The Australian government is seriously concerned about the collective weight of its citizens. Tackling obesity is now a priority, with a suggested Sugar Tax to be applied to soft drinks. I think this is a good thing. We all eat far too much sugar, and sugar is an addictive substance.
I'm not one for soft drinks anyway - never have been. Sydney tap water was good enough for me when I was a kid (and Mum didn't want to spend money on soft drinks; we didn't have that sort of budget) and it's good enough for me now. Except when I drink wine ;-)
I live in Sydney's north, in an area where people tend to eat well and spend their grocery budget on fresh food rather than packaged meals and sugary snacks. The majority of the population here is a healthy weight for their height. I, at 5kg above the ideal weight for my height, feel like a right fatty beside many of them. I've largely cut out sugar, except for wine with dinner and the odd birthday cake etc when someone is celebrating. I have a handful of nuts if I'm peckish rather than a biscuit. I don't even crave chocolate any more.
In short, you don't see that many truly obese people around here. Maybe 2% of the population.
Last weekend I worked at a three day show on the outskirts of Sydney's west. And the obesity problem hit me in the face.
I have several friends who can be classed as 'big girls', but they paled into insignificance besides the people I saw at the show.
Huge women. Huge men. Legs like tree trunks. Bellies spilling over belts and fat spilling over the tops of shoes. Arms like hams. Bigger than any of my friends by far. And these people made up around 30-40% of the people wandering through the pavilion I had a stall in.
What made me sad was the children. I saw so many little kids under 12 already overweight or obese, with double chins and shapeless legs. The majority of them were feeding their faces with junk food or sugar-laden treats mindlessly as they waddled behind their obese parents. A lot of them had a bottle of soft drink in the other hand. Seriously, that's child abuse. Fine, parents, feed yourself whatever you want but that poor little kid is going to grow up with serious health issues including Type 2 Diabetes and have a shortened life span.
My boss, who owns the products I was selling, told me that she's seen babies in prams sucking Coke out of bottles. And plenty of children and teens with missing teeth due to the sugar they've eaten in their short lives.
I was sad too to see the teenaged girls. So many of them grossly obese, with their pretty, expertly made up faces hidden in fat that bypassed any semblance of neck and simply joined the body. Several of them were wearing short shorts and it wasn't a nice sight.
G and I used to go to this show every year when we lived in western Sydney but we hadn't been for about four years. I was stunned to notice such a large percentage of the people there were so big; a real change from when we'd last visited.
I know you're not supposed to 'fat shame' people, but really! Most of these people aren't fat because of genetics or medication. They're fat because they eat the wrong food and don't move enough, and it's killing them. And they apparently don't give a flying fuck because they're hooked on sugar and crap food.
Oh, you might say, they are from the low end of the socio-economic scale and can't afford to buy expensive cuts of meat etc. No excuse. When we lived in a lower socio-economic area we saw what went into the shopping trolleys of the obese people at the local supermarket. They were loaded to the top with snack foods and soft drinks, packaged foods and chocolate, and plenty of ice cream. Barely a vegetable in sight. More than $120 worth of junk. Swap that crap for fresh veggies - which are relatively cheap - and start drinking tap water as it's cheaper than soft drinks. Cut out the trips to McDonald's and KFC, and buy bulk chicken legs and roast them in the oven, or make a big spag bol with plenty of carrots, celery and other veg as well as mince, to make the mince last longer; you'll get a couple of days out of that as a family and save money.
I know what it's like having a limited food budget; when my husband's away I tend to live on veggie meals as it's cheaper than meat. When we were both on low money living in western Sydney we ate a lot of veggies and I made stews and soups out of cheap cuts of meat.
But I digress... back to that show. I was working there for three days and brought in tins of tuna and corn thins to munch on. However. However. By day two the lure of the wonderful hot chips the Rotary crowd makes was too much for me. I bought. I ate. And the next day too. And the place selling nougat - well, they got my money and the nougat passed the time when things got a bit slow. The Rotary gang were also doing bacon and egg rolls so that was Sunday lunch sorted. My husband bought me an ice cream with a chocolate coating as they looked so good.
Reader, in those three days I gained 2kg. 2kg, just from heading west of my usual diet and snacking on crap. I've lost one of those and will get the rest off by Friday. But that tells you what crap, sugary food does.
At the show I wasn't sitting down - this was a standing up job, with me moving constantly to relieve the pain in my feet and knees, and on the day when G came in to help me I was able to go for a decent walk around the show. But still. 2kg.
Bring on that Sugar Tax. Save those poor bloody kids from a life of illness. Let Coca-Coca Amatil cop it, because they are purveyors of addictive substances and they are making a fortune out of making people sick.
The image of the lean bronzed Aussie is fading fast. We are turning into a nation of fat white slugs.