Should the government assist with healthy living?

July 23rd, 2013 Posted by Uncategorized 3 thoughts on “Should the government assist with healthy living?”

My short answer: No.

The extended version: I read an article by a personal trainer recently. It was more focussed around the health (or non-health) factors of sugar in processed foods, and used the cost of food as a reference:

Look at the cost of food these days. It is spiralling out of control but it seems to me as if the healthier products on our shelves are spiralling a lot quicker and higher than the rubbish processed foods. We are all expected to pay higher prices for organic and free range food! Why can the government not price the public ‘in’ rather than ‘out’ of health? I don’t feel we have much choice anymore other than to buy the lower cost processed food on our shelves.

Is Government regulation the answer?


To be fair, I think the government has more pressing issues to sort out (Nkandla and eTolling excluded). The health of a nation is important, for sure, but why do they need to drive that? Surely we’re all capable of making healthy decisions?

Look at the USA* (seeing as they’re an easy target when it comes to overweight nations). From a recent article by The Telegraph:

[…] and while the US makes up only five per cent of the world’s population, it accounts for almost a third of the world’s weight due to obesity. While the average body mass globally was 62 kg, North Americans weigh in at 81.9 kg.

The country didn’t start with hundreds of fast food outlets ready to feed hungry Americans, it slowly progressed as the need arose. And the need was based on America’s appetite. The more fast food people eat, the more outlets are built, the more people eat… you get the idea. No-one can blame a fast food outlet for your fat ass. Your decision, your ass.


Last time I checked, a bag of carrots, or bananas, was cheaper than a Steers Family Meal. People talk about “healthier is more expensive”, but they’re only considering the “convenient” healthy options. Of course, you could do the healthy option and buy a Microwaved Steamed Chicken with Oriental Vegetables For One from Woolies for 40-odd bucks (times that by 4 people in a home) or spend less money at a Food Lover’s Market or the like and cook a fresh, healthy meal for your family.


A few months ago, Lauren and I spent less than R100 on meat and vegetables, and made 9-litres of soup. Yes, 9-litres. We portioned it, froze what we weren’t going to eat over the next few days, and thawed each portion over the next few weeks as and when we needed it. It worked out to feed both of us for 5 meals each.

  • Total cost per meal: R10 each.
  • Health benefits of a fresh meat and vegetable soup over a microwaved, processed meal? Substantial.

I think healthy eating should fall substantially on the buyer. If no-one’s buying, what does the seller do? Turn the ship and do something else. (I hear there’s a shortage of social media experts in the world.)

* The USA has very recently been taken over as world’s most obese nation, by their southern neighbours, Mexico.

3 thoughts on “Should the government assist with healthy living?”

  1. Mongezi says:

    My ass is awesome, my stomach is the problem what with hidden abs and all.

    I’m not sure if it’s the government rather than eating habits that we need to rethink. Yes, a Woolies rye sandwich is less appealing than deep fried chicken (black stereotypes about deep fried chicken excluded).

    I, and I’m not the only one, tend to find frying and unhealthy food a better and more accessible option than all the others. It’s also interesting that where there seems to be more excess and the perception of more disposable income, the people are more overweight.
    A less organized government like Nigeria has less obese people than the US.

    On other hand, organically-grown food is more expensive to maintain than the crap genetically modified food with pesticides. Again, not government related. Let’s blame the elements on government.

  2. Amy says:

    I wrote my thesis on this topic and my answer is yes. Why? Because forces like globalization and urbanization are major causes of obesity (in SA and around the world) and these can’t reasonably be expeced to be countered by the individual.

    There is evidence to show that even in educated, affluent adults, obesity is not a choice. And I don’t only mean the guys who are genetically predisposed to obesity. Your decisions as a buyer are influenced by far more than your active thought, we are not as in control as we think we are.

    Also, and this is not a reason for government involvement in healthy living but more an interest of mine, placing too much emphasis on the individual’s choice does tend to create an association between healthy lifestyle and morality. Fat people are seen as immoral, gym goers are righteous (mostly just self-righteous). It’s a dangerous association. Something we’ve already seen having devastating impact on conditions like HIV (they’re comparable because obesity is now a medical condition, not just a risk factor). Read Lionel Shriver’s ‘Big brother’ for a fascinating insight into this topic.

    Anyway. Just an after-work in-traffic rant (and yes, you can label me immoral for reading this in traffic).

    1. Don Packett says:

      It’s tough to swallow the “we’re not as in control as we think we are” concept though.

      I wasn’t a fan of vegetables (even the roasted or fried and covered in delicious sugary goodness variety) for a long time, but more recently I’ve been tucking into raw broccoli with a smile. That was a choice, and a healthy one (in my self-righteous opinion) at that.

      Would a governmental regulation for cheaper, healthier food be a help? Of course, but why does everybody need external help all the time?

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