The Problem with the Prime Minister’s Anti-Obesity Strategy

A campaign to help people ‘lose weight, get active and eat better’ after the COVID-19 ‘wake-up call’ will now, amongst other regulations, require calories to be displayed on menus to help people make healthier choices.

The government’s new obesity plan for England will see a rise in fatty food prices, a reduction in readily available choices in supermarkets and a before 9pm TV and online advert ban for high fat, sugar and salt products (HFSS) - for the UK in its entirety.  

The plan is being launched underneath the title of the ‘Better Health’ campaign, led by Public Health England (PHE), which will call on people to embrace a healthier lifestyle and to lose weight if they need to, supported by a range of evidence-based tools and apps.

However many experts believe that despite being a very positive movement on the face of it, there is very little evidence to suggest that these new rules to abide by will have any effect on the obesity problem currently being faced by the nation and in some cases is likely to have the opposite effect.

Nutritionist and fitness influencer Peter O’Halloran (who gained national notoriety after scientifically debunking the false claims of mainstream weight loss products) is one such expert.

As the founder of PPT Fitness and Nutrition, he has fiercely defended his title of ‘Irelands best fitness nutritionist/dietician at the Irish fitness industry awards’, winning for the second year in a row since the category was founded in 2018.

Peter is a firm believer in that by implementing ‘restrictions’ as opposed to ‘educating’ and ‘empowering’ people to make healthier choices, the campaign is likely to push people the other way entirely.

Speaking in more detail, Peter O’Halloran, says: “The fact the prime minister has acknowledged the obesity problem and wishes to fix it is a good thing. In my opinion however, the key to fixing an on-going problem is not through restriction but education.

“You need to give the public the benefit of the doubt. Don’t tell them what to do but educate them on nutrition and let them decide for themselves. It’s far more empowering.”

Having worked with many people looking to kick-start their weight-loss journey, Peter also believes that the government’s new anti-obesity plan is instilling a calorie counting culture, something which he feels isn’t a healthy place to be for those trying to lose weight.

 “Most people who count calories for weight loss or weight management assume it’s an exact science. It’s not” Peter adds.

“In general, you can’t really trust that the calorie and macronutrient numbers you see on food packages are accurate. You see, the way they’re calculated — if they’re calculated at all — is surprisingly imprecise.”

“I think a better additive would be some kind of a nutrition scale or table of nutrients, more easily digestible for everyday use. For example, using a scale of 1-10 where 1 is least nutritious, or providing the least vitamins and minerals, and 10 being a food providing a lot of nutrients and vitamins.

“If you pick up a menu and there is a chicken stir-fry with vegetables ranked as a 7 and underneath a burger with chips ranked at a 4, it portrays a much easier, more digestible way of looking at food rather than spending hours counting from labels.

“This will help educate the person to not just focus on the calories or bracket foods as good or bad, but to look at the food as a whole in regards calories and health.

For the last 6 months, Peter has taken a role of the official ambassador for ProYouth Nutrition, the brand behind Europe’s first protein bar for active children, run by GBEA finalist and entrepreneur Marina Wegorek, who aims to use her brand to highlight the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle.

To help educate and inspire, Peter has collaborated with ProYouth Nutrition and created some top tips for dieting in a healthy but unrestricted manner i.e. Eat Right through Empowered Education:

Get to know macro and micronutrients - If you take a little time to understand the nutrients are in your food and what they do to your body, you’re it’s much easier to make healthier choice.

Fibre is your friend - Foods containing lots of fibre can help keep you feeling full, which should reduce the desire to snack on treats and it’ll also keep your digestion in check. Fibre is only found in food from plants, such as fruit and veg, oats, wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta, and beans, peas and lentils.

 Carbs aren’t the enemy – You don’t have to cut out carbs to lose weight. Carbohydrates are a major source of fuel and nutrients for our bodies. Although cutting down on carbs may lead to weight loss initially, it’s hard to maintain and if you’re looking to build muscle and strength, they’re a key part of your diet so I prefer to recommend a balanced approach.

Do not skip breakfast - Skipping breakfast will not help you lose weight. I try to encourage clients not to eat less but eat to healthier and more nutritionally dense food. You’re less likely to snack and your body will burn off the excess quicker.

Eat regular, small meals - Eating at regular times during the day helps to keep your digestive system functioning properly and boosts your metabolism. Again, it reduces the temptation to snack on foods high in fat and sugar. The ProYouth Nutrition social channels have a range of educational content including recipes for high nutrient meal options.

Get more active - Being active is not only key to losing weight and keeping it off but it can also boost self-confidence and have a positive impact on mental health. As well as providing lots of health benefits, exercise can help burn off fat that cannot lose through diet alone.

Drink plenty of water – Water has so many health benefits but if you’re trying to loose weight it can help by boosting your metabolism and acting as an appetite suppressant.

Don’t ban treats - Do not ban any foods from your weight loss plan, especially the ones you like. Banning foods will only make you crave them more. There's no reason you cannot enjoy the occasional treat.

Limited junk in the cupboards food - To avoid temptation, try to limit the junk food in your house – such as chocolate, biscuits, crisps and sweet fizzy drinks. Instead, opt for healthy snacks, such as fruit, unsalted rice cakes, oat cakes, unsalted or unsweetened popcorn.

Plan your meals - Try to plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week. This will mean you’re less likely to order unhealthy takeaways overindulge at lunchtimes.

 Tackle your Triggers

Are you deficient in Magnesium and Calcium , as these can cause Sugar and Salt cravings. Ensure you are having nutrient rich foods.

For more information on Peter O’Halloran please visit or follow him on Instagram.

ProYouth Nutrition offers a range of nutrient dense natural energy bars for active children. They are a great source of protein, magnesium, and other important nutrients to improve both cognitive, physical, mental and immune health. 

The sugars are from natural date sugars that are high in dietary fibre keep those tummies feeling full.


Photo credit : 

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash