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Diet Pill: Cop Out??

Monday, April 27th, 2009 Diet Pill: Cop Out??

Mixed reaction in relation to this new diet so-called wonder-drug Alli. Inexcess have already reported that from this week you will be able to purchase the pill over the counter. Your pharmacist is expected to check your body mass index reaches over 28.

Zoe Williams of the Guardian (21 04 09) has a very down-to-earth view on this drug and its inevitable consequences in lining the pockets of the already super-rich drug companies.

Williams further argues that the policy makers have also got a quick get-out clause in offering the overweight a magic bullet, rather than focus in on the real issues, that of hopelessness that currently exists out there.

In addition she states, ‘There’s a quasi-moral foundation to all this: it’s not enough for hard work to be its own reward; short cuts must, somewhere along the line, carry their own penalty. The precepts under-pinning this are that individual flaws, such as smoking, overeating and sitting around, are “lifestyle issues” that can be tackled as easily as lacing up your shoes, where the iniquities of society are as immovable as geology, so even where you see a demonstrable causal link – between, say, poverty and obesity – it is reasonable to drug your way out of it. Nobody says “but won’t Alli just encourage the chancellor to ignore the fact that lifestyle choices are really just a function of economic hopelessness?” But never mind that, back to these fatties.’

Likewise, the first enforcement of a law banning fast food outlets from the vicinity of educational establishments this week.

Williams’s anger emerges as she goes onto say, ‘The victim was, predictably enough, an independent lard monger with little clout to fight the ruling. Bamboo Joint is a Caribbean takeaway 400 metres from a secondary school. Merciful heavens, I read the small print before I started spouting about how there’s a KFC and McDonalds much closer than 400 metres to my local primary, and much fattier, besides (chicken in spice is a diet-book staple, it’s practically the only edible thing in the diet canon; the devil’s in the breaded coating). This is a local initiative, introduced by Waltham Forest council in London last month; it only applies to establishments with pending planning permission. So it’s some small-scale tomfoolery that will surely unravel at the first scrutiny. But there’s an instructive juxtaposition here, between obesity measures that discomfit right-thinking opinion, and measures with such respectable appeal that they make it into council bylaw books with very little contest.

Furthermore, she explains that polite society abhor solutions that allow things to be easier for the individual. However, they appear to love answers that are likely to control the problem from above, by decree. This is just as much an easy answer for the council as a pill is for the obese person: no effortful, expensive ideas – playing fields, outdoor gyms, free leisure centre usage – just a big, red “no”, stamped on planning applications. Every policy idea you hear about the obesity “epidemic” shares this easy-answer quality – take away their benefits, restrict their use of the NHS, tax their chocolate, tax their ­benefits so they can’t afford chocolate, starve them! Even at their most benign, policymakers concentrate on the ­cheapest end of the spectrum – an ­educational campaign, a poster campaign, the dissemination of messages that have been around for decades and have precisely no impact. The suggestion is that at every level their appears to be some sort of agenda.

For Williams, the realisation of the one-way-street of this debate has really become and equally the individual is ‘expected always to take the hard path.

Another interesting point that she raises is the fact that even when we listen to doctors in relation to obesity, they actually do not come up with any real answers just prattle on in the gastric-band business, or dealing with infertility or type-2 diabetes or heart disease. They always talk about prevention of obesity, and how hard weight loss is.

‘It’s only those at some remove from all this who think bullying is going to help. And ultimately, I don’t think these disciplinary solutions are intended to help, or rather, framed with any thought of actual efficacy.’

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