All these years I have been living under the assumption that it pays to be healthy, to watch my weight and try and refrain from eating my weight in Pringles every night. Apparently this is not the case. Apparently it pays to be obese. Literally.
Typical. All those years spent worrying about how big my bum must look to the person behind me and the wasted guilt over the calorie content of the Chunky Kit Kat I just wolfed down on the way back from the gym.
Now the British government are to roll out a scheme next year, which will see them handing out pounds to an increasingly super-sized nation. Maybe I should start gaining a few stone and cash in on the action… Hmmm, maybe not. Summer is but one dose of sun burn away and my bikini already seems to have shrunk while it was in storage over the past winter months.
What on earth are you on about now I hear you cry. More burger bashing and rants about how parents are killing their kids? No, not this time. This particular gem is the brilliant game plan of an ingenious government, a government who are about to start paying obese people to walk their kids to school.
With 60% of men, 50% of women, and 26% of children predicted to be very obese by 2050, of course it is a good thing that the government are trying to do something to shift a nation of Webbles off their increasingly round bottoms. But why should those who are extremely overweight be paid to get up and get moving. What sort of example does this set their children? That they don’t care enough about their own health to do it for free? That if you base your ‘7 a day’ around the menus of McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC and don’t try to shed the pounds on your own, then the government will reward you for all your hard work?
OK. So it’s not actually cold hard cash that’s being handed out, it’s points. Points for making ‘Junior’ pound the pavement to school. Points for using a bus instead of a car. Points for running in the fresh air. Points for buying an ice-burg lettuce instead of a gallon of ice cream. Points for attending an exercise or weight loss class. Points for losing half an inch when you are there. Points for not using the TV remote. Points for buying your fries at the counter instead of from your car. Points for getting a plain Cheeseburger instead of a double. OK, so the last few may not be true, but when dishing out these points, where do they intend to draw the line?
And how do you collect these points? Why, with a loyalty card of course. You simply go for a jog in the park, swipe your card and then collect your voucher to pay towards your healthy food, sports equipment and gym sessions. Why stop there? Maybe the points could also be counted towards a nifty stomach staple and some lunch time liposuction.
I wonder if, just like the supermarkets do, the government will also make a bit of money off the side by selling on these loyalty card details to companies harvesting information. Perhaps the downside of the scheme will be an avalanche of Spam from Weight Watchers and ‘The Miracle Wonder Diet Pill’. Mind you, with all that extra exercise, these card holders might just appreciate a little bit of Spam to spur them further.
I wonder how they will even decide who gets paid and who is and isn’t deemed fat enough? Do the obese get outed in a public weigh in? Will obese children also be included in the scheme? Surely this type of labeling would increase the social stigma that is already attached to being overweight.
The main reason for the controversy that this scheme has provoked comes down to money. What else. Many are claiming that it will be too easy for fraudulent fatties to cheat the system, by simply hopping out of their cars, swiping their cards and then driving away.
Secondly it is said that the scheme is nothing more than bribery, and this is surely not the way to go about slimming down a nation. It does seem like a very slippery slope to climb to the top of.
Lastly, and perhaps more importantly to the healthy people out there (and there ARE some left you know), the £30million price tag to foot this bill is incredibly unfair to those who are already having to tighten their own belts to make ends meet.
Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to simply clone Gillian Mc Keith and have her dispatched out to the four corners of the country. She could single handily scare the sh*t out of most unhealthy people, and then chase them up and down the streets with a toasting fork and a bag of freeze dried lentils to beat them about the head with should they stop running.
Or how about giving Jamie Oliver the money. I’m sure he could put it to good use with his numerous campaigns encouraging the country to ditch their take away menus and pick up a saucepan instead. Why on earth should he have to struggle to get the governments backing. Surely they should support anyone with the incentive to try and make a difference.
Or here’s an even easier solution. Instead of taxing the thin to help bribe the fat, start taxing the very fat so that they can help support the burden that obesity is already placing on the NHS. If every person was weighed by their doctor (yes I know, technically an invasion of privacy and a daylight nightmare to women everywhere) then those who cross a ‘clinically obese’ threshold could be put into a higher tax bracket.
This isn’t unfair, per say, it’s a logical way of making people more accountable for their own health and giving them more of an incentive to lose weight, than say being told they can earn 2 points towards a pair of legwarmers for taking a walk in the park. Of course when the person loses weight, they pay less tax again. Win win all round.
What about for those who don’t work and pay tax? Cut the benefits accordingly. Do I sound harsh and unsympathetic? Probably. But maybe it could be seen as an incredibly tough love scheme to help those who have gone past the point of knowing how to help themselves.
I probably sound cynical and ‘fattist’ as well. I don’t mean to be, ‘fattist’ that is, I will always be cynical. As I’ve said before, obesity is not a ‘Fat Versus Thin’ debate, it’s all about looking after yourself and making sure that you have a longer life span than a household appliance. After all, an obese person dies on average 9 years earlier than somebody of normal weight, and a very obese person as many as 13 years.
In my defense it does seems that as the dress sizes increase and the size 8’s, 10’s and 12’s are shunted off the rails and into the ‘Unnaturally Healthy’ section, the world is starting to accept that being unhealthy is the now the norm. That’s crazy.
I’m all for embracing what you’re born with and accepting your body shape, but I don’t remember seeing any news headlines about a load of 22 stone babies bursting into the world.
OK, now someone quick pass me the cake tin. I’ve got points to earn. I reckon if I eat for 4 hours a day and put in a year of some really hard work, I could potentially earn a membership to the local health spa, with a free seaweed wrap thrown in free.
Damn it. I’ve just remembered that I won’t qualify, I’m living in Australia now. Never mind, this is now the world’s fattest nation, so give it a few years and the scheme will surely be rolled out over here.