Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Don't take the pizza

There's no excuse for being fat... someone will say tomorrow. As an experiment - assuming you haven't yet seen the press coverage - what do you think of this statement? And do you think any differently when you know which Party he's from? More to follow tomorrow...

11 comments:

Devil's Kitchen said...

It is simple: if you put more energy (in the form of food) into your body than you burn (in exercise, maintaining body temperature, etc.), that energy will be stored as fat.

It really is very simple.

Now, there may or may not be metabolic or genetic reasons why you may require less fuel than others, or you may have trouble resisting food but, fundamentally, the above statement on energy intake still holds.

DK

Kerry said...

And as a libertarian, do you think it's a politician's role to convey this message? (I ask out of genuine interest).

Devil's Kitchen said...

My position is that, for a libertarian society to work, people have to be able to make free choices.

But you cannot make a free choice unless you understand the consequences of said choices.

In order to understand these consequences, then you must have as much information as possible available to you.

Ergo, someone has to deliver or facilitate that information. If no one else will deliver that information then I believe that the government does have a role to play here, yes: but the delivery of information should be the end of it.

As it happens, I would hope that this concept would be covered in basic biology classes -- and, as you may know, although I support the state funding of education, I do not support the state provision of education (I prefer the voucher systems used in places such as Sweden and the Netherlands).

DK


P.S. I'm actually quite enjoying your blogging. This isn't supposed to happen: could you go back to annoying me, please? ;-D

Chris Hutt said...

The problem with DK's otherwise persuasive argument is that we are all bombarded with "information" relating to diet which is encouraging us to eat too much of the wrong sorts of food.

Whatever the government's budget for genuinely helpful information it will be dwarfed by the advertising budgets of the major food and drink manufacturers, where the message is eat, drink and consume ad nauseam.

While "educated" people can see this for what it is and perhaps consign all these unhelpful messages into a mental recycle bin, I think there are many less educated and less intelligent people for whom these messages are at best confusing.

And where is the information encouraging us to exercise? Elitist sport as epitomised by the Olympics is so far removed from the realistic aspirations of normal people that it can hardly be said to be inspiring.

For people already tending towards obesity even a very modest daily walk or cycle ride would be a huge achievement. Yet our streets can hardly be said to be cycle or pedestrian friendly. The overwhelming message is still "drive a car" and if you haven't got a car, then take a bus.

DaveA said...

I too believe that most obesity is comfort zone laziness. Of course there are some people's metabolism which predetermines them to be more overweight than others, but most of us have the choice. I used to play football to a near professional and semi professional levels and after I retired had to cut my food intake by 50% as I no longer burned off the calories.

At 47 my BMI is 24.58 and I eat very little. This takes a lot of self control.

When it comes to the states role on ill health it has a duty to point out the dangers (reminds you of smoking), but concern for my health should not turn to control.
Obesity is marginally worse for you than active smoking on your longevity, for your information.

Again if I give the analogy of smoking in 1945 there were very few fat people but 80% of men and 50% of women smoked. The figures now are 25% for each sex or slightly below. There is no doubt that goverment campaigns have been very successful in reducing smoking rates in this country.

As Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute says, all arguments about costing the NHS money are factuous as we have no choice but to contribute. I am happy for the state to refund my taxes and elect to go private, the same with my contributions for education and social security.

In smoking, concern has turned to control, i.e. banning a legal activity on private property and has set a very bad precident.

Speaking generally on state intervention the long term decline on deaths on the road in this country stopped after the introduction of speed cameras. Also 2 towns in Holland and Germany have scrapped all road signs. Because people have been delegated their own safety, drivers are more careful and pedestrians take less risks. That is accidents and deaths on the road are substantially down.

Yes governments have a duty to point out the dangers and be cross about the costs, but it should legislate lightly.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Chris,

"The problem with DK's otherwise persuasive argument is that we are all bombarded with "information" relating to diet which is encouraging us to eat too much of the wrong sorts of food.

Whatever the government's budget for genuinely helpful information it will be dwarfed by the advertising budgets of the major food and drink manufacturers, where the message is eat, drink and consume ad nauseam."


Yes, but this is precisely the point, isn't it? People have the damn choice not to do that.

We were talking specifically about obesity and I was considering the level at which we should inform.

Not being a neurotic woman, I don't check the calorie information on food and, even when I do, it means very little to me. I do know when I'm getting a little overweight however: I can feel it and, eventually, see it.

People can exercise restraint: if they choose not to do so, it is either laziness or a deliberate decision.

The government should not be legislating to force a choice any way.

DK

Chris Hutt said...

DK, how do you explain why so many people "choose" to get obese? Do you honestly think that they are simply making a rational choice in favour of instant gratification at the expense of quality and quantity of life?

