Living, coping and observing in the age of Covid #6
THE stable door is now shut tight. Bolted and barred. Triple locked and with no sign of a key or code. And unoccupied.
The horse it once contained, an unruly beast at the best of time, seized its pre-lockdown moment and is now a mere galloping speck in the distance.
Catching it will be a thankless, nigh impossible, task. Restraining it, even more unlikely.
For a while it held the headlines while the experts debated and dithered, as experts tend to do, about how best to control such an unruly presence. Even, perhaps – although admittedly the longest of long shots – turn its many known negatives into a positive or two.
The optimists saw it as an opportunity to create a universal force for good by subduing it, taming it, eliminating the evils hidden deep within.
Sadly its day in the spotlight soon passed, here and gone as quickly as the Instagrammers, YouTubers and other desperate fame-grabbers who flare, flicker and fade faster than a rocket on Bonfire Night.
This rampant steed is named Obesity.
In the early epidemic days, there were brief but regular mentions about the increased risks faced by those who were, to put it gently, carrying a bit of extra weight. Or, in stronger terms, could be classified as obese. Who were, in less PC terminology, simply fat.
This self-inflicted disease (for it is nothing less) was openly included in the catch-all category of a “pre-existing medical condition”. Now that the statisticians have got into their stride with data much more precise this classification has been attached to more and more victims of the pandemic.
It occurs in more than half of all the many thousands admitted to critical care during this second coming of Covid.
It embraces a wide range of medically defined conditions that Covid patients were already suffering from before catching the virus.
In broad terms, the majority of them were not healthy well before Covid struck. They were fat; deadly fat. Yet happy to be so.
In the longer term, any of these conditions were certain to have a negative effect on their life expectancy … and make them easy prey to the voracious pandemic. This greatly decreased their survival chances and ensured an earlier and more painful death.
Not so much a single clear-cut killer but the culmination of an interweaving of diverse causes and effects with Covid grasping hold and going along for the ride.
Feeding off the nation’s refusal to accept the unarguable slogan, Poor Health Costs Lives. And ignoring the fact that obesity is the fertile foundation that nurtures so much and so many of our major killer diseases and complaints.
In the early days of Covid, obesity was frequently bruited about by the experts as one of those “underlying medical conditions”.
Somehow it has since become pushed to the shadows. We dare not mention its name. After all, who would risk offending all those mouthy influencers, equality campaigners and the like who proclaim Fat Is Beautiful, that I’m comfortable in my own body or that so-called fat shaming should be a crime against the person?
So much is done to accommodate and placate the fat and overweight rather than condemn and urge a change for the better.
A glimmer of hope came this week with researchers at the European University of Madrid bluntly stating “One cannot be fat but healthy.”
In the words of Dr Alejandro Lucia, as reported in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, “It is wrong to promote the belief that being physically active helps counteract the negative effects of being obese.”
He criticises the body positivity movement for championing the belief that weight has little bearing on health and says promotion of the idea that “fat can be healthy” should be scrapped.
“While exercise helps reduce the risk of developing hypertension and diabetes, being overweight significantly raises the risk of heart attack or stroke” – underlying factors in many Covid victims.
To which can be added the numerous obesity-generated problems that add avoidable costs, stress and strain to the resources and finances of the nation’s struggling health services (Save Our NHS, anyone???)
The excess weight we willingly pile on from the moment we leave our mother’s breast is one of the major causes of poor health. It is a long known and well-proven fact. Yet those who should be heeding it are the very same sickos who most persistently laugh and scoff at the very idea of shedding the fat.
Fat? Me? Not at all. A few extra kilos perhaps, but comfortable in my body. A cliche if ever there was one. Cuddly is another feelgood word that ignores reality. Dismisses the danger signs flashing from our status as being one of the most obese nations in the world with 26.3 per cent of the population classified as such.
Added to which we have the lowest life expectancy in western Europe. A “sporting nation”, as so often boasted? Who’s kidding who?
For evidence, we have only to walk down any high street, drive through any car park, graze in any cafe, go wherever the the common herd gathers – especially on the beaches where they blissfully flaunt their flab. It is all in plain sight.
Fat, fat, fat wherever you look; blubber on parade. Scarcely a TV program passes without displaying a procession of people of all ages and genders flashing the fat.
And all the Jim Wicks, Lucy Wyndham-Reeds, super(?), diets, exercise routines and mindfulness classes are not going to make an iota of difference. Mere short-term fixes discarded almost as quickly as they are briefly taken up; all the weights, ropes, recipes, zoom sessions discarded and consigned to the bin.
Bigger, bolder, weightier (no pun intended) and permanent action is needed. Much the same as occurred (and is clearly possible) with seat belts and smoking.
Only today, as the UK passes the nightmare figure of more than 100,000 Covid deaths, are the warnings resuming and that word OBESITY emerges again into the spotlight as reasons are sought.
And the most basic and widespread explanation being offered is OBESITY. Excess weight, if you want to be polite. FAT if you dare to be blunt.
There are unfortunate people who sadly incur serious illness from birth or the early years. Or inherit genetic afflictions. Diseases that cannot be cured, at best merely alleviated. They deserve the utmost sympathy, as do the families and carers who give them unshakeable care and devotion.
Beyond them, however, is the great mass, waddling along with their bloated waistlines, puffed-up faces, jelly thighs and smug attitudes.
A study in complacency on legs until those legs can bear the weight no longer and others have to strain to heave them into hospital. There they expect the over-burdened staff of our NHS (which itself includes far too many ignoring the warnings) to provide beds, equipment, treatment and care for overfed and inactive bodies prone to accepting any ailment going.
Being active does not of necessity involve, as many seem to fear, running marathons, swimming innumerable laps, furious pedalling over hill and dale, trekking up mountains, heaving weights, hours on a treadmill, leaping around in leotards or anything else that our couch potatoes would doubtless consider extreme sports.
It means what it says on the tin: being active. Perhaps a daily walk (but more than a gentle stroll); a short session of arm raises, knee bends, sit-ups and the like; going by foot instead of by car; moving briskly instead of sluggishly; making a conscious effort to pull the gut muscles in instead of letting them flop; get your head out of your phone and pull your shoulders back, not let them slump; think taut, not slack and sloppy.
And, of course, there’s the food. How much do you really need? Over-eating is a curse, not only adding the kilos but creating lassitude and thereby laziness and that damned inactivity.
Sugars, fat (there’s that word again) and booze can be killers, too. Moderation is needed instead of excess.
There’s no use blaming the government for the deadly mess we find ourselves in. We are the cause. It is mostly self-inflicted.
Our complacency is bringing the NHS and so many other services to a standstill. Singing along to Fat Is Beautiful as we hurtle down the one-way street to an early and agonising death.
God, I am so angry. Cajoling, pleading, simply asking, pointing to the danger signs, yelling, shouting – all fall on deaf ears.
Then the pictures appear on screen, one of many similar – the blubbering woman displaying a picture of her obviously equally overweight husband as she wails about about his demise: “He was such an active man.”