Inside the village where a secret millionaire is paying locals to lose weight

In Oxfordshire, things are worse still: research published last year found that 56 per cent of adults there were overweight or obese, while one in five children starts primary school overweight. By the time they leave, that figure becomes one in three.

The mystery man’s own plan for introducing a financial motivation came about through a bet he made with an overweight builder who came to work on his home – and subsequently lost two stone. “That gave me the the idea that this needs to be copied and followed through,” he says.

The benefactor has been described in the local press as a ‘very wealthy in-betweener’ who spends his time between London and Denchworth. The Telegraph tracked him down this week although agreed not to reveal his identity due to his insistence that he does not wish to take any personal credit should the weight loss challenge prove a success.

He added that his son has type 1 diabetes, which only accounts for one in 10 cases of the condition in the UK. Unlike type 2, it has nothing to  do with obesity, but the experience has focused his mind. The Imperial study found that for people with type 1, who also happen to be severely obese, the coronavirus mortality rate is doubled. Obesity is also a risk factor for other underlying conditions – heart disease, dementia, kidney disease and asthma – that account for around three in four Covid deaths. 

The donor said he hoped the nation would now follow Boris Johnson – who is said to have warned “don’t be a fatty in your fifties” after his own scare – in taking their weight more seriously. “The Prime Minister has taken on board it is right to be thinner in life,” he says. “If the country was to copy that we could see people reducing their weight and their health becoming less of an issue.”

Prior to his damascene-conversion on the Covid wards, the Prime Minister was a vocal critic of interventionist health policies, particularly with regard to the war on sugar, which he declared the work of the ‘nanny state’. But so far the residents of Denchworth have proved surprisingly agreeable to the weight loss scheme, which officially begins on June 1.

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