The French have a reputation, rightly or wrongly, for arrogance. They believe that the French way is best and everyone else should get on board.

Sometimes they have a point.

Gavin Mortimer wrote an interesting piece in The Spectator comparing rates of childhood obesity in the UK and France. He notes that in France the rate of childhood obesity is 3.6% whereas in Britain nearly one third of those aged two to 15 are overweight or obese.

I have doubts about the UK number especially as those technically a bit over the arbitrarily low cut off inflate the figure. Mortimer wonders how there can be such a difference between two countries separated by 20 miles of water.

The UK is comparable to Australia, the USA and a host of other countries particularly those in the anglosphere. In particular this will apply where low fat dietary guidelines were promoted and people followed the advice to cut fats from their diet.

Mortimer notes a number of reasons for the discrepancy between the British and French. One in-particular was interesting. The French are not shy about telling those who are overweight to do something about it. The UK is like Australia where NSW health last year forbade doctors even using the words overweight or obese! How is anyone supposed to do anything about a problem if they are banned from mentioning it. Imagine doctors in a cancer unit being banned from using the word cancer?

In France if you are grossly overweight you are regarded as weak, lazy and undisciplined! In some other country’s obesity is regarded as being due to advertising on TV, an “obesogenic” environment or a lack of government action. The notion of it having anything to do with the individual and the choice made by the individual are not PC. In fact, it gets worse. There is a school of thought that believes the individual is incapable of managing their own food intake and weight.

It is not quite as simple as the French believe but they are closer to the mark in seeing it as primarily the responsibility of the individual.

People of all ages have become heavier over the last 35 years due to following the low fat dietary guidelines promoted by big public health with government backing and funding. The French did not buy into the fat is bad myth and the results are evident. Nor do the French seem to be as terrified of “offending” as the Anglosphere.

Mortimer concludes that the French are better parents than the English. He describes them as “…stricter and more mature. They want their offspring to be educated, disciplined and controlled. The French are not afraid to say non”.

Bad advice, fairly faithfully followed, coupled with a queasiness about being saying anything that could be perceived as “offensive” hinders our ability to help those who want to reduce weight.

Most people who succeed, especially long term, do so by ignoring official advice and following the low carb healthy fat diets which they find on the web. There are many variations but at heart all turning the food pyramid upside down.

The French have shown what can be achieved as have those who ignore big public health and adopt a lower carbohydrate higher fat diet.

Overweight is not a disease needing “treatment” or government involvement. Provide people with useful information and empower them to act.