The Nationalist Party is in overdrive. It has smelt an election on the horizon and with this has started issuing ideas to entice the electorate into believing in the conservative party’s relevance in today’s modern age. As someone who believes in the need for a strong opposition to ensure a holistic democracy I looked forward to these proposals.
However, the more I read, the more I realised that no amount of rebranding will unhinge the party from its conservative roots. It’s most recent proposal on tackling childhood obesity is one such case in point.
Just over two weeks ago, the PN proposed to start tackling childhood obesity in schools by “monitoring children’s diets and setting clear goals”. Such goals would be monitored yearly like other scholastic goals and would be coupled with more PE lessons. And, while this proposal would give great comfort to the uninformed electorate of the past, today’s scientific data on combatting unhealthy lifestyles shows us this is the wrong path to go down.
The science is clear: you cannot tackle obesity simply by telling people to eat less and exercise more. This is an arrogant thing to say in the face of combatting such a complex topic.
First and foremost, the PN must understand that health cannot be quantified into a number. The PN’s proposal implies that a student has done well based on whether or not they have managed to stay within a specific weight range. However, in reality, this does not prove health.
The student’s journey towards achieving that weight goal is just as important. Without factoring in aspects such as mental health, the affordability and accessibility of food and the availability of an interesting range of physical activities, the PN’s proposal risks coming across as shortsighted and, as many have stated, ‘fat-phobic’.
The PN simply can never look outside the box- Cyrus Engerer
By encouraging students to see weight loss as some sort of ‘academic achievement’ creates a mentality of ‘winners and losers’ when it comes to weight. This is not a positive thing because it can invoke a lot of bullying and emotional trauma for students who may not be able to achieve their government imposed ‘weight goals’ due to other aspects of their lives.
What we need when it comes to tackling obesity is a policy that looks at the topic as a social issue and not simply a physical one. Obesity is a macro-social problem, one that is more rooted in what we do as decision makers rather than what children do in their everyday lives. This means that, in order to tackle childhood obesity, rather than focus on how much food our children are consuming we must first and foremost ensure that they have access to the right food. And this access must be both affordable and well informed.
Studies have shown us time and time again that having a higher income is associated with having a better diet. But this nutrient inequality in our societies must end. Thus, our first prerogative as decision makers must not be to conservatively shame a person for not being able to lose weight because they cannot afford to eat healthy, it should be to ensure that fruit and vegetables are affordable enough for everyone.
Additionally, as decision makers we must also ensure the food that is made available on the market is not based on ultra-preservatives, additives and filled with endocrine disrupting chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other serious health issues.
The food we consume greatly impacts our gut and this must be reflected in our global policies relating to food. We need stricter global regulations regarding what can or cannot be added to the food that we consume.
The PN’s proposal does not look into this. This is because to propose this would mean to disrupt the status quo or to look outside the box. And this is something that the PN simply can never do. They propose that everyone can ‘be the change’ by proposing new ideas to the party, however, in reality they still seem to be stuck in an outdated mentality.
This is because what the PN has not understood here is that individuals are unique and no single body is the same as another. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to obesity. Like many others, I have learned this the hard way.
There is a holistic approach to obesity, one that looks at mental health as both the cause and consequence of obesity, one that values health as a comprehensive concept rather than a quantifiable one and one that looks at every single one of us as individuals with unique lives that require compassion, empathy and individual diagnosis to ensure a healthy and happy life.
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