Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Brits are fatties – no getting away from it

  • Almost two out of three British adults are overweight.
  • We are the fattest country in western Europe.
  • Our obesity rates have doubled in the past 20 years.
  • We are the 6th heaviest developed country behind Mexico, the US, New Zealand, Finland, and Australia (some surprises there for me)

We also have high rates of teenage drunkedness (even though teenagers now drink less that previous generations), high cancer rates (and above average cancer deaths) and a shortage of doctors and nurses (18% lower than average for doctors and 12% lower for nurses), according to the OECD.

Our health overall is average for all the OECD countries but our obesity levels stand out. At least our child obesity rates have become stable at 24% unlike the rest of Europe where it is increasing. But that still means 1 in 4 children are very fat!

The worry is that it’s now becoming normal in Britain to be overweight. With Public Health officials being sensitive to medical staff actually telling parents their kids are fat.

The Obesity Health Alliance of doctors and charities said the results were shocking and the solution lies in stopping children becoming obese.

The National Obesity Forum chairman said “One could weep over the figures, the results of successive governments who have done nothing for 30 years”

Public Health England said “our plans to tackle obesity are among the most ambitious. We’re working to make food healthier and delivering campaigns encouraging people to choose healthier food and lead healthier lives. Change will not happen overnight

Perhaps if we called a spade and spade and named and shamed parents of obese kids we might get somewhere instead of pussyfooting around so as not to upset anybody. Letting your kids become obese is child abuse surely?

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Did feminism cause obesity?

Yes according Rosie Boycott, a senior food policy advisor to the Mayor of London and founder of feminist magazine Spare Rib.

She said “there is now a lost generation of people who rely on fast food and processed dinners“.

Speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature she said encouraging women to go out to work rather than become housewives resulted in everyone giving up cooking.. “I said “don’t cook …. you’ll get ahead” We lost it. Schools gave up cooking. Everyone gave up cooking.”

(The obesity crisis has ) certainly been fuelled by the fact that women work and that we have allowed this huge change to happenSocieties change, women start working, and the fast food and takeaways arrive“.

Cooking was seen as drudgery by feminists and has been blamed before for the spread of fast-food chains although it is unusual for feminists to actually admit it.

She thinks we should start cooking again, men as well as women. (I’m writing this as the roast chicken dinner I’m preparing for the family is nicely browning in the oven. Just saying.)

And though my mother worked she still cooked us meals, although we helped during the week preparing the vegetables etc. And working mothers back in the day didn’t have all the labour saving devices that you find in a modern kitchen either. Perhaps if women had to go out to work to make ends meet was that doesn’t count as feminism?

Of course other factors have also been blamed such as car use, computer games, clever marketing from food companies pretending they sell healthy food, and sedentary occupations.

And while Scottish hospitals ban the selling of junk food on site English hospitals make a profit from it – now that is unacceptable.

But back to her key point re feminism. The genie is out of the bottle for most people although there are some cultures which discourage women from going out to work and expect them to stay at home and look after their families. Are they less obese? Perhaps the Mayor of London has a view on that?

The NHS thinks that 1 in 4 adults is obese. Obesity levels have trebled in the past 30 years. If the trend continues half the population could be obese by 2050.

The consequences are well-known: diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease.

When I posted on this 6 years ago feminism hadn’t been brought into the mix but it’s fascinating thought isn’t it?


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Men, women still want you – but only if you are perfect!

Women only want Mr Perfect!

If you thought the chick-lit era was over, with no more searching for Mr Right a la Bridget Jones or Sex in the City; or that WAGS were now irrelevant –  then you were right, but oh so wrong! At least according to Amy Turner’s piece in the Sunday Times a while ago (which I just found in my draft box); “Mr So-So has no chance with the SAS girls”. That was 7 years ago; has anything changed?

Because it seems that then women still wanted to meet the man of their dreams – Civitas think tank found that 70% of women aged 20 – 35 want to get married – but only if they found Mr Right. In particular so-called SAS women: successful, attractive and single – say they are happy enjoying themselves.

As one SAS women, described as having “endless legs and sparkling repartee” (sycophant-speak for skinny public school girl) said; “I’m fabulous and I want someone equally as fabulous to join my party“. Not much narcissistic self-referencing there then and hardly suggesting an equal partnership (see “Princess on board…”).

