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UK Council To Send Obese People 'Motivational' Texts Telling Them To Use Stairs 225

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-it's-hard-to-ignore-the-occasional-text-message dept.
Qedward writes "Stoke-on-Trent City Council is sending texts to obese people in the area to help motivate them to lose weight. Examples of the texts sent include 'aim to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables each day,' 'aim to eat regular meals and keep a check on snacks and drinks' and 'maybe walk to the shops or use the stairs more often.' Over 100,000 people in the region are overweight or obese, the council said, and the texts are for those who are aged at least 18, have a body mass index of 25 or over and who have proactively signed up to receive the motivational messages."
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UK Council To Send Obese People 'Motivational' Texts Telling Them To Use Stairs

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  • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:31PM (#46157223) Homepage Journal

    But then I read the last line of TFS.

    This is OPT-IN. You only get them if you sign up for them.

    Of course, at some point, they will tap into NHS (I'm assuming that this is UK), and send to everyone, regardless of whether they had opted-in or not.

    • by pla (258480)
      Of course, at some point, they will tap into NHS (I'm assuming that this is UK), and send to everyone, regardless of whether they had opted-in or not.

      If they ever make it anything but opt-in, the "victims" of these messages have a pretty simple way to fight back: Respond with pictures. Big ones.

      No, you can't bankrupt your own government, but just watch the NHS try to justify a billion pounds a year in data overages to support a single unpopular program. "Next up on the budget chopping block..."
    • by rmstar (114746)

      This is OPT-IN. You only get them if you sign up for them.

      Ah, thanks. With this piece of information, the UK seems only a tiny little bit less creepy than before I read your comment. It speaks volumes that the idea that in the UK something like this isn't opt-in seems entirely plausible.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It speaks volumes that the idea that in the UK something like this isn't opt-in seems entirely plausible.

        It does, but it speaks volumes about Slashdot, not about the UK.

    • by N1AK (864906)

      Of course, at some point, they will tap into NHS (I'm assuming that this is UK), and send to everyone, regardless of whether they had opted-in or not.

      If that led to less people being dangerously overweight without causing other negative side-effects (depression, self-esteem issues etc) then so what if they do? Is it really more abusive to send someone a text encouraging them to eat more healthily or to continue to support their self-harm by providing the benefits that prop it up and leave them to it?

  • BMI (Score:5, Informative)

    by TranquilVoid (2444228) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:32PM (#46157227)

    BMI is designed as a measure of population weight, not individual. Mine is over 30, making me technically obese, yet I have so little body fat I cannot float in swimming pools, and only just in the ocean.

    • Yeah BMI isn't a hard number to go by, there are many factors that can affect it. Generally speaking if your overweight you know it... you don't need some number to tell you. I'd rather see labels disappear and just focus on what you need to do to stay healthy. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/dow... [cdc.gov]
    • That's called the "bodybuilder problem". The vast, vast majority of people with BMIs over 30 are obese.

    • by jxander (2605655)

      True. BMI is hardly perfect... but it's a good first step. Kinda like "Did you reboot it?"

      Not going to solve every problem or answer every question, but a good start, and most importantly, doesn't require any in-depth knowledge or fancy equipment.

      • Re:BMI (Score:5, Informative)

        by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @10:39PM (#46158257)

        True. BMI is hardly perfect... but it's a good first step. Kinda like "Did you reboot it?"

        Actually, no it's NOT a "good first step." It's a fair to poor "first step." It's more like a troubleshooting procedure that's guaranteed to give bogus results in a significant percentage of cases -- i.e., where it's wrong or off so often that asking the question is almost more likely to lead you down the wrong path for many cases, rather than giving you useful information.

        The BMI formula assumes that adiposity relates to height squared. It does not. This is a simple fact. When people get taller, their bodies scale in three dimensions, not two. So, for really tall people, it's guaranteed to say they are more fat than they really are, and for really short people, it's guaranteed to say people are at a healthy weight when their fat or even obese.

        The only reason the BMI formula appears to work at all is because women are both shorter and tend to have higher "healthy" bodyfat percentages. The BMI ranges are more-or-less supposed to be the same for men and women -- that should be a major red flag to anyone who knows anything about bodyfat, since healthy bodyfat ranges for men and women are clearly known to be different.

        So, the mean female height is less than the mean male height, but the mean healthy female bodyfat amount is higher. Thus, to have a formula that works for both sexes, you need something that doesn't accurately reflect a "normal" body being scaled up or down. BMI fits the bill, and thus it has been used for population studies to compare mean statistics for overall populations. For individuals -- which it was never designed for -- it's TERRIBLE.

        You can immediately see that from the men vs. women problem. BMI says a short man who is in the middle of the height range for women should have the same weight as an average woman. Given what we know about bodyfat, that doesn't make sense. Or, a tall woman who's over 6' or something -- to have a "healthy" BMI she'd often have to look like a waifish model.

