Junkfood Science: The new word for 2009: bansturbation

January 03, 2009

The new word for 2009: bansturbation

Today, the government officially launched its Change4Life advertising campaign, based on the Foresight Report. Its aim is to create a “lifestyle revolution” by promoting diet and exercise, Healthy Towns, and other programs aimed to eradicate obesity from the UK. Friends there are being buried alive in media stories, 465 and counting…

Many are finding humor the only response left. It’s not like the government is using science or facts or anything like that.

The Englishman shared a new word for the year to describe the over-the-top program. He observed that politicians are getting off on bansturbation.

As news has been reporting, Health Minister Ben Bradshaw threatened that if its three-year Change4Life healthy lifestyle campaign doesn’t work to slim down the population, then it will regulate taste from food by banning fat, sugar and salt. The scheme was supported by Tam Fry, with the National Obesity Forum.

The Englishman observed that he really doesn’t want it to work — which we already know it won’t because fat, salt and sugar don’t cause obesity or much of anything else thought bad for us — because, “he’s all excited by the prospect of some mutual bansturbation…” Banning foods is the real goal.

Part of the government’s strategy, published last January by Health Secretary Alan Johnson, included finalizing a new “Healthy Food Code,” which targeted fats, sugars and salts as being the bad stuff. Foods with fats, sugars or salt were given red lights as part of its traffic light program, designed to make it easier for dim people to know how the government wants them to eat. There’s no sound nutritional science behind fears of salt, fats or sugars, of course, but most everyone knows that’s not really what this is all about.

Fat, sugar and salt make food taste good, therefore, they are bad for you. In fact, that was made official in the Scottsman today by a Fife-based nutritionist: healthy food means food that has no taste. Taking fat and salt out of food that people like to eat, but others don’t believe they should eat or any business should sell, would make it less tasty. And less fun and less convenient. Then, people would stop eating it, she said. Maybe, that explains the brown trend in food photography over recent years, where food looks gloomy and not something we’re supposed to enjoy.

Authorities have set their sights on fast food in particular and have more restrictions planned for it, although there’s no sound nutritional science to fear it, either. Any food not made from scratch is junk food and not real food, the government says. Some even think food that’s eaten in its natural state and not cooked at all has more vital energy and is healthier. It’s really that whole foods and dishes processed from scratch don’t come with food labels, with their ingredients broken down by their components and chemical names, so they seem more wholesome. People get especially scared about seeing chemical names and about food processing. People take food way too seriously. As medical physiologist Dr. Johan Koeslag satirically explained, healthists say that junk is any food with fat, “refined sugar,” additives or “empty calories.” Besides being unscientific, that definition doesn’t resolve countless obvious contradictions, such has french fries are considered junk food, but roasted potatoes are not. “White bread is not ‘nutritious’, but cauliflower is,” he pointed out, although “it consists of 90% water, 5% starch, a minute amount of protein, and only traces of vitamins and minerals.”

An alternate definition of junk food is anything that cannot on its own, adequately support health, he said. So, since people cannot live only on potato chips or only on sodas, then they must be junk food and nonnutritious. But, he explains, “if this latter definition is to be taken seriously, then everything we eat is junk: cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, apples, oranges, grapes, meat, milk, bread, tap water etc.”

No, the real definition of junk food is any food kids and teenagers find delicious and is prepared outside the home, he said. “Thus, cod liver oil, despite its undeniable greasiness and artificially added vitamins and preservatives, is not junk food, because children loath it. Cake, which children love, is, on the other hand, a non-basic (or junk) food, despite containing flour, eggs, milk products, fruit, and sugar (which, with the inexplicable exception of the sugar, are all individually classed as ‘basic’ food items).”

Some researchers realized that the extreme sugar scares were nonsense, since it’s the main fuel needed by our bodies, and glucose is the primary energy source used by our brains, which are mostly made up of fat, by the way. They figured out that they could raise kids' test scores and help them get better grades by giving kids a sugary drink with lunch. That didn’t sit well with a certain young celebrity chef.

To hear the news, our diets are shamefully unhealthy and we’re all eating vast quantities of junk, especially lower class or poorer people and fat people. Our eating habits are supposedly so bad that we’re responsible for creating a medical emergency of hurricane-like proportions, wrecking havoc on the public health care system and necessitating the government to take extreme measures to tell people what to eat, especially poorer people and fat people. To keep this myth alive, though, even the government’s own data has to be continually buried. It keeps finding that we’re eating ‘healthier’ than ever, even kids, and consuming fewer calories, less fat and sugar. Yet, most of us are supposedly too fat. We keep getting healthier and living longer, too, which must greatly frustrate the sky is falling crowd.

Bansturbation is epidemic on this side of the pond, too.

