AS A NATION we are collapsing under the weight of weight.

The latest headline to highlight the obesity epidemic arrives courtesy of Cancer Research UK, who state that obesity is a causal factor in 13 different types of cancer.

Given that almost one in three Scots is obese and one in ten children in the UK is obese by the age of five (which rises to one in five by the age of 11) it’s safe to say the nation is choking on healthy eating advice. Meanwhile, the crumbling hips of the NHS are collapsing under the fat load.

So what do we do about it? First up, we reclaim the word ‘fat’. Now, already there will be (fat) snowflake parents fuming right now and reaching for the e-mail Send button. Yet, bringing back the ‘F’ word doesn’t mean a return to Billy Bunter days, poking fun at the children who eat crisps by the truckload. (Isn’t it tragic that ex-footballer Gary Lineker is the nation’s crisp face?)

However, we have to make parents aware that we’re aware their children are calorie fiends. Teachers need to have the power to teach, via fat-awareness consultations, the simple sums; too many Mars Bars plus zero exercise equals an eight stone child with a lifetime of weight health issues, multiplied by Type 2 diabetes. Nanny state tactics? You bet, because we need a sugar nanny to halt this epidemic.

What we also have to do is stop endorsing the idea it’s fine for a five feet two woman to be size 16 (or more) or a man to be a Bunter. We need to end the right to say ‘I’m happy to be a big girl (or boy).’ We need to be able to point out they have a responsibility, not just to their heart, liver and pancreas, but to the State.

And just because clothes advertisers are featuring bigger teen swimwear models doesn’t make it right. What size will they be when they’re 40?

Yes, you’re right to assume too many parents have had a belly full of diet advice from (often overweight) patronising politicians, that they’ll fit in with the weight discussion as comfortably as a chubby into a pair of Tom Daly’s Speedos. They already know that largeness wrecks lives and causes cartilage to crumble. So we have to tackle the youngsters, give them all the exercise they can cope with.

At one point in the mid-Seventies, Renfrewshire introduced a scheme whereby all primary pupils were taught to swim. Fantastic. But then the idea sank from lack of cash.

Back in 1981, Renfrew High School introduced a timetable whereby pupils enjoyed daily PE sessions. The pilot scheme was monitored by Strathclyde University and Argyle and Clyde Health Board and was deemed to be a huge success. School attendance soared and exam results improved. Win win. You would think. However, the scheme wasn’t rolled out nationally because it was deemed too expensive; cash would have to be found for extra PE teachers.

Right now, we’re still celebrating our women’s world cup team reaching the finals. This is largely down to the efforts of the Scottish Schools Football Association, which is not SFA funded. Just think how successful the game – women’s and men’s – could be if we still had primary school football leagues and Saturday morning football, long organised by selfless teachers.

The most promising football talents in the land are coming out of cash-rich private schools. Gone are the days of goodwill from those who coached for the love of the game. And if teachers or coaches won’t give of their time they need to be incentivised.

Meanwhile, schools football in The Republic of Ireland however is awarded £50k sponsorship by Spar. Do Irish businesses care more about the game than Scots?

There is another problem with football. The SFA don’t want winners and losers in our schoolchildren. No cups and medals. Everyone is a winner. Which means everyone is a loser.

But we need competition. We need youngsters running, jumping, climbing, hitting furry balls, volleying slightly larger ones. “So many kids nowadays can’t run,” says one former PE teacher and schools football coach. “They can’t even walk properly. They have no natural rhythm.”

That’s why they need the exercise, discipline, the sense of team building and fun that comes with it.

We need sports investment in our youngsters. Andy Murray was hugely fortunate in having a coach for a mum, and a tennis club yards from his granny’s back door. Had his sports coaching involved the regular high school two hours PE a week we’d never have had a triple Slammer.

We need the education minister to have a serious rethink and a talk with the likes of the SFA. We need lottery funding to go towards coaches who can then organise teams and competitions – with prizes. And we need parents to put locks on the fridges and try to live by example.

What we have is not working and there is fat chance of anything changing. It’s tempting to say we’re about to be overrun by a nation of Billy Bunters, but they can’t even run.