The weighty problem of Obesity
I’ve just learnt from Sky TV that a new study in the UK reveals that two rashers of bacon for breakfast every morning increases your chances of getting cancer by 19 percent. In fairness, the morning bacon rasher featured prominently in the news report because it was thought it would resonate with viewers, but the study applied to all processed meats. They all increase your chance of getting cancer apparently.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this hasn’t changed my breakfast eating habits one iota. I don’t eat a fry up every morning but there are days when four rashers of nice fatty back bacon, a couple of sausages, two eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms all washed down with some strong tea are exactly what the body cries out for. Not forgetting that great British culinary masterpiece… a fried slice of bread, crisp and just oozing carcinogens.
In my almost 60 years on the planet two things have remained constant. The first is the search for a solution to the Middle East problem. My own thoughts on the matter are that there is no solution and if there were, then an awful lot of people in the Middle East would wake up in the morning with absolutely nothing to do all day. The second is that most of the things they sell in food supermarkets can kill you.
The general rule is: the better it tastes, the more chance you have of dying. The only problem is that what was thought to have been insanely dangerous 20 years ago is now acknowledged to be healthy in reasonable quantities. For example, when I was at school, government propaganda (via the Egg Marketing Board) encouraged us to go to work on an egg. Then eggs became suspect and a potential cause of something or other, and it was suggested that a maximum of three a week should be consumed. Much the same has happened over the years with butter, margarine, cooking oil, pork, wheat products and virtually everything except lentils. Lentils have yet to produce a major health scare. Although no scientific proof currently exists, I am prepared to bet that food health scares increase your chance of getting cancer by 22 percent.
The correct reaction to all of this is to say “phooey” and defy death by eating as much of the “dangerous” product as possible, because within a couple of years the health nannies will have decided that something else is a killer food and that, contrary to earlier studies, several rashers of bacon every morning can increase the life span of rats by 15 percent.
Far more important than the killer foods, though, is the problem of obesity, and this is something that the expanding waistline of South Africa really needs to look at seriously.
The Brits now want to put extra taxes on junk food and anything that turns people into lard mountains. The problem of obesity in the UK is huge, but political correctness forbids people from commenting about the body shape of other people. Over there, tubbies are regarded as victims and so the government has to tread delicately so as not to offend anyone. This it does by releasing information on the increased risk of heart disease, hints on how many units of alcohol it’s safe to drink every night, and statistics on how many work days are lost every year because people are too fat to get through their front doors. None of this has worked, so the last resort is to up the tax on fatty foods and encourage chocolate bar manufacturers to drop the calories per bar, which will make little or no difference.
The right course of action would be to name and shame and, for this reason, I rather hope that South Africa won’t slavishly follow the British model of political correctness. Once you start treating fatties as victims you may as well give up. They’ll constantly be badgering for state-sponsored choccie bars to feed their habit and demanding extra wide seating on the Gautrain. They’ll claim that they can’t find dignified employment because they are too fat and that the taxpayer must therefore feed and house them for free. Far better to make things clear from the outset and declare “fatism” to be on a par with all the other “isms” like racism, mysoginism and sexism. Only when fatties can be openly mocked by 702 presenters will we begin to solve the problem. Only when obese people are frightened to leave their homes for fear of public opprobrium can we look forward to a nation of svelte bodies. And if Pravin Gordhan wants to introduce a tax, it should be on the difference between the actual and recommended body weight levied on a rising scale. He might like to start with a few political colleagues and BEE beneficiaries.
Published in Playboy South Africa May 2012