Monday, April 18, 2016

Let's all stop pretending that support for a sugar tax is motivated by anything other than fat shaming.

Accurate depiction of an otherwise lazy person who
participates in around one hour of
strenuous activity per day.
Things that aren't logical bother me.

Case in point: This sugar tax so many people seem to be clamouring for all of a sudden.

It would have virtually no impact on me as I don't use a lot of sugar or foods with a lot of added sugar in them as far as I'm aware, but on purely logical grounds, the idea doesn't cut it.

Public health policy needs to be based on facts, not assumptions. The statistics say that while cases of obesity are on an upward trajectory, sugar usage is already on a downward trajectory and has been for some time.

I feel like the support for the idea has a lot less to do with being concerned about people's health or the economic ramifications of a population more susceptible to lifestyle preventable conditions such as type2 diabetes for example, and a lot more to do with generic, run of the mill fat shaming.

To use the "carrot and the stick" analogy, this is all stick. We're going to hit people in the hip pocket where they'll feel it the most, until they learn not to / can't afford to be fat people sitting around loading up on sugar all day. Newsflash jerks: the stats say that's not happening anyway. Even if it was happening, it's still a jerk-like approach based on the biased assumption that quote unquote "fat people" are all a bunch of lazy good for nothings.

I don't believe that's the case. Lazy good for nothings come in all variety of shapes and sizes. By no means does that exclude any of the larger variety, but personally I've known some quite skinny ones who wouldn't work in an iron lung either. You wouldn't have 'em around just to swear at once in a while because they'd some how mess that up even.

Now, here's how this actually works.

People will gain weight because their energy intake exceeds their energy requirement. That excessive energy intake (we know this is a fact) is from "a little too much of everything across the board", and not "because supermarkets have an aisle devoted to soft drink" or because "sugar is hidden in foods you've been lead to believe are healthy" or whatever other nonsense you might have read, usually from someone with no relevant qualifications who's appointed themselves an expert all the same. It's a little or perhaps more than a little too much across the board, not any single thing in particular.

However, it might not actually be that people are consuming more than what should be a normal amount of food. This is a two part equation, and the other part which is also quite likely to be a significant factor is a lack of energy expended via strenuous activity.

This doesn't mean people are lazy. It just means they are not suitably motivated to train.

If you have up to an hour of travel to get to work, 8 to 12 hours there trying to get stuff done, probably being frustrated by incompetent management, under staffing, outdated IT systems, whatever else... up to an hour to get home again, battling traffic or wedged in like sardines on a train or tram... it's not fkn LAZINESS if you don't then jump and hit the gym.

Don't get me wrong though, I have done it myself. Straight to the gym after a 12 hour shift and an hour drive to and from home again. But the difference is that I would have been looking forward to the gym all day. That was the easy part for me. The good part after 12 hours of extreme mental effort and emotional restraint required not to lose my shit with anyone during the day.

My point is that hitting the gym after a hard day at work requires a certain level of motivation and the absence of that motivation should not be interpreted as laziness, especially if a lighter person would escape your criticism.

Reasons people aren't motivated are various but I'd suggest it's something to the tune of "I don't enjoy it, I'm not good at it, and even when I've forced myself it didn't get me anywhere anyway" and ditto for why people can't just "eat healthy" according to someone else's rigid and narrow interpretation of the concept for that matter too.

More Carrot, Less Stick.

Limiting consumption of added sugars in nutritionally sparse snack choices is an excellent idea, and is recommended the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and in official guidelines around the world. Being enthusiastic about fitness, exercise, training and being active is something that should add quality and enjoyment to your life while also being beneficial to health and wellbeing.

You can't "enforce" this stuff via negative reinforcements, shaming and financial penalties though. People need to be encouraged and empowered to find the balance to include physical activity in their daily routine while also meeting their other obligations. They need to be empowered to find the balance of healthy & more indulgent foods within eating habits that are appropriate over all.

All of this needs to be something that we feel good about and are enthusiastic to participate in. Not something we're obliged to do to deflect the criticisms of others. While the various branches of the "wellness" related industries use shame based tactics to promote overly restrictive diets and approaches to exercise that are more punishing than productive, we're not addressing the problem. We're adding to it.