Would we all be thinner if we spoke more plainly?

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There will be very few people who disagree with efforts to help slim down our increasingly large waistlines.

As a society we are all getting bigger; what we used to see as a particularly ‘American’ problem is now firmly in the UK, with general obesity rates up and statistics among schoolchildren worrying.

The evidence is everywhere – in any public area you will see proof that people are getting bigger. That’s not to condone ‘bodyshaming’ or cruelty, but it’s a fact, a problem we need to tackle.

Today we report on the launch of a new app, which is part of the Change4Life healthy eating campaign. The idea is that with Be Food Smart you can scan the barcode of any food on sale and it will give you information about salt, sugar and saturated fat – the demonic trinity – in a simple traffic-light format.

So far so good, and we hope it proves useful to those who try it out. But one thing springs to mind about today’s story. The official from Public Health England south east says that the organisation doesn’t want ‘to tell families they have to stop eating certain foods’, rather preaching that moderation is key.

Moderation may indeed be key, but one man’s moderation is another man’s feast. It becomes a difficult thing to assess. Is a packet of fruit pastilles, or a single sweet a ‘moderate’ amount? How many chips make a portion fall into the ‘in moderation’ category?

One sometimes yearns for the simpler rules in life – when fried food, doughnuts and ice cream were just bad for you. It didn’t mean you didn’t eat them; but it did mean that you knew they were a treat, and should be a rare indulgence

Cynics will say that the ‘in moderation’ gospel is pandering to and trying not to offend the large food corporations, who manufacture sugar-laden food, and don’t want to see them on a banned list. Optimists will say that no, instead it’s about taking people with you and not lecturing to them about diet. Both could be right; both could be wrong. But back in the more binary, plain-speaking days, we had a much thinner society. Food for thought?