Tuesday, October 17, 2006


So we are the fattipuffs of Europe. Somebody had to be. The British, among their many other hobbies and extraordinary attributes, obviously enjoy overeating. And it appears that nothing - no television diet guru examining our excretions, no Messiah-like chef tossing buckets of undigested fat in front of us, no bossy government leaflets imploring us to eat more vegetables - is going to change that. Does it matter? Not to the fattipuffs, clearly, or they would do something about it. Not to the rest of the British public either. Or if it does, it really shouldn't. It is none of our business. I just wish someone could persuade this irritating government that it's none of its business either.

Fat fascists and government spokespeople, when voicing their peculiar disapproval of other people's body mass index (BMI), often come up with spurious figures regarding the cost of obesity to the National Health Service. Apparently if you include the wear and tear on hospital lavatory seats, the stress on nurses at having to deal with such irresponsible patients and so on, this extra cost can spiral into billions. Fat people get ill more, so the argument goes, and since we taxpayers have to pay for the consequences, we have every right to bully fat people into getting thin again.

It is a loathsome argument: the same one that is used when trying to control smokers and drinkers. No doubt it will be used against people who slouch too much in front of their computers, or who take exercise without stretching first or who choose, against all advice, to look directly at the sun. Extend the argument still further and there is no reason why it couldn't be used to enforce the screening of unborn children: hell, we could get shot of the duffers before they were even fully formed. Why not? Imagine all the taxpayers' money that could be saved.

The NHS, it should never be forgotten, is a service run by the government but paid for by the people. It is not, and was never intended to be, a tool with which to control us. Also (although I'm loath to indulge this line of argument), it's clearly a nonsense to pretend that fat people, in the long run, cost the public purse any more than the rest of the population. If fat people get ill more, the chances are they are going to die earlier, too.

So while the rest of us health freaks mince around on Zimmer frames, demanding expensive drugs for the other debilitating diseases waiting to take us out, the fat people will already be dead. No requests from them for geriatric medical care, free bus passes and measly pensions. With obesity rates rising at the rate that we're told they are, the public purse ought soon to be positively bulging.

But never mind all that, never mind the logic of it: that was never the point. This government simply can't resist an opportunity to nag. If it's not about fatness, it's about thinness; it's about our liquid intake during heatwaves, our alcohol intake over Christmas, the temperature of our baths, the frequency of our lavatory flushing, the hoods on our sweatshirts, the veils on our faces. It will come up with a guideline for anything to keep its stultifying presence on the front pages. Anything to show us it cares.

This week, in response to the wretched fatness survey, it has truly excelled itself. Healthy diet has been the subject to worry about, and even the chancellor of the exchequer has felt inspired to contribute to the debate. He has let it be known (in case we were wondering) that he "always" has two portions of vegetables at lunch and that he can often be seen "munching an apple or an orange" around the office. A spokesman for Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary (who, it is claimed, eats "infinitely more" than the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day), has released the news that she enjoys "very, very regular bowel movements". Which is marvellous, but perhaps a case of too much information.

If we are to believe their spokespeople, government ministers are an example to us all, only ever enjoying the occasional glass of wine, always eating up their greens and often having rowing machines in their offices. If only we could be more like them. Thankfully Caroline Flint, our new minister for fitness, has announced a new initiative to help us to catch up. She wants to impel supermarkets to offer lessons in how to eat fruit and vegetables because, she says, there are people out there who find fresh fruit and vegetables "scary". Ho hum. An example of a new victim group cleverly unearthed by sensitive ministers or just one more case of an exhausted government dribbling into its geriatric bib? I almost feel sorry for them.

Then there are the thinnifers. Another problem, another call for a ban. Why do so many people think banning things is the only answer? I refer to the banning of very thin people from the catwalk, a place which we know to be their historical home. A collection of doctors and other eating disorder experts have joined together to make a formal request to the fashion industry not to employ models below a certain weight. It has been mooted that London Fashion Week should have its subsidies suspended (all in favour of that) if it refuses to comply.

Having struggled for years with the problem in my teens and early twenties, I have some inkling of the madness which settles in an anorexic's head. Of course I can't speak for them all, but I can speak from experience. And to suggest that the banning of models with the wrong BMI might in some way alter an anorexic's approach to her own body, or to flesh in general, seems pretty facile to me. Young women starve themselves for all sorts of reasons but mostly, I think, as a muddle-headed response to their own internal chaos: body weight is one of the few aspects of life which feels controllable. The truth is that you could put anyone you wanted on the catwalk - put Dawn French up there - but I don't believe it would change a thing. Anorexics see the world through different eyes.

