With the Sugar Tax placed upon fizzy drinks, many members of the parliament, dentists and Jamie Oliver enthusiasts alike are all rejoicing. It has been politically decided that sugar must equal obesity, rotting teeth and a general lack of health. Making people pay a little extra is therefore, from the government’s point of view, the best way forward, presumably discouraging people from buying their favourite can.
Although I can see the government’s point, the way they have gone about things is not particularly subtle. Upon getting home for the holidays, I watched the news with the dog sleeping next to me on the sofa, only to be bombarded with constant reports about sugar. The other evening, a news reporter escorted a mother and baby around a supermarket, bluntly pointing out the nutrition labels and stating how much sugar and salt was in each item. By the end of the report, the poor mother had been told the calorie and sugar content of her entire shopping trolley, leaving her rather embarrassed and vowing to the cameras that she would change her everyday diet.
To me, this constant talk about the contents of food seems borderline obsessive. Yes, we want to reduce obesity, but this is not the way to go about it. Increasing the price of sugary items may reduce the amount of sales, however people will not be entirely deterred from drinking fizzy drinks. Of course having four Coca-Colas a day is not a good idea, with them being bad for your teeth and all that jazz. But the government are assuming that obesity is always caused by eating and drinking sugary things, and therefore they are attempting to restrict these items, which is a terrible idea.
Perhaps the taxing will reduce obesity, and lower the amount of cans sold, but this is at the expense of thousands of people struggling with eating. The stream of programmes, questionnaires and news about the specific content of our food is exhausting, particularly for those with eating disorders. Imagine watching the report of the mother in the supermarket, whilst yourself suffering with Anorexia or even Orthorexia, and as a consequence having to battle against the restricting and controlling thoughts of your disorder.
Labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is one of my strong pet hates, often leading to feelings of guilt or embarrassment when eating something considered as unhealthy. Categorising sugar as purely ‘bad’, especially when discussing the diet of children, has the potential to be very damaging for the nation’s attitude towards food and obesity, especially since childhood should be free from worrying about calories or diet choices.
With the mental health services and the NHS under pressure with decreasing staff and more patients, perhaps a negative attitude to sugar and food is not the way forward. Perhaps instead a more positive attitude about exercise, and cheaper access to sports facilities could be a better alternative, rather than risking the increase of those with eating difficulties.