        "But," you say, "it's still a good first step. It's a simple formula."

        Nope -- doesn't excuse it. There are a number of studies that have shown that a number of even simpler measures are actually more accurate at predicting health problems, propensity for disease, etc. For example, simply measuring the waist circumference for men -- regardless of height -- has been shown to be a better predictor of health problems than BMI. Think about that for a moment. Clearly a guy who is 5' tall should not have a waist size the same as a 7' tall guy. But studies have shown that even measuring the waist and saying, "Is it bigger than X inches?" without knowing anything about height, weight, or anything else is a better predictor than BMI.

        Yeah, BMI sucks that bad.

        But could a simple formula do that much harm? Well, why not just modify that "simple formula" to make it more accurate? In the days when you had to calculations by hand or with a slide rule, a formula involving only an exponent of 2 and a division might make sense. But most people don't calculate BMI by hand anymore -- they plug things into some sort of web calculator or look at a chart.

        We can easily fix BMI to make it much more accurate. First, just change the exponent. Logically, as I mentioned at the outside, squaring the height makes NO SENSE. You might think that cubing the height would be better, since the body expands in three dimensions, but it turns out that the male/female factor and other things that don't quite scale precisely with the cube of the height makes an exponent of 3 bad too.

        Various empirical studies have suggested an exponent of somewhere in the 2.3 to 2.7 range would be better. But really, to get any accuracy at all, you'd have to at least consider separating the sexes. At that point, you could narrow the range of the exponent for males an

        • by Arker (91948)

          Excellent post, completely right. BMI is a useful proxy in population statistics but worse than useless when applied to individuals.

          To get something usable for individuals you would not only need to correct for gender but also for skeletal proportions (body shape,) by the way. Imagine two people, the same height, but the pelvic girdle and shoulders of the one is twice as wide as the other. Their healthy weights are NOT going to be the same.

          • To get something usable for individuals you would not only need to correct for gender but also for skeletal proportions (body shape,) by the way. Imagine two people, the same height, but the pelvic girdle and shoulders of the one is twice as wide as the other. Their healthy weights are NOT going to be the same.

            Yes, of course. This is a great point. I was trying to point out that we could still make significant improvements to the "simple" BMI formula without requiring additional information or measurements.

            But yes, if you want even more accuracy for individuals, you'd be better off with a model that takes frame into account. People who are older may still remember the tables many physicians used to use before BMI took over almost everything in the 1980s or so. I distinctly recall tables like that which were

        • The BMI ranges are more-or-less supposed to be the same for men and women

          Breasts are mostly fat tissue, the rest is not muscle. Women have fat tissue in the hips that is healthy weight compared to men. Other than that, we are equal. BMI is NOT supposed to be the same between genders. We may be equal in many areas including software engineering and whatever else the government calls "illegal discrimination," but "child gestation," "child birth," and "breastfeeding" area areas in which we are most definitely

    • by s.petry (762400)
      As long as you have a TMI in the average range you should be happy no matter what your BMI.
    • by u38cg (607297)
      So what? Anyone with a BMI over 30 with a healthy level of body fat knows far more about their health than the people that obesity campaigns need to target.
    • by Tom (822)

      BMI works for many people, but not all. As in so many general statistical measures, you need to know where the limits are and if you're an exception or not.

      Most people aren't. While I don't doubt that you are truthful, for everyone one of you there are twenty actually obese people who'll use a line like that as an excuse.

    • Re:BMI (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fatphil (181876) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @06:11AM (#46160553) Homepage
      No. BMI is designed for naive people two hundred years ago who just want a number, no matter how meaningless it is.

      Weight does not and should not scale with the square of height unless you imagine that taller people are taller and wider, but not thicker. It's not a cubic relation either in reality, but there would have been more logic supporting that than square, even if it's a no better fit to common-sense results wise.

      Everything to do with exponent-2 BMI should just be totally ignored. It's total bullshit. It says no more, and plenty less, than a whole range of other measures that aren't bullshit. It should have been thrown into the toxic waste bin of stupid medical superstitions that's of no use to anyone decades ago.

      We do some work in the field, in governmental contexts. We've come up with phrase "policy-based evidence-making" for such bogostats.

      What's your BMI using a 2.5 exponent, as proposed here?
      http://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/trefethen/bmi.html
      (And no, sorry, I'm not volunteering mine on either scale, given where on the bell-curve I sit. (yes, the flat bit.))
    • by N1AK (864906)

      yet I have so little body fat I cannot float in swimming pools

      Or it might be that you're full of so much hot air ;)

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      BMI is just a rule of thumb that fits 90% of the population. No-one should be using it as an absolute rule, but for most people it is a useful number that is easy to measure.