I used to look in near revulsion at supermodel Cindy Crawford, a woman who, at the peak of my madness, was lauded as one of the most desirable women on earth. I couldn't comprehend it. I used to be disgusted by the gargantuan size of her thighs. When people said she looked wonderful, I thought they were the mad ones; either that or they were lying. The fashion industry is being asked to present a more realistic image of women to the world. But fashion isn't about realistic images, it's about fantasy - and art. There's something pretty wrong with a society that wants to ban that


Australian school canteens to impose fatty food ban

Victorian school children will be allowed to eat fatty junk food only twice a term under strict new canteen rules to be imposed next year. For the first time, school tuckshops will be told what they can and cannot sell to the state's 540,000 school students. Chips, potato cakes, dim sims, battered sausages, cakes and ice cream are on the hit list.

The Bracks Government is expected to reveal the latest crackdown today to try to halt the obesity crisis. It is believed the new rules will apply to Victoria's 1600 state primary and secondary schools. Independent and Catholic schools will be encouraged to adopt the new rules. Food will be divided into three groups - everyday, select and occasional - dictating how often it can be sold. Food listed as "occasional" is defined as having high fat, sugar or salt content and will be restricted to twice a term, or eight times a year. Deep-fried food, ice cream, icy poles, croissants and commercially produced cakes and sweet biscuits will be on the "occasional" list. Goodies listed under "select" will have some nutritional value and will be sold irregularly - potentially once a week. This will include party pies, sausage rolls and low-fat ice cream.

Schools will be told to try to sell as much "everyday" food as possible - which includes items with high nutritional value. Fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals and salads are in this category. Pikelets, crumpets, baked potatoes and frozen yoghurt will also be available daily. The new rules will apply to school canteens and lunch orders provided by outside caterers and shops. The Government is believed to have taken a different approach to chocolates and lollies [candy] in schools.

It is believed schools will be given information on how to introduce the new rules, which will begin next year. This includes advice on how to make healthier versions of popular food, for example, replacing commercially made pizza with home-made healthier versions. Activities for the classroom, promotional posters, a website and other material will also be available.

The Bracks Government introduced canteen guidelines in 2003 and this is believed to be the next step in the fight against obesity. It is believed the Government wants to send a healthy-eating message to students, who get about a third of their food at school. Many schools have already adopted healthy eating in their canteens, with restrictions on junk food. The tough new rules come after a ban on sugar-loaded drinks at schools and an investigation into restrictions on chocolates and lollies.

Drinks with more than 300 kilojoules a serve will not be sold at canteens or in vending machines. This means sport drinks and mineral water could face the axe. A spokesman for Education Minister Lynne Kosky would not confirm details of the new rules. "While many schools already offer healthy food to their children, the Government feels there is more to do," he said. About 30 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese.


The confident denunciation of "fatty" foods above is amusing. I reproduce below a recent post of mine from elsewhere which suggests that the epidemiological evidence for the denunciation is very shaky


As most readers here will be aware, the extraordinary degree of misinformation about food and health that we read in the MSM has caused me to do a daily blog on the latest health scares and enthusiasms. It is extraordinarily sad how much energy many people put into going along with the nonsense they read. The longevity studies all tend towards showing that NOTHING in the way of diet or lifestyle change will lengthen your life but many people don't want to believe that so they follow any pied piper who comes along with a promise to lead them to the promised land of longer life. And the media simply pander to that.

One of the most persistent themes that you read in health advice these days is that animal fat is bad for you. A diet rich in animal fat is said to doom you to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. I was rather persuaded of that myself at one stage as there seemed to be some epidemiological evidence for it. Now that I am a health blogger, however, I do a bit more background reading in these things than I used to do and something I found while doing such reading was sufficiently amusing for me to put it up here rather than on my more specialized blog.

The eskimos are of course renowned for eating large amounts of meat and fat. They once ate little else (vegetables don't grow well in the Arctic!) and to this day that remains the mainstay of their diet. And the eskimos have always had a shorter life expectancy than inhabitants of less dangerous climates. But is that shorter life expectancy due to their diet? There is much to say that it is not. They have extraordinarily high rates of suicide, smoking and other behavioural pathologies, for instance.

The interesting thing about Eskimos, however, is WHAT they die of. With their huge intake of animal fats they should be dropping like flies of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, according to the conventional wisdom. But that is precisely what they do NOT die of. They have always had very LOW rates of those diseases. No doubt there is much more that could be said about the matter but when the facts on the ground are the OPPOSITE of what the conventional wisdom would predict, should it not make us just a little skeptical about the conventional wisdom?

I did not keep any links from my reading in the above matters but it should be no trouble to google up lots on the subject.


Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? [/sarcasm].


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