Anti-obesity mafia

Quick, hide the chippies! – Education News – theage.com.au

Yet another ridiculously simplified take on childhood obesity – ban junk food, turn off the telly, regulate the junk food advertisers and the kids will become fit and healthy … the Government will be seen to be “doing something” about this terrible state of affairs – but whatever happened to parental common sense and personal responsibility?

PARENTS should only scoff chocolate or a packet of chips after the kids have gone to bed, as part of a new campaign against obesity.

Besides sneaking out of sight for a sugar hit, parents also are urged to put a two-hour time limit on their children watching television or surfing the internet …

o assist in the new campaign, a Federal Government website has had extra information posted on it, aimed at helping parents make the changes necessary to downsize their overweight kids.

Among the suggestions is that if a parent must eat junk food, it’s best to do it out of sight of impressionable children.

“Be a good role model; if you eat healthily your toddler will follow in your footsteps,” it says.

Kids are fat and don’t exercise … so are their parents. Good role models model the role – so are we teaching our kids that you can eat junk so long as you don’t get caught? That calories consumed in secret do not lead to obesity?

Perhaps the problem is precisely around the type of role models we provide as parents and teachers – if parents and teachers eat healthy food and incorporate normal exercise into their daily routine (walking or riding a bike instead of driving, playing outside with their kids, enjoying physical activity in the garden and around the house, playing sport) perhaps children will follow in their footsteps.

Balance in life does not mean balance every hour of every day, balance in diet does not mean every meal must contain all the food groups. Banning all sugar and fat is silly. Placing moral value on food items is silly. Understanding nutrition is important, but it is also important to understand the social nature of “breaking bread together” or sharing time and conversation around food. A healthy balance between nutrition, exercise, relaxation, social interaction and mental stimulation requires more than paternalistic bans on chips, chocolate bars and soft drinks (while allowing “sports bars”, “energy drinks” and other marketing rubbish …). Is it only me that thinks this approach is unmitigated vacuousness?

2 thoughts on “Anti-obesity mafia”

  1. I agree, this is all pretty silly–though I think it’s one of those things that sound a whole lot more silly when put forward as earnest official government propaganda. I don’t particularly mind the government getting involved in encouraging healthy eating (for example, I think banning “junk” food in schools is probably okay), I guess largely because the current situation is objectively bad, and also because government action seems “efficient”–governments can get involved at school level, enforce food labelling guidelines and so on. (Maybe I’m getting soft–I’ve never been particularly fond of the argument that the state should “correct” moral failings/bad parenting, etc.)

    Teachers here in the UK don’t use red pen, and don’t cross out work. (I’m not sure how “official” this is, but it seems to be very common, at least.) I’m wondering how they deal with sport–it’s pretty untenable without winners and losers.

  2. Banning “junk” food sounds okay until you start to decide what constitutes junk. Do we start making value judgements between fruit sugar and “bad” sugar, between between nuts and donuts, between butter and margarine? Or do we look at balance across the whole diet? Do we ban tim tams and chocolate teddy bear biscuits (an essential food group by itself !) or do we replace them with anzac cookies (lots of fibre) or are they also bad (lots of sugar and fat)? Are muesli bars “good” because muesli is good, whereas snickers bars are “bad”? Is Gatorade a good energy drink but coke is junk? Is apple juice “good” because it has fruit in the name despite being really high in sugar? If I were the food police, I would ban all drinks other than water, and replace sugary drinks with pieces of fruit (fibre and all). So long as there are good yummy balanced eating choices readily available at canteens, there should be no need to ban junk.

    And don’t get me started on sport with no competition – sport is indeed untenable without winners and losers!!! It is a very important lesson in life to deal with not winning, to deal with loss. It is very important to understand that effort does not always beat skill, that no matter how good you are, there is always the possibility of someone better or luckier on the day … and it is great when people learn how to be truly competitive with themselves and with others, but at the end of the competition, to shake hands and be friends (or in competition with yourself, to look back with pride on your achievements knowing you tried your best).

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