Personal Trainer’s Views on the Public Health Responsibility Deal

When governments put the interests of the food industry ahead of the interests of public health, the result is never going to be good for our nation’s health and in particular Britain’s obesity levels. As a personal trainer with obese clients, I sympathize with their struggle in our obesogenic society.

Andrew Lansley & The Public Health Responsibility Deal

Back in 2010 when The Public Health Responsibility Deal (the government’s flagship anti-obesity policy) was launched, Andrew Lansley said:

“No government campaign or programme can force people to make healthy choices. We want to free business from the burden of regulation.”

With this statement, he made his priorities quite clear. The junk food industry and its interests come first, and this government is not in the business of proactively legislating for a healthier nation.

Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer

“Obesity is the biggest threat to women’s health,” and should be treated as a “national priority”, said the Chief Medical Officer.

However, Professor Susan Jebb, chair of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, a voluntary scheme between government and the food industry for reducing levels of salt, sugar, calories and alcohol in our food and drink, seems to think the scheme has made good progress, but more work needs to be done. As a personal trainer who sees more and more obese people in London every year, I see zero evidence of good progress.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a vocal anti-obesity campaigner, called the scheme “a sham from its inception” and I agree. One medical expert said some years ago ( I forget who said it) that leaving salt & sugar levels in the hands of the food industry was like leaving Dracula in charge of the blood bank. Self-regulation just doesn’t work when the food industry’s only goal is to maximize sales and profits.

The only reason it is “on hold” (rather than scrapped, as the Daily Mail reports) is to wait and see what David Cameron’s Childhood Obesity Strategy will comprise in the new year. As he has already rejected a sugar tax, I can’t see any such strategy working.

Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine (Barts & The London), believes that stricter targets are needed for reduction of our nation’s consumption of salt and sugar and alcohol. He founded Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) back in 1996, and World Action on Salt & Health (wash) in 2005, so he has a strong track record of campaigning on salt reduction in our nation’s diet.

Obese personal training clients in London

One of my personal training clients in west London complained to me that everywhere she looks when she’s out and about in London, there are fast-food outlets selling high-sugar, high-junk carb, high-salt foods, and few of these places have healthy options.

Although we are seeing more healthy eating outlets in London (Pod and Vital Ingredients to name just two), they are still a tiny minority when compared with the vast numbers of junk food outlets in London.

Another client was shocked when I explained to him that most of the foods in his cupboards was high in salt and sugar. He thought that boxes of cereals which were marketed to people trying to lose weight and get healthy would actually do what they said on the box. He thought that cereal bars advertised as a healthy option were low in sugar. He also thought that foods with “low fat” emblazoned on the packet were healthy. Just think how many people in Britain are similarly tricked by the food industry.

As I explain to my personal training clients in London, the best way to eat healthily is to buy real food, as unprocessed as possible, and cook for yourself.

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and author of the blog.