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Cakes and ladders

A game that obese pupils can enjoy playing while they learn to think thin

A roll of the dice decides whether you discuss strategies for refusing sweets when your friends urge you to tuck in, or you do aerobics, in a variant of the playground game What's the Time, Mr Wolf? This is the Obesity Game, a new board activity for overweight children. One square says "You are home alone and have raided the cake tin: go back three spaces."

But players can redeem themselves by landing on "You go to the swimming pool with friends", earning a three-space bonus.

It was a roll of the metaphorical dice that made these children overweight in the first place, say the clinical psychologists who devised the game.

Margreet Stradmeijer, who has devised other games dealing with grief, chronic illness and divorce, said: "It's their way of living and their community which makes some children and some adults fat. It's not the fault of the individuals themselves.

"The main problem with the treatment of obesity is that social support is absolutely necessary to have any result at all. This is a social game. The way people try to diet is so obviously ineffective. We explicitly make sure the word dieting is not in the game."

It allows children to chat and laugh with others in the same situation about the practical and emotional difficulties their condition throws up.

They work together to devise get-outs for awkward situations such as being bullied, belittled, press-ganged into buying lardy snacks by thin friends or being confronted with a sugar-laden spread at a children's party.

Some board squares require participants to play simple games. For example they might be nominated to answer every question with the words "baked beans" while keeping a straight face. Or they link arms and wind themselves into a tangle, which another player must unwind by giving verbal instructions alone.

The Obesity Game is designed for use with a therapist or any other adult with a knowledge of the issues surrounding obesity. It could easily be used in schools, the authors said.

The Obesity Game costs pound;46.99, from Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Questions game poses

* What kind of excuses do you use for not daring to go swimming with friends?

* What can you say when someone calls you Fatso?

* Have you ever felt jealous of a skinny classmate?

* Can you name a famous person who is overweight? How do you think he or she feels about it?

* Do you feel that it is more difficult to make friends when you are overweight?

* Have you ever eaten far too much or stuffed yourself?

* Is your family supportive in your effort to eat healthily?

* Have you met a know-all who advised you on your food intake? How did you respond to them?

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