All thoughts of that lovely, historical, whimsical post that I had planned for this week (after delaying it from last week) were swept away as a red mist descended across my eyes.
Who are YOU calling Stupid?
It started with a news item about the latest weapon in the War. War with a capital ‘W’, of course.
But which War? The War on Terror? The War on Drugs? The War on Poverty? The War on Crime? The War on Morris Dancing? The War on Climate Change? The War on Teab*gs? The War on Poverty?
Everything’s a war these days. If Isaac Newton was publishing Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica these days, The Laws of Gravity would be called “The War on Stuff Not Floating Away”.
But in this case, it’s the War on Obesity.
I really, really dislike the War on Obesity. Not because it’s not worthy, but because of the incredibly earnest types that form the front line troops.
They front up to news conferences with alarming statistics about heart attacks and diabetes, whilst conveniently leaving the statistics of the cost of repairing people who take to the streets with just shiny lycra and insurmountable smugness as their defence against cars, and never breathe a word about the legions of people treated for organic free-trade locavore kale overdoses every day in our major hospitals.
The biggest problem I have, though, is the reason they held this press conference: They are calling me stupid.
You see, these thinocrats have discovered the underlying cause of obesity: it’s stupidity. Fat people are stupid.
You see, we can’t read a label. We don’t understand. We don’t know that butter is actually just fat. We have no idea that there is more sugar in a glass of cola than there is in a lettuce. If we only knew that a hamburger, fries and coke were nutritionally inferior to a kale and lentil burger on spelt flatbread with beansprouts and a celery mousse, we’d all be heading for the nearest hipster eating houses quicker than you can say “Quinoa and Spiroulina Roulade, my good man!” .
So the Australian Government, in its wisdom*, is introducing a star rating system. We all know how that works, right? Like a movie review, except that a movie review lets you know how much you might enjoy something; whereas a five star rating for an absence of sugar and fat is actually letting you know how much you might not.
But what if they are wrong? What if many fat people actually do know this? What if obesity is a complex issue with a range of physical, physiological, mental, hormonal and social factors?
The War on Obesity is actually the most extreme of all the Wars. In contrast to merely pointing at the lack of intelligence demonstrated by being overweight, there are medical people lined up to excuse drug use: If you are lying in a gutter using a dirty needle to inject heroin paid for by prostitution, you’ll get more sympathy, an acknowledgment of the complexity of your problems and absolutely no-one calling you stupid. Even terrorists get to see foreign affairs specialists pop up on TV with tales of underlying contributory facts and how they are simply misguided when they decide to blow themselves up in a crowded market. The drug user has an illness; the terrorist is responding to socio-ethnic imperialist oppression and the fat guy is just a moron. Get on a bike and munch on some spinach, Fatty, and your troubles will be over!
But perhaps I just don’t understand all this, being overweight and therefore having less firepower in my head that a sustainably-grown savoy cabbage does.
Let’s find out.
I went to the official government site and downloaded the official calculator, all officially, and after absolutely promising that I would treat the macros with as much care as a hydrogen bomb, the spreadsheet begrudgingly agreed to answer my questions.
I picked one of our teas: Lord Petersham.
- It has no fat. So, there’s a 0 in that column.
- Black tea has a tiny amount of natural sugar. Let’s call it 2 grams per 100, though that’s most likely an exaggeration.
- Tea leaves naturally can contain a small amount of sodium, let’s use a massively exaggerated 4 %. That’s less than a tenth of the sodium in some fresh tuna, which is the sort of comestible that has nutrition groupies gasping with desire.
- There are traces of protein in tea, let’s call it 1%.
- Fibre’s a tricky one. You could always eat the leaves, but that’s not really standard. Call it 0.
- It’s generally considered that a cup of unsweetened tea has between 0 and 1 calorie, so we will add the whole 1.
So, how many stars does it get? I was hoping for 4.5. I think you get points for fibre, so 5 is probably out of the question.
After all, this is a beverage almost universally recommended by nutritionists and dieticians. It is the world’s most popular beverage. It helps people maintain a healthy lifestyle. And in my case, it’s the healthiest regular product in my diet. Much as I love yoghurt, fruit, lean meat and celery**, I don’t have them virtually every meal, and between meals, as I do tea.
So I pressed the button.
Yes, TWO stars. Not five, or four, or even three and a half.
So, why are all these lovely earnest health wonks, who earnestly work for the government and earnestly have my welfare at heart, advising me against tea?
I don’t get it.
Perhaps I’m too stupid.
*We all know what “in it’s wisdom” means, right?
**Ok, not celery