Drew Carey has become the spokesperson for the anti-ban movement here. “Whether you love it, hate it, or have never thought about it, chances are some politician wants to ban it,” he said. “Welcome to the Nanny State Nation, where the government minds your own business.” These “ban-happy busybodies” have banned internet poker, bacon dogs, incandescent light bulbs, aluminum baseball bats, and all sorts of things that someone, somewhere believes you shouldn’t do or have:

Saggy pants, fire places, plastic bags, light bulbs, poker—it's all been banned somewhere. Same with owning swine or fowl, feeding pigeons, owning pit bulls, and chomping on trans fats, a naughty little substance that makes food taste better. Of course, smoking's been banned in all sorts of places—indoors, outdoors, near doors, beaches, casinos, even private homes. America's smoking ban craze began in California... Even if we don't particularly like something we should be wary of banning it because every ban is backed up by the force of law. Plus, would you want to live in a nation that bans everything that offends someone?

People love bacon. Drew Carey reported last year on the thriving underground world of illicit trade in bacon-wrapped hot dogs. The county health department in Los Angeles had determined bacon to be a potentially hazardous food and bad for your health.

That sounds like when bureaucrats in Plymouth banned cheese from school lunches, declaring cheese to be junk food and not good for children.

Part of Change4Life’s nearly one billion dollar initiative is free personalized government advice on diet and weight loss. Melissa Kite responded to this idea in a humorous Telegraph column describing life as an operator at the Government’s Obesity Hotline:

'Hello, you're through to the Obesity Hotline, Brenda speaking, how may I help you?"

"Oh hello. I think I may be morbidly obese."

"Well, you've done the right thing by picking up the phone, madam… "We can help you, madam. Hold the line, please, while I check your weight against our charts… I'm afraid you are coming up as, 'irresponsibly fat and a drain on the state'. I'm recommending that you get yourself to your nearest Obesity Drop-in Centre and enroll in a Change 4 Life course or I will have to alert the authorities who will serve you with a Fat Asbo. Let me see, there's a centre just 15 miles from where you live. Could I suggest you walk there?"

"Well done, madam, that's the spirit. I'll stay on the line while you do it."

"Are you sure? It could take me a while."

"Of course, madam. We are a government helpline. This call is being paid for by the taxpayer so there's absolutely no rush at all. We've been given £2 million a year by the Health Secretary, who has run out of ideas and needed to announce something headline grabbing to make it look like he was still doing his job despite the Government being on its last legs. When an unpopular administration is in freefall it has to set up a useless and stupid helpline before it is booted out by voters…

As satire often does, it also pointed out the harmful side of all of this. It goes beyond government waste and all of the life-saving ways those hundreds of millions of healthcare dollars could be spent. A sad lot of people have come to believe that these food and obesity myths are true, rather than understand it’s largely about a political ideology against “the industrial food complex,” and big money makers for the government and other stakeholders. So, kids and plenty of adults have come to fear foods and their naturally diverse bodies, and are falling into all sorts of disordered relationships with eating, afraid they’ll drop dead if they eat something bad or don’t lose weight. Or, conversely, they believe that by eating some special way or taking special supplements, they’ll radiate at a higher energy and enjoy optimal health and “wellness.” It’s comforting to believe, although false, that “healthy eating” will protect one from growing old and prevent getting chronic diseases of old age, like the big three diabetes, heart disease or cancers. Just as it’s easy to believe that healthy eating will give everyone a government-approved BMI.

Those whose natural bodies don’t measure up to the new government BMI standards suffer most of all, especially the kids, women and older folks. Not just by being put into compulsory healthy eating and exercise programs to whip them into shape. Bigger people are penalized with higher insurance premiums if they don’t sign up for wellness programs and health risk management, frightened into feeling that bariatric surgery is their only option to live, medicated to manage metabolic syndrome, and are suffering all sorts of hurtful stigma and bullying and discrimination, especially by those who believe fat people are taking money out of their pockets.

Change4Life’s campaign targeting parents is working to convince them that fat children are walking time bombs of disease and that bad foods cause obesity. The campaign is using graphic images to threaten parents that they’re killing their kids with kindness and blaming them for making kids fat. The Department of Health says it’s working to eliminate parent’s “ignorance and complacency about childhood obesity” and wants to shock and guilt them into putting fat kids on a program of healthy eating and exercise. Things have become so uncompromising that one tragic news headline today said “kindness to obese children could kill them.” Naturally fat children have no rights to enjoy the same childhood joys and foods as naturally thin children. Or kindness, either.

Perhaps, they’ll want to ban fat children next.

The Englishman fired back at the government’s Change4 Life campaign with a new logo of his own.

JFS will now return to science, because without it you can’t protect yourself and your loved ones.

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