Believe it or not, food is not evil. There is no good and no bad when it comes to food. It is, quite simply, fuel.
We’re constantly told that in order to be fit and healthy, we need a balanced diet and a decent amount of exercise.
At the same time, we’re told that we’re ‘being good’ if we choose salad over pies and that we’re ‘being naughty’ if we choose chocolate over fruit.
The thing about balance is that it can be measured; it’s about give and take and it can be altered and adapted depending on different situations. There is room for movement and change and that’s perfectly fine. It’s simple, but we just love to complicate things.
We have developed a horrible habit of dividing food groups up into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘naughty’ and ‘clean’ and whatever the hell else people hashtag their food porn as on Instagram. These words are increasingly emotive and encourage us to associate different foods with different feelings: good food with restraint, discipline and self-congratulation, and bad with guilt, shame and regret.
This separation and (false) definition of food groups, in my opinion, is dangerous and that’s why imposing a tax on sugary or fatty foods or drinks is silly and wrong and won’t help tackle obesity.
Jamie Oliver blames obesity on a cultural shift since WWII, which makes sense on the surface, and says that introducing a sugar tax would be a brave move for Mr Cameron to take, but I blame it on something much deeper than availability and cost, and don’t for one second believe that increasing prices will lead to a decrease in diet-related disease and could possibly even lead to an increase.
We’re so desperate to find someone or something to blame for obesity that we miss the entire point. Over-eating starts in the mind, not with food. Why do people overeat to the point that their bones ache, that they develop Type 2 Diabetes, that they can’t run around after their children, that they can’t have children, that they have to ask for an extension belt on a plane journey or have to risk surgical intervention? It could be down to a lot of things, but not because a can of coke is 80p untaxed.
I don’t think we need a food revolution and I don’t think that the definition of bravery is for the Tories to ask for more money from a country that already uses foodbanks – I think we need to revolutionise the way we talk about food and diet and health and body image, listen to those who struggle with obesity or any other diet-related illness and treat them with respect. Stop demonising food groups and instead of making us feel guilty about satisfying our collective sweet tooth, worry instead about helping those who do take dieting to extremes – starting with their minds because y’know, we’re people, with feelings.