Ronan's Rant

Ronan McSherry

Fighting the fat epidemic


“Ireland is a very funny place sir, it’s a strange and troubled land…” remember that old refrain during those days of the Troubles, as they were called?

While the issues change it’s still a strange and, indeed, troubled land.

Ireland is heading to the top of the obesity charts, right up there with another fat table topper Uzbekistan. With Ireland’s penchant for collecting boxing medals at the Olympics, leading the way in horse racing and a history of winning the Eurovision song contest, it looks like we’re best at eating, fighting, riding and singing. It sounds like a wild weekend house party I crashed in Letterkenny several decades ago.


At a European Congress on Obesity in Prague last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that research indicates Ireland is on course to be the fattest country in Europe by 2030. That’s not that far away folks. That will put us top of the fatty league of 53 countries. In 15 years the proportion of obese and overweight men is projected to rise to 89 per cent, with 85 per cent of women falling into this category. Not good.

It wouldn’t be us if we weren’t copying the Americans. With their fizzy drinks, buckets of French fries, multi-layered burgers and that clown Ronald McDonald, it is chompville across the Atlantic with millions of men and women who haven’t seen their feet in decades. Labels on oversized elastic waist trousers carry the quip on its labels, ‘I’ve a seafood problem, when I seefood I eat it.’ If you didn’t laugh you would cry.

Tommy Tiernan is a funny man. In his show in Omagh last week the Navan stand-up suggested fat people be herded onto lorries and driven to forests to be hunted by citizens. This, he suggested, would see them leave the woods after several months, looking like pokers. A surreal and amusing concept. However the reality is no laughing matter.

Despite the plethora of slimming clubs, gyms, dietary advice and self-help books, folk just can’t kick it… food that is, the wrong type and too much of it.

Foodstyles and lifestyles have changed since my rose-tinted 1970s. I don’t recall many fat lads in school. Three come to mind, two nicknamed ‘Bubbles’ who went on to shed the pounds and are keen cyclists and joggers to this day despite kicking the ass of 60. The other lad… forget about it! The myth of the jolly fat person was peddled. Roly-poly Oliver Hardy, of Laurel and Hardy fame, knew the deal when he said he “loved the food but hated the fat.” It is an area in which I have lived, Fatville, and the jolly obese myth is just that; a myth.

Nowadays we sit alone for hours and hours in front of screens, munch, munch, munch. Cars have added little holders for coffee cups and it’s only a matter of time they put bags under the steering wheel so that on fuel stops, we can also fill them up with super pouches of Maltesers and huge cartons of popcorn. While many shops are closing in our towns, a plethora of fast food outlets are blooming. Sure we don’t even have to turn off the car engine to reach out the window for a bucket of junk… and kids love it!

The captains of industry have targeted consumers with the worst type of junk pumped with hugely addictive sugar and fat. They know what they are doing.


Children have garbage thrust in their faces all wrapped up in pretty bows and packaging. It’s not an accident the sweets are on the counter beside the cashier and not easy for mummy to say ‘no!’ to the girning wee’un pulling at her leg. It’s not a fair fight.

It’s a multi-billion dollar business. Confectioneries are pumped with addictive sugars and additives. Why else would folk force themselves to eat the horrible tasting coffee sweets after the other chocolates in the Quality Street tin have been scoffed?

Mr Pringle he tells us, “Once you pop one you can’t stop.” Mr Pringle is as cute as a sh*t house rat.

As for the enlarged Mars, Twix and other chocolate bars; “It’s good but it’s not right” as Roy Walker used to say on Catchphrase.

Junkies take junk. The Jesuits motto refrain suggested, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” So too the fast food and junk merchants. Ronald McDonald has learnt well, “Give me the child and we have them for life,” is his modus operandi.

Ronald gives away little toys and builds playgrounds at his outlets, but he’s no Santa Claus.

It’s not easy to let go of the worst type of foodstuffs which have been designed to totally hook their victims.

I’m with the fat guys and gals and kids on this one. Good luck in letting go the junk food.

The enemy you face is huge… but it can be done; a day at a time and sometimes an hour at a time.

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