Stephen Irvine, 19 February 2013
With another birthday lurking around the corner, waiting for me like a hoodlum in a dimly-lit alleyway, it suddenly became very clear this week that my best days are firmly behind me and vanishing fast in my rear-view mirror as I hurtle down the motorway of life towards my inevitable doom. Having quite literally rolled out of bed I spied the unpleasant profile of my expanding waistline in the mirror with a groan, before heading to the fridge for a can of Fanta and the leftovers of the previous night’s curry. I need to make the most of this; it seems as though the price of fizzy pop is about to go through the roof.
According to The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the country’s ballooning bellies constitute a “huge crisis,” with headlines dominated by the quacks’ appeal for “fizzy drinks to be heavily taxed and junk food adverts banished until after the watershed.” With the horse meat scandal still being trotted out every day in the news, the UK’s appalling dietary habits are the hot topic of the moment and this is very much a cultural problem that won’t go away simply by increasing the price of fizzy drinks. If cigarette smokers are to be discouraged by images of cancerous tumours adorning packets of fags, why not have some snaps of cholesterol-clogged arteries or failing hearts riddled with fibrosis on the packaging of the worst foods?
Just think about the success of the Olympics and the legacy it has left in this country – the Olympic Village was home to the biggest McDonald’s ‘restaurant’ on the planet, the grotesque golden arches the very antithesis of the discipline, dedication and dietary diligence that got those Olympians to where they are. In fact, two of the biggest worldwide Olympic sponsors were Coca Cola and McDonald’s, with Cadbury’s the official chocolate, and you have to wonder how this is ever allowed to happen. Having these brands attached to the peak of sporting achievement is like using Harold Shipman as the poster boy for encouraging OAPs to visit their friendly GP for a flu jab.
Tobacco companies had long and firmly established sponsorship deals in many sports such as F1, snooker, darts, rugby league and horse racing before all such arrangements were banned as an important cultural shift took place in the way their products were viewed, and it’s amazing that junk food has largely avoided such a fate for so long. Most parents wouldn’t dream of giving their 11 year-old some money for 20 B & H on the way home from school, but letting them destroy bottles of fizzy pop and bags full of fizzy tots seems perfectly acceptable if the scores of school kids shovelling sugary muck into their greedy cakeholes on any bus journey between about 3-5pm is anything to go by.
Helpfully, alongside their report the BBC website included a useful feature allowing users to calculate their own Body Mass Index, which then links through to a results page entitled ‘Where are you on the global fat scale?’ Along with my results, I was interested to read that ‘if everyone in the world had the same BMI as you, it would add 9,437,650 tonnes to the total weight of the world’s population.’ Just think; if everyone were made up the same as me, the very rotation of the earth could be affected as we munched and slurped our way to global disaster.
However, my favourite piece of info here was the fact that in terms of average BMI, I am ‘most like someone from Mauritania’, the West African Islamic republic with a large Atlantic Ocean coastline to the west of the country. I may not have the answers to the problem of Britain’s culture of eating so much rubbish, but one piece of advice I can give you is to avoid the beaches around Nouakchott – you are likely to see some rather unpleasant scenes if the Mauritanians really are just like me…