Dispatches to the body politic

Dear Uma: My lessons may be learned the hard and painful way but I do learn them. The spring of 2009 will not see me with an accumulation of winter…

Dear Uma:

My lessons may be learned the hard and painful way but I do learn them.

The spring of 2009 will not see me with an accumulation of winter fat when it is time to strip down to lighter clothing.

I am determined to avoid the shock and horror of last spring’s experience when the evidence of my first Yukon winter was revealed in a body resembling the Pillsbury dough boy.

The promise of a Mexican winter vacation has hardened my resolve.

It is hard; my primitive instinct in cold weather is to eat everything and often, with the emphasis on carbs and sweets.

Every public event in Watson Lake offers pizza and cookies, or hot dogs and hot chocolate. Winter dinner party menus invariably feature the hostess’ latest effort in the way of an elaborate and fattening dessert. Never in the summer have I been served tiramisu, or black forest cake, or a sundae featuring three sauces (butterscotch, chocolate, and raspberry) with chocolate chips and Smarties.

Being of a weak will, it seems I must spend the winter holed up in my trailer with my protein drinks and my filtered tap water, forgoing all the fat-, salt- and sugar-laden pleasures of Yukon society.

There will be no more coming out of the movie theatres of Whitehorse dazed and bloated with candy, popcorn and Coca Cola, to be followed with a snack of poutine and burgers, celebrating being in a town where there is a food-serving place open at 9:30 p.m.

In an effort to maintain my summer svelte-ness, I have stocked the kitchen with nothing but the nutritious, the healthy.

Sitting down to my solitary supper of green salad with no dressing and sauceless grilled fish, to be followed by plain yogurt sprinkled with ground flax seed, I no longer wonder why people into health foods stay skinny; everything they eat obliterates the desire to eat more.

I want someone or something else to take control, to determine for me my winter diet.

Why not the government? It would be so easy in the Yukon to control the diet of the populace; everything arrives by truck, via one road.

We are getting so used to being told what to do and not to do that the media have coined a phrase to describe it: “the nanny state.”

There are seatbelt laws and helmet laws. There are the laws against smoking that now not only have smokers huddled outdoors in all weather but they must be a certain distance from doorways. One can get busted for smoking in a vehicle containing a child.

The consumption of alcohol, however, long proven to be the single most detrimental substance to be abused, continues with impunity.

Recreational drug use is getting less and less recreational as the punishments become harsher, while the use of prescription drugs is encouraged.

One of the latest targets is trans fats, with many places in North America targeting fast food chains, demanding they dramatically cut or entirely abolish the amount of trans fat in their products.

At the same time, it has just been decreed that the morbidly obese are entitled to two airline seats for the price of one.

To add to the confusion, some parents in Britain have been charged with abuse because their children are fat.

Salt, too, is enjoying a place in the media spotlight, albeit a negative one.

My favourite is a commercial showing a man standing up to his armpits in a room full of white stuff which we are eventually told is what one million teaspoons of salt looks like.

Now this is something I am positive many of us have wondered, waking sometimes from sleep to try to visualize what such an amount of salt would look like in a room with a man in it, although I admit my own musings had three men in the room.

At this rate there will soon be no mysteries left anywhere to tease us, to keep our wits honed razor sharp and our creative juices flowing as we exercise our imaginations attempting to create images and answers for these and other puzzles.

Britain, still a leader among nations, has one town council who took decisive action against salt, spending several thousand pounds of taxpayers’ money to manufacture a new salt shaker which they then distributed, free, to local restaurants and cafes.

The new and improved salt shaker, the one that demonstrates a true “nanny” sort of caring, has done away with the traditional and evil-doing seventeen holes, having a mere five holes in the top.

Of course, folks will be folks; owners of the establishments which have been gifted with the five-holers report continued abuse of salt by the simple expedient of continued shaking and in some extreme cases, the removal of the top of the shaker, entirely forgoing the lid to achieve maximum saltiness.

It seems the next step in the battle-against-salt crime must be the creation of salt monitors; a highly-trained, well-equipped cadre to patrol the eateries and enforce healthy eating habits among the populace.

Ideally, though not likely, given the known inefficiency of governments in these matters, the salt monitors could, with extra training, also monitor the use of trans fats and even sugar.

No, the likeliest scenario is a corps for each food group, with appropriate uniforms, badges and weaponry.

Just when thousands of people in the automobile industry and elsewhere are losing their jobs, here is a simple and beautiful solution — the creation of a whole new field of employment.

So bring it on, YTG! Show some genuine interest, followed by action, for the well-being of Yukon residents. Put that cumbersome, time-and-money-wasting staff of territorial employees to work on something history-making and worthwhile, the designing and enforcing of a diet made for the North.

No two-seater passengers to eat the profits of Air North; no expensive reconfiguring of school furniture to hold the swelling behinds of Yukon students; no extra fabrics needed in the parkas to clothe the girth of northern residents; these are just a few of the hundreds of benefits that would result from this program, this daring innovation in governing.

For every person that fled the territory in search of food freedom, 100 would take their place, humbly grateful for the opportunity to live and work in a place where thin rules.

Yukoners pride themselves on their toughness, their ability to withstand the rigours of a harsh climate and limited comforts. If any population could pull this off, it would be this one.

So bah! to you, Mary Poppins, with your “teaspoon of sugar to make the medicine go down in a delightful way”!

We’ll be taking our medicine the same way we will be eating our food — straight up with no embellishments.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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