Monday, February 22, 2010

The health police assesseth us

I don’t need the Government to tell me I’ve put on weight – I’ve got a wife who is quite happy to do the job for them.

She’s ordered me to spend the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent on the wagon, without booze, dry and alcohol-free.

Not because I’m a big drinker, you understand, merely because I’m just a bit bigger than I used to be – I may have a bit of a spare tyre but I’m not a Michelin man.

Gone are the glass of wine with dinner, the lunch-time pint or the necessary Scotch when I’m watching England stumble their way through another Six Nations rugby international.

I agreed to this appalling regime on condition I don’t have to drink tap water. The bottled stuff may be almost as expensive as a stiff gin and tonic but at least it doesn’t smell of chlorine.

Whether this self-denying ordinance will have any effect on my weight, I have no idea. It’s years since we had bathroom scales in our house and I have no intention of finding out what the score is now.

Admittedly all the evidence suggests I am a pound or two over my fighting weight. Actually, a stone or two but what’s a bit of extra flesh between friends?

Middle-aged men like me with Party Sevens where we used to have six packs are the target of the latest waste-of-money campaign aimed at making us lose weight.

The Government’s health police are spending £75 million of our money targeting fat gits like me in an attempt to reduce Britain’s alleged obesity epidemic.

We’re being told what to eat, ordered to stop watching telly, start playing football and – God forbid – encouraged to get up and dance to the radio.

The idea of several million dad-rockers boogying round the kitchen playing air guitar and strutting their arthritic stuff is enough to send self-respecting teenagers running for the hills.

Yet the Government is encouraging this. Perhaps they should challenge us to dig out our old loon pants and see if we can still get into them.

Thanks to a decade of binge-spending, the Government is being forced to put the obese public finances on a strict diet for the foreseeable future.

It must surely have better things to do with a spare £75 million than preach at fat blokes.

This new campaign, called Change4Life, has its own hideous website with the usual lurid colours, nursery-school graphics and pointless slogan: “Eat well. Move more. Live longer.”

If you sign up for this campaign they’ll send you a booklet, a quiz, a wall-chart and “a tool set” which, I assume, has nothing to do with spanners and pliers.

Actually, if you really want to lose weight, all you need to do is stop eating so much and take more exercise. It is that simple.

The other day I had lunch with an ex-soldier who spent the entire time telling me how marvellous his new diet was.

He was proud of the fact that he’d lost a stone while his wife had only lost half that. He went on and on about how many points he was allowed to consume per day, and what each dish or drink cost in points.

He was delighted that he’d taken the dog for a walk and earned himself some extra points – and it seems, to weight-watchers, points mean prizes.

While I ate fishcakes and chips washed down with a glass of wine (this was just before Shrove Tuesday), he nibbled at a piece of lettuce and drank water.

It wasn’t the Government which drove him to these desperate remedies, it was his wife.

He certainly didn’t start snacking on mini-tomatoes instead of Mars Bars because the health police told him to.

True, you only have to walk down any High Street to spot real porkers – they’re usually stuffing their faces with burgers and chips as they waddle along.

But it’s unlikely they will suddenly see the light and abandon their full-fat Cokes just because some anonymous civil servant tells them to do a bit of gardening instead of watching the telly.

And it’s even less likely they will rush off to some NHS website and sign up for the booklets, wall-charts and “tool sets” on offer from the health police desperate to use up a spare £75 million before the end of this financial year.

This health-and-fitness campaign is only one small aspect of the Government-knows-best nannying and nagging we all have to endure these days.

The way they go on, you’d think we were all dying earlier than ever before rather than living longer and more healthy lives than at any time in our history.

Those of us who eat a bit too much and drink more than is really good for us actually know when we have indulged a little excessively.

We’re quite capable of looking after ourselves, thank you very much and, if we start going to seed most of us have loved ones who will pretty soon bring us into line. Even if their nagging does drive you to drink.

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