Not for them Lori Gottlieb’s advice in; “Marry him: the case for settling for good enough”. As my management consultant colleagues might say, SAS women are taking a “six sigma” rather than just a “fit for purpose” approach and as one of my guest bloggers pointed out recently; “Male modesty doesn’t pay”.

But why should women settle for less now that they are increasingly holding the purse strings? Experts  in the USA think that by 2024 women will be earning more on average than men , particularly in Law, Medicine, and in academia.

There are already more females than males graduating and higher education is the best predictor of future financial success. And the trend is pretty much the same in the UK with more females than males graduating in Law and Psychology for example.

In America five years ago only 1 in 4  women in dual-income households earned more than the men; now it is up to a third and if that trend continues more women in middle-income jobs like teaching and healthcare will overtake men.

In America female graduates have flocked into cities such as New York and Dallas to find “gender-blind” jobs with the result that women in their 20s are now earning 20% more than their male counterparts.

A number of factors have influenced these trends: a sharp decline in the birth rate in cities where more women go to college, more men losing their jobs than women (women occupied more part-time jobs) in the recession (the “mancession“), and an increase in family-friendly – which usually means women-friendly – jobs.  And you could probably add to that the feminising of education.

So what do you think? Will women today settle for second best?


Just wait until you’re 50!

Then you can be one of the “nifty fifty” generation identified in a survey of 50,000 people aged 50 and over by Sun Life.

These are the people who say they are happier than they’ve ever been (two-thirds of them) – even compared with their youth – as well as wealthier and more carefree. They feel that they’re four years younger than their actual age physically and ten years younger mentally.

They also think old age begins at 77 and expect to live to 84 years of age.

And 50% of these Gen-Xers (taking the pressure of Baby Boomers here) are taking up travelling and spreading their wings. 20% are learning a language and 10% want to learn to play an instrument.

They’re even claiming that they’re having better sex than ever before!

Now this age group is 1/3 of our population so it’s worth taking note. One 51 year-old woman said “I seem to enjoy the little things in life a lot more – appreciate art, nature and simply being at home, on the sofa with a herbal tea, vegging out and not feeling guilty about it“.

That hardly sounds like spreading your wings to me, unless herbal tea is code for something stronger? Whereas one women aged 54 said she “had had the best sex of my life with younger men“. Now that’s more like it, a cougar!

A different poll of 1,500 British adults by the Royal Voluntary Service found that two-thirds of people aged over 70 also claimed that they were happier than they’ve ever been. Half even said that they were in the prime of their lives, which I think is probably exaggerating just a bit. But as they said that not worrying about what people think of them was a benefit of getting older they can say what they want!

Thank goodness there are some things to look forward to as you get older!


More evidence that bmi is past its sell-by date

I’ve posted on this previously but there’s more research out that suggests that waist-height ratios are a more reliable health indicator than bmi.

bmi doesn’t differentiate between fat and muscle and distorts the results for very short and very tall people.

The danger levels are as follows (for men and women of average fitness):

5′ tall? waist no more than 35.25″

5′ 3″ tall? waist should be no more than 36″

5′ 6″ tall? waist shouldn’t be more than 37.25″

5′ 9″ tall? waist no more than 38″

6′ tall? waist should be less than 38.5″

6′ 3″ tall? waist shouldn’t be more than 39.5″

A 40-year study in Copenhagen published in 2016 found that people with bmi’s of 27 lived the longest – although they were technically overweight.

And a study in Sweden published in 2009 found that women with an extra 4″ of fat round the waist were 15% more likely to die from heart failure despite being of “normal” weight.

It’s because belly fat is more dangerous to health than subcutaneous fat as it surrounds more vital organs. See post on body shape.

Here’s one of many waist-height ratio calculators you can try.


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Waistline should be half your height

ulearn2bu

apple_measure_tape_1600_wht_13129There is now further evidence on this from research carried out by Cass Business School at the University of London. It claims to be the first study to analyse official health records to measure the impact on life expectancy on obesity as measured by the ratio between your waist and height.

This is clearly not true as I posted about this in May 2013 describing research at Oxford Brookes University which also looked at the Health & Lifestyle survey, which goes back to 1984, and the Health Survey for England which studies 8,000 people every year.

Leaving these academic institutions to fight it out the results from both studies have the same message: your waistline – as measured at the narrowest point without breathing in – should be half your height or less. So a person who is 5′ 10″ should have a waist of no…

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