Layla Moran talks about her bariatric surgery on Any Questions and calls for focus on wellbeing in schools

Layla was brilliant on Any Questions on Friday night. You can listen to the whole thing here. The bit I especially appreciated was when she spoke very frankly about her own experience when answering a question about obesity.

11 year old Olivia Metcalfe asked:

Given the the amount of media coverage relating to childhood obesity has had little or no effect on the problem, what would be the panel’s favourite option – taxation, legislation or education and why?

Layla said that as a former teacher, she’d be very proud of any of her students who came up with a question like that and then made a revelation.

You will be unsurprised to hear that I think education’s top of that list. But I will also reveal something very personal about myself. I was an obese child for most of my childhood and well into my twenties and  ended up having a bariatric operation and lost pretty much half my body weight…

…I think there are elements of this that are genetic and I will say that the largest reason why for me that this was a problem was more about mental health and wellbeing and confidence and feeling good about yourself. It wasn’t necessarily a lack of opportunity of all of those things but the point I’m trying to make is that it was a much more complex, much more personal issue than I think sometimes the debate about this has become. We’ve kind of got to the point where we say oh, just eat less, exercise more and that will solve the problem.

The fact is that there are lots and lots of different reasons why people are obese. Lots of them are out of their control and I do think that there are some things that society can help with. So I do think that things like the Sugar Tax are helpful. I don’t think we should be advertising junk food to children at all. I think there is a wider question about why we are advertising to children at all about anything.  But I do think a large part of it is that we need to look at ourselves wider in society. It’s not going to just from government that this is going to work, it needs to be a much broader issue and crucially I do think we need to bring wellbeing back into schools and make time get to know children and know them as people and help them not just about this but in all sorts of issues to help them become healthy adults and I was very lucky to have that opportunity.

I think Layla’s perspective is crucial. I have spent much of my life struggling with my weight. Many of you will already know that I lost seven stones a couple of years ago. I’ve found a bit of it in the intervening period but I’m trying to keep it under control.  have never managed to do is to lose weight when my mental health or self image has not been good. Confidence and wellbeing have always been crucial for me.  Shaming people is very likely to have the opposite effect.

I remember being horrified, during the 2011 Scottish election, hearing David Cameron have a go at people who were too fat to get jobs and how he was going to clamp down on that sort of thing. He was talking about making people lose weight or lose benefits. That sort of approach is only ever going to cause misery and suffering and is totally counter-productive. We are all individuals and what works for each of us, particularly in something like this, is going to need a lot of fine-tuning. I’d have met the criteria for surgery but I never considered it because I was way too scared of it. For me it was a very slow and steady weight loss programme which I need to keep to. I’d actually managed to keep most of it off until this Winter when I struggled for a bit.

What motivated me i to start a particular eating plan – and it did take me some time and a great deal of procrastination bo do this – was the need to support my husband. His weight was affecting his health and he was worried that he might need surgery and there would be additional risk. Thankfully, he’d lost 6.5 stones by the time he needed life-saving open heart surgery (which was not actually associated with weight at all) at the end of 2016 and the weight associated risks were negligible.

Before I could start, though, I did have to get myself in the right place and that took a bit of help that should be available to everyone who needs it. So often it isn’t.

So Layla is right – we need to think about wellbeing and not just in schools. We need to make sure that we don’t shame people because that is never going to work. And we also need to think about the way in which the food market works and where the state can help.

I am very grateful to Layla for talking about her own experience. It is good to have someone who gets this stuff in our parliamentary team.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Geoffrey Payne 3rd Jun '18 - 9:55pm

    Amazing story from Layla I had no idea. And I agree with her views on this as well.

  • Sean Hyland 3rd Jun '18 - 11:45pm

    Brave of Layla to talk of her surgery and hopefully will offer hope to others and raise awareness of the issues. I know if others who have been through the same treatment and it is not an easy decision to make and requires total commitment. It can be life changing though.

  • Yes, Layla did well and to be honest this was probably her best moment. Most telling contribution of the evening was northern Irishman Jon Platt (guy who was taken to court for taking his kids out of school in term time) talking about the DUP and the likelihood of Brexit leading to a united Ireland. Problem is that Irish politics probably isn’t most Brexiteers specialist subject.

  • John Marriott 4th Jun '18 - 9:35am

    Caron, you have my sympathy.

    Just as some people have an addictive personality (nicotine, alcohol, drugs etc) so some people struggle with their weight, regardless of how little they eat. I guess ut’s To do with metabolism. I’ve had ‘weight problems’ for years. At 6ft 3/4 I manage to hide it well; but it’s been over 20 stone now for a while. In 1987, when I was involved in local, national and by elections over a three month period, I looked, at 15 stone, like someone, who had just emerged from Belsen (according to my wife and apologies if the analogy offends anyone). I’ve tried dieting and exercising. The trouble is that, the more you exercise the more your appetite increases. Stopping the first doesn’t stop the second. The best advice I got from a nurse a few years ago was to “eat less and move more” so that’s what I’m trying to do, courtesy of DIY and an electric bike. Mind you, with a dodgy leg and hips, it’s not that easy. Mind you, my right hand is getting plenty of exercise – tapping away at my iPad!

    Now, what was that about Brexit?

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