Guest post: A fat lot of good

Slow bicycleToday’s post is a guest column by writer and editor Kate Gilderdale. It’s on a subject close to my heart – the promotion of personal responsibility for healthy lifestyles. Unlike me, Kate has a highly developed sense of humor, and I really enjoyed what she had to say.

Kate lives in Stouffville, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto), where she is an editor of the Stouffville Free Press. The Canadian Lalonde report of 1974 was one of the first government documents to emphasize lifestyles and the role of individual behavior in health. So I’m not surprised that Canadians are subjected to the same health injunctions as Americans. Other columns by Kate are available here, and she blogs at The Jaundiced View.

CBC Radio and the Globe and Mail have joined forces in nagging recalcitrant sloths to become sculpted perfectionists who measure food in tiny, nutritionally-sanctioned units of low-fat energy and spend their spare time honing their abs, pecs and glutes at the gym.

As a member of the demographically dispossessed – persons of 50 plus who are palpably past it – I’m beginning to wonder whether our national media, and even our glorious leaders, have been infiltrated by the People’s Republic of Optimal Health and Lifestyle Management.

Once upon a time, when I was young and the word lifestyle hadn’t been invented, governments spent their time engaged in political stuff like making laws, deciding on foreign policy and presenting unpalatable budgets. These days they are just as likely to offer homilies on happiness, nutrition, appropriate lifestyles and the demon drink to the feckless electorate whose tax dollars sustain them.

Unfortunately they always come down on the side of extreme moderation, if not total abstinence, when weighing the merits of anything remotely pleasurable. And as their policies filter down to the health care profession, I feel as if I’m back in grade 4, trying to come up with plausible reasons for having failed to do my homework when I go for my annual tune-up.

I do OK on some tests. I am not a member of the obesity community, but neither can I, by any stretch of the imagination or body parts, lay claim to a taut torso. My exercise regimen consists of a lot of walking, stair climbing and fidgeting, but I have studiously avoided taking part in half-marathons or boot camp, never mind a spin class or kettlebells. (I’m not making this up. Just visit and check out the latest exercise trends).

My prowess in the slow bicycle race at St. Mary’s Convent Grammar School has never, to my knowledge, been surpassed. Then again, I fear that the slow bicycle race has, like myself and others of my barely tolerated g-g-g-generation, been pretty much consigned to the rubbish heap of history (when I looked it up, this arcane sporting activity garnered a measly 224,000 hits on Google).

Getting all muscular and sweaty just wasn’t on the girly agenda during London’s swinging sixties. And as my time on earth gets shorter I’m not about to spend what’s left of it huffing on a treadmill in spandex or chowing down on cottage cheese and tofu.

Imagine my delight when a fellow reprobate wrote to the Globe and Mail, bemoaning the plethora of advice on extreme exercise and other irritants brought to us by the ever-proliferating ‘experts’ of modern life. “Can we not have articles about people who are willing to just embrace their winter fat?” inquired my new hero. “Who are not trying to have wild, tempestuous sex at age 80? And who can just grow up, let out a notch of their belts or invest in a good, elastic waistband?”

This delightful person, who signed off with “Yours fatly,” is a woman after my own heart. Her wise words took me back to a holiday in France, where the supermarkets were filled with full, fat, soft, unpasteurized cheeses, divine pastries, calorie and fat-laden crème fraiche and whole aisles of wine. I looked for low fat products and found one tiny, slender end-of-aisle display, where a small coterie of non-Europeans searched for fat-free yogurt and pre-packaged egg whites.

George Bernard Shaw said it best. “No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office.”

Related posts:
“Tyranny of health” on KevinMD
Healthy lifestyles serve political interests
The politics behind personal responsibility for health
The tyranny of health then and now
The tyranny of health
The problem is you


Image: The Slow Bicycle Movement

Kate Gilderdale, A fat lot of good, Stouffville online, February 3, 2011

Vintage Whine, columns by Kate Gilderdale at Stouffville online

The Jaundiced View, Kate Gilderdale’s blog


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