The Obesity Conundrum

Posted: October 25, 2012 in doctors, gym, my tubby self, weight loss, Wordpress stats make me awkwardly happy
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So my last post – The Fat Tax and YOU!, was about a proposal by a group of doctors in Ontario to raise taxes on unhealthy food and lower taxes on healthy food. I went over in some detail why I think the proposal is not just a bad idea but also probably not particularly feasible (among the reasons being that as far as I know, food isn’t actually taxed on a federal level to begin with).

Obviously I could leave it at that and consider myself done, many is the time that people offer criticisms but not any ideas or alternatives. However as I stated in the last post this is an issue close to my heart (most specifically in the clogged arteries surrounding my heart). Plus my last post got some decent views (and I am nothing if not an attention whore). With that is mind I started piecing together this post with the hope of finding out what the barriers are to healthy eating. I really want to explore better alternatives to a Fat Tax as I think the tax is less about combating obesity and more about profiting from it.

One of the things they harped on about at my last job was that 90% of fixing a problem is determining what the problem is. They weren’t well known for practicing what they preached, as the preferred method of problem solving there was to ignore it and hope the problem went away. Regardless of their less than stellar implementation of the strategy it was still true, you can’t solve a problem unless you know what that problem is.

Obstacles to a Healthy Life Style

1) Cooking – I have met many people who just plain can’t cook. That becomes problematic considering the alternatives are usually fast food or processed stick-it-in-the-microwave type meals. Most of that stuff is terrible for you, heavily processed, heavily salted, light on nutrients and they treat vegetables with more disdain than I have for humanity…and I have an official looking document from my career counsellor that says I REALLY hate humanity.

Anything that is actually healthy usually tastes like cardboard, or it is more expensive, or there is much less of it so it just isn’t really filling. So the question becomes; are we better off teaching people to cook their own healthy food OR demanding better alternatives in our processed or fast foods?

2) Time – People just don’t have time to cook a good meal anymore, I know it’s true because all the TV commercials tell me so. All the bagged, boxed and frozen dinner commercials have preyed on the “fact” that the working classes don’t have time to prepare a meal from scratch for so long that even if it wasn’t true people have long since bought in. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that not having enough time to cook good meals IS an issue. That said, I think there is also the problem of people PERCEIVING they don’t have enough time to cook a good meal. You flip on the Food Channel and every dish is a culinary masterpiece, you go to Pinterest and every photo is of an edible work of art that someone slaved over  for hours. Well of course no one has time for that shit. What don’t you see in those cooking shows? The army of people doing the chopping and measuring for one…five hungry people waiting around the table impatiently for another. As for the people on Pinterest I haven’t completely ruled out the theory that they are all fucking nuts.

So now that people are already short on time due to long hours and all the extra curricular activities they may have to  get their kids to, they are also feeling guilt over the fact that whatever they prepare won’t be “good” enough because it didn’t take half an hour to prepare and require pulling out the lemon zester. I know many people who judge serving processed prepared foods as “bad parenting”. Is it any wonder people are frustrated? All they want to do is feed their kids or themselves but unless they do it right then someone somewhere will be judging them…even if it is the nagging little asshole in the back of their head that commercials and food magazines built.

3) Bad Habits – This is a huge one for most obese people. You start learning bad habits and they can become damn near impossible to break. As a single guy on my own, one of the habits I have is to not bother making dinner and just eating a bag of chips instead…I really wish I was kidding. What starts off as lazy can quickly become habit and the only solution for breaking a habit is completely retraining yourself. That is a hell of a lot of time and effort.

4) Confusion – Science is finding new information about foods and health all the time. Some foods have gone from good to bad and back again. Sugar substitutes like Aspartame and Splenda were supposed to be a great alternative but now you get articles about all the horrible side effects they are supposed to bring with them. Suddenly you are weighing diabetes versus alzheimer’s and trying to separate credible sources from conspiracy blogs. Add to that the “scientists” that are hired by various special interest groups that will render any finding you like for some hookers and blow. So now I am standing in an aisle trying to remember if it was butter or margarine that was supposed to be better for you (I am pretty sure it is neither but I also stopped caring). Our only option is to keep abreast of all the new findings, follow the blogs, read the ingredients on all the products…fuck it, I don’t even feel like finishing the sentence let alone putting the work in.

I suppose I could just let one of my  health nut friends do all the work and then just follow their advice. Problem being that most health nuts are…well…nuts. Talking to a health nut feels like talking to a conspiracy theorist about JFK and 9/11. They start mixing morality advice in with their health advice, and the health advice isn’t regular health advice, it is tofu/wheatgrass advice. If they have the time and interest to scour the internet for health news they aren’t going to flub it at the last minute and tell you which brand of aerosol cheese is the least lethal. Unfortunately, that will be what I ask about because that is what I want to know.

5) Snow – This is may not be an issue where you live but I live in Edmonton, Alberta. Snow can start as early as October and stays till it is damn good and ready to leave…April if you are lucky. Some of that time won’t be terrible but there are stretches around January where they start warning you not to go outside with any exposed flesh for fear of frost bite. This means all the fun summer activities I could be persuaded to get off my ass and do are packed up and waiting for 6 to 8 months. I have a hard enough time finding things I can do in bright sunshine and green grass, among my bad habits was a lack of interest in sports and the like. Now I need to find a completely different set of activities that I can do:

– in at least a foot of snow
– in the dark (I have had some jobs where I haven’t seen the sun all winter)
– in the city (I can’t head to a ski hill every day)
– doesn’t actually involve skiing or skating (because I fucking hate both of them)

All of which won’t matter for at least two months when the only reason anyone goes outside is to start the car and let it warm up enough to be drive-able.

6) Support – Not many people have any idea how to support obese people trying to lose weight. Considering most obese people don’t know what they need or want for support that isn’t surprising. I had a personal trainer who constantly wanted to weigh me so he could cheer on my weight loss but despite the fact I was looking and feeling better in some cases I was actually gaining weight. Nothing makes you feel better than finding out all your hard work has gained you two pounds. I never wanted nor cared about weigh-ins but this guy made it seem like it was essential for my weight loss. It wasn’t long after that I started to notice that the support from gym staff seemed as fake and plastic as their smiles. As soon as I didn’t progress to the ball crushingly expensive next level of personal training I was left to my own devices and barely acknowledged, but maybe that was just my shitty choice of gym. By the way, gym patrons themselves are actually pretty supportive of the obese folks looking to lose weight. All but the most dickish were just glad to see you out there trying, which did not fit the perception I had built up of them before I went.

Compare that to the internet, if you follow an obesity article online there will always be the few commenters suggesting that shaming fat people will bring them into line. Like somehow fat people aren’t already a bundle of shame and only this idiots razor sharp input will put them to right. I have had people talk about obesity on Facebook like their years of healthy eating, clean living and superior genetics has given them a keen insight into battling obesity…skinny people talking to me about “solving” obesity always sounds like fundamentalist talking about how gay marriage will effect their lives, they talk with that same fervour that suggests that I am clearly too fat to know what I am talking about or what is best for me. I don’t know much but I do know it is best to leave those people behind, if you aren’t here to help I am sure as hell not going to let you stick around to hinder me.

Rancid Monke

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