    • The problem with BMI is that the formula is bad. A first year physics major should notice the issue.

      BMI = mass / (height^2)

      so:

      BMI * (height ^ 2) = mass

      So it says that mass is directly proportional to the square of the height. That's not right at all. Mass is directly proportional to the volume of an object, which is a cubic value, not the area of one of the facings. Therefore BMI should be mass / (height^3). The formula as presented inflates BMI for the very tall and deflates BMI for the very short.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        You're aware that people aren't spherical, right?

        (Okay, I guess some people approach spherical.)

        The volume of a cylinder is linear with height and square with radius. The average person's radius doesn't (or isn't supposed to) scale proportionally with their height, so weight shouldn't follow a cubic formula. Yes, BMI is a very simplified rule of thumb that unfortunately gets treated like a highly prognostic measurement, but on average it works reasonably well. There are better metrics, although they're s

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:34PM (#46157239) Homepage
    I don't think it's a surprised that people in Cambridge, for example, are quite healthy and fit and people in Stoke are not. It's not just a case of wealth but people in Cambridge are better educated and probably feel they have more to live for. The UK government has drained a lot of the country's ability to compete in favour of advancing London. It's no surprise people in poorer areas probably simply don't care. What's the incentive to lead a healthy life when you live in one of the more economically depressed areas of the country and the government makes it clear you don't matter because you're not a banker?
    • That's a rationalization. You can be happy anywhere. Certainly the affluent are perceived to be happy, but mostly it's because they're drunk, or stoned, and trying to get a grip like everyone else. Happiness is what you make of it.

      There's no magic about one place or another, it's all your own attitude. It's very personal, and carbs are horribly addictive. Take out the carbs, and life is much better. Less sugar means your insulin doesn't kick in and store everything to your tissues. This takes place in Londo

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        I have to chuckle at your post, because as I read it I was just demolishing this tray of jelly beans.

      • by mjwx (966435)
        Yes but the difference is, in Oxford it's much easier for your butler to make a healthy meal where as in Stokes, you have to go to McD's yourself.
      • by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @06:48AM (#46160715)

        Take out the carbs, and life is much better. Less sugar means your insulin doesn't kick in and store everything to your tissues. This takes place in London, Bath, Stokes, Leicester, Wales, wherever. It's how we're put together. Depression causes people to carb-load. That's a personal problem, not a regional one. Carb loading to increase serotinine is a well-honoured pass-time.

        For the last thirty years, people have been hammered with messages to avoid fat. Coke is full of sugar and fat free. Companies put sugar into food when they remove fat, because removing fat without replacing it with sugar makes things taste bad and people don't buy them. So for the last thirty years people have been stuffing themselves with carbohydrates, making them fat and diabetic. And the more you try to avoid fat, the worse it gets.

        And then they start dieting. Those with plenty of will power are the unlucky ones: They actually lose lots of weight. The body thinks it's starving. And all the weight comes back, with some more, because all the will power in the world cannot overcome a starving body in the long run.

        The best advice: Ignore all the advice that tells you to avoid fat. _Do_ avoid sugar and other carbohydrates. Do _not_ try to lose weight. Ignore your weight, because being obsessed with your weight will make you unhappy which bad in itself, but will make you eat more as well.

        And, if someone calls you "fatty", hit them in the face as hard as you can, knock them out, and kick the shit out of them when they are on the ground.

        • No. Your information is absolutely incorrect. Kick your insulin and you store. Don't kick the insulin, you'll nourish from your body's stores. Every nephrologist will give you that answer. Read Taube's "Good Calories Bad Calories"-- horrificly long as it is, and you'll know this answer. It's undeniable.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Maybe you can be happy anywhere, but it is rather difficult if there are no jobs and a high crime rate. Not impossible, but much harder.

        • Where possible, migrate if that will feed your happiness. I'm happy because I'm alive, warm, have the love of family, and food in the fridge. I have bills, some sadnesses, but happiness tips the bad stuff, just by a bit. Happiness is where you find it, in small things. TV and media wants us to find it in big things, but that's not really where it rests. It's mostly in the small, day-to-day things.

          Joblessness is very difficult. One does what one can-- nothing else is tenable. Chop wood, carry water.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      No, it's because virtually everyone in Cambridge rides a bicycle, whereas virtually everyone in Stoke drives or goes by bus.

  • by the_skywise (189793) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:37PM (#46157293)

    "I don't know... lately I just don't feel like there's anything special about me."

    "You are an incredibly sensitive man, who inspires joy-joy feelings in all those around you."

    • "I don't know... lately I just don't feel like there's anything special about me."

      "You are an incredibly sensitive man, who inspires joy-joy feelings in all those around you."

      What seems to be your boggle?

  • by simonbp (412489) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:38PM (#46157303) Homepage

    "Get off your arse and walk, fatso!"
    "Put down the fork, you slob!"
    "You're disgusting! No one will ever love you!"

    "Be sure to vote in Council elections next Tuesday!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Oy you Essex slapper, lay off the pies n' pasties."
      "Listen ya swamp donkey. Get the bangers outta yer pie hole Or I'll give ya a right trunky in the tradesman's entrance and make ya lick me yarbles!"

    • Don't forget the advertising opportunity: "Time to drink four more Diet Cokes!"

      • by Splab (574204)

        Actually, Diet cokes will most likely cause you to gain weight - the coke itself has no calories, the sweet sensation will however trigger your body to believe sugar is incoming and since none is, it will cause you to sugar feel hungry, which will trigger cravings for your sugary drugs.

        • Diet Cokes also reportedly can make you respond seriously to a joke, though I don't have any objective research to back that.

    • by mjwx (966435)
      But this is in England so it'll be:

      "Oi Tubby, who ate ALL the pies"
  • "Help, I've fallen and can't get up!!"
  • Council Gyms are not just on the decline but over twice the cost of private ones, due to subsiding public sector employees, and the unemployed. How about the focus should be on something obvious; cheap; without lock-in(long contracts - single visits expensive) sporting/exercise activities for everyone.

  • by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:55PM (#46157451)

    Motivational messages voiced by Dylan Moran:

    Hey, maybe there's a little man in there who looks just like you but he's really good at running.

    Well... yeah... you put one leg in front of the other over and over again really really fast.

  • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:57PM (#46157471) Homepage

    If you don't know, the UK's obesity rate is right behind the US's and increasing. Since the government provides their health insurance, it's very much in the government's interest to get their people healthier.

    • by d33tah (2722297)
      ...or just stop treating the obese. It might turn out to be a cheaper option.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A part of being a member of a society is that you care for your fellow citizens. Some even take it so far that they are willing to risk their lives for their society, while others simply dedicate their entire lives and entire mental capacity to create ways to make you and other citizens safe. If you're a sociopath, at least consider that their death would mean that you would no longer get the benefits of their respective lines of work. A lot of geeks are too fat, and if you kill all fat geeks then the worl

  • by Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @09:08PM (#46157551) Homepage

    Instead of being lazy and sending texts - those obese public servants should ride a bike, or walk, to deliver the message. (or tax the hell out of sugar and fund health programs?)

    Oh wait (weight?).... maybe it's only people who are not public servants who are morbidly obese.

  • Will the council pay the doctor's bills and lost wages for obese people who blow their knees when climbing stairs?

    Walking is definitely good exercise, especially for obses people, but not necessarily with stairs.

  • Interesting idea but likely to be a counterproductive annoyance if used too much.
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @11:03PM (#46158403) Homepage
    I can just see an obese person chowing down on fish and chips, looking at a text message about eating more vegetables and commenting, "Potatoes are vegetables, aren't they?"
  • You know that someone will try to break into the system running this and alter the messages.

    This thing has a giant "Kick me!" sign pinned on it..

  • by Nova Express (100383) <lawrenceperson@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @12:33AM (#46158969) Homepage Journal

    "Smith!" screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. "6079 Smith W.! Yes, YOU! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! THAT’S better, comrade."

  • Oblig Mark Twain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @12:42AM (#46159011)
    "Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky. It is the prohibition that makes anything precious."
  • and in some places I like to take them.

  • by Evtim (1022085) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @01:25AM (#46159281)

    I cannot help but feel somewhat satisfied about this news. As a smoker, I have no issue with the reasonable demands of non-smokers [I hated smoking on the working place or in trains even though I smoke, for instance].

    But the hysterical propaganda that still rages on, the ever increasing "financial incentives" to quit [ever higher taxes and license fees - do you notice they always do it to things we are "addicted" too , like energy, housing, food, drinks...treats to increase medical premiums....] has left me bitterly disappointed by the gullibility of the human race and its pettiness. The lies about secondary smoking, the "cost" of smokers to society [all damn lies, but let's not digress] all these hatred [remember, it made enough impression so that Rockstar to include in GTA 4 an "interview" on the chat radio with hysterical mom that was advocating shooting smokers on site] - I felt and still feel very upset...

    And all the time when having discussions with those people I was saying "Beware, next they'd come after you - for your beer, for your food, for your car, for your sex life, for your opinions [if they make difference - freedom of speech applies as long as the speech has no detectable political impact]"

    Enjoy now, idiots!

  • Something needs to be done to get them to lose weight and stop leeching off everyone else who has to pay for their high medical expenses.

    Unfortunately we can't force them to lose weight, only make "suggestions", unlike being forced to hand over your money to a private company or have the government reach into your bank account and forcibly extract the money.

  • No one tell Michelle Obama about this!

The two most common things in the Universe are hydrogen and stupidity. -- Harlan Ellison

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