Michael Buerk: Leave obese people alone – they’re weak, not ill

Veteran broadcaster Michael Buerk has said that obese people should be given the choice to indulge if they wish, and that they are "weak, not ill".

The BBC presenter said that those who are obese may be making a "selfless sacrifice" to stop the country being overpopulated if they die a decade earlier than the rest of the population.

Buerk wrote in the Radio Times magazine that he does not believe obesity should be classed as a disease in a bid to encourage people to seek treatment and to "reduce the stigma (of) fatness", adding that "you're fat because you eat too much".

The former I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! star queried Public Health England's claim that overweight and obesity-related ill-health costs the NHS £6.1 billion a year.

He said: "Who can calculate how much an obese person would have cost if they were slim?

"How much would he or she cost if, instead of keeling over with a heart attack at 52, they live to a ripe, dementia-ridden old age, requiring decades of expensive care? (In any case, VAT on takeaways, confectionery and fizzy drinks more than covers it.)"

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Michael Buerk through the years
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Michael Buerk through the years
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 27: BBC newsreaders Michael Buerk and Moira Stewart at the Cartier Tent during the Cartier International Polo held at Guards Polo Club on July 27, 2008 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Jon Furniss/WireImage)
File photo dated 07/02/17 of veteran broadcaster Michael Buerk has said that obese people should be given the choice to indulge if they wish, and that they are "weak, not ill".
Michael Buerk on stage during the 2015 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London.
Michael Buerk and wife Christine arriving for the 2015 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London.
Michael Buerk arriving for the 2015 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London.
Michael Buerk and wife Christine at the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Awards 2007 at the Guildhall, London.
Fiona Bruce pose in the awards room with the Newscaster/Reporter award and Michael Buerk at the TRIC Awards held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.
Handout photo from Scope of the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Booth, with television presenter Michael Buerk at Scope's Time To Get Equal dinner last night, at the Renaissance London Chancery Court Hotel.
Michael Buerk and Lady Fiona Fowler at the book launch of Oliver Poole's "Black Knights" in central London.
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: Michael Buerk and Christine Burek attend the Reinvented and Reimagined Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London relaunch party on June 11, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: (L-R) Melanie Sykes, Edwina Currie, Jake Quickenden, Vicki Michelle, Anthony McPartlin, Declan Donnelly, Nadia Forde, Michael Buerk and Jimmy Bullard pose in the winners room with the award for Best Entertainment Programme for 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!' at the National Television Awards at 02 Arena on January 21, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: (L-R) Michael Buerk and Louie Spence pose at the Sky 1 Launch of Louie Spence's Showbusiness at the Mayfair Hotel on December 6, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
LONDON - NOVEMBER 7: Presenter Michael Buerk (L) and musician Sir Bob Geldof arrive at the premiere screening of the new four-disc DVD featuring 10 hours of footage from the historic charity concert "Live Aid," at the Odeon Kensington on November 7, 2004 in London. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
Pamela Anderson and Michael Buerk. Michael Buerk presents a programme about public figures who take religious beliefs to work. . (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)
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He added that the "freedom to make bad choices is what personal autonomy, indeed democracy, is all about", and asked "who is to say longevity is the ultimate goal in life?".

Buerk said: "Let us positively reframe the argument.

"The obese will die a decade earlier than the rest of us; see it as a selfless sacrifice in the fight against demographic imbalance, overpopulation and climate change.

"Give them the facts to make informed decisions, by all means, 'nudge' all you like, but in the end – leave couch potatoes alone. They're weak, not ill."

The NHS estimates that almost a third of adults in the UK are obese, and that one in five children aged 10 to 11 are obese.

– Radio Times magazine is out now.

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