Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 10:06 UK

Fat stars 'make obesity normal'

Gavin and Stacey stars James Corden and Ruth Jones
Gavin and Stacey stars James Corden and Ruth Jones

Overweight celebrities such as Gavin and Stacey star James Corden are making dangerous weight gain appear normal, a medical expert is warning.

Professor Michael McMahon of Nuffield Health says fat stars are seen as role models, helping to make being overweight acceptable.

He says it is akin to the dangers of skinny media images and anorexia.

A survey for the healthcare provider found many obese people are apathetic about their weight gain.

We talk about the dangers of skinny media images, but the problem actually swings both ways
Professor McMahon

Researchers found many obese people refused to take any action about their situation with almost one in five not contemplating doing anything to lose weight.

The survey of over 2,000 individuals also revealed many obese people fail to recognise they have a problem at all.

Professor McMahon, a expert on keyhole surgery, said: "The increasing profile of larger celebrities, for example James Corden, Eamonn Holmes, Ruth Jones and Beth Ditto, means that being overweight is now perceived as being 'normal' in the eyes of the public.

"We talk about the dangers of skinny media images, but the problem actually swings both ways."

Role models

Both underweight and overweight stars are causing issues
C Brady, Glasgow

Although he does not think large celebrities have been in any sense responsible for the obesity epidemic that exists today, he says the increased acceptance of obesity is alarming.

"If people continue to turn a blind eye to their weight problems, they will see their life expectancy considerably shortened," he warned.

According to the research, the proportion of Britons who are obese has doubled in the last decade from 11% in 1999 to 23% this year.

Professor McMahon believes if nothing changes, we could see one in six people eligible for weight-loss surgery within a generation.

Former Hollyoakes soap star Mikyla Dodd, who weighed 25 stone (159kg) and fitted a dress size of 28 when she appeared in the show as Chloe Bruce, defended overweight role models.

She told the BBC's Five Live: "There are very few role models in our society that are overweight.

"The problem you have got is a body of people who are overweight who feel ostracised and completely shut out from the community, therefore they eat more.

"It's actually quite refreshing to see people who are in the public eye. It shows that fat people can be successful, build self-esteem and then people eventually get the motivation to do something about it."

Mikyla has since lost nearly 11 stone in weight.

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