Nobody in their right mind would want to be obese. Anybody "choosing" to do so is unfit to make their own decisions about such things and/or the victim of some very insidious marketing.

If you really believe in individual choice you would want to remove such bamboozling from the equation, which I notice the Tories are declining to do.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Chris,

"DK, how do you explain why so many people "choose" to get obese?"

I don't know: I would never get so fat.

"Do you honestly think that they are simply making a rational choice in favour of instant gratification at the expense of quality and quantity of life?"

Yes. Or are people not rational? Oh, not good, decent, sensible people like you and I -- we are obviously wonderfully rational. It's the poor and stupid who can't make rational choices, eh?

"Nobody in their right mind would want to be obese."

There have been times and cultures when being fat is a sign of status. It may not apply today, but I thought I'd thrown that into the mix.

People can choose not to be fat; people can choose not to stuff their faces and people can choose to take more exercise.

I do very little exercise these days, and so I only eat every few days -- I am rather slim. I made a rational choice, you see.

"Anybody "choosing" to do so is unfit to make their own decisions about such things and/or the victim of some very insidious marketing."

Ah, yes, Chris, so they require someone whjo knows better -- someone like you, for instance -- to tell what choices they should make, eh?

There are, believe it or not, some 60 million people in this country; that is some 60 million different people with different priorites, different ideas of happiness and different ideas of what makes a life.

And yet you would say, "I don't understand or like the decision that you have made: I know better than you so I shall remove from you the freedom to make your own choices."

Do think this through: if you really cannot see why your attitude is morally wrong and disgustingly totalitarian, then you yourself are one of those incapable of rational thought.

Should I then appoint myself to make all of your decisions for you? -- since you are unable to make rational decisions, I shall tell you what to eat, I shall tell you how to spend your money, I shall tell you want you enjoy, who you fancy and who to shag and, in every other way, I shall tell you how you should live your life.

The point about being a libertarian is that I do not wish to live in that way -- but if you wish to cede your freedom to another, then you are entirely free to do so. But do it in a private arrangement, and don't try to force it onto me.

In summary, I would set people to be as free as they wish: you would enslave those with whom you disagree and whom you despise. So, crunch time: is my position more or less moral than yours?

DK

sued said...

How about the array of sweet drinks and fatty/sugary snacks filling vending machines at sport/leisure facilities?. These outlets contain nothing that I would even class as edible, and yet they are part and parcel of what we're told is a healthy lifestyle. There is no choice except between an array of similarly diabetis inducing comestibles at these venues. Or probably devil's kitchen doesn't use the public facilities with the obese proletariate. Fast food and convenience foods, unless they are at the top end of the price range, are all fattening, and if you're poor and holding down several part time jobs, as many are, you ain't got time for good ole home cooking and the very best fresh produce shopping. Devil's kitchen you are offensively sanctimonious.

Chris Hutt said...

DK, there are obviously some people who cannot make their own decisions (or would you leave even the severely mentally subnormal to the vagaries of the market?) and there is a line to be drawn somewhere.

But above that line I agree that people should make their own decisions and I'm generally sympathetic to the libertarian case, so your facile caricature of my views is, I'm afraid, invalid.

My point, which you are pointedly ignoring, is that the ability of many to make rational choices is compromised by advertising and marketing (which is after all one of the objectives of advertising and marketing).

If you genuinely wanted people to be free to make their own rational decisions, as I do, you would want to remove such insidious influences.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Chris,

"My point, which you are pointedly ignoring, is that the ability of many to make rational choices is compromised by advertising and marketing (which is after all one of the objectives of advertising and marketing)."

Unless advertising has changed its meaning to "frog-marching the populace down to the shops at the barrel of a gun and forcing them to buy the relevant product", then I fail to see the problem.

Let us say that the advertising for Product X suggests that if I use it, I will become instantaneously more attractive to women; now, I can either believe that or think rationally and not be taken in.

(Of course, if product A is a deoderant, for instance, it may make me more attractive to women -- because I smell of the deoderant rather than rancid body odour.)

"DK, there are obviously some people who cannot make their own decisions (or would you leave even the severely mentally subnormal to the vagaries of the market?) and there is a line to be drawn somewhere."

What vagaries of the market, precisely? Do I think that family or small charities can do more for mentally sub-normal people than the state? Yes. I mean, have you looked at the state of mental health care in this country?

Would I leave them to fend for themselves? No. Like children, they are unable to understand the consequences of their decisions. But you weren't really talking about the mentally ill, were you?

Even if you were, that is still no excuse for state legislation on an issue such as obesity. For the mentally subnormal, it is an issue for their legal guardian, just as it is for children.

For everyone else (the vast, vast, vast majority, in fact), even the poor and stupid, it is an issue for themselves.

DK