Posts Tagged ‘health’

The Fat Tax and YOU! – It all started with my post about a group of Ontario doctors proposing a tax on high calorie items. They proposed it as a way of combating obesity but to me it seems more about profiting from obesity than actually putting effort in to stopping it.

I should mention that as part of my research I found out that both Denmark and Hungary have proposed such taxes, in fact Denmark worked on a fat tax and a separate sugar tax. About a year after Denmark imposed the fat tax it is contemplating rolling it back and is considering abandoning plans for the sugar tax. Although I didn’t find any information on if the tax was having the desired effect of decreasing obesity (it was probably too early to see useful data on it anyway) the reasons for considering dropping the tax were mostly political and echoed in all of the articles I read. Firstly, many labour groups were claiming that the tax was costing people jobs in the food and beverage industry and secondly the Danes were just border hopping to buy and horde food from countries without the tax (which explains why the jobs were disappearing).

Although I still oppose the tax vehemently these are  obviously very real problems that would have to be addressed if this proposed tax is actually considered for Canada. Many people in cities within driving distance of the US border are already crossing for shopping deals and smuggling cigarettes is big business. Do we really have the time and interest to search every citizen returning from the US for hidden compartments full of bags of chips and bottles of cola? Will contraband cupcakes become a thing?  If they do, I want to be known as the Cupcake Kingpin…I will require a cane with a cupcake shaped handle and some sort of pimpin’ hat with a feather in it…although I might be mixing villain archetypes there. Anyway, the point is that suddenly a lot of the money generated by the fat tax will used up policing the border, and extra border security hasn’t really worked to stop the drug trade from flourishing so it’s effectiveness is sort of questionable.

The Obesity Conundrum – Then I moved on to looking at some of the obstacles to a healthy life style. Mostly it was from my own experience and more than anything it was a stepping stone to this post.

Now I am ready to wrap this up and move on. What started as an insulting post on someone’s Facebook has spawned three blog posts that I am pretty proud of, it has gotten me more views, likes, shares and follows than anything that has come before but it is time to finish off and put it to bed. I can think of no better way to do that than with a quick brainstorm of alternatives to the Fat Tax, I once stated I could think of a hundred better alternatives to the Fat Tax and despite that probably being gross hyperbole it is still time to put my money where my mouth is.

I should mention that the ideas listed below for curbing obesity range from the mundane to the insane to the completely infeasible to the down right moronic. I am not trying to establish policy, I am trying to brainstorm and there are no “stupid ideas” in brainstorming…except for every idea besides mine, those are clearly idiotic and should be mocked accordingly. Anyway, I will try to keep this post as coherent as I can but I am also hopped up on cold meds…so odds aren’t stellar that it will be readable. Without further ado…

Rancid Monke Patent-Pending Obesity Combating Tips

More money spent on playgrounds, nature trails, community sports programs and recreation centres – If we can get kids to make a habit of exercising through sports and playing then that habit will continue into adulthood. Not only does it make sense to me but I have seen this theory in action. While I never really got into any sports my brother spent years in junior hockey leagues as a goalie. Despite the fact that he never made it to the professional level the habit of playing hockey followed him into adulthood and he has been in and out of both ball hockey and ice hockey leagues for years. There is probably an equal amount of beer swilled to hockey played but he is still in better shape than I am likely to ever be.

Mandatory cooking classes in school – if people can cook they aren’t nearly as reliant on fast food. I am perpetually surprised by how many people I meet who can’t cook. I am no culinary master but I am talking people who can’t even make there own macaroni and cheese unless it comes in those microwave cups. I was forced into taking a lot of bizarre classes in junior and senior high including gym class, industrial arts and career and life management (in which we listened to our gym teacher tell pointless life stories). Seems to me a few cooking classes would be infinitely more useful than almost all the algebra I ever learned.

Government caps on max sugar and fats in foods – Set a limit to how much crap they can actually put in any given product.  

Subsidies for gym membership – Subsidize the insane costs of joining a gym so more people can afford it. 

Tax credits for purchasing home gym equipment – They gave tax credits for house  renovations here in Alberta a while back, why not for people improvement? Save up your receipts for any exercise or sports equipment you bought in the year or for your gym membership/personal trainer and be able to claim it.

Artificial fat flavour – We have artificial sugar flavouring in Aspartame and Splenda so why can’t the same be done to make the flavour of kettle cooked potato chips into my bland ass rice cakes? Sorry, but baked chips just don’t taste the same, so why isn’t anyone working on fixing that?

Meal partners – I think this would make for an excellent website idea. Being single and living on my own tends to leave me fairly open to ignoring proper meal planning or preparation. Why put effort into a nice dinner when I can wolf down a bag of chips and watch Netflix instead? So what if I could go on a site and get paired up with someone else who likes to cook but doesn’t feel much obligation to when they are all alone. The site could allow you to find someone within a easy to accommodate radius of where you live and then allow you to set up a schedule for making meals you can share. Sort of like a dating site but replace the awkward touching with a nice spaghetti dinner. Instead of a profile rife with lies, sexual innuendo and self shots in the bathroom mirror you would have a list of your favourite recipes so anyone interested would know what sort of things to expect if they partnered up with you.

Mandatory sizes on apartment kitchens – I have been in a variety of apartment kitchens over the years and the expectation of an ability to cook a meal in some of them is laughable. Nothing makes me want to cook less than having no counter space to work on and no dishwasher to help make clean up easier. I propose that any new apartment or  housing development should be required to devout a specific square footage of space toward a properly designed kitchen.

Panini shops – Why the hell are their no panini fast food places? I am not even sure if a panini would be considered all that much healthier than other fast food items but considering how tasty they are why has no one set up a panini franchise in Canada yet?

Food court restrictions – What if food courts were required to have a specific number of health alternatives kiosks per each burger, pizza or fried chicken shop?

All fast food for commercial ads has to be from an actual store – Currently any of the food used in advertisements and posters at a fast food place needs to consist of 100% edible products. Unfortunately with things like edible food lacquers and the massive amount of advanced prep time that burger in the poster will look nothing like what they wrap in coloured paper and hand to you. I think they should make it so that any food used in advertising needs to be randomly sampled from an actual store kitchen instead of the corporate kitchen. Either the food at the chain would start looking better overall of the posters would start looking much more realistic and less appetizing. This might not have much effect on obesity per say but it would make for more honesty in food advertisement.

Specific times fast food commercials can’t air – By preventing the airing of fast food commercials during standard breakfast, lunch and dinner time periods we may be able to prevent impulse purchasing. Commercials for mouth watering burgers or pizza just as you are trying to decided what to do about making dinner is not very conducive to making smart and healthy choices.

Convince the companies, not the public – It may be difficult to convince a board of directors of a large company that reducing fats or sugars in their product or to make healthy alternatives would be in their best interests but it is still small groups with a fairly easy to define goal in mind (to make money for the share holders). Compare that to trying convince millions of average citizens with wildly different motivations that they should eat healthier.

Rancid J. Monke
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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 the 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.

To be honest it would be easier to give all of us currently obese people up as a lost cause. How much harder is it for an obese person to lose weight and get healthy than an already healthy person to stay that way? We are talking about the difference between trying to push a rock up a hill compared to down a slope. Not that I want to be given up on but the better use of government time and money is to guide the next generation down a healthier path than trying to fix the problem after it is already broken. Most industries would refer to it as preventitive maintenance (unlike percussive maintenance, which is just beating the shit out of things until they work).

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