Well cram my arse into a tray of batter and chuck it in the fryer – we Aussies are now apparently the fattest nation in the world. Or at least according to the report, ‘Australia’s future fat bomb’ from Melbourne’s Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, we are.
They estimate that around 9 million of us Aussie grown ups can be classified as ‘overweight’, with 4 million of us – or approximately 26% of our total population - officially considered ‘obese’. Their study involved 14,000 people from cities and rural locations around the country and had their BMI (body mass index), height and waist measured.
Now, I’m no mathematical expert but it does seem a bit of a stretch to assume that from 14,000 samples that 4-9 million of us are all fat failures. The data from those 14,000 were taken on a national blood pressure screening day held around Australia last year, so surely some of those chunky buggers knew that they were fat and took advantage of a free health check? It seems likely that more chunkies than skinnies would be standing in the queue at the local shopping centre, just after hoovering up their HungryFats Burger in the food hall.
The report’s author, Professor Simon Stewart, eagerly grabbed on to the Olympic-games fever and said, “In terms of a public health crisis, there is nothing to rival this. If we ran a fat Olympics we’d be gold medal winners...... We’ve heard of AIDS orphans in Africa but we’re looking at this time bomb going off here.....”
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 pudgy 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 personal 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 a 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 the cheekily named ‘Billy’s Sack’ (viewer mail) segment on the Footy Show. He now resembles a tallish Elmer Fudd but without the wit.
Ditto Shane Warne, never one to trouble the MENSA enquiry line nor the doctors at Anorexics Anonymous, who now looks as though he could drink the McDonald’s McFlurry tap dry. Melinda Gainsford-Taylor has retired from competitive running and is now advertising some brand of mega-health multi vitamins but looks wider than a park bench. One of the hot blonde chicks from 2006’s ‘The Biggest Loser’ gained most of it back and is trying again to instil our faith in her flab-loss abilities by advertising with Weight Watchers.
What point am I trying to make here? That it’s bloody 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 extra 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 binge drinking: 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, Whittakers 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 daughter Sapphire often suggests that I open up a chocolate shop of my own, but that I should have a treadmill installed behind the counter in order to keep things on an even keel.