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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
09 October 2022
Emma Harper MSP says language around tackling obesity in Scotland needs to be more “powerful”

Holyrood's fringe event on tackling obesity

Emma Harper MSP says language around tackling obesity in Scotland needs to be more “powerful”

The co-convener of a cross-party group on Improving Scotland's Health, who also sits on the  has said the language around tackling obesity in Scotland needs to be more “powerful”.

During a Holyrood fringe event at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, Emma Harper said inequalities and busy lifestyles helped contribute to an “obesogenic environment” in Scotland.  

She said: “When I think of [the word] obesogenic, I think of the word carcinogenic which is such a powerful word, so maybe the language needs to be more strong and powerful in order to help, support, and engage people as well.”  

Holyrood’s editor Mandy Rhodes, who was chairing the event, referred to a survey of GPs who were too embarrassed to talk to patients about the impact of what they eat.

SNP councillor Nadia El-Nakla, a psychotherapist working with people with eating disorders, said it was important not to stigmatise people for eating certain foods.

She said: “I would ask you to try to change the language, so that it is not so triggering that you are doing something wrong by eating that.  

“Through intuitive eating, having what you crave and understanding that you could have a ‘bad day’, that word bad is self-scolding.

“It is really dangerous because women and men are dying from these things [eating disorders]. As you said it is multifaceted, but it has to be kept in mind.”

Joining Harper on stage was Jim Fox, head of public affairs for Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, and David Thomson, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation Scotland.

Harper made it clear to the audience that she thought it was important to sit and listen to food and drinks companies in the discussion of how to improve obesity in Scotland.

She read a statement from the cross-party group on Improving Scotland's Health, making it clear “the cross-party group in no way endorses this event” and they would protect health discussions from being “distorted and derailed by the promoters of health-harming products.”  

The MSP was asked if she believed they should be involved in the conversation, she said: “I think yes, they should be. How can you argue with them if they are not even in the room?”

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