restaurants with the other.

On Rishi Sunak's Eat Out To Help Out programme, Nick asked: "Why is he discounting meals and Burger King, McDonald's, Frankie & Benny's and Nando's?

"You can't have it both ways, minister. On the one hand, you're offering cheap McDonald's and Burger Kings.

"And at the next moment, you're telling people they have to lose weight. You can't do both."

Ms Whately replied: "What we're saying to those restaurants that you've mentioned is that they need to put the calories for the different meals on the menus so that when you eat out you can make an informed choice.

"That will mean you have to choose what you have and you have the information there to choose a lower-calorie option."

Among the measures due to be announced today are an end to confectionery displays at shop checkouts, junk food adverts to be banned on TV before the 9pm watershed and a restriction on "buy one, get one free" promotions.

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