'I was too fat': Boris Johnson announces a Better Health Campaign, says people with obesity are at greater risk of COVID-19

The PM shared a Better Health Strategy including a 12-week weight loss program through the NHS.
The PM shared a Better Health Strategy including a 12-week weight loss program through the NHS. Photo credit: Getty / NHS

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a nationwide campaign to tackle obesity, triggered by his own experience with COVID-19.

The PM posted a video on Monday, saying he was "way overweight" when he went to ICU for COVID-19.

In his post, Johnson calls for change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and shared a Better Health Strategy for a "fitter and healthier" lifestyle.

The campaign introduces tools and advice, allowing citizens to download a free BMI calculator, food scanner app, and a 12-week weight loss program through the NHS.

"If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus - as well as taking pressure off the NHS," he wrote.

Johnson says he's been going for runs with his dog and "steadily building up" his fitness since recovering from COVID-19.

In April, Boris Johnson was moved to intensive care at St Thomas' Hospital in London for three nights, ten days after he tested positive for COVID-19. 

In a video Johnson made after his release he said the NHS had saved his life and he thanked the two nurses who stood by his bedside, “when things could have gone either way” – Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal.

He said his weight affected his response to the virus, "I'm only about 5 foot 10 on the outside and, you know, I was too fat."

"What we're doing now with our Better Health Strategy is just trying to help people a little bit to bring their weight down. Not in an excessively bossy or nannying way, I hope," he said.

The Government Policy Paper, released on Monday, underlined the fact people living with obesity are at a greater risk of being more ill or dying from COVID-19.

"Obesity increases the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease, which themselves increase the risks of complications in someone who contracts COVID-19" 

"We owe it to the NHS to move towards a healthier weight, the paper said, "tackling obesity would reduce pressure on doctors and nurses in the NHS, and free up their time to treat other sick and vulnerable patients."

The tackling obesity strategy include:

  • ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) before 9pm

  • ending 'buy one, get one free' promotions of HFSS foods

  • introduce calorie labelling at large restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees

  • alcohol calorie labelling - launch plans to provide calorie labelling on alcohol

  • work to expand NHS weight management services so more people get the support they need.