Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Throw another fifty prawns (shrimp) on the barbie and bring me a ute load of chips!

The latest national health survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that we Aussies are getting fatter and drinking more alcohol.

The report reveals that over the past decade, the proportion of overweight or obese adults has jumped. Obesity has gained from 52 to 62 per cent among men and from 37 to 45 per cent in women. Perhaps this is the reason why the survey also shows that more adults are reaching for the bottle – of beer, not carrot juice.

"Many of the advances that we have made in the past 20 years seem to be slowing down and there's real concern in the rates of increasing obesity that we may actually go backwards in terms of our health status," Professor Catford, author of the report said.

The professor went on to advise that as well as getting fatter and drinking more, we have made bugger-all improvement in smoking rates, level of exercise or the proportion reporting a long-term medical condition. He reckoned that one in three adults had not exercised for recreation, sport or fitness in the two weeks before the interview. The most concerning aspect of the report was that most Australians still considered themselves to be in very good or excellent health.

"Oh yeaahhhh baby, make it four, no, FIVE potato cakes and a chico roll..... Oh baby you're hot - who knew that you could batter and deep fry a Mars bar like that!"

This report is, naturally, very worrying. The Fattest Farts on Earth contest is not one that we’re interested in winning; instead we’d rather be ranked at a level not dissimilar to the one we enjoy during the winter olympics. It is also an unpleasant shock to discover that our view of ourselves as sporty, healthy outdoorsy types is no longer accurate. What is a more appropriate picture is of a nation of fast food eaters glued to the television whilst we watch other people play sport.

But are we between an (Ayers) rock and a hard (Oodnadatta) place? The most common trend for sportspeople is to play the game/match/set/over and then drink themselves silly at the club bar afterwards. Then they're obliged to stay for a dinner of deep fried chicken schnitzel, gravy and chips in order to do their bit for the club’s fundraising efforts. Even after the weekend they’re still required to be a team player by selling their fair share of Mars/Cadbury fundraising chocolates to everyone in your office. However the player would have to be made of stone to be able to resist not eating a few of ‘em themselves – especially if their child plays too - “Heeeyyy, it’s for the kids.”

On the other hand, if you manage to successfully avoid sport altogether you will find yourself relatively friendless, rotund and in danger of growing a new layered winter coat each season. A conundrum then occurs: should you risk shame and unwanted stares by waddling into your local tennis club rooms or gym, or wait until you’ve shed at least two stone and feel good-looking enough to join them? What about sports gear – should a fattie wear the big-name brands before looking obviously fit and thin or should they opt for shapeless black and grey flannel cloaks to save pain for everyone?

What of those who have achieved acclaim and fame through their sporting prowess, only to stop playing altogether thanks to either the arrival of hard-hearted Father Time or an chronic injury? These people are possibly at the most danger of becoming fat because they are used to eating large amounts of meat and carbs to boost their energy levels.

One chubby chap that immediately springs to mind is Billy Brownless, the ex-Geelong football player. A man so obviously used to inhaling several steaks, sacks of potatoes and pats of butter; he clearly continued to engorge after retirement, not knowing that his 100,000,000 calories-per-day intake was no longer required for someone hosting a weekly ‘Spin the Wheel’ segment on the Footy Show. He now resembles a tallish Elmer Fudd, but without the wit.

Petria Thomas retired from professional swimming a year or so ago and, judging from a photo of her taken last week, has stacked on the flab. Never one to trouble the doctors at Anorexics Anonymous, she now looks as though she’d be able to bench press a farm tractor with one hand whilst pumping Maccas’ McFlurry tap dry with the other.

What point am I trying to make here? It’s hard for everyone to stay fit and trim regardless of their money (hello Oprah), fame (Marlon, we won’t forget you) or sporting prowess (Maradona, king of the stomach staple). Not only that, but it’s bloody hard when you live in South Australia. How is anyone meant to resist the chocolate-covered, peach and apricot blended Fruchoc balls? Or Haigh’s chocolate anything, Balfours’ custard tarts, frog cakes or hot pasties? What of the local delis who smother their hot chips with chicken salt, or the groovy cafes that do spectacularly delicious salt’n’pepper calamari, moussaka, wood oven pizzas, saganaki, sizzling steaks, garlic bread, singapore noodles, satays…….. No wonder people are drinking more: they're depressed about what big fat bastards they've become.

It’s not just South Australian produce that’s to blame. Cadburys, Lindt, Milka, Nestle, Dove and Red Tulip have created a situation so dire that it’s physically, emotionally and spiritually impossible to not walk down ‘Aisle 8 – confectionery’ at my local Coles supermarket. My lovely friend Ian has just gleefully emailed me to let me know that Krispy Kreme will soon open in his neighbourhood - the QV shopping and apartment complex in Melbourne. My immediate response – “Enjoy. You might as well eat them while you’re running on the treadmill at the gym next door.”

That’s what it truly boils down to for me too. The six kilometre, thrice-weekly runs make the dog happy, true; they keep my weight down to a socially-acceptable level, also true; but it’s also so that I can keep eating what I want. What’s life if you can’t eat a kitkat at the movies, especially if you’ve earned it?

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