October 19, 2007

I spotted this news story the other day, claiming that obesity is not the fault of the individual, rather the government must, to some extent, catch the blame.

“Blame” is too harsh a word. Perhaps the government is at fault for not helping enough. We’ve all heard enough about what food is bad for you. But where’s the justification? You tell me something’s bad, I want to know why, what it does to me, if eating less of it helps, if there’s a good alternative, or how I could cut it out of my diet altogether, or if it’s a sneaky little indulgence that I could get away with now and then but not on a daily/weekly basis.

In many cases, obesity probably is the individual’s fault, but only in so far as greed and sloth are irresistible and almost unavoidable in the 21st century.

Junk food is cheap. I can walk down to Iceland just now and pick up a dozen frozen burgers probably for less than £2, a block of cheese for another £2, and a dozen rolls for less than the same again. It’s too easy and too cheap to eat junk all the time.

So what’s a good fix?

How’s about: use our council tax money to subsidise local gym memberships? Maybe a little already goes that way, but £30 or more per month for membership is more money than some people can part with. Especially if they’re to trial a healthier (more expensive?) diet at the same time.

How’s about: more simple advice, distributed over a couple of years. It wouldn’t cost much to distribute a nice little leaflet to all doors, one per month, via the Royal Mail (they have a cheap system for that, you see, it’s called “door-to-door”, and they’ll quite happily deliver your mail to all doors in an area). Just a simple tip on each leaflet: “Try cutting out X from your diet, it does ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ to your body. ‘A’ is a good alternative, doesn’t cause ‘Y’ and ‘Z’, and costs just the same!” One of those per month would let people try something new each month, possibly shifting people slowly but surely toward healthier eating rather than the hammer-based approach we have just now: “You should eat healthier. You should be healthier. You should eat healthier. You should be healthier.” Bang. Bang. Bang, but the nail’s not going in.

How’s about: improved public transport links. For God’s sake, it’s the 21st century. Fast, efficient trains. Fast, efficient buses, with useful info at bus stands and clarity on pricing schemes. Link up to underground systems and tram networks. Run public transport late into the evening. Do all of these things so that people are less likely to sit on their arse in their car and walk less than 10 minutes on their way to/from work. Build a proper cycle network across the UK that traverses city centres.

None of this is rocket science. At the risk of sounding like many tired cliches, the government should be helping people help themselves. Let’s stop blaming everybody else for all our problems.

Here’s my own personal regime:

  • Walk a couple of miles per day. Doesn’t take long: 30-40 minutes.
  • Cut out the fizzy drinks. Drink water instead: it’s cheap, and more refreshing.
  • Eat less in the evening. I sit in the office all day. I eat lunch, but no breakfast. I’m not really hungry before 7pm; I can get away with a bowl of soup to last me through the rest of the day. Plus, soup is healthy. Especially if I make it myself.
  • Keep other muscles ticking away. I do a bunch of upper body exercises to give me some semblance of toning.

Again, none of this is difficult. In fact, the only time consuming part is possibly the walking, but even that’s not onerous. The more walking, less food, home-made soup, and not drinking fizzy drinks even saves a bit of cash.

Simple changes are easy. They don’t offer miracle weight loss, but nothing reasonable does.


4 Responses to “Fat.”

  1. […] and that’s because it’s nice! The government should do more on obesity according to On the Outside Looking In who suggests ways in which they could do […]

  2. Qween Minx said

    Wasn’t it Karl Marx who said … and I don’t quote … I have a shite memory but bear with me … he said something along the lines of parapharsing ‘the reason why there will be no revolutions in the west is because their governments give them what they think they need’

    i.e. fridges, cookers, dvds, mobile phones, xboxes, putas ya ya ya ya …

    ‘we’ are lazy for many reasons … we are fat and lazy and unhappy for reasons …

    I am a complete (almost) western glutton because of my ‘easy’ life …

    credit cards, overdrafts, loans, higher purchase, loan sharks … need I go on … indulge my ‘western gluttony’ not only indulge, advocate it …

    Karl Marx was/is right … there will be no revolutions in the West because we all think we have what we need.

    I am so lost to western gluttony, that I am no longer sure of what I ‘need’ and what I don’t.

    Blame … is a foolish game … it goes on and on and on and on and …

    do I sound like a duracell battery … whose got shares in Duracell!???

    Did you by any chance watch ‘Meet the Natives’ on Channel 4??

    It made me weep and laugh at the same time …

    Prince Phillip is their God in Tanna … Oh how we scoff … regardless of this … it seemed to me that these men from Tanna who had the opportunity of experiencing our western indulgence … fucked it right off.

    Is ‘our/western’ pursuit of comfort, indulgence, material gain … not only adding to our waistlines, but a constant detriment to our physical health, and a constant burden to our mental capacity to cope and survive in western civilisation???

    What the fuck is happiness … and why the fuck do I feel that to be ‘happy’ through gain … coz really ‘dats da West’ is my only option … ‘the more I have the more I want’ …

    it’s so tiresome.

    so yeah .. fat people … fuck em … thin people .. fuck em .. people with big noses or ears or little noses or a big toe bigger than another big toe …

    don’t ya worry … coz in da West .. all ya need is a good surgeon or a good psychiatrist and all your problems can be solved … with a knife or a few quid and quite often …both.


    I am a Westerner through and through and the more I am … the more I want to live on Tanna.


  3. Qween Minx said

    there is ‘strength in the bear’.


  4. Well, yes, there’s a difference between what the people want, and what they actually need. Which is sometimes why the Government is well within its rights to do something opposite of public opinion — the only caveat in a democratic society being that they need to have proven the benefit of their choices (or at least allowed people to forget about the choices made) before the next election rolls around.

    Greed, however, is a perfectly natural human trait. We evolved in a food-scarce environment, where storing, collecting, foraging, and eating until we were full were correct actions to take because those were of that mindset survived and procreated.

    Evolution has gotten the better of us. We now have to accept what human behaviour *is*, understand that, and use our *minds* to affect our behaviour.

    Little of what we do today is what we were designed to do. Sitting at a computer is unnatural: sitting for long periods of time only waggling our fingers (or perhaps waggling more, within the privacy of your own home), and staring at nearby objects (ie, the screen) is simply not what we were built to do. Nor was sitting in a car for long distances. Most “proper” jobs involve doing things entirely unnatural to us. (Whereas “blue collar” or part-time jobs, your delivery guys, posties, supermarket types, bar workers, are looked down upon. Go figure.)

    Yet, despite doing these unnatural things, we can learn to alleviate their problems. We get up and take a break from the computer. We focus on distant objects. We might even park the car a little further away and walk the last few minutes. We can train ourselves to be healthier.

    So why the mindset that we can’t train ourselves to be healthier with regards to food intake? It’s a “simple” problem concerning one thing: self control!

    We have a lot of choice in our world. That doesn’t mean we have to choose “everything”.

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