Dr Liam Farrell: Fat chance of any of us changing

'My daughter's pregnant,' she said accusingly, as if somehow I was personally responsible, hauling the aforesaid young woman behind her into the surgery.

'Hey, don't blame me,' I should have said, but instead I conducted a sober and professional examination.

'Madam,' I concluded, 'Your daughter, I assure you, is not pregnant.'

Mother heaved a huge sigh of relief.

'But,' I continued gravely, 'I am afraid it's much worse than that; it's yet another case of teenage obesity.'

This epidemic affects not just humans, but the whole natural world. Forget climate change, obesity is the real environmental catastrophe.

Around the time of the bird flu paranoia, when the lead news item was that some ducks had been found dead in Bulgaria (that's true), what was omitted from the report was those ducks were FAT.

Yesterday I saw a blackbird so overfed by zealous bird tables (too much saturated fat, not enough roughage) that it could hardly get off the ground.

There was a cat close by, but all the blackbird could manage was a few half-hearted flutters and squawks, then it settled back with an apathetic shrug, as if to say: 'It's not my fault, I hardly eat a thing, I have only had a dry biscuit all day, it's a hormonal problem.'

Fortunately, the cat was also corpulent and disinterested, having just consumed six Xtra-large tins of Fat-Kat.

As I am acutely aware of the importance of health promotion, and as the blackbird had all the mobility of a basketball of lard and wasn't hard to catch, and as there was nothing on TV, I took it in, checked its lipids, and gave it a lecture on exercise and diet.

'Wheep,' it said, unenthusiastically.

I opened a window and set it free, to soar, I hoped, into the wide blue yonder. Unfortunately I chose a second floor window, and the blackbird dropped like a paralysed falcon, stunning a passing cyclist before stopping to explore a sweet wrapper.

'Oi!' I shouted, ' I'm watching you.'

It looked back at me reproachfully before waddling off into the undergrowth. I could tell what it was thinking; that expression is no longer species-specific, further proof that we are all connected in the Great Circle of Life: 'Couldn't you just have given me a tablet of something?'

Dr Liam Farrell, a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com

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