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.