Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Are You Calling Me Fat?

I came across an article on obesity and found it both amusing and saddening.

The French lawmakers are planning to increase taxes on snack foods and cut taxes on fruits and vegetables. Why? To fight the ever growing obesity problems, of course.

Apparently, the 'fat' problem is worrying the French government. One in every five French adults is obese and one in every three is overweight. Interestingly, France is the second slimmest nation in Europe after Italy.

The French government received 70 proposals for fighting obesity. One of that was to hike VAT rate from 5.5% to 19.6% on chocolate bars, chips and other 'snack foods'. That is more than trebling! When our GST went up from 5% to 7% on 1 Jul 2007, the nation was already screaming 'Ouch!'.

Another idea was to put a warning message on snack packaging saying "For your health, eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day and undertake regular physical activity." I don't mean to sound satirical but.. ya, well... that motherhood statement is just going to work!

Ironically, the French Health Minister does not like the idea of 'junk food tax'. She thinks that it is not the right way to fight obesity as the increased prices will in turn hit the lower income households. Err..., since when do chocolate bars and potato chips become necessity goods for the lower income household? She insisted that the French government has a series of measures to combat the problems and they will be revealed soon.

Let's see what kind of 'fat ideas' they can come up with. Who knows, there might be something Singapore can learn from France for we are also not spared from the "fatty tissue". Oops! I mean "fatty issue".

The infamous TAF (Trim And Fit) Program was introduced in 1992. Under the scheme, overweight children had to do special rigorous exercises during breaks and before and after school until they lose a required amount of weight, in addition to the regular physical education curriculum.

The TAF program reduced the proportion of overweight students from 14% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2006. Nevertheless, the scheme has drawn criticism, especially from parents who argued the program stigmatized obese students.

Well, I guess if you want to focus on just overweight children, then no matter what you call it, there will be a stigma associated. At where I work, we have a similar program known as 'The Weight Watcher Club'. To me, that is equally stigmatizing. 'Fat' means 'Fat', no matter how you mask it.

I have always been curious to know if the term 'TAF' was chosen deliberately? If not, it has coincidentally spelt 'FAT' backwards! Clever!

Last year, the government decided to end the 15-year program and replace it with a 'holistic' (but fuzzy) campaign to focus not only on raising fitness levels but also on mental and social health by promoting a healthy lifestyle.

To make the program even more wholesome, Singapore should include pets in the campaign as well. As families prosper, more indulgence has been showered upon their pets and causing them to balloon too.
A point to note in this 'fat' topic is that, it is not correct to bluntly equate weight with obesity. Body builders have massive muscles and thus weight, but they are not fat. Technically, or rather, histologically, obesity depends on the amount of adipose tissue (body fat) you have. So next time, don't just look at the numbers on your weighing scale.

Out there, there are people who admire our 'fight fat' program although it is also being viewed as hard-handed and politically incorrect. Take sometime to view this video taken from "The World" program by the US Public Radio International, featuring Singapore's journey to fight obesity.

Finally, confession: I have been snacking on chips while writing this post. (That's bad!)



Other Food Stories:

We Are What We Eat ... Really?

A Lesson Never Learnt

Where's The Bunny?

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