Is This Family Too Fat to Work?

Another Londoner, Tina, who also didn't give her last name, was less forgiving. "Laziness. Maybe the parents, but the daughters -- no one could be that fat just by genetics," she said.

"They should exercise, even if they are busy. I work too hard to pay for their pies," she said.

Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical College Weight Management Center, agreed that genetics does not play as much of a role in obesity as nutrition education.

"At face value, everyone will say, 'Just push away from the table and run around the block. What's the problem?'" Fernstrom said. "But people may not have a lot of nutritional knowledge."

And nutritionist Wolper said it would be hard for a single person to lose weight if everyone continues to live in the same environment.

"The entire family has to agree to work with professionals" to lose weight, Wolper said. "Family conventions and family traditions around food and eating mean they are caught in this trap. ... It's like a drug addict who is trying to quit living with three drug addicts. When an attractive substance is nearby, it is difficult to ignore it."

The Cost Per Pound

The Chawners are only one of multiple stories that are indicative of the growing trend of obesity in England.

According to one 2009 NHS report, obesity has doubled in the past 15 years. Health conditions related to obesity, such as diabetes and liver disease, have also risen, putting pressure on the local medical resources. Heart disease alone cost all British taxpayers a total of more than $40,000 in lost productivity and health expenditure in 2006.

And economics is not on the Chawners' side. While there can be cheap ways to be healthy, such as buying local, seasonal or frozen produce, and finding low-cost or free weight-loss groups locally or online, the crumbling global economy still means fierce job competition. And studies have shown that prejudices against overweight people could prevent someone from being hired for a job for which they may be qualified.

"It's one of the last acceptable prejudices," Fernstrom said. "That [obese people] are lazy, that they don't try hard, that they're not intelligent."

As for getting government money during the recession, Audrey Chawner said that it was a necessary cost. "We are making by with what we have," she said. "I recently just got out of the hospital. I've been in a coma before because of my epilepsy."

"I only spend money on groceries, the phone bill, and the petrol to drive my daughters to job interviews," she continued. "We live on medical benefits, because we need it, not because we want to. We don't wish to be fat."

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