Tuesday, 11 May 2010

'Just Tax the Stupid People!'

So even in the midst of all this election madness, the brains responsible for implementing health policy have managed to make another spectacular gaff. It’s amazing they found the time, really – I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so full of abject despair.

The latest bright idea is to tax ‘bad’ foods, in the hope that the higher cost will see a decline in Britain’s much maligned obese population.

Upon closer inspection, the proposed foods for increased taxation include crème fresh, lurpak butter, full fat milk, strong cheddar and luxury biscuits. With the exception of the biscuits, all of these foods have significant nutritional value, providing essential protein and calcium – With full fat milk being just about the most nutritional thing you can consume (and, incidentally, a popular choice for a quick injection of (what’s the opposite of empty? Meaningful?) meaningful calories amongst recovering anorexics). Butter has long since been proven to be much better for you than margarine, which is chock-full of toxins and other nasties. And show me someone who consumes crème fresh on a daily basis and I’ll show you someone who can afford the added tax.

Of course, I’m not advocating a diet consisting solely of high-fat dairy produce, merely pointing out that these can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. As my friend Michelle, a registered nutritionist, points out “variety is the cornerstone of good nutrition”.

So it’s all the luxury biscuit’s fault! Of course! Why haven’t I noticed all the obese people frantically cramming in mouthfuls of luxury biscuits in the World? Bad, bad luxury biscuit!

In all seriousness, I don’t think we can justifiably place the blame for rising obesity levels on the luxury biscuit alone, so all we are left with are a lot of luxury biscuit consumers, ex-anorexics and people with any degree of common sense who are (understandably) more than a little hacked off.

As Michelle goes on to stress:

“It’s annoying how this is being framed as an ‘obesity’ issue. It’s actually a heart disease issue, which can be tied more directly to saturated fat consumption. And there’s no proof that a lower-fat diet will help people lose weight in the long-run, so the ‘obesity’ link is specious”.

What this essentially boils down to, once again, is the powers-that-be making a profit from our vices. Vices which we are positively encouraged to adopt by their self-righteous, condescending, whiney and generally irritating attitude in the first place.

Forbidden things are ‘cool’. Look at smoking. The incessant anti-smoking advertising, vile pictures on the packets depicting unsightly diseases and public place ban has done little to quell their consumption in anyone I know. In fact, it almost makes me want to take up smoking myself in an act of protest.

The attitude being generated is “tee hee, look at me, I’m exercising my freedom by jeopardizing my health. That’ll show those smothersome bore-bags in government”. It might be bonkers, but then emotions often are.

The general public are left in a situation where they are perpetually ricocheting between the binge-eating (which is now associated with pleasurable emotions of rebellion and ‘treating’ oneself) and the ‘starting their diets on Monday’ mentality (which of course the wealth of resources, DVDs, books and ‘diet’ foods will be more than happy to enable us to do). Low fat ‘diet’ foods, incidentally, are usually crammed to the rafters with sugar (and I don’t notice high-sugar foods being taxed, which is yet further evidence that the whole concept owes more to a concern for consumerism than for the health of the populous).

The answer is a combination of educating the public about the genuine nutritional value of foods (relatively easy) and increasing their self-esteem so that health becomes, crucially, more important than simply 'thinness' (mammoth task, which projects like Evolve, Body Gossip and the Winning Minds Body Confidence Programme are toiling constantly to bring to fruition). In the meantime, as my Mum would say, ‘use your noddle’.

On that note, I’d like to quote Absolutely Fabulous’ Edwina and propose a ‘Stupidity Tax’ - to be imposed upon all people who genuinely believe Kate Moss is healthier than Crystal Renn.

To hear more maniacal ranting from me on this thorny issue, tune into BBC Radio Essex tomorrow (Weds 12th May) at 11.30am, 95.3fm or click http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/essex/hi/.

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