Saturday, February 18, 2006


The obesity panic seems to be intensifying in New Zealand, and I feel I should be refuting this idea more. Which is ridiculous because I'm one blog with a tiny readership. But when you turn on National Radio in the afternoon (which I admit is never a good idea on week days) and they have someone saying that anyone who questions the links between BMI and health and longevity is stupid, opposition voices become important. I found Robyn Toomath's lack of grasp of history quite astounding (did you know that in the 1950s no-one lived in suburbs, and that we were all well fed in WW2 and the depression that followed because they grew their own vegetables?).

But what I wanted to talk about today, was the whole idea of childhood obesity, and the proposed solutions to it. My position is quite simple if you're worried about nutrition and exercise, worry about nutrition and exercise and leave weight out of it.

The only proposals that I've heard so far from government are to ban advertising certain foods during kids shows, to stop schools from selling junk food, and to instruct schools to include an hour physical exercise in the curriculum a day.

Only one of those proposals is a terrible idea. I actually don't think anyone should be selling food in schools, I don't think schools should be a business. I'm also all for restricting advertising during children's programmes. In fact if I had my way it'd be TV2 that would go advertisment free - I don't see why it should be the people rich enough to afford sky that get a government channel dedicated to them.

But an hour physical exercise in schools a day? Only if they completely changed the way they taught. Because I hated every second that I spent doing PE at school, except for swimming. I was hopeless at it, it made me feel hopeless, and it made me hate exercise. I think if I'd had to do it for an hour a day, I'd probably be refusing to exercise still (I'm aware this is true of many more subjects than PE, and changing of teaching methods is a wider issue). I don't think forcing kids to exercise in school will make them like exercise, and do it from choice when they leave.

But I have some much better ideas, ones that would actually work. So here's my list of proposals which would actually help kids get better nutrition:

  • Give their parents more money
  • Give their parents more time
  • Provide nutritous breakfasts and lunches in schools
  • Socialise food production and make it for nutritious value not profit
Here's my list of proposals that would help kids get more exercise:
  • Don't give them any homework, so they have time to play after school
  • Make entry to swimming pools free
  • Provide free public transport, so that kids have mobility and independence
  • Build more parks, and put wild areas for exploring in them
  • Stop trying to create panic around law and order to win elections, so people feel safe
  • Not create a whole in the ozone layer which means that it's often dangerous to be outdoors
  • Give their parents more time


  1. Anonymous1:37 am

    And who is going to pay for all this? The tooth fairy? Or do we tax even higher so even more than 600 flee the country to OZ every week and familes find it even harder to pay the bills and raise the kids?

    Or shall we take the money out of education, or health, or cut benefits? Less cops maybe, who cares about safety on the streets and security in their homes?

    I know - we could just print more money, the negative effects of inflation are probably overated anyway.

    I'd rather see state funds go to pay for nutrition education campaigns, early childhood education or joint replacements for the elderly about to be pushed off waiting lists than be spent propping up TV channels and programmes that cannot attract advertising. TV is a luxury, not a human right.

    Its enough that we're all forced to pay for Maori TV which hardly anyone watches, at the expense of some of the things I have mentioned above, let alone have to replace advertising revenue because some have a philosophical objection to advertising.

    What a load of nonsense this post is - do you pay taxes Maia?

  2. Anonymous4:15 am

    Hahaha... but then you'd actually be trying to address and fix the real problems! That will scare business owners like graham. Think inside the box, Maia. Inside the box.

  3. We can't do much about the hole in the ozone though - apparently it's created by pollution in the northern hemisphere.

  4. Peter Dunne? That's way harsh.

    I love the idea that left-wingers have found some magical way to avoid tax. I've been paying tax since GST was introduced. It's unlikely that as well as not earning anything, I don't buy anything.

  5. The hole in the ozone layer was created by CFC pollution. This was largely stopped by the Montreal Protocol and the ozone hole is now shrinking.

    So "not creating a hole" isn't very practical - it's a past event.

  6. I was aware of the reasons behind the Ozone layer hole (I can even describe the chemical process by which

    I was just trying to point out that if children are less active than they used to be (and I don't know if they are), the reasons are probably more complicated than those which will be solved by an hour a day PE in schools.