Obesity and dieting


I was on the city of Québec website the other day, looking at how our fair city presents itself to the outside world. There was a lot of talk about the great quality of life here, green spaces, and especially, a growing research-driven high-tech economy with a strong emphasis on the life sciences, high tech materials, and materials processing, as well as optics and photonics.

One of the research-driven institutes which struck me particularly was one affiliated with Laval University called ‘The Merck Frosst-IRSC Research Chair’, which is the first research chair specifically dealing with obesity in Canada, and is affiliated with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the principle federal agency which funds health research in Canada.

So, I said to myself, ‘we’ve arrived’, so to speak, at the same level as the Americans. The agri-food industry, aided and abetted by our government policy makers, I should add, have pumped us so full of cheap, nutritionally deficient processed industrial agri-food products, that obesity has now become just as big a problem here as it has been in the US for a long time.

Bravo. I heard a report in the media some time ago that essentially, when it comes to getting citizens (notice I didn’t say CONSUMERS), to eat properly, our public officials are essentially in a conflict of interest whereby the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Or maybe it does, and doesn’t give a darn. Let me explain.

The ministry of Agriculture (and AGRI-FOOD I should add), both federally and provincially, is motivated by the typically free enterprise system of maximization of output, and is aided and abetted by all of the chemical fertilizer companies, industrial production machinery companies,etc… The only restraint they put on production is in the case of supply management, which is specifically designed to keep the commodity prices for things like milk and dairy products, chicken, eggs, etc, high, so that the producer can hopefully get a good price and make a living. (This also puts low income families in the embarrassingly unhealthy position of having to choose between a three dollars two litre carton of milk, and a one dollars two litre bottle of soft drink. Guess who wins that one?).

On the other side of the coin we have Health Canada, and the Québec Ministry of Health and Social Services exhorting us to eat and drink in moderation, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, less carbs and sugar, trans fat, etc… So essentially, our government is party to the ongoing discourse of corporate hypocrisy which spews forth from the lips of the corporate elite: That we are all ‘free individuals’, ‘free to make our own choices in our own best interest’ etc etc…

How, pray tell, can citizens be truly expected to make ‘good’ ‘free’ choices, as opposed to ‘bad’ ‘free’ choices, when the system is set up ahead of time so as to actively encourage the average person to make the ‘bad’ ‘free’ choices as opposed to the ‘good’ ones?

It took a movie like ‘Super Size Me’ to expose the corporate malfeasance of the Agri-Food business in North America before companies like McDonalds were shamed into stopping their official policy of encouraging customers to supersize their meals. When I watch advertisements for shows like ‘Biggest Loser’, on TV, or analyse the thrust of the advertizing content on my favourite evening show (Jeopardy), I’m struck by how many commercials there are for acid indigestion, heart burn, and constipation medications, not to mention stuff for stinky feet.

One would get the impression that the vast majority of North Americans at any given time or place around 7 PM, are sitting in their easy chair, after having eaten way too much crappy food, and reaching for their bottle of Pepto Bismol, or Pepcid complete, or Nexium, Rolaids, Tums, while bending over their gargantuan girth so as to change the Odour Eaters in their orthopaedic shoes which have just gotten consumed by the sweat of their consummate corpulence.

Anyways, Laval University may create all the research Chairs that it wants to try and do something about obesity, but all’s I can tell you is that once Jeopardy’s over, and Pat n’ Vanna come on next to spin that wheel for Big Money, let me tell ya, I’m outta here, and I’m going to take a walk around the block for half an hour. I don’t care how cold it is. I refuse to be subjugated by what , as Frank Zappa called it ‘The slime oozing out from your TV set.’

I prefer to do as Dire Straits said and ‘do the walk, do the walk of life’. Now THAT’S what I call living in a city with a great quality of life: Get outside, and make the most of the winter, darn it